Man, has this book stuck with me ever since I finished it a few weeks ago. I find myself constantly thinking about this book, its characters, and heartbreaking story about a boy facing intense grief and guilt for the very first time.
Summary (provided by Goodreads):
What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?
One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.
The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.
Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.
Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.
Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?
Dee’s Review: Oh boy. First, I want to say that a book has not made me cry since I was on my John Green kick in my freshman year of high school–so that’s almost seven years. But this book, you guys. I work in an office, so I have a lot of downtime which I spend reading, of course. I had to physically put this book down at times because I knew if I didn’t I would breakdown right in the middle of my workplace.
Grief is different for everybody, and I’ve never lost anyone super close to me, but Zentner writes his book in a way that you become friends with Mars, Eli, and Blake and at the end of the book, you realize that you are now mourning them with Carver. Now I know that being empathetic towards characters is a common trait in a lot of readers including myself, but I’ve never felt like I lost someone at the end of a read–until this book.
The story is told through Carver’s point-of-view in the present day after the accident, but also contains several flashbacks of memories of him and his friends. You start the novel understanding the situation: boy texts best friends, best friends try to text back, and best friends die in a car crash. You go into the novel without knowing anything about these boys except that they were friends with Carver and that they’re all dead now. In that way, I felt almost disconnected from the situation because I knew nothing about these characters other than those two facts.
Well, then came the flashbacks of Carver hanging out with his friends. There was nothing spectacular or special about these moments. You discover what the boys did when they hung out, how they spoke, their inside jokes, the origins of their friendships, and the deep bond that Carver had with each and every one of them. You fall in love with every one of them. You fall in love with Carver. You watch him grieve and breakdown, and then by the end of it you realize you are now grieving and breaking down. And I think that that is such a clever way that Zentner framed this novel.
An integral part of this novel is the separation between the remaining loved ones who don’t blame Carver for what happened and then those that do and the measures they take to attain “justice.” You want to hate the families who want to incriminate Carver, but then you understand why. Carver understands why. While the book contains several flashbacks, I never felt that the book was stuck in the past. Carver reflects on past memories with his friends and uses them to help their loved ones understand them in a way they weren’t able to when they were alive.
In addition to this, the minor romance Carver experiences did not overshadow the major plot, and the girl did not “fix” Carver’s grief, but rather experienced it with him. I’m a sucker for romance and prefer it when the novels I read have some sort of romance incorporated through it, but I’m glad romantic love was not the focal point in Goodbye Days.
Rating: I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads–I really did love it that much! Have you read Goodbye Days? What did you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts below or tell me what you’ve been reading recently!