Published by Random House Children's Books on March 7th 2017
Can a text message destroy your life?
Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.
Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?
I quickly fell for Zentner’s debut The Serpent King. When I heard about Goodbye Days I knew it was a book I wanted to read. My delay in reviewing it (I read it earlier this year) wasn’t because I didn’t like it. Quite the contrary. I’m just not always very good at talking about books I love!.
As I think about Goodbye Days one of the things that really sticks out is the timing of the tragedy. As you know from the summary, Carver’s three best friends are killed in a texting related car crash. But the focus of the story is what happens after the tragedy. We get to know Mars, Eli, and Blake but it’s through Carver’s memories. There is something so poignant about getting to know these characters after they have died, about knowing that Carver will never create new memories with them.
To add to the intensity, Carver could be facing criminal charges. He’s the one who texted Mars, the driver. If it can be proved he knew Mars was driving, Carver could face legal consequences. I really appreciated how this was handled. The seriousness of texting and driving was not glossed over. As a reader my heart broke for Carver and of course I didn’t want anything more to happen to him. However, as an adult I also acknowledge the seriousness of texting someone you know is driving. Three teens lost their lives. Readers (not just teens!) need to see the legal implications of seemingly innocent choices.
And, the “goodbye days” that Carver embarks on with his friends’ families! Oh man. Those were so heartbreaking. Carver and the other people involved got to see different sides to the boys they knew and loved. I can only imagine how hard something like that would be. So many conflicting emotions. It was really brave of Carver to follow through with these, especially not knowing 100% who blamed him (or knowing that they did!)
Last thing, I have to mention Jesmyn, Eli’s girlfriend. She and Carver come to lean on one another in the wake of Eli’s death. It was really interesting to see their friendship develop. I liked her character and that she called Carver out when needed. She was simply great.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner is a powerful and thought provoking story. Highly recommended.