Guest Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 405 Pages
Published March 2017

Summary: 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?

Today on the blog we have a guest review from Taylor over at taylorelizareads! They were kind enough to stop by and review Goodbye Days and share their thoughts on it, and we couldn't be more excited to have them here as our guest reviewer for today! So without further ado, let's get into it!

This summer, I’ve been filling my TBR pile with contemporaries with a serious bent. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner was no exception. When I read the synopsis I knew that it would be a serious character study, but this book absolutely blew me away. It’s a beautiful journey through trauma, survivor’s guilt, friendship, and family that hit me so deeply. 

Goodbye Days is about Carver Briggs a high school student at Nashville Academy for the Arts, where he is a writing student. Recently, his three best friends Eli, Mars, and Blake were killed in a car accident, and he blames himself because of the text he sent to his best friend Mars right before the accident. Carver blames himself and so do some of the family members left behind. With the help of Blake’s grandmother, his new therapist, and the girlfriend of Eli, he is able to complete goodbye days with all three families to begin to grieve their loss and say goodbye. 

There are many books about teenagers going through grief, but few if any others I have read portray it in such a raw and honest way. Throughout this book you are exposed to the messiest parts of grief, and the way it impacts different people in various relationships with the three deceased. The emotional arc of this book is heart-wrenching at times, but allows you to see that grief is not static, nor is the worst of it going to always be there. The way in which Carver must deal with the survivor’s guilt of being the only one to survive is somehow so universal in the weight of being someone left behind. 

Not only does this book do an excellent job of dealing with grief, but it also tackles trauma. Seeing a character forced to deal with the aftermath instead of the lead-up, and the discussions about the way that trauma shapes us were really powerful. That’s something I rarely see in YA, and part of what drew me to this book. Personally, what really impacted me was seeing Carver to go therapy and discuss everything he’s going through with a professional. In the books I’ve read professionals are so often left out of the conversation and it was refreshing to see a therapist be brought into the fold in that way. The conversations that occur surrounding medication in this book also felt really important and the kinds of things I had needed to hear at sixteen. 

Carver’s character is a difficult perspective, but an unflinchingly honest one. Part of what makes his character so powerful is the dichotomy between the empathy of the tremendous grief he’s undergoing, coupled with whether or not you feel he is to blame for the accident and death of his friends. 

Something I love about this book is the way it doesn’t give any easy answers. There’s a rich complexity to everyone Carver interacts with that doesn’t allow him to ever get out of a situation easily. The parents and families of the three boys ask Carver and each other the tough questions, which then in turn allows you the reader to ask the same things of yourself. 

Despite being dead from the beginning of the book, Zentner never allows you not to know the three boys who died in that car. He allows Carver’s living memories to be the way you experience them, creating a conversation around the ways in which we remember people being their legacy. Many times Carver is unable to distinguish his flashbacks from reality, allowing the reader insight into Carver’s anxieties, and exploring the negative aspects of flashbacks. 

In the book being written this way, it allows some respite for the reader, while also hitting hard emotionally when both Carver and the reader remember the reality of the situation. 

This book comes together to create meaningful conversations, and important representation of grief and trauma that did not disappoint when reading. The complexities woven into the grief being dealt with in this book felt so genuine and as if Carver was someone you might have come across in the halls of your high school. 

In the end, this book surprised me, in what it was able to talk through, and the ways in which it impacted me while reading it. The conversations this book brought up are ones I hope to have in person, and discuss with others. I will definitely be picking up a copy for my personal library, so I can recommend this and lend it out to everyone.

We'd like to once again thank Taylor for stopping by The Book Bratz today to post this guest review. You can read the original review over on their blog!

** Psst! Interested in guest reviewing on The Book Bratz? Shoot us an email at or DM us on Twitter (@thebookbratz) and we'd love to have you!

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