Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: YA/Family/Mental Illness
Review: The opening to Goodbye Days was absolutely heart breaking from the first sentence, we meet Carver aka Blade whose three best friends Eli, Blake and Mars have just died in a car accident. Carver feels responsible as he was texting Mars who was driving at the time. The story starts at the funerals of the three boys which was very interesting, this novel is also told from Carver`s perspective so we know exactly how he is feeling at this devastating time. In the aftermath of the accident Carver`s life has stopped and he begins to have panic attacks. After the final funeral and being ambushed by the press Carver`s life gets worse when Judge Edwards, Mars` father decides tries to put the criminal liability on Carver. This severely angers his sister Georgia and just further distresses the rest of the family.
As we approach the 1/4 mark in the novel Carver has one person he can talk to; Jesmyn Eli`s former girlfriend as she understands what he is going through. Despite the bombshell of the fact he may be facing criminal charges he does have a good support network but it doesn’t stop him from blaming himself. Nana Betsy who is Blake’s grandmother suggests an idea of her and Carver doing all the things Blake loved or wanted to do so they could have one last day with him, while Carver isn’t thrilled with the idea he promises to consider it. He also seems to be getting closer to Jesmyn even possibly developing feelings for her but feels he can never make a move on her because she was in a relationship with his dead best friend. The writing in this novel is beautiful and you genuinely feel the loneliness and isolation that Carver is feeling. After meeting with a lawyer Carver learns he could be charged with criminally negligent homicide as he knew Mars was most likely driving and decided to text him rather than Eli or Blake. This only aggravates Carver`s fragile mental state as they lawyers costs alone could end up making his family homeless. In the meantime all Carver can do is wait as see what the DA do.
As we cross the 1/4 mark in the novel we see Jesmyn and Carver’s friendship further as they find a comfort in each other that they can’t find anywhere else, but after having a panic attack on the first day back at school Carver accepts some help in the form of counselling. We are also presented with the prospect of a relationship between Carver and Jesmyn which was great and Carver is leaning towards Nana Betsy’s idea of having a final day to remember Blake. Things don’t get better for Carver even after his visit to the counsellor especially after his argument with Adair; Eli’s sister. The entire population seems to be split into 3 groups; those who believe that Carver is responsible for his friends’ deaths, those who believe he is innocent and those who have their doubts.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel we see Carver and Nana Betsy arrange their goodbye day for Blake and Carver doesn’t seem to be coping well especially with a Facebook page being created about him. Carver also feels like his is losing more people as his sister leaves for school and won’t be around to support Carver in the ways she has. Carver also seems to focus a lot on the what-if’s surrounding the accident and how easily things could have been different although this doesn’t do his mental state any good. As Nana Betsy and Carver do everything that she and Blake loved doing together they both learn things about Blake that they didn’t know before. We also get to see how Carver became friends with Blake and their highlights over the years and these scenes had me welling up so badly that at point I had to stop reading. In the final hours of their goodbye day to Blake we see Carver and Nana Betsy phone Blake’s mother who hasn’t been in his life for years to inform her of his death, while she wants to scream at her mother Carver takes the reins and for the first time says aloud that it is his fault that Blake and the other boys are dead and my heart literally broke for him. While Carver feels he knows Blake better because of this day it also leaves him emotionally and physically drained.
As we cross into the second half of the novel things don’t get easier for Carver as he has his first meeting with the police (with his lawyer present of course). Honestly at this point I was clearly on the pro Carver team. Carver prepares for his goodbye day with Eli’s family although he is very concerned about Adair who seems intent on making people believe Carver is responsible for the accident and that he should be punished for it. Carver has made attempts to talk with Adair but she doesn’t want to listen so he hopes she won’t be coming on the goodbye day with Eli’s parents. We see the shocking contrast between the goodbye for Eli and Blake’s. Pierce Eli’s father at one point pulls Carver aside and basically tells him that he believes he is responsible for his son’s death and though he doesn’t hate him as much as Adair does he will never forgive him and this causes Carver to feel more terrible than he already does. Pierce also tells him not to profit from Eli’s death which is a thinly veiled threat to stay away from Jesmyn. This is impossible for Carver as she is one of the only people holding him together and he knows he has already fallen in love with her and that will never change despite the fact he knows he can never tell her because of her connection to Eli.
As we approach the 3/4 mark in the novel I was really routing for Carver and was hoping that everything would work out for him. Carver’s isolation finally gets to him and in a dramatic scene he tells Jesmyn exactly how he feels about her and about his currently situation. Jesmyn obviously isn’t ready for another relationship and tells Carver not to talk to her, this seriously hurts Carver because Jesmyn who the only friend he had and this difficult time and he may have lost her for good. Alongside the police investigation Carver feels completely helpless and feels like he doesn’t deserve the life he has. Despite everything going on Carver agrees to do a goodbye day for Mars with his father Judge Edwards who is the very same judge that tries to have Carver charged. While the day does go well at first the Judge and Carver eventually find some common ground in which they can discuss Mars and Carver tells Mr. Edwards lots of things he didn’t know about his son and he is grateful for that. While they may never be on friendly terms they both understand the pain and hurt the other is feeling in the aftermath of the boys’ deaths.
As we cross into the final section of the novel I was very excited to see how Zentner wrapped up this heart-breaking and beautiful novel. I actually loved the way this novel ended, Zentner doesn’t give it a happy ending but it is hopeful Carver learns while he will never forget his friends and that this wound will never fully heal he will survive and he will be able to live a normal life. He manages to make peace with the families of his friends and Jesmyn but he knows this isn’t the end of his story but only the beginning.
Overall, I really loved Goodbye Days and I would highly recommend it, the writing style and story arc is similar to Adam Silvera’s writing but I loved this 100x more than More Happy Than not. This book highly deserves its rating and if you haven’t read it I recommend you pick it up right now (links are below 😉 ).
Buy it here: