History is All You Left Me

Silvera, Adam. History is All You Left Me. New York: Soho Teen, 2017.

A book cover split into day and night. On the top, a young men stands under the moon with a black background. On the bottom, a young man stands under the sun with a blue background.

Griffin and Theo grew up together and were each other’s first kiss, first love, first everything. When Theo goes to college across the country, they decide to put their relationship on hold until Griffin can join him in a year. Griffin wasn’t expecting Theo to meet someone else, but he still held on to the hope that they would get back together. When Theo dies, Griffin’s whole world collapses and his OCD symptoms worsen. And when Theo’s boyfriend flies in for the funeral, Griffin’s grief is complicated by conflicting feelings of jealousy, empathy, and attraction. History is All You Left Me is a lyrical narrative told in alternating chapters of flashbacks and present-day musings.

What worked for me: The depictions of OCD and grief really rang true for me. Griffin’s obsessions (numbers and symmetry) and compulsions (counting, needing to be on the left of people, scratching his palm, and pulling his earlobe) were complex and realistic, and depicted as painful and deeply necessary rather than quirky and laughable. And Griffin’s grieving process was complicated and messy, not linear, with some maladaptive coping mechanisms—again, very realistic.

What didn’t work for me: I kept wondering why Griffin’s parents didn’t get him help sooner. They are compassionate, loving, empathetic parents in every other way. Griffin’s OCD symptoms are obvious, and clearly quite distressing. Yet his parents just participated in his compulsions—automatically moving to his right side, for example. Only toward the end of the book do they suggest he see a therapist.

Content note: There are several non-graphic sex scenes.

History is All You Left Me received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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