History Is All You Left Me

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
History Is All You Left Me Book Poster Image
Heartbreaking, beautifully written tale of grief and love.

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age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

History Is All You Left Me explores the mechanics of obsessive-compulsive disorder, such as counting in evens, preferring even numbers, demanding people stay on certain sides, and so on. There's also a lot about the importance of LGBTQ teens having supportive families. Because of Griffin and Theo's aspirations, there are discussions of famous films/filmmakers, animators, and musicians.

Positive Messages

The book encourages teens with mental illness and disorders to seek professional help and not just rely on friends for support. The story also promotes honesty between teens in a romantic relationship, so one person isn't pining for the other while the other is in a relationship with someone else. The story reveals how hurtful it is for one party to think a relationship is one thing when it's really something else that's not as healthy as it seems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Griffin is a smart and loving friend. Theo is a curious and keen thinker. Griffin and Theo's parents are supportive. Wade stays loyal to his friends. But Griffin pushes people away during his grief and doesn't want to get help for his OCD.

Violence

Jackson recalls how Theo drowned in the Pacific. A college-age woman discusses her abortion.

Sex

One teen couple has safe sex within a loving monogamous relationship. After a breakup, one partner goes on to have another relationship, but he passionately kisses his ex, who has stayed faithful to him. Two teens have sex several times without protection and without defining their relationship. Two grieving teens have sex. 

Language

Not very frequently, strong language: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "douche," and the like.

Consumerism

iPhone, Apple/iMac, Jeep.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older teens drink at a couple of parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that History Is All You Left Me is the second novel from Adam Silvera, a tale of grief and first love lost. Told partly in flashbacks and in current time directed at the protagonist's dead best friend (and one-and-only love), the book includes occasional strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole"), as well as descriptions of loss of virginity, sexual activity, and romantic relationships. The plot poses questions about mental illness, monogamy, cheating, and whether the secrets of one relationship are sacred to those two people. The author also explores more practical questions about coming out, long-distance relationships, staying friends with someone you've broken up with, and the process of grief.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byClarenceCeleste July 29, 2018

Heartbreaking-

This is, maybe, the saddest book I have ever read.

What's the story?

HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME is the story of Griffin Jennings, who has lost his best friend and love of his life, Theo. But even before Theo drowned in the Pacific Ocean, Griff had already lost him -- first when the precocious Theo graduated early from their New York City high school and went off to college in California, and later when he started to date a surfer boy who could've been Griffin's West Coast doppelgänger. But at the funeral, Theo's boyfriend Jackson wants to meet and share his grief with the only other boy who loved and was loved by Theo. Alternating between flashbacks to Griffin and Theo's friends-to-more love story and the present where Jackson and Griffin get to know each other and share secrets of the Theo only each of them knew, Adam Silvera's tale explores love, loss, and grief.

Is it any good?

Moving and memorable, Adam Silvera's second novel is an exploration of loss and love, memory and mourning. Griffin is a thoughtful, fabulously flawed protagonist, one who never stopped loving Theo, his best friend and first love. And Griffin doesn't know how he's supposed to grieve Theo when Jackson is in the picture. Jackson may have been dating Theo, but in Griffin's heart of hearts, he believes -- knows -- that he and Theo, not Theo and Jackson, were "endgame." Once Griffin and Jackson begin commiserating -- and jointly shutting others out of their shared pain -- it's clear that things are a bit too intense, that they both have secrets about Theo the other won't want to hear. Yet as a reader, you just want these boys to heal, no matter how destroyed they might feel.

Silvera does a beautiful job exploring the depths of Griffin's burdens, sadness, and insecurities. You feel the pain alongside Wade as Griffin unfairly keeps him out of the circle of trust, even though Wade lost a best friend, too, and even though Wade is steadfastly "Team Griffin." It's a complicated thing to stay best friends after being much more, and the story requires readers to have an emotional maturity about relationships or to at least recognize what's healthy and what's unhealthy in a romantic vs. platonic relationship. Silvera packs a lot of substantive issues into this tale -- sexuality, mental illness, grief, friendship, parent-child closeness, disability -- and it's all dealt with in a nuanced, thought-provoking way that will stay with readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way love, sex and sexuality are explored in History Is All You Left Me. Talk about the significant role of sex in the story and in YA literature. Is reading about sex different from watching depictions of it on TV and in movies?

  • Discuss the role of grief in teen books. Why do you think there are so many books that deal with protagonists grieving the loss of loved ones? Why are they helpful?

  • Are the friendships in History Is All You Left Me believable? Which of the friendships are the most authentic?

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