Genre: YA contemporary
Year of Publication: 2017
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Synopsis: ‘Griffin has lost his first love in a drowning accident. Theo was his best friend, his ex-boyfriend and the one he believed he would end up with. Now, reeling from grief and worsening OCD, Griffin turns to an unexpected person for help. Theo’s new boyfriend. But as their relationship becomes increasingly complicated, dangerous truths begin to surface. Griffin must make a choice: confront the past, or miss out on his future.’
Ever since I was perusing Goodreads a while back and stumbled across Adam Silvera as a suggested author, I have been wanting to read one of his books. From the descriptions I’d read and the generally highly-rating reviews, I had the impression that he was a new up-and-coming YA author to be watching out for, and I can see why.
I think that the best thing to be said for HIAYLM is that its protagonist, Griffin, is very real and very likeable. The issues he faces within the novel and the way he deals with them make him incredibly developed and three-dimensional, which is massively important given the amount of time Silvera affords us to be alone with only Griffin and his thoughts. He’s a teenager who just lost his first love and best friend, and Silvera ensures that it’s really difficult for the reader not to feel deeply for him. Throughout the novel, I was constantly rooting for him to find a way back to happiness and to figure out how to deal with what he was going through. He makes mistakes, he learns from them, he makes more mistakes and he learns from them again.
Secondly, I think Silvera manages to tackle several enormous themes within HIAYLM with care and honesty. Grief, love, friendship, heartbreak, mental health… somehow these are all given enough time to be developed fully despite the relatively short length of 292 pages. They don’t make for an easy read by any means, but I feel like it’s important they’re handled well, which I think Silvera definitely manages.
I also really liked the way he manages to write beautiful, insightful sentiments in everyday language. ‘Maybe a first kiss without a big moment will speak for itself. Maybe it says, “Hey, I like you when you’re not doing anything special.”’ That one just stuck with me, because I feel in this instance (and throughout) Silvera manages to pick out beauty without using necessarily beautiful language – I thought this was a really impressive feat, and made me think even harder about what he was saying than if he had drowned it in metaphors.
I hate to say it, but HIAYLM did indulge in some of those YA clichés we all love to hate (or just really don’t like). Griffin, not even eighteen and suffering from anxiety that leads to numerous assertions that he will never get on a plane decides to defy his parents and fly almost 3000 miles across America to a city he’s never been to with someone he’s only just met. Why do so many YA authors insist on making their main characters do things that average teenagers just would not do? I found this pretty disappointing, considering that one of the things I initially praised the novel with was how believable Griffin was and the actions he took. Something just didn’t sit right here.
Also, I did find that the novel was almost too difficult to read. It’s divided into alternating chapters of ‘History’, which follows Theo and Griffin’s relationship and ‘Today’, which follows Griffin’s grief. While it was really useful to get an insight into what made Griffin’s pain so prevalent to the rest of the novel by seeing what he and Theo had, in some cases it felt like Silvera was giving us a ray of hope and happiness by the end of each ‘History’ chapter, yet tearing it away immediately after – repeatedly. I know this was important to emphasising Griffin’s pain, but I almost felt as though I wasn’t wanting to read on because I just didn’t want to reach the desperately sad chapter that I knew would follow. Because of this I very nearly didn’t finish it. If it had been continuously sad leading to a happier conclusion or vice versa I feel like it would have been much easier to keep picking up, but as a review by Kat O’Keeffe stated, it really was ‘emotional whiplash’, yet I just couldn’t see this as a positive.
Overall, I think HIAYLM was definitely a worthwhile read. It was raw and real and contained some themes that I think were very well explored. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a YA novel that makes you think about what you have and what to be grateful for. I think the plot was interesting, as were the characters, but I had to only give it three out of five stars because ultimately, the constant switching between past memories and present just meant I couldn’t immerse myself properly while reading it.
Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought of it if you have!