Review: Goodbye Days

I don’t know if this is a thing for everyone, or if it’s unique to me but sometimes there’s a book on my TBR that I think sounds really good but that somehow takes me forever to read. My bookshelves are pretty physical proof of this very phenomenon, so full are they of the unread amazing-sounding stories.


This is what happened with Jeff Zentner. I’ve had The Serpent King for AGES and then I got an arc of Goodbye Days and actually really wanted to read it. And then didn’t read it. And then I was flicking through my arc folder on my Kindle and felt bad because IT WAS PUBLISHED OVER A YEAR AGO AND THAT IS SHOCKING.

So I read it.

And got angry with myself because I really liked it.

Here’s the deal: any book that deals with loss is a book that is probably going to appeal to me because it will make me think and it will make me feel and it will have that level of relatability to it you know? Books about loss and about grief are a little bit like picking a scab. & you know, let’s not be all woe is me because I’m cool now and I mostly dealt with all my grief stuff a long time ago but I still went through some stuff and so I find it interesting to explore that sometimes in what I’m reading. Does that make sense?

So this book was always going to be right up my street. A YA contemporary about dealing with loss? Yes please.

It’s about this teenage boy, Carver, who sends a text to his three best friends asking where they are and when they’re coming to pick him up. The friend that replies, replies whilst he’s driving, hits a truck and all three of them are killed.

I know. Talk about sucker punch.

So Carver’s left and he’s this mess of emotions. He’s got to deal with losing his best friends, he has massive survivors guilt, he has a weird relationship with his parents, there’s a girl, basically there’s a lot going on and it’s intense.

Not all the time – there are flashback scenes to the friendship of these 4 boys that are lovely and light and much needed otherwise this book would drag you down – but this book is not a walk in the park.
I liked that. It doesn’t shy away from the message it carries, and you know what I really felt like that was important especially given that we live in a world where everybody lives on their mobile phones; we have this sense of immediacy about us because the world is at our fingertips you know? Your phone bleeps and you feel like you need to address that right now but actually you don’t. Things can wait. And sometimes if you don’t wait people die and THAT IS A FACT.
People die because other people text and drive. In the UK texting whilst driving has overtaken drink driving as a leading cause for adolescent death. Texting whilst driving lowers your reaction time by 35% which is the same as being three times over the alcohol limit. THREE TIMES OVER THE LIMIT.  That makes this book important, and important because it deals with what it’s like to be the person left behind and in some ways that hits harder than a story focussing on the one who died.

It deals really well with what it’s like to be grieving the people you loved the most and it has really excellent mental health rep – Carver is depressed and has panic attacks and he goes to therapy and that whole thing is really well done.

It’s also interesting to me because most of the YA I read focusses on female friendship groups and I liked that this wasn’t. It was interesting to get to see the way these 4 boys worked together, the strength of their bond, the conversations they have: I liked it.

There were things that bugged me – there’s a fairly major plotline that I don’t want to spoil that just baffled me and annoyed me the whole way through: I was just like ‘wait, what’ the whole time, and sometimes Carver’s voice didn’t ring true as in sometimes he was wise beyond his years and coming out with this really profound stuff and then at other times he seemed more like an 11 year old than someone at 16/17 so that niggled a little bit.

Overall though, I flew through this book and I think it’s worth a read. I think it’s an important read, actually.  I’ve also bumped The Serpent King up my TBR which should tell you something.