The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I liked the diversity, and I certainly wasn't as horribly disappointed as I was by The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, but this just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I wanted a book that was funny yet touching, a book about the struggles of moving on from a toxic friendship even as you still want the other person to succeed and be happy, a book about grieving for someone you used to love and don't anymore but still care for deeply, a book with a touch of Pushing Daisies. This book was not that. This was a book about someone who had started to move on from the toxic friendship but then the toxic friend dies, undies, and gaslights the other friend into believing that he was just as big of a problem as she was until she dies again. 

The thing is, July was selfish and manipulative and aggressively conceited and problematic, and she never grew from that. The time we spend in her head is frustrating because we're only there to get her side of the story, and her side of the story is full of excuses. She's not a flawed character who was humanized through her perspective. She's just kind of awful and blames everyone and everything (except her own failings) and makes false equivilancies (referring to your friend's trans boyfriend as his girlfriend "as a joke" is NOTHING LIKE being called a drag Dolly Parton because you're wearing too much makeup to hide the fact that you're dead) to make Dino feel sorry for her. So I did not buy for a second that he was as big of a problem in their friendship; it felt more like he just got fed up with her possessiveness and the other negative qualities I described earlier. The ending didn't feel genuine at all. 

Neat premise, though.
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Ugh, this book was so dang good! Friendship, y'all. It's messy and complicated and the BEST. Shaun David Hutchinson never disappoints.
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I really love Shaun David Hutchinson. This is a sweet and forthright book about closure and growing up and the evolution of relationships and believing oneself worthy of love. The only other thing I've read by Shaun is his memoir, which you should all read-- and since I read this on the heels of that, I feel like I could see little bits of the author in Dino. Also, this is a pretty fantastic cover.
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Such an underrated author, Shaun hits another home run here. 

With lyrical writing, important topics, and real characters, this is a stunning and phenomenal read. 

It’s emotional and represents diversity beautifully, as always.
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The Past and Other Things that Should Stay Buried is just your standard teen zombie-esque book. Or something like that. I love Shaun David Hutchinson, so I will read anything he has written. And I will love anything that he's written. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. I received an e-ARC to review, but didn't have time to read it before it was published. And then when it was published my library took FOR-EV-ER to get it in. So then I finished it in like 3 days.

An amazing story of friendship, grief and loss, and all the good teen angsty drama and relationships intertwined. And Hutchinson always does a great job of including LBGTQIA characters in his stories, and this does not disappoint.

My rating: 5 stars.
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I just never connected to this book. I didn't mind our main character Dino but I strongly disliked July for most of this book. I think it was trying too hard to show us how deep these two's friendship was but it ended up being so shallow and toxic. Maybe if more of their past was shared I could understand it more? Probably not. Some people are just not meant to be friends. They brought out the worst in each other and most of the book is them bickering. I get the whole closure thing but some friendships are meant to die. We change and that's ok. I just ended up not caring about them at all. By the end I was over it and bored. 

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This is my first Shaun David Hutchinson, but I have had my eye on his books for a long time.  His mixture of contemporary coming-of-age stories with a small hint of speculative science fiction sounded far too unique to pass up.  When I saw The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried on NetGalley, I thought the premise sounded fascinating and I was immediately intrigued.  After finishing it, I believe that there's an important story at the heart of this book, but it sometimes gets lost along the way.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried follows Dino and July.  July has recently died, but as Dino, her ex-best friend that helps out at his family's funeral home, is doing her makeup before her funeral, she comes back to life in the morgue.  Now, the two of them must work together to figure out what happened to July, as well as confront the reasons that their friendship ended.  As I said earlier, I was completely sold on the premise because I love everything zombies, and this seemed like a fun twist on the usual formula by omitting the brain-eating parts of undead lore.  Unfortunately, in execution, the story didn't quite live up to my expectations.

This is a character-driven story in every regard, as everything revolves around Dino and July.  Dino needs to work on his relationship with his boyfriend, Rafi, and July needs to come to terms with the fact that she is dead.  Dino's side of the story is impactful and I loved watching him navigate his relationship and grow throughout the story.  He is trying to come to terms with all of the changes in his life recently, and I have a lot of empathy for him.  The same cannot be said for July.

While I appreciate July's role in Dino's development throughout the book, as an actual character, I couldn't stand July.  She is loud, arrogant, and a toxic friend in every regard.  While this aspect of her personality is addressed and challenged throughout the story, it doesn't make reading from her perspective any more fun, especially as she continues to repeatedly not understand throughout the story how her words and actions can hurt others.  Reading from the perspective of an inherently unlikeable character may be fun for some readers, but I do not fall into this camp and found myself wanting to throw my laptop across the room sometimes as I was reading her chapters.

My feelings towards this book aren't entirely gloom and doom, however, as there's plenty to love here, too.  First of all, there's some wonderful diversity here.  Dino is gay, and his boyfriend, Rafi, is trans.  There are some great discussions on homophobia and offensive stereotypes throughout the book that are handled well.  In general, while Dino and July's relationship is toxic, Dino and Rafi's romance almost makes up for this and I frequently found myself smiling at their interactions.

The theme is also something to be commended, as books centering primarily around a toxic friendship are few and far between.  On the whole, the fact that July and Dino weren't a great pairing wasn't shied away from, although the book generally gave July more credit than she deserved.  There are plenty of young adult books that discuss the intricacies of friendships, but there aren't many that focus on the idea that, sometimes, friendships need to end for both parties to grow as individuals.

Overall, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed by The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried.  There is a lot of good here, but the end result is marred by some of the more negative aspects of the book.  There's a good central theme here and Dino's character is well done, but the central gimmick of July's death, in addition to her characterization in general, is to the detriment of the title as a whole.  If you are okay with reading from the perspective of an inherently unlikeable character, then you will probably enjoy this more than I did.  Otherwise, this isn't a bad book, but it's far from perfect.

Note:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This took me a while to finish as I never felt connected to the characters or story. I liked July, her relationship with Dino just didn't hit the mark for me.
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This book is sort of sci-fi/realism. We have this odd happening, that of the appearance of an undead character, used as a device to address grief. And more than grief over death, primarily grief over a lost friendship. The complex emotions involved when someone you were angry with dies. The way you think you're supposed to feel at odds with your actual emotions. Add in a healthy dose of parental expectations and social pressure and you have the proverbial powder keg. We have moments of awakening for both protagonists which is nice, though neither character is particularly likeable
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The little I read of this book before it expired in my queue was thoroughly entertaining. Will be picking this one up to see what the rest has to offer!
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I absolutely loved this book. I have been a bit meh on some of Hutchinson's other titles but this one was a very enjoyable read. It also addressed some pretty heavy topics very well, like death, homophobia, bullying, and body dysmorphia issues. This book also does a very good job of having a very diverse range of characters, including multiple trans characters, and includes them in a very good way.
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This was my first Shaun David Hutchinson and I totally loved it! The use of a magical/fantastical element to further contemporary and realistic story was just perfect.
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*I voluntarily read and reviewed and ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

I went into this one not sure exactly what to expect, but at the end of it I had given it part of my heart. 

These characters are flawed. They can be self-absorbed, selfish, and insensitive, but it makes them real. Also, all these flaws are called on. This is a book about platonic friendship and closure. It is about improving ourselves and being honest with and about ourselves. I didn't like all the characters, yet I still felt myself pulled to them and being empathetic with their situations. I was rooting for Dino to speak up for himself, wishing I could give July a hug when she came to terms with her situation, and was so happy with their growth as people.

In terms of representation: There is a slew of LGBT characters with Dino being gay in a relationship with a trans person of color-- who is probably the most mature character. As far as I could tell July is a cis white female and we get a lot of good discussion regarding her mindset of LGBT people. She makes some jokes and gets called out. I think the whole discussion and outcome are done really well. 

This book is about character growth, which I think is done so well. So, don't go into this for the undead factor and hoping for a resolved explanation. The coming back to life part is dealt with, but I don't think much is really explained especially since this isn't a fantasy novel. 

I very much enjoyed reading this book and will be recommending it to more people.
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First off I love Shaun David Hutchinson he’s great at blending real life with something slightly magical. In this case that magical was bringing Dino’s ex-best friend back to life along with all the decomposition of a corpse.

I really loved also that there was a trans character but it didn’t bring it up every time that character was mentioned.

I loved Dino’s relationship with Rafi.

At the beginning I really didn’t like July she was awful but honestly she had to be that was the point. You’re seeing through Dino’s POV and he’s mad at her so you hear all of the bad things she’s done to him.
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This is a perfect example of having all the right ingredients but the mix failing to gel. Hutchinson, best-selling author of We Are The Ants, gives us the story of Dino, the gay son in a family of morticians who silently rebels against the expectation that he will join the business given his talent for applying make-up to corpses. As the novel begins, we learn that his former best friend July, with whom he had a falling-out a year before, has died of a brain aneurysm at age 17.  The night before the funeral, Dino decides to work on her make-up and is shocked when she comes back to life. It is mentioned frequently that she isn’t a zombie but non-dead.

As Dino and July struggle to understand the reason for her resurrection and the concurrent worldwide suspension of death, the story gets bogged down with gross-out descriptions of decomposition, their toxic friendship and caustic humor, Dino’s confusion about his relationship with Rafi, his transgender boyfriend, and July’s unpleasant personality and insensitive jokes about the LGBTQ community. Comments like “I don’t tell you how to gay; don’t tell me how to act” and “I mean, what’s the point of being gay if you’re not going to be in theater” make the friendship between them seem really implausible.

The plot is solid enough to keep the momentum going, but the underdeveloped characters and their inability to honestly communicate the reasons and responsibilities for the dissolution of their long-time friendship make it a frustrating read. More focus on the development of the relationship between Dino and Rafi and an acknowledgment that sometimes, when people grow and change, friendships fall apart might have made the story more compelling. Although some younger teens would appreciate the disgusting zombie humor, I wouldn’t buy this for our school library.
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My first SDH Book, and it didn’t let me down. 

This follows the story of a broken friendship between Dino and July. Dino is trying to deal with the turmoil of life and the death of July, when suddenly she comes back to life. They struggle through the truths of their friendship, and why it ended the way it did. 

The characters in this book were excellent. Dino couldn’t have reminded me of myself anymore than he did, right down to the finest details. July reminded me of one of my best friends, so this story was a wild ride for me to read. I was invested in their friendship, which sometimes did come off as toxic on both ends, but that was the point of the story. 

The plot was very interesting and unique, but I feel like it could have gone a TINY bit further to make this a 5 star read. I enjoyed it where it was at, but it didn’t have that extra OOMF which would have pushed it to perfection. That being said, i did enjoy where it went, and I’m glad it ended the way it did.
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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.

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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This book was an interesting read for me, because while I didn’t particularly like the main characters, I was completely caught up in the story itself.

The narrative alternates between the viewpoints of former best friends Dino and July, who recently died from an aneurysm. Dino’s family owns a funeral home, and Dino is doing the makeup on her corpse when July sits up and starts talking. What follows is a series of misadventures as the two of them bumble around their hometown while trying to hide July’s partial resurrection from their families and friends. They also have same time figure out why July is caught in a halfway state between living and dead.

Both Dino and July irritated me somewhat as characters. July is very abrasive; she typically says and does what she wants and leaves others to pick up the pieces. For example, at one point she gets upset with Dino and abandons him at Walmart after driving off in Dino's car. (Not cool.) She does try to modify her behavior somewhat during her undeath but with very mixed results. Dino was a little easier for me to take, but he also has his moments of being self-centered and cruel to both July and to his boyfriend, Ravi, who is really kind of a saint in putting up with him.

When I don't particularly like the characters in a book, I'll often stop reading, but that didn't happen here. One reason is the humor--the book has quite a few funny moments. I was also genuinely hooked on the mystery of how and why July came back, although only one of those questions ultimately gets answered. 

The biggest draw for me was the friendship between Dino and July, in all its messy glory. There’s a lot of love there, but it’s buried beneath the pain that they’ve caused each other. The two of them have to open up to each other about how they’ve been hurt and admit their own faults. Only then can July and Dino also be honest about how important their friendship has been to each them and how much they still feel for each other. At its core, the story is really an exploration of the important role that a good friend can play in a person’s life.

If you are looking for a YA novel about the power of friendship and don’t mind a quirky approach to the topic, you should give this book a try.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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Off the bat, what I liked about this book was that it challenged me and my pre-conceived notions. Early on in the book, I made some assumptions about the preferences of a character and this book reminded me of the danger of doing so. Beyond that, I really did enjoy this book.  It handled big issues (death, family, obligation, hopes, fear, sexuality) in a slightly smart-assy way which is very much me.   I found myself very invested in July and her life and watching her post-mortem transformation was encouraging and insightful.   As a librarian, I will absolutely get a copy of this book for my high school students.  As a reader, I enjoyed my time with July, Dino and the dead.  Thank you.
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[this review will be up on my blog, acquadimore.wordpress.com, on February 18]

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 at times 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 justa 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.
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