Do you like to read books about messy friendships featuring major character undeath and a lot of grave-digging? The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried is what you’re looking for – and yes, it’s exactly as weird as it sounds.
This is a story about two teens who have very different personalities, which both complement each other and clash a lot. It’s a story about complex situations and teens trying to cope with them, even as they really don’t know what they’re doing.
💀 Dino DeLuca is a seventeen-year-old gay teenager whose parents own a funeral home. He has a boyfriend, Rafi (who is trans and biracial Pakistani), but Dino feels like he’s not good enough for Rafi. He also struggles with the fact that he’s changing, that he doesn’t know who he wants to be – but he knows that the person he wants to be is not who his parents want. He’s confused, doesn’t know how to deal with that, and that’s what leads him to mess up.
💀 July Cooper is a straight teenage girl who just died. Or so everyone thought. Her story isn’t over yet, and if someone was ever going to able to temporarily stop death worldwide, that person was definitely July – while Dino is indecisive, she isn’t at all, and this may be both her biggest strength (she goes for what she wants!) and flaw (…sometimes, thinking through things before doing them helps).
This is a story about a friendship that fell apart, which means that sometimes Dino and July are hurting each other, and it’s of course a very messy and… foul-smelling situation. I wanted to shake both of them at times, but it was worth it. I loved this book’s message, the way it talked about tragedy without ever losing its sense of humor, the way it made political jokes sometimes and also talked about what actually makes a joke funny (because no, it’s never just a joke, especially if you’re talking about marginalized groups).
Another thing I really liked was that I could picture the setting, which isn’t always the case in American contemporary-set books. I already expected this because I didn’t have the usual “I have no idea how this place looks like” problem while reading the The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza either. I wouldn’t exactly describe this book as atmospheric, but I had just enough details.
What didn’t work for me were small things – this is a really short book, but some of the dialogues felt repetitive anyway. This could be a deliberate choice, because it did feel realistic, but I still felt like I was reading the same conversation over and over at times, which made me momentarily lose interest. Also, for some reason my suspension of disbelief struggled far more with whole funeral-home-family-business than with the undeath part, and I don’t think that should have happened.
My rating: ★★★★¼