ARC Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

BookReview

Written by: Adam Silvera
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Pages: 320, hardcover
Series: Standalone
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When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

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The moment I read the synopsis of History is All You Left Me, I knew it would crush my heart, and I was not wrong. The book is about a seventeen-year-old boy grieving the death of his ex-boyfriend. His story intertwines with those of two other boys–his and Theo’s friend Wade and Theo’s new boyfriend Jackson–in a heartbreaking exploration of grief and truth and the meaning of other people in your life.

The book alternates between Griffin’s past relationship with Theo and his present after Theo’s death, and the result is an incredible amount of mood whiplash, to say the least. Theo and Griffin’s interactions in the early part of their relationship are so fun and cute and nerdy that I almost forgot I wasn’t reading a cute contemporary. And then the next chapter would happen and I would be trying not to cry. Again.

The relationships and emotions between the main characters of the book are raw and messy. Griffin doesn’t always do the right thing or feel the “right” emotions, and his arc isn’t a clear linear trajectory from A to Z so much as a jagged, occasionally shaky line. His grief and friendships and growth are all very authentic, as I’ve come to expect from Adam Silvera’s books after More Happy Than Not. And Griffin has OCD and it’s intrinsically tied with the way he processes the world and the way he grieves for Theo.

Adam Silvera’s writing is heartpunchingly gorgeous. Griffin’s pain and grief, the messiness and isolation of it, comes across in sentences so seemingly simple, but so impactful that I had to stop reading for a few seconds and stare at the words.

For those who (like me) have had their soul broken by More Happy Than Not, I will say that the ending of this book is more hopeful than that of his first book–still painful, but with Griffin slowly beginning to heal.

Sondra

ARC Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

ARC

Written by: Alexandra Bracken
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Pages: 532, Hardcover
Series: Passenger, #2
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All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

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The first words that come to mind when I think of descriptions of Wayfarer are “a lot”. This book was A Lot. Not only in terms of page number, but in terms of scope, and world, and characters, and hard choices, and battles to fight. And I loved nearly every minute of it.

Alexandra Bracken is an author who does ensemble casts really, really well (I’ve already mentioned that this was one of my favorite things in The Darkest Minds) so I was really happy to see that the cast expanded going into this book. While Passenger focused primarily on Nicholas and Etta, Wayfarer further explores and introduces quite a few characters who I loved.

I will admit I wasn’t as excited about Etta as I wanted to be. I like her as a character, but while she was brave and clever and passionate, but she didn’t stand out or feel distinct enough to be a favorite for me. I did, however, grow to love Nicholas–his guardedness, his determination and drive, his strong morality, his readiness to fight for what he wants and who he loves. Bracken explores Etta’s mother Rose and reveals her past in a way that fleshes her out and makes her sympathetic. Etta’s father Henry is introduced, and her ensuing relationship with him made me cry a little. New ally Li Min is intriguing, and I loved the way she interacted with Nicholas and Sophia. Nicholas’s half-brother Julian is clueless and cowardly, but good-hearted and funny and oddly lovable–he grows a lot during this book.

But the standout of the book for me was Sophia, who we meet in the first book as a bitter ambitious rich girl who wants to get back the power she has been denied all her life and basically hates everyone. I, being me, was intrigued by her right away. Wayfarer explores Sophia a lot–we learn about her past (it’s not what you might expect), her sexuality (she’s a lesbian. she and Li Min flirt while swordfighting. it’s as awesome as it sounds), and why she’s the person you want by your side (she’s brave and fiercely loyal and will fight for what she wants with everything she has). Wayfarer also gives you an opportunity to appreciate more of her spectacular snark.

A huge portion of Wayfarer is Nicholas and Sophia traveling together while looking for Etta, and their emerging friendship and trust was one of my favorite parts of the book. They made an amazing team and I enjoyed their mutual grumpiness.

Which leads me to another thing I loved about Wayfarer. While Passenger was very romance focused, the expanding of the cast and Nicholas and Etta’s separation in Wayfarer allowed for more focus and friendship and family–Nicholas’s relationship with Sophia, and Etta’s with her parents in particular.

That being said, Nicholas and Etta made my heart melt. Even though they spent most of the book separated, the connection between them was always strong. I loved the trust and partnership between them.

Like PassengerWayfarer  had some fun settings all over time and spaced. They were stunningly described and meticulously researched, and I could tell Alexandra Bracken had an amazing time writing about them. My personal favorite was 1919 Russia.

There’s also more exploration of the time traveler’s world–the darker corners and the mysterious beings that lurk in them. The world was a lot of complex than I’d given it credit for in the first book, and I hung on to every little detail. I was also immensely creeped out multiple times.

One final thing I loved was Wayfarer’s honest about the uglier parts of the past. The text is very clear about Sophia’s limited opportunities because she’s a woman, about Nicholas’s constant awareness of how people look at him him because he’s black. At the same time, there’s no pretense of the present being perfect–Etta acknowledges several times that it isn’t.

If I’m being honest, I think this book bit off a little more than it could chew–even with over 500 pages, there was a lot that felt confusing or unexplored. I feel like the world has so much more potential, and I wonder if there’s the possibility of a spin-off. I personally would be happy to read another book about Sophia and Li Min’s adventures.

If you found Passenger slow-paced or thought it had too much inner monologue, you probably won’t like Wayfarer any better–while the book is action-packed, it takes a while to get where it needs to be (taking the scenic route rather than the more direct path, so to speak). But the exploration of the world and the characters’ emotions made the book what it was, and I wouldn’t change a single word.

Sondra