Death, grief, and guilt – the three words that describe the crucial emotions humans feel in their lives. The three words that will forever transform each one of us. The three words which sum up Jeff Zenter’s emotional novel, The Goodbye Days.
Zenter introduces a familiar situation followed by relatable characters for young adults. The book immediately starts off with the text, “ ‘Where are you guys?’ ”, which was sent by Carver Briggs, the protagonist. This message ends up killing three of Carver’s best friends: Eli, Mars, and Blake. The story follows through Carver’s thoughts and his attempts to cope with people and himself after the tragic accident. By focusing on the culprit teenager, surprisingly, we as readers are able to see Carver’s pain and sympathize him rather than scrutinize his mistakes. Also, the point of view demonstrates the intelligence of the way the author designed the book. Zenter kept the book a youthful and a light read by telling the story from a teenager, which balances out the bleak plot. Therefore, this novel is ideal for any young adults due to its straightforward language and the settings centering around a small town in Tennessee with schools and houses for students.
The book retains important messages especially for all teens developing various emotions. While the plot describes and raises awareness towards texting and driving, one of the most frequent accidents happening among teenagers, the author also focuses on the consequences resulting from our own actions. The four words text sent by the protagonist killed all of his closest friends driving in the car. Due to this unexpected outcome, Carver suffered through panic attacks and wrath from the family members. Through Carver, Zenter is able to relay his first message; small words and actions anyone puts out in the world will have a positive or a negative impact on others.
Other lessons are shown through the most crucial aspect of the book: emotions. The author clearly shows the developing stages of the protagonist’s feelings as the time goes on. Right after the accident, Carver felt immense amount of grief and pain for few weeks. Then, the guilt kicked in and began to eat his mind away. With Carver’s effort seeing happiness by going to a therapist, he slowly started to taste the hint of happiness after couple of years have passed. The author again tells the readers negative emotions are chained reactions that will continue to build up and transform from one another. However, we ourselves are the ultimate factors deciding whether to change our negative feelings to positive feelings by finding different outlets to happiness. After finding happiness, we must accept our mistakes and move on with our lives. I would strongly suggest this beautiful novel to emotional teenagers and people who have dealt with pain.
The most important message from the author is about experiences: “…people move through this world leaving little pieces of their story with the people they meet, for them to carry.” (Zenter) All human beings are essentially composed of bits and pieces of memories that define and distinguish ourselves from others. Throughout the book, Zenter reveals that painful experiences are the ones that will help us stretch and grow. Thus, it is important to absorb all the emotions that are offered from those moments and continue to strive for happiness.