Goodbye Days: An Exploration of Guilt and the Meaning of Friendship

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Who knew a single text could change a person’s entire life? Carver sure didn’t. In Jeff Zentner’s latest release, Goodbye Days, the effects of grief and the burden of guilt are explored. Told with plenty of humor, a cast of loveable and honest main characters, and narration that will break your heart, Goodbye Days is a novel that is sure to challenge readers to appreciate the simple things in life and to consider the ramifications of each and every decision they make.

The story begins with Carver Briggs, a teenage boy who is distraught over the deaths of his best friends, deaths that may or not be his fault. He sent a text, a single text, and it ended the lives of his friends. They were driving one moment and were dead the next. Now left to deal with the aftermath of their deaths, Carver has to go on with his life, alone and weighed down by the choice he made. But with new relationships and the healing of time, Carver soon learns the difficulty of moving on as well as the beauty in new beginnings. His best friends may be dead, and the blame might be on his shoulders, but that doesn’t mean he can’t reminisce and celebrate the lives of his friends, specifically Blake, who Carver feels especially close to. Because, after all, doesn’t everyone deserve a goodbye day?

After reading Zentner’s second YA novel, there is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the most brilliant new writers in the genre. His ability to combine topics such as death and grief with perfectly timed bodily humor is pure genius. Few writers can make a novel so completely funny while writing about a boy who is being accused of killing his friends; this book is absolutely brilliant. Each page of this heartbreaking story is sure to captivate readers and to speak to the confusion and awkwardness of high school. For those looking for a book with the wit of John Green and the beautiful tragedy of Kerry Kletter and Adam Silvera, this is the book to read. Zentner masterfully creates both a setting and characters that are achingly real and broken; their stories of restoration and self-discovery are stunning to experience.

Goodbye Days packs a serious emotional punch, and many readers are sure to shed a tear (or twenty), but Zentner’s humor still remains. Just like The Serpent King, Goodbye Days contemplates faith, details the struggle of adolescence, and focuses specifically on friendship. With a beautifully crafted story and a main character that are sure to steal the hearts of readers, Goodbye Days is a testament to both Zentner’s increasing talent and to the positive direction of the YA genre as a whole. Pick up a copy of Goodbye Days and journey with Carver as he wrestles with grief and shame while also celebrating the lost lives and making the most of the future.

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