Review: History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
by Channler Twyman
After a long and strenuous summer, I decided to treat myself to a little book haul, picking up three recent titles that’d I’d been eyeing for a while. For this week’s article, I would like to discuss a book by queer author of color, Adam Silvera. His novel, History Is All You Left Me, is a brilliant body of work.
We are introduced to Griffin Jennings, a seventeen year-old New Yorker who just lost the first love of his life, Theo, in a drowning accident. He struggles to pick up the pieces Theo left behind due to his sudden passing. Griffin begins to fall apart at the seams and oddly finds comfort in the presence of Theo’s most recent lover, Jackson. The book follows Griffin through the procession of his grief—highs, lows, and heartbreaking meltdowns.
Although sexual identity is a key factor in this story, it isn’t necessarily the main focus. This a narrative about overcoming grief and learning how to properly heal, not just in regards to losing a loved one, but in losing relationships as well. Silvera does an amazing job in representing the damage people can cause each other. We switch back and forth from the present, or "today," where Theo has passed, and the past, or "history," of Theo and Griffin’s relationship. Silvera shows us the beauty of falling in love and the devastations of losing it.
Another key component of this book is Griffin’s mental health. He has a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression and is constantly dealing with grief layered with his struggles with his illness. We soon learn that Griffin was never got the chance to move on from his breakup with Theo. He breaks down and self-sabotages his growth and recovery. It is gut-wrenching to read Griffin’s downward spiral, but my god, it is beautifully written.
Silvera has an amazing way with words, and he situates metaphors and imagery so well within the context of the events of the novel. He personifies the idea of “History” and makes Griffin define what exactly that means to him and how it has brought him to the state he’s in now. I found myself rereading passages over and over again because they were written so beautifully, and could be applied and interpreted in so many ways.
Ultimately, this book emphasizes the importance of dealing with traumatic experiences. We all know people who endure emotionally strenuous ordeals and never properly heal from those encounters. The feelings they do not address become pain and can eventually result in damage to themselves or to others. I have seen so many of my loved ones hold onto pain, or rather, the “history” of their pain, letting it control their lives instead of letting “History” truly be…history. History Is All You Left Me is a sad and heartbreaking book, but it’s more than that—it is a story about learning to take agency of your own life with all of the messiness that comes with it, and learning how to move on for the sake of your own survival.
For anyone who loves some good teenage angst and heartache or anyone dealing with a loss or any kind, I highly recommend reading History Is All You Left Me. SUPPORT QUEER AUTHORS OF COLOR!
— Channler Twyman is a writer who hails from South Georgia where his love for literature began at the age of two. He currently attends the College of Wooster where he continues to foster his craft. Although, he has a passion for the literary arts, he still hopes for the day where he achieves his final form and is able to battle the forces of evil as a Sailor Scout.