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?

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 5 heart-snatching, heart-mending stars! Mr. Zentner spent my emotions like quarters at an arcade. My body got confused about why the tears were falling as I traversed through the happy and heartbreaking moments that filled these pages. It was a bittersweet joy to watch four boys meet and see why Sauce Crew was formed in Carver’s memories. Then it was a striking ache in my chest to see how he would never be the same again after his three best friends died and he was left to walk the halls of school during his–their–senior year without them. Even worse, he carried the burden of guilt because he felt like his text message was the reason they were dead.

Goodbye Days was an incredibly poignant exploration of friendship and tragedy, and how deeply our lives can be impacted when those two elements overlap. I certainly believe this is a book to be treasured.

♥ Review: I’m not sure anything I say in this portion will ever do justice to this story, how much it impacted me, or how beautifully written Goodbye Days is. I’m not quite sure how the author was able to bring such vibrantly realistic teen boys to life on the page, crude jokes and fart humor included, and it still manage to be some of the prettiest prose I’ve come across in a while. Seriously, it was like his writing had a hardline straight to my heartstrings, and with each page, my emotions churned more and more. But gorgeous words aside, let’s get back to the real heart of this book and that’s the people who the author chose to fill it with. Carver was a special boy and I loved his narrative, from the snark in his inner dialogue to the somewhat quiet, mindful disposition he presented to the world. Then there’s his extremely involved parents and absolute riot of an older sister. I loved watching the family dynamic at work here and how his parents were so present, both in his life (or as much as he would let them be) and on the page. As an older sister myself, I easily connected with Carver’s sister and their teasing, loving interactions and strength of their relationship really felt genuine. I loved that. Then there’s the chance to see the family and one girlfriend of the deceased boys through the funerals and the goodbye days. I believe Zentner did a wonderful job of incorporating these secondary characters, and it was a startling, honest look into how grief affects all of us so differently. I enjoyed getting to know them–even if their grief made some of them act so hatefully toward Carver– and seeing how this tragedy had struck each of them so profoundly, each with their own individual reaction and yet also altogether similar in ways, too. Then there’s Carver’s therapist and I truly liked how the process played out, and how eventually Dr. Mendez was able to forge a true bond with Carver and get him to see that the universe is filled with unavoidable accidents and that ultimately the wreck wasn’t his fault, even if sending the text might have been a costly mistake. I want him to be my therapist.

Zentner did introduce a romance, sort of. I won’t go super in-depth on it, but I think I appreciated how naturally he let it evolve considering whose girlfriend she used to be. But it really was like background music to me, not part of the biggest storyline. That said, I really loved the girl and how she wasn’t shy about putting Carver in his place when he was acting shitty or saying things that were insensitive.

Above all else, I think the greatest aspects of this novel was how effortlessly Zentner painted the picture of the boys’ friendship throughout the pages. It was so bittersweet getting those glimpses back through their timeline because we know how their stories end, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the moment. We got to see them from the very start; watch how one became two, and then how each new boy was brought into the fold until they were the completely inseparable unit known as Sauce Crew. It’s not too often in YA lit that you’ll find a solid group of good boys, each individual multi-faceted and layered with so much personality. They were the highlight of this book, and I certainly hope to see more guys represented like these boys were in future novels.

♥ Teaser Quote:

    “…But guess where my love of writing took me. One day I wrote a text message that killed my three best friends. Now do I have your attention? Sure, I’ve written a few stories here and there, but my masterwork was a two-sentence-long text message that ended three stories. I’m the only writer in the world who makes stories disappear by writing.”

–quote taken from an eARC of Goodbye Days at 32%

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels
Degree my heart was ripped out
Angst Me So Good

♥ Rec It? Absolutely! This book was so thoughtful, packed with emotion, heart, and multiple journeys through grief. I won’t soon forget this novel or the way it touched my heart. Furthermore, and something that I failed to mention above, I found there was a good balance of POC in this book as well. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Zentner’s work in the future.

♥ A very special thanks to Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.

*Disclaimer: An e-copy of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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