book blog · book review

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

30649795What 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?


*Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Random House UK Children’s, and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

In just one day, Carver Briggs lost his three best friends– Mars, Eli, and Blake– in a car accident. He blames himself for it. “Where are you guys? Text me back?” If only he didn’t send that text message to Mars, the driver at that time and whom he knows will reply to his message despite driving. Even Eli’s twin sister hates him and Mars’ father who happens to be a judge is out to get justice and wanted to pursue a criminal investigation for what happened. And though Carver wants to be punished for what he did, he is also scared of going to jail. He then started having panic attacks. Fortunately, there are still some people who support him and trying to help him cope. Aside from his very supportive family and older sister, there’s his new therapist in whom he finds himself confiding into, Nana Betsy, Blake’s grandmother and also the one who raised him. And then, there’s Jesmyn, Eli’s girlfriend whom he shared an unlikely friendship since the accident. As days go by, Carver’s feelings towards her got deeper. Something that complicates his life further than it already has. And if that isn’t enough, Nana Betsy asked him for a goodbye day where they get to spend a day together and do all things that she wishes she could have done with Blake for the last time. One more day with her grandson but with Carver in his place instead. Dr. Mendez thinks it’s a good idea and though Carver is hesitant, he decided to go along with it. Surprisingly, it went well than he expected and even managed to give them both some kind of peace. However, other families started asking him for goodbye days of their own and Carver isn’t so sure about it anymore especially knowing that they somewhat blame him for the accident.

Goodbye Days is such an emotional, tear-jerker novel. It opens to a heartbreaking start with Carver losing his three best friends and from then we followed his journey in dealing with not only his grief but also with the guilt he carries. How can he ever move on from his loss knowing that he might have something to do with his friends’ death? And that immediately made me think what to feel towards Carver. Sympathy or displeasure? But it was so hard not to sympathize with someone who showed so much remorse for what he’d done and as the story progress, I find myself liking his character. His narrative is weighted with a lot of emotions and he made it so easy to connect with him. I feel his pain and his fears and the same goes for the other characters. They all felt very real and their emotions are palpable to me. Also, I love Carver’s relationship with his family. They are all very supportive especially his older sister. It shows how a good support system can be a big help to someone.

I also like the idea of “Goodbye Day” and how different each experience are to the families and to Carver. Some willingly did it, some with reservations, and some with hostility but all of them are bound with one goal. To be able to accept their loss and deal with their grief. And as they work through their sorrows, they also managed to learn something new about their sons via Carver, and in turn, as a reader, I was able to get to know more of Blake, Mars, and Eli as well.

While Goodbye Days is a very poignant book, it also brings out some laugh. The teenage guy’s friendship, though they may appear immature and do stupid stuff, it was, in my opinion, a realistic and genuine portrayal. I also appreciate how the relationship between Jesmyn and Carver develops and how Jesmyn handled the situation. It may seem inappropriate but things like that really happen.

Goodbye Days is a brilliantly written and very timely novel about the serious effect of texting and driving. It is about dealing with grief and guilt, friendship, and most of all forgiveness of others and of one’s self. It will evoke a whole lot of emotions, painful yet in the end, there’s hope. Very thought-provoking and consuming.




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