Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen (Aus/UK) (Crown – USA) – Published 6 April 2017 (Aus) 7 March 2017 (USA)
Can a text message destroy your life?
Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.
Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?
Hilarious and heartbreaking, Goodbye Days is a winning combination. Perfection itself.
Goodbye Days is an incredibly poignant and relatable story. How many lives have been affected by the tragic deaths of teenagers – friends, classmates, sons or daughters? How many stories of death and grief are punctuation by questions of why, what if, if only? Guilt and sorrow mixing to form a potent poison. Goodbye Days captures all of that emotion and mixes it with a friendship so strong it can only be called a brotherhood. Mixes it with humour and levity and life so bright it dances in front of your eyes. I was crying one minute and laughing the next.
The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.
This book is narrated by Carver and his voice is one of the most unique and authentic male teen voices I’ve ever read. He sounds exactly how one might imagine a teenage boy who is an aspiring writing would sound – magnificent words thrown into mundane yet profound statements.
I think Carver’s sister might be the best character in the book, which is amazing given she’s got some serious competition. She is full on, takes no prisoners, is unafraid to speak her mind, and is determined to help Carver. Yet, all of the characters are incredibly detailed and vibrant. Through flashbacks, memories and shared stories, the reader gets a strong glimpse of Carver’s three friends and the friendship they shared.
I so desperately wanted a happy ending. One of those unbelievable, soap-opera endings where all the characters miraculously and without explanation come back to life. But that ending would not have been true to the authenticity of this story, even if it would have made my heart happy. Instead we have the most perfect, bittersweet ending of a continuing – not really a ending, not a beginning either. The type of ending that has you smiling while tears stream down your face.
And on top of everything else that is wonderful about this book, it gets extra points for a positive portrayal of therapy. In fact, it gets points for everything.
Goodbye Days is a must-read novel – sad, sweet, honest, hilarious, and so very important in the ongoing conversation of teenage mental health, grief, friendship, life, and death.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Death, grief, teenagers, texting, car accidents, mental health, therapy, friendship, romance, family, Southern USA.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Mature themes, death. Sexual references, mast*******. Coarse language, sh**, bit**, f***, as*****, pis*.
Published: 6 April 2017 by Anderson. 7 March 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 288 pages.