Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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There's death all around us.
We just don't pay attention.
Until we do.
The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.
Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be.
As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.
Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.
Years ago, I walked into school and something was different. I was, as usual, a bit early for my classes (I like being on time) and slowly walked to the stairwell, my thoughts already with today’s lessons and my friends and the ridiculous amount of homework I still had to do. But the moment I left the lockers and walked into the hall, I knew something was different. There were only a few fellow students in that hall, and some teachers, wearing grave faces. The atmosphere was different, as though the entire school was holding its breath. The teachers escorted us to the auditorium, still with that grave expression. I saw a picture in someone’s hand.
My first thought was: oh no. Who died? My entire body felt numb, all my thoughts focused on that one question. Who died? I looked at a teacher, who was clutching the photograph tightly. I still remember that moment, like a snapshot, even though it’s years ago. I have no idea who that teacher was, but I remember that picture clearly. It felt strange to me, getting that call and then having to deal with the logistics like printing out photographs, figuring out how to break the news to the students, when those things are probably the last things on your mind.
The person that died was a boy, in his last year of high school. He had a little sister. She was in the same year as I was. All the students sat down in the auditorium, and it was the quietest I’d ever heard a room full of people. We were then told that this boy had flung himself in front of a train the day before.
My best friend’s father has a job at the railways. This is something that occurs almost daily.
The father of a boy I knew hung himself in his own home.
I remember trying to hold back my tears when I heard that, and I remember people asking me if I was okay. I told them that this was not about me. I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like for them. The boy, his little brother.
The sister, her parents.
I still can’t fully imagine, and I hope to never experience it.
But Cynthia Hand has shared that experience with us, and it hurt. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is not about the phone call, not about the terrible shock, not about the funeral. It’s about the months after, when everyone else seems to move on with their lives but you can’t. It’s about the little things that remind you of that person, about the gaping hole in your chest that starts to unravel more every day. It’s not about “moving on”, but it is about learning to live with it.
I knew next to nothing about The Last Time We Say Goodbye going in, except that it was written by Cynthia Hand and therefore I had to read it. She is the author of the Unearthly series after all, which I loved. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say The Last Time We Say Goodbye is most alike Hallowed, because both books are essentially about grief.
Alexis’ brother Tyler shot himself. In The Last Time We Say Goodbye we see her try to move on, try to make sense of it all, go through all the emotions that accompany loss. Hurt, confusion, self-doubt, guilt, terrible sadness, anger. She slowly grows throughout the novel, slowly starts to accept that this is her reality now, and very, very slowly begins the healing process. She’s seeing a therapist, and gets the assignment to write about her brother. Not his death, but his life. The book is told in alternatively Alexis’ point of view and the things she writes down, which read almost like a diary entry and contains a whole story of its own. We get to experience her memories of Tyler: the happy ones, the sad ones.
There are a lot of things in The Last Time We Say Goodbye that I love and wholeheartedly approve of: the strong family relationships, for one. Alexis’ parents are definitely not absent during the novel. Her parents are divorced and Alexis lives with her mom, and we get to see two grieving processes at the same time: one from a mother, the other from a sister. But even though the relationship between Alexis and her dad isn’t very good, he is still present in the novel. We get to see flashes of his grief and his love for Alexis, even when she feels very hateful toward him. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is not just about grief, but also about family.
Normally I would write extensively about the characters, the positive way Alexis’ therapist is portrayed, and Hand’s beautiful writing style, which really allows the reader to connect with and feel for Alexis. But the truth is, I’m pretty much out of words. I think this is a very important book for both readers who haven’t experienced anything like this and those who have. I have a feeling it may be very easy to connect with and to show that you aren’t alone in your experiences. In the end, I simply love this emotional and heartfelt story and I’ll be eagerly awaiting Hand’s next novel.
~Thank you, HarperTeen, for the review copy~
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