Where do I start with this book? I read Jeff Zentner’s debut novel, The Serpent King, last year and I absolutely loved it, I’m talking one of my favorite reads of the year. And after finishing his follow-up novel, it’s safe to say that he’s becoming an auto-read author for me. The story opens with Carver Briggs (named after Raymond Carver and nicknamed Blade, how cool is that?) attending the funerals of his three best friends who were killed in an auto accident while texting Carver. As you can imagine, Carver is constantly plagued by guilt, grief, and the threat of possible prosecution. Every time I picked up this book, I immediately had a lump in my throat, the emotion was so real and so raw. Throughout the course of the book, Carver has “goodbye days” with each of his friends’ families, sharing memories and trying to make peace with his loss. They were the hardest parts to read, but also the most beautiful, where you could really feel Carver’s love for his friends and the depth of his grief.
One of my favorite things about Jeff Zentner is how he writes his characters. Carver and his friends, The Sauce Crew, feel like real teenage boys, sometimes cringingly so. Zentner writes misfits and outcasts as only someone who has been there can; honestly and compassionately. His prose sometimes feels almost poetical, lyrical; which makes sense. He’s also a guitarist and songwriter with five albums under his belt, who’s recorded with Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry. His love for music is a common thread in his books, both of which feature musicians and the power of music to heal and inspire. (The music-related Serpent King cameo was possibly my favorite thing in this novel)
While I didn’t love this one quite as much as The Serpent King, it was still a five star read for me and I recommend it if you’re a YA contemporary fan or if you just enjoy having your heart ripped out of your chest and shredded into confetti multiple times. Check it out at Book Depository or wherever you shop for books. And if you’ve already read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!