These Things I’ve Done: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips which published August 2017 from Harper Teen. I received this title from Eric Smith, (thanks so much again!) as a review copy. There will be no spoilers so don’t click away. Though I will warn you that:

  1. This book surrounds the theme of death. Please take caution while reading.
  2. There is an incident of sexual harassment and it is talked about through some parts of the story.

These Things I’ve Done will punch you in the gut as it deals heavily with grief and its different stages: anger, guilt, understanding, etc. It has been on my list to read for the longest time and it did not disappoint.

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It is told in two alternating time periods, before and after the death of Dara’s best friend, Aubrey. These tales do eventually weave together in order to create a cohesive past as well as help the reader understand Dara’s relationship with Aubrey, and who Dara was before the incident. After reading both the first chapter of before and the first chapter of after, it broke my heart to see the stark contrast in Dara’s personality. Phillips did an amazing job at depicting a believable stage of grief, but it didn’t stop there. She dug into the layers of Dara’s psyche to show a teenage girl who was suffering, who didn’t know how to find forgiveness within herself.

The main premise is Dara returns to her hometown over a year after the death of Aubrey. She believes it is time to face the consequences of her horrible action and drown in the suffering she thinks she deserves. Her parents are unsteady around her and her little brother who she was once so close with is afraid of her. All of her former friends want nothing to do with her.  None of this compares to seeing Aubrey’s little brother, Ethan, someone who had been a huge part of her life prior to Aubrey’s death. Reacquainting with him leads to a roller coaster of emotions, unresolved problems, and finding acceptance. It also allows us as readers to gain a better sense of who Audrey was, both as a friend, and as a sister.

The story doesn’t leave you with a bleak outlook on life. It does have some sad bits and a lot of lines that will cling to your heart and not let you go, but it offers hope. It shows a way out of the darkness especially when you believe choices and actions cannot be undone. It shows that there will always be people to accept you and pick you up during the most difficult moments of your life.

Overall, it gets 4/5 stars from me and I will definitely be keeping an eye on whatever Rebecca Phillips has in store next.

Xx

Megan

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The Message Behind Goodbye Days Ft. Jeff Zentner

Hello Readers & Writers,

If you haven’t read Jeff Zenter’s twitter thread on why he wrote Goodbye Days, I highly recommend you do so by clicking here.

It is insightful, genuinely inspiring, and only made me want to read his book all the more quickly. Though, as readers, we know our TBR piles never quite end. Nevertheless, I reached out to Jeff in order to talk a bit more in depth about Goodbye Days and his inspiration for such an emotionally charged story.

In case you haven’t heard of Goodbye Days, here is a synopsis:

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?

Now onto the interview!

Q1: What drew you to writing about a very difficult topic – especially to the extent Carver experiences it?

Jeff: I’ve always had a certain fascination with death. It’s so final and universal. I contended with it some in my first book, but not to the extent I felt like I needed to. I was also interested in telling a story about guilt and blame.

Q2: On your twitter account, you discussed wanting to deal with questions of accountability, memory, saying goodbye to loved ones – among others things. Do you feel as if you’ve successfully grappled with these questions?

Jeff: I hope so. For now.

Q3: Describe Goodbye Days in three words. 

Jeff: Tell your story.

Q4: What traits do you and Carver share?

Jeff: We both see a lot of beauty in the world. We both like to think about important questions of life and death.

Q5: What do you want readers to take away from such an emotionally driven tale? 

Jeff: That lives are complex stories; that you can cause something to happen without being to blame for it.

Q6: Is there any advice you want to share to a young adult audience?

Jeff: Beware of anyone who tries to get you to blame your problems on some group of people; beware of people who tell you that selfishness is a virtue; beware of anyone who tries to make you fear whole groups of people.

Q7: How did you get into writing? 

Jeff: I got into writing because I wanted to make art for teenagers and I was past the age where I could make music marketed to teenagers.

Q8: Not only are you a writer, but you’re a musician. Does being in tune with music help your writing process at all?

Jeff: It does. It helps me be attentive to economy of language and melody of sentences.

Q9: Share one random fact about yourself. 

Jeff: I once owned a pet sloth.

Author Bio:IMG_4026

Jeff Zentner is the author of William C. Morris Award winner and Carnegie Medal
longlister The Serpent King and most recently, Goodbye Days. Before becoming a writer, he was a singer-songwriter and guitarist who recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, and Debbie Harry. In addition to writing and recording his own music, he worked with young musicians at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp, which inspired him to write for young adults. He lives in Nashville.

To find out more about Jeff’s projects, click the links below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffzentner
Website: http://www.jeffzentnerbooks.com/

Lastly, be sure to check out Jeff’s newest book Goodbye Days and stick around for more book related posts on my end.

Xx

Megan