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

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David HutchinsonThe Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse on February 19, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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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.

Shaun David Hutchinson is one of those authors who keeps getting better and better. I’m endlessly impressed with the way that he blurs the line between contemporary and genre fiction in a way that throws realistic issues into sharp relief. They’re odd and unexpected and deeply strange, but everything comes together for this emotional gut punch that really works. His books don’t really feel like anyone else’s, though I would say that if you love A.S. King and aren’t reading Hutchinson, you should be.

The premise of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried is right there in the title. Dino’s ex-best friend, July Cooper, died a few days ago but she’s just sat up while he was doing her makeup (his parents run a funeral home, so he’s trained and this is normal, at least for him). If I had to pitch this book, I would say Six Feet Under meets Undead Girl Gang.

If you’re one of those people who needs things to be explained, this book might frustrate you a bit, because the fact that July is not-dead and that no one is dying, even though they should, is just that: a fact. There’s no explanation for why this has happened really, and people are oddly un-bothered by the natural order changing in that way. This wouldn’t work for me in a sci-fi novel, but this feels contemporary and the illogical nature works for this story.

Dino and July were best friends, but they broke up about a year ago. Friendship broke up; they definitely didn’t date. They broke up for a really normal reason: Dino started dating Rafi and couldn’t figure out how to blend the two parts of his life, which made July jealous and mad. The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried is all about processing the emotions from that friendship breakup and being honest about both of their parts in the relationship falling apart.

The title, of course, is ironic as well as literal, because the whole book’s about how you can’t just bury your past, which is what Dino wanted to do. He wanted to bury his ex-best friend and not deal with the emotional fallout of their friendship ending or her subsequent unrelated death. Burying emotions doesn’t make them go away; instead, they drive our decisions in ways we cannot see or control because we don’t know where those impulses are coming from, as seen in the evolution of Dino’s relationship with Rafi.

Both voices are fantastic and engaging. It’s probably the funniest/lightest of Hutchinson’s books, of the ones I’ve read. Dino and July are both amusing in their own way. I will say, though, that I did struggle with July Cooper, because my brain literally could not read that name without thinking Julie Cooper.

Just me?

There’s some super excellent rep stuff in here. July’s one of those people who makes a lot of inappropriate jokes with Dino and thought that meant they were okay around any gay person. I love that the discussion even goes so far as to point out that even if he seemed okay with it, he might not have been but kept silent out of discomfort. Dino’s boyfriend is transgender; it’s really not a big topic, which is kind of cool actually because that’s absolutely not an issue at any point in the book. Rafi’s just an incredibly hot, sweet boy. There’s also a great discussion of gaslighting which really stood out because Dino and July gaslight this girl from their school, and I was like FUCKED UP, but then the book very much acknowledges and deals with this.

My personal favorite thing is when books can do both humor and sadness equally well, and Hutchinson truly excels at that here. If you haven’t read any Hutchinson yet, this is the shortest and lightest of his books (that I’ve read), so it could be a great starting place, though I recommend them all. (FYI I’ve read We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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