Booklist Reviews 2016 December #1
*Starred Review* "I may have killed my three best friends," 17-year-old Carver agonizes. How so? He sent a text to his friend Mars, knowing the boy was driving at the time; distracted by replying to the text, Mars crashed into a stopped truck, killing himself and Carver's two other best friends, Blake and Eli. Now Mars' father, a judge, has called on the district attorney to open an investigation and weigh charges of criminally negligent homicide against Carver. Bereft and virtually friendless, riddled by guilt, and overwhelmed by stress, Carver begins having panic attacks, which send him into therapy. Interestingly, he makes an unlikely new friend in Eli's girlfriend, Jesmyn, but when he tells her that he desires more than friendship with her, she rejects him. Meanwhile, Carver's attempts at atonement with Blake's grandmother, Eli's parents, and Mars' father meet with mixed success, feeding his subconscious desire for punishment. Zentner does an excellent job in creating empathetic characters, especially his protagonist Carver, a budding writer whose first-person account of his plight is artful evidence of his talent. The story builds suspense while developing not only empathetic but also multidimensional characters in both Carver and Jesmyn. The result is an absorbing effort with emotional and psychological integrity. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2017 Fall
Seventeen-year-old Carver believes his text message confirms his culpability in the devastating car wreck that killed his three best friends. Looking for an outlet, Carver shares a "goodbye day" with Blake's grandmother and soon does the same with Eli's and Mars's families as well. Zentner skillfully depicts his protagonist's inner turmoil and the beginnings of his recovery in a frequently raw narrative. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2017 #2
A devastating car wreck due to a text message: it's a story as increasingly common as it is tragic. For seventeen-year-old Carver Briggs, it's a story in which he has a starring role—the story of his life and of his three best friends' deaths. "Where are you guys? Text me back" is the message Carver sends to his buddy Mars—the message Mars begins to return despite the fact that he is driving, with Eli and Blake in the car, and the message that Carver believes confirms his culpability when the car smashes into a semi, killing all three boys. Told in the first-person present (with occasional flashbacks), the story reveals Carver's panic attacks, the hostility of some of his friends' family members, and the looming threat of a criminal investigation, all of which blurs into a whirl of emotion-laden urgency. Looking for an outlet and leaning on the trusted relationship with his therapist and new friendship with Eli's girlfriend, Carver shares a "goodbye day" of memories, storytelling, and grief with Blake's grandmother, and he soon does the same with Eli's and Mars's families as well. The attempt to find (and provide) closure while being wary of people's motivations and the lingering possibility of indictment stretches Carver to the breaking point. Zentner skillfully (if at times didactically) depicts his protagonist's inner turmoil and the beginnings of his recovery in a frequently raw narrative. anastasia m. collins Copyright 2017 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2017 January #2
Carver Briggs already feels responsible when his three best friends are killed in a car accident after he sent a "Where are you guys?" text message to the driver. Now it seems as though the whole town wants him to be prosecuted, and he's having debilitating panic attacks. When one friend's grandmother suggests they pay tribute to the deceased by spending a "goodbye day" swapping stories and doing what he loved, Carver finds a cathartic way to atone for his perceived sins. From the opening line, Zentner (The Serpent King) expertly channels Carver's distinctive voice as a 17-year-old writer turned "funeral expert" who argues with himself about girls and retains glimmers of easy wit despite the weight of his grief and guilt. Flashbacks and daydreams capture the jovial spirit of the four members of the so-called Sauce Crew, glimpses of sophomore shenanigans interspersed with poignant admissions only best friends would share. Racial tensions, spoiled reputations, and broken homes all play roles in an often raw meditation on grief and the futility of entertaining what-ifs when faced with awful, irreversible events. Ages 14–up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.