Adam Silvera’s new book, History Is All You Left Me, is a beautiful meditation for teenagers on love, loss, and friendship. It follows Griffin through the history and the present, as he deals with the sudden accidental death of his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo. He remembers the good and bad times, and deals with moving through the grief and coming out the other side. There is also discussion of love, coming out, and dealing with anxiety. Adam Silvera packs a punch into his book, and it will leave you reeling and emotional. Here’s our Q&A with Adam Silvera!
Better Reading: Congratulations on your new book, History Is All You Left Me! This is such a stunningly heartbreaking book, though there are moments of redemption and love. Tell us about your inspiration for writing this.
Adam Silvera: Thank you so much! It was a really difficult book to write that walks really difficult lines and I’m so grateful for your takeaway. My inspiration came from a breakup for a relationship that ended because of distance, not falling out of love. I swore I was going to end up with this guy, but then he fell in love with someone else. And then he and his boyfriend almost drowned and after all was well, I kept thinking about what would’ve happened if he had died. How devastated and confused I would’ve been. And the book allowed me to explore that.
BR: This book has really strong messages – of love, of grief, of acceptance, of moving on. What in particular do you hope readers take away from Griffin and his story?
AS: I hope readers see how you can reinvent yourself after an unfortunate and unexpected tragedy, and find some strength when they’re at their weakest.
BR: The book jumps between the past and the present. Why did you think it was important to juxtapose these two times?
AS: Great question! The book was originally going to be set all in the present, no past chapters. But my best friend read some chapters and loved what I had written but commented on how sad it was. So I figured if I could provide some emotional recess for the reader, that would create a greater reading experience. And it works out because the History chapters better inform the Today chapters. It makes the grief heavier because you now know the boy Griffin is grieving. I loved meeting Theo when all was well.
BR: Several of the main characters are either gay or LGBTQIA+ identifying – Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and another character who comes out later towards the end. When writing queer characters, how important was their sexuality to you in telling their story, or was it simply another part of who they are?
AS: In my first novel MORE HAPPY THAN NOT the heaviness of coming out was an integral role, but I didn’t want that to be a major focus here. I wanted the kids to come out and be loved. The country isn’t 100% there of course, but we’re making some progress. The fact that books with queer leads are published at all with tons of support is still pretty miraculous.
BR: On that note, did you write this book for LGBTQIA+ teens specifically, or do you think it’s a universal tale?
AS: I think it’s a universal tale with awesome queer kids on the main stage. We all love, we all get out hearts broken, we all grieve. I do love that queer teens get to see their hearts on the page so much.
BR: I have to say, when I finished this book I had a good long cry. Even though there is a hopeful ending, the book is quite heartbreaking. How did you approach balancing the darker themes in History Is All You Left Me?
AS: Sorry for making you cry? Thanks for crying and caring? Still not sure how to respond to that feedback. Haha. I approached the balance with the structure, totally. Imagine this book without the HISTORY section. Assuming you ached for Griffin, you would’ve cried every page. But the darkness is important too. We all live and we should all see that so we don’t feel alone in our sadness.
BR: The themes of grief are quite intense in this novel. Was this inspired by anything particular? Was it different writing grief for a teenager than for an adult?
AS: I’ve never grieved anyone the way Griffin has. The closest I came is that breakup. In some ways, when my ex and I split, it felt like he died. He was no longer the person I loved and lived with, and it felt like he abandoned me. That he was out of reach. And that loneliness got heightened from distance to death for the book. As for writing grief about a teenager versus an adult, that’s a really great question that I’m not convinced I have a solid answer for. Grief is universal and, in many cases, it comes when you’re least expecting it. And death can blindside us at any age.
BR: Feelings of jealousy definitely affect many characters in this novel; how would you say you approached writing this, and the resolution of these feelings in a healthy way?
AS: Oh, I 100% pulled this from my own experiences. People are flawed! I don’t like books where someone is clearly good or clearly bad. That’s boring and not how life works. Interesting fiction shows good people making decisions, and vice versa. Good people with their hearts in the right places get jealous too. Some resolve this in healthy ways by making peace with their lives, others continue struggling to have it all.
BR: What was the writing process on this like?
AS: It was brutal. Hardest book I’ve ever written. It took me thirteen months to get a first draft. And I wrote all of the TODAY section first, then the HISTORY section. Then combined the narratives. I’m so proud of this book. It was worth every lost night of sleep.
BR: Finally, and I’m sorry for asking this – do you have a favourite character, and why?
AS: Griffin is probably my favorite. The narrator has always been for me. I approach a story through a narrator because I love them most, and want to spend every page with them. I love Griffin through every year, every poor life choice, everything, everything.