Friday, March 3, 2017

Goodbye Days ~ Jeff Zentner (earc) review [@randomhousekids @jeffzentner]

Goodbye Days
Crown Books for Young Readers
March 07, 2017
416 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

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?
I am still recommending Jeff Zentner's 2016 debut novel The Serpent King to people and now it looks like I'll have to add an, 'and Goodbye Days,' to my suggestions.

There is something wonderfully authentic about the characters this author creates. After I finished reading Goodbye Days, I kept trying to figure out who Carver or some of the other characters reminded me of, only to realize they didn't; not exactly. They are each so real, so unique and well crafted that they feel like someone you know, someone you could know. None of this book's characters seem like any other fictional character, they're not any kind of stereotype or expected something or other. They're just very real.

The way that readers still get to know Mars, Eli and Blake and to see their friendship with each other and Carver was a great element of the story. It not only kept parts of the book from being too heavy, but really allows you to see who and what it is Carver is mourning. You can better understand both his guilt and his grief when his friends aren't something you only experience as something past and gone.

Carver Briggs is a character I have a lot of respect for. Not as much for what all he experienced, but for how he handled everything. He screwed up sometimes and he didn't have all of the answers, but he also knew that and was willing to try to find them. I liked that he was receptive to new things, willing to push himself and to listen to others but none of it done in a way that seemed not to fit who he was supposed to be. (Plus, there were times he showed a lot more reserve than many would be capable of under similar circumstances.)

The secondary characters - Carver's parents and sister; Mars, Blake and Eli's families - do a nice job showing the different ways a tragic event can affect people and the different ways they can deal with it.

Goodbye Days is a fantastically written novel with very real characters and premise that is pertinent but never becomes an 'issue' book; it's a must read. (Pre-order it now or go get it on Tuesday, the 7th.)

digital review copy received, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher

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