I expected sadness, but I did not expect to be INFURIATED.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner is about a boy named Carver who sent a text message to his friend who was driving, and it results in a tragic car accident where all of Carver’s friends die. It sounds sad, right? And it is: we see Carver’s pain first hand, but we also (brilliantly) see the pain of others through Carver’s eyes, and how everyone experiences this grief differently. Another brilliant thing as the “goodbye days” themselves: days in which Carver spends with the families of those lost, and they all learn about these boys even postmortem. The last brilliant thing this book brings is how it contemplates “who is to blame?” for the accident.
It’s brilliant, and it’s INFURIATING.
See, many people blame Carver, including Carver himself. Some blame him so much, they want him to face criminal charges.
That’s right. Criminal charges. For a text message.
More than once, I yelled at this book. Loudly. With swear words. Because I was so mad at how these people were treating this poor boy who lost all his friends as a result of a choice he made, even if it was a rather innocent one. Carver is in so much pain, and no one seems to see this, too blinded by their own pain to notice how much everything is affecting him. It hurt my heart.
What also hurt my heart were the goodbye days, which were dealt with so tenderly. I love how you leave the book feeling like you really knew Carver’s friends, even if they are dead when the novel begins. The book also uses flashbacks and memories at the perfect times to heighten whatever emotion you’re feeling.
While this book certainly made me feel a lot of things, I can’t help but think that it could have done more. It gave me a soft punch when I wanted to be knocked-out. But maybe that ultra-heartbreaking, sob-your-eyes-out story isn’t what Zentner wanted to sell. Maybe he wanted that subtle sadness, that creeps up on you and stays with you for so long, you’re unsure of what caused it to begin with.
3.5 goodbye days out of 5.