Friday, March 10, 2017

GOODBYE DAYS BY JEFF ZENTNER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone,

I am back with another book, Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book, as always, all opinions are my own.


This was my first Zentner novel and it was absolutely phenomenal, I adored it!

The story follows Carver in the wake of his three best friends' deaths - they were recently killed after plowing into the back of a semi-truck. The driver, Mars, was texting at the time, which many believe to be a main cause of the accident. But he is texting Carver back, they find a half written response to his asking where they were. So not only does Carver feel grief for his friends, but also guilt for his part in their deaths. To make matters worse, Mars's dad is thinking about taking legal action and holding Carver officially responsible for the accident. The story goes on to show Carver's journey through guilt, panic attacks, and acceptance. He also goes on a "goodbye day" with one of his friend's grandmother, providing her with closure and "one last day."

As I mentioned, this was my first Zentner, so I didn't really know what to expect, but I think he did a great job.

One of the major elements of the book is Carver's grief and I think it was done really well. There is no right way to grieve, but I think Carver is portrayed accurately and very well in terms of emotions. The writing is so well done that I felt like there was a weight on my chest while I was reading the book, I could feel Carver's grief and guilt throughout the story myself.

This is also an amazingly diverse book: there are people of colour, Mars is African-American and Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn, is adopted from the Philipines, one of the friends is gay, Jesmyn also has synesthesia (basically the ability to hear colours), and Carver suffers from anxiety and panic attacks as a result of the accident. The story also looks at non-traditional families, Blake is taken in by his grandmother after his mother had him as a teenager and gave up on him, as well as families with higher and lower incomes. And the best part was that these details were a part of the story but in a way that doesn't make them just another plot point. The diversity is woven in seamlessly and perfectly.

I also really appreciated the relationship between Jesmyn and Carver. There were times when they experienced survivors guilt, and other times it was unclear if there was something more between them. But their relationship was handled really well, both respectful to Eli, but also not treating Jesmyn like a possession that should be willed to whichever friend was left.

The chapters of the book were filled with flashbacks to other milestones in the boys' lives, the first day of school, etc. and I thought these were really great additions. You get to learn more and more about Mars, Blake, and Eli, and the more you learn, the more you grieve their absence. Zentner does a great job of creating characters that, despite not even being alive during the main story, are well rounded and give the reader a good sense of who they were.

This book is more than just the goodbye days - although, don't get me wrong, those were emotional. It's about moving on after a horrific accident. Not taking a second for granted because you never know when your last one will be. This book was hard to get through some of the time and the parts that were a little lighter, I still felt drained.

I really loved the male perspective as well, especially coming from a book with such emotional depth. We don't see a lot of male POVs and I loved Carver's voice.

Overall, I devoured this one in less than a day and cannot recommend it enough!