Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner


GoodbyeDaysCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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?

Genre: Young Adult
Setting: Modern day Nashville, Tennessee
My Copy Came From: I borrowed Goodbye Days from my local library.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: Emotional and draining, but not as much as I expected. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner was a tough read about grief. Told in first person, we are in the thoughts of Carver Briggs, who was texting his friend Mars while Mars was driving, and Mars is killed in a car crash, along with Carver’s other friends, Blake and Eli. Goodbye Days shows Carver working through his guilt and his grief, and so this was a heavy read due to the subject matter.

I don’t say anything more on the short drive home. Instead, I reflect on frailty. Mine. Life’s.

I want to live unburdened again.

Although this was a draining book, with heavy subject matter, I felt a bit removed from the characters, so I didn’t have a tremendously emotional reaction to the sad scenes. Some scenes I did feel a connection with, mainly those where Carver is bullied at school about the deaths, but there was something holding me back from falling completely into this book.

Life everywhere. Pulsing, humming. A great wheel turning. A light blinks out here, one replaces it there. Always dying. Always living. We survive until we don’t.

All of this ending and beginning is the only thing that’s infinite.

As Carver works through this grief, he thinks back to good times with his friends, the “Sauce Crew”, and while these scenes showed the guys all having fun, I wanted to skip over these sections when they appeared. There was way too much “teen boy speak” for me, and I know, it’s a book narrated by a teen boy, so the language and focus in these scenes totally fits, but it just felt a bit young for me and I wasn’t interested in reading it. Also, some of the slang used just felt a bit… off and forced. It didn’t have the authentic teen-speak feel of say, The Hate U Give. But I’m not a teen, so really, what do I know. Since the genre is Young Adult, I’m not the target audience for this anyways, so my thoughts may be completely off here. But, for whatever reason, the scenes where it was the teenagers talking amongst themselves didn’t ring authentic to me.

In terms of characters, Jeff Zentner fleshes out the Sauce Crew, and also a girl named Jesmyn, who was dating Eli at the time of the crash. Jesmyn and Carver draw close to each other, as they each work through their grief. My favorite character was Nana Betsy, Blake’s grandmother. Nana Betsy and Blake have a close relationship, and I really liked their story and felt the most emotional connection to them. I also actually liked Mars’s father, Judge Frederick Edwards, who debates bringing a case against Carver for the death of his son. I wish that he and Mars had a bit more focus in the book, as I found their relationship interesting and wished for more of their story when the book was finished.

My emotions roil. In some ways, this day has sharpened everything I’ve felt over the past weeks. The guilt. The grief. The fear. It’s honed them to a razor, singing edge. But in other ways, it’s removed that edge slightly and replaced it with a dull sense of absence. While the grief feels like a more active emotion—a process of negotiation—the absence resembles grief with a measure of acceptance. If grief is a pounding surf, the absence is a melancholy, gently tossing sea.

Goodbye Days is not a happy book. Be aware when going into the read that it deals heavily with grief and loss. Parts of it were emotional for me, but I was expecting for this book to gut me, and it didn’t. I don’t know if it was because of the lack of connection with the characters, or if it was my mood when reading it, or what exactly it was.

Bottom Line: A heavy read that I didn’t quite connect with.

 LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author’s Website
Link to my review of The Serpent King , another book by Jeff Zentner


Have you read Goodbye Days? Did you connect with the novel? What about The Serpent King?


8 thoughts on “Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

    1. I thought The Serpent King was much better. I felt a connection with those characters, but didn’t feel the same connection here, which is why I think this one didn’t hit me as hard as The Serpent King did. This one felt a bit forced in the scenes between the high school students, whereas The Serpent King felt a bit more authentic.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow! What a heavy book. How did you ever decide to read it after our Oct 1 natural disaster and its consequences. Thanks for warning me that this book is not for me. Even though I can see where it might be cathartic for a YA reader in the right circumstance and frame of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it was a heavy book. I have to vary my reading and not read the fluffy/happy books all the time. Although, I’m not sure this was the best choice of read at the time I read it! My next review is for Lincoln in the Bardo, which also deals with grief, so I was reading some sad titles all in a row 😦


  2. Okay, my very first thought is, “How is the person who sent the text, and not the driver who chose to answer the text, the guilty party?” I don’t consider whether or not someone is driving when I use my phone; it’s their responsibility to use their technology and vehicles safely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly !! I kept thinking the same thing, and that question didn’t really ever come up in the book. I kept wondering why the father of the driver kept wanting to take Carver to court… it didn’t really make any sense to me.


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