Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner


Goodreads Overview:

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Jacque's Review:

This was my son's assigned summer reading before his senior year of high school. There is a positive message about not texting and driving, which all teenagers can benefit from. On the other hand, this was a rather depressing book. Carver, who is going into his senior year, loses his three best friends in a car accident and has nobody to turn to for help. He begins having panic attacks due to the guilt and stress, so his sister suggests he talk to a psychiatrist. Dr. Mendez is instrumental in this story and is one of the few people who can truly relate to Carver's feelings. He encourages him to tell him stories, which should be easy for a writer, but is not in this case. He eventually opens up and learns how to "reframe his perception of events", which is another important message in this story. There is always more than one way to look at an event. 

The Goodbye Days start when Blake's grandmother asks Carver to spend one last day sharing memories and doing all of Blake's favorite things with her. Carver eventually goes through with it and does feel better after the fact. The families of the other two victims ask him to do the same thing for them, but he is concerned about their motives. Those days do not go as smoothly as they did with Blake's grandma, but ultimately, they are therapeutic for him.

For me, this was a 3-star book. It had some nice messages, but it isn't something I would have selected for Preston. I can understand why the school system chose it, but it certainly isn't going to turn a reluctant reader into a book nerd. My son has enjoyed books like I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak and Freckled by Toby Neal. Those books have powerful messages and were able to hold his interest. In this case, I had to get the audiobook and force him to listen while we drove to a couple of his golf tournaments. He doesn't really enjoy reading, so a book with a character his age who lost all of his friends was going to be a challenge for him to complete. Hopefully he learned something from it and will think twice before texting and driving.

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