ARC Review: The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA sci-fi-ish contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release date: February 19, 2019

Synopsis:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley.

I read Shaun David Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants in 2017 and I loved it for producing feelings in me I couldn’t quite articulate. I’ve been interested in reading more from him since then. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, despite surrounding death, has a lighter tone–but it deals with important topics…and is rather morbid.

The whole “mysteriously coming back to life premise” sounds like it would be a more sci-fi or fantasy story, but if you’ve read Hutchinson’s review before, you know it reads much more like a “what-if” contemporary (not magical realism or fabulism because the characters acknowledge how weird this is). Personally, I’m into this. The whole “my ex-best friend is mysteriously back from the dead but also not completely alive, and now no one is dying” thing exists–despite Dino and July’s questioning–for character purposes. If you can get behind that, I think the result is satisfying. It isn’t a zombie story.

July, basically

The best part about this concept is that it allows for something I’ve been actually thinking about lately: the opportunity to confront the little things that actually hurt. Specifically, all the little homophobic and transphobic (Dino’s boyfriend is trans) things July said while she was alive that drove them apart. No, it isn’t completely one-sided–there are things for Dino to confront, too. But giving space to the deconstruction of offhanded remarks and showing how much they hurt is pretty important in a YA novel.

I also loved Dino’s character arc. Without getting too spoilery, the whole “I don’t know who I am yet” feeling is so relatable and great to see in someone almost done with high school…there is SO MUCH pressure at that age to have it all figured out, and it’s difficult to stand up to those expectations. I also loved how his disbelief in himself affected his belief that he doesn’t deserve love, and how firmly other characters stood against this.

Despite the premise, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried might be the most mellow,low-stakes of Hutchinson’s novels, but at just around 300 pages it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s fun, but there’s also a lot of heart behind the zany adventure.

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