By: Celine | January 21, 2015 | (63) Comments

Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia HandThe Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
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 hurtThe 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~

4.5 Stars
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Celine is 17 years old and from the Netherlands. Quite obviously, she loves books! She has been a reader for as long as she can remember, and she believes she will be a reader forever. Celine is also obsessed with food, and loves singing along to music as loud as possible, dancing and doodling on nearly everything.

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63 Responses to Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

  1. Hilary says:

    I don’t really have anything to say except:

    Thank you, Celine. And I would really love to hug you right now.
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  2. OK, Mel, I just want you to know that I was almost in tears while reading your review. This review just shows me yet AGAIN how sweet you are, and what a big heart you have, and I just needed to tell you how beautiful you are inside and out. <333333 (Oh, and even though I was eagerly looking forward to this book already, now I'm considering buying it. And you know how rare that is for me :P)

    Beautiful post, sweets, and thanks for reminding why I love you so much. xx
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you so much Ella <33 It really means a lot to me to hear that. And I really hope that if you do end up buying this (which !! it's so awesome to hear you're considering buying this because of me) I really hope you'll love it 🙂

      And also thank you <333 And don't worry, haha, it happens more often than you think! I also have no problem with any 'spam' from you 😛

  3. Beautiful review,Celine!I can feel your connection towards the book.
    I myself has had an experience like this.A friend of mine died last December.She was in the hospital for three months,so her death wasn’t actually a shock,but still it is hard for me to accept it or get over it,even after a month from her death.

    I really want to read this book now.Thanks for the recommendation.
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you! <33
      And I'm so sorry to hear that. Losing a friend is terrible, whether it was a shock or not. *hugs*

      I hope that you'll end up loving it if you do read it <3

  4. Yeah okay. I’ll read it. XD
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  5. Wow Celine, it definitely sounds like it struck a chord with you because of your own relatable experience, and it’s really heart breaking that it happened 🙁 This book sounds really powerful and emotional. I’ll have to read it. Great review!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick Review: Snowy problematic thrillerMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      It did, though thankfully I have never been so close to this happening as the main character in the book. I really hope you’ll love it!
      Thank you, Jeann <33

  6. I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I read it a few weeks ago and LOVED it so much. Like usual I didn’t read the summary before picking it up, but I’m glad I didn’t, it felt so much more powerful. I underestimated how heartbreaking it would be, I literally ugly cried through the whole 10% lol.

    Beautiful review!
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  7. Kim says:

    Oh my, all those things you said in the start. I’m glad I’ve never experienced it, and I hope never to. Amazing review, as always, and you made me more compelled to read this one. I can already feel the pain through your review!
    Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor: BLOG || VLOG
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  8. What a beautiful review Celine and thank you so much for sharing something so intimate with us at the beginning. It seems like this book really touched you. It sounds between and between the handling of such a delicate topic and her beautiful writing, this book sounds amazing. Lovely review, my dear! x
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you so much Jess <33
      It really did touch me. Cynthia Hand just has this way with words that gets to me – I don’t know how she does it! But she breaks my heart masterfully.
      Thank you again lovely <3

  9. I love this author and am so excited to read this. It sounds very emotional and I can tell it really spoke to you. Great review!

  10. Megan says:

    Oh, Celine. *hugs*

    I can’t say much, because I’ve never experienced what you have, or what those family members have, and I don’t ever want to, even though that makes me sound really selfish. But it really speaks volumes when a book manages to make you feel this way, no matter how painful it is, so I can see why this book deserved such a high rating from you. 🙂

    I really like how this book is written. I usually don’t like reading books with disjointed perspectives, if that makes sense, but for this, I think that switching POVs does a great job of helping the reader understand Alexis, as well as her dead brother. It’s different, and I love that.

    YES for good family relationships, too! I wouldn’t have been as excited to read this book if it was going to be full of teenage angst and broken families, to tell the truth. Romance isn’t everything, and in the end, it’s the people who love you the most and who have been with you the longest who stick by you — your family. It’s amazing how Cynthia Hand is able to make Alexis’ dad such a three-dimensional character too, even though he sounds like a secondary character.

    Lovely, lovely review, Celine. So happy that this spoke to you so much, and so happy and you enjoyed it. Definitely will have to check this out now! <3

    • Celine says:

      *hugs back*

      Just let me start by saying YOU ARE NOT SELFISH FOR WISHING THAT. Nobody wants to experience something like that, and with good reason, I imagine. Thankfully I have never experienced this with someone close to me, but I have friends who have. It breaks my heart every time I think about it, because I just can’t imagine having someone ripped away from you like that, with all the things you’ve left unsaid and all the loose ends and the pain.

      And I get what you mean! Multiple perspectives or shifts in time etc can be really disjointing, but I think it was done very well here 🙂 And the family relationships are amzing too. I don’t know whether you’ve read the Unearthly series (also by Hand) but that one has amazing family relationships as well! Apparently Hand just gets it.

      Thank you so much Megan <33 Really hope you'll love it!

  11. Karin says:

    This is a topic that I find so hard to read about because, even though I’ve been lucky enough and have never experienced anything like it firsthand, the thought of losing my brother or sister is unbearable to me. Whenever something like this happens in a book I’m usually crying just because of that thought but I like to read books that touch me like that. So this will certainly be added to my TBR. Thank you so much for the beautiful review.
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    • Celine says:

      Oh, I can definitely imagine that! I’m also way too emphatic when it comes to this – sometimes a strong sense of imagination is not beneficial. Then again, I do tend to love books that destroy me..

      Thank you so much, Karin <33 Really hope you'll love this.

  12. “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’m experiencing this right now Melanie, so I can fully relate. I lost one of my dogs just before Christmas, and everyone around me seems to be moving on, but I’m still stuck, and walking past a picture of him brings me to tears nearly every day. I know there are some who would say losing a dog isn’t the same as losing a human family member, but to me he was like a child. I don’t think I’m quite ready to tackle this book yet since it it’s so close to home, but it’s on my list for sure:)
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    • Celine says:

      Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! I own two dogs myself and I cannot imagine losing one of them. And I definitely understand you – I love my dogs like family members too. I’m really, really sorry to hear that and I’m just going to give you a giant hug, okay? *hugs* Should you ever want to talk about it, I’m here. <33

  13. Giselle says:

    Oh wow that’s so sad! It’s really something when a book resonates with you so personally like that. Like you can really understand and feel all the emotions. I also read this one recently and really enjoyed it. It was emotional and gritty and just all around a wonderfully written book. Great review, celine!
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    • Celine says:

      It tends to make the book more intense for me, and oh, this book did break my heart. I definitely agree with you – this was gritty and wonderful. Hand just seems to have this way with words, and it gets to me.
      Thank you, Giselle! <33

  14. What a gorgeous review, Celine. It’s always so emotional when a book hits close to home. I’m glad that you loved this so much. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the book as I wanted to be but that was mostly due to me creating this huge barrier to prevent myself from feeling too much. But it still slayed me at certain points!
    Lovely review, Celine!
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you Nick <33
      And I can definitely understand that as well! I have done the same thing in the past, haha. But this one was just so emotional and everything. Ugh, I am out of words but I'm sure you know what I mean.
      Thanks again <33

  15. I just had something similar to me happen recently, and it was a shock. It just kind of results in never ending stupor and disbelief. Anyways, this book sounds like such a heartbreaking one, but at the same time, encouraging. I’ll be sure to check it out.
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  16. Beautiful review and thanks for sharing your story. I love that this captured after. I really wear my hear on my sleeve and to be honest I am sitting here crying just from reading your review. Nope, as much as I appreciate and know these stories help others..I cannot read them. I would be a blubbering mess.
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  17. OMG, what a sad and terrible story…
    I’m nervous to read this because I don’t like sad books, but I still want to read it.
    Great review!
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  18. blodeuedd says:

    I can’t sway I am big on emotional cos they are just so well…emotional. But I still think I should try more of them
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  19. Very moving post, Celine. I enjoyed your personal touch. I am so happy to hear you liked this one. I have a copy and I am nervous about it. I know it is Cynthia Hand, but the subject matter is going to be tough. I am more eager now to dig in. Thanks.
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  20. Beautiful review, Celine! This is definitely a book that I want to read. I’m sure it will be tough and emotional, but I do love books like that. Nobody super close to me as committed suicide, but a co-worker for my sister’s shot himself about a year ago and the little brother of a boy I went to high school with killed himself as well. It’s tough to hear about.
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you! <33 I'm the same 🙂 The books that hit me the hardest tend to end up being favourites. And I'm so sorry to hear that. It really is a terrible thing.

  21. Jasprit says:

    Celine this is such a gorgeous review. I’m normally all for books which are really emotional, but I think I definitely have to prepare myself before going into this one. I too loved Hand’s Unearthly series so can’t wait to see her first foray into the contemporary genre.
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you so much Jasprit <33 I think with this one it definitely depends on how much you'll connect to it. I really hope you'll love it though 🙂

  22. Sounds like an incredible read even if it is sad. It is always so hard to listen in the news about kids taking their lives, I cannot imaging knowing anyone who went through something like it. Great review 🙂
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  23. Gorgeous review, Celine! I haven’t had the chance to read Hand’s Unearthly trilogy yet, but it is on my TBR…as is this book. As much as this story sounds despairing, it also sounds beautiful. Reading your review, I can really feel your connection to the story. It’s always so hard hearing about a death. Even if you only knew of them. Therefore, it’s really hard reading about it also. However, from what I’ve heard of this story, I agree with you and think that it’s an important story for all.

  24. JennRenee says:

    I am at a loss of words. Wow. I about cried. Wow. well I hope I can read this book, it sounds amazing. Its hard to concentrate on the book after your review personal with us.

  25. Melanie says:

    Awwwww Celine *squishes you* Reading this review actually made me want to cry and I was damn close to it 🙁 I haven’t experienced something like that before and I cannot imagine how it would have felt so thank you for sharing your experience with us, it must have been hard to put into words on paper. Love you, girl <3333

    Oh I totally agree with you: this one was most like Hallowed and I absolutely love how Hand writes about grief.

    Beautiful review, hun <33

  26. Pingback: Discussing Through Midnight (50): Books with Tough Topics | YA Midnight Reads

  27. Celine – thank you for such a heartfelt and honest review. <3 I was actually in the middle of writing my review for this one (I loved it as well!), but I think I might just link to your review because it's so much more personable and raw than anything I could even hope to write. Thank you for sharing your experiences; you've promoted the book in a way that is so much more influential than any normal book review could be.
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  28. Such a lovely review! I am so glad I decided to pre order this one, I think it will be another of those incredibly important books. Thank you for sharing your story with us too. It goes to show that everyone knows someone whose life was touched by mental illness or suicide. In high school, my best friend’s boyfriend hung himself, and it was so incredibly tragic. To this day, she isn’t completely “over” it, it haunts her. The “what if”s, the looking for signs, etc. My parents’ neighbor recently ended her life as well. She was in her mid-fifties, had children, money, not the stereotype in any way. Books like this are SO important, because often these stories are swept under the rug, demoted to gossip. It sounds like Cynthia did a great job of showing the reader the person behind the illness, which is something everyone can learn from. Thank you for your brilliant review, Celine!
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you, Shannon!

      And I’m so sad to hear that 🙁 It just goes to show that this is a topic most people have some kind of experience with, unfortunately. Cynthia certainly handled the topic beautifully and delicately – the book feels very honest.
      Thank you again <33

  29. rendered me speechless. I cannot even-Um…-I think-um…oh gosh…Yup, I’m out of words.

    Looks like I have to read this now…
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  30. Valerie says:

    Celine, I really don’t know what to say, except that I’m glad you were able to find a book to connect to. Other than that, this sounds like a very emotional read, I’ll check it out.
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  31. Wow Celine, you are amazing for sharing this. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for you. I’ve personally never had anyone I know take their own life but I know a lot of people (too many people) that self-harm and it really hurts to think that so many people are lost in the darkness. To think that these people who are loved can’t open up to people who are willing to help them. And that some people start to feel normal in the darkness, so used to it that they’d rather let the darkness take them away forever rather than trying to find the light. And I can’t say it’s selfish but sometimes I wonder how hard life must be for someone to take their life without trying to get better for those who love them. I honestly love books like this so much because it really reminds me to stay as positive as I can as well as help those that are in the darkness. I feel like this book would be on the level of Ari and Dante, The Sea of Tranquillity and All the Bright Places for me. All of those also deal with tough issues and they’re my favourite books of all time.
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  32. Lyn Kaye says:

    I loved’s Cynthia’s Unearthly series, and I have to admit I never gave this book a second glance because of the cover. Now I am going to have to get it ASAP. I wish I had taken the time to read the description.

    The story you shared was so beautiful and so heartbreaking. When I lost my grandfather, it was devastating, but what hurt the worst is when life resumed and the months went by, still hurting, while others were just able to move on. I agree – the funeral and the horrible news is heartbreaking, but the time after the loss really causes the bleedout and the grief to build up, and you feel like you’re never going to be whole again.

    Thank you for this beautiful review – I am adding this book to my wish list.
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  33. I loved this book too!! So good! Nice review 🙂
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