Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on March 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
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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?
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner is the type of book that I would normally avoid. You just know it’s going to be heartbreaking. You begin the book knowing that something terrible has happened and it can’t be undone. You know you’re likely to end up ugly crying (possibly multiple times) before it’s over.
But I knew I had to read this book because the author is Jeff Zentner. His debut novel, The Serpent King, was the best book I read last year. I absolutely fell in love with his writing and characters – I had such a connection with it. I wanted to experience his work, no matter how sad it was going to be. And, bonus surprise – there’s a cameo by a character from The Serpent King in this book!
While this book didn’t completely grab me in the same way, I’m so glad that I decided to give it a chance. It was profoundly sad, but it was also hopeful. It showed the many different ways that people grieve, love, and connect. It was also a love letter to the city of Nashville, which is one of my favorite places. I enjoyed hearing familiar locations and remembering visiting some of them in college.
I liked the idea of the ‘Goodbye Days’ and what they meant. While I can’t begin to fathom the depths of grief and loss that these families were experiencing, I liked the idea that they were still learning new things about their children, getting to hear about sides of them that they may not have known. I also liked the fact that Carver’s guilt and the side effects of that were met head-on, and it shone a positive light on mental health.
I also enjoyed the small glimpses into the past escapades of Sauce Crew. It intensified the loss that Carver was experiencing, but also added humor and let us see exactly who his friends were. The narrator, Michael Crouch, did an excellent job, as well – I loved his voices (especially Nana Betsy – I adored her character!). While this book probably isn’t one that I would read again and again, it solidified Jeff Zentner on my ‘absolutely must read anything and everything he writes’ list, and I can’t wait to see what is next!
“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”
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