on February 1, 2015
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.
There’s been an influx of YA books about suicide lately, and I was skeptical about picking this one up after reading I Was Here and All the Bright Places. But The Last Time We Say Goodbye set itself apart with the authenticity of Lexxie’s feelings and character relationships, and I’m really glad I read it.
If there’s anything that really stood out, it was the love that Lexxie had for her brother Tyler, which she relives in her thoughts and memories. Her perspective is full of grief and regret, and it’s incredibly heart breaking the way she relives the months, weeks and days before Tyler commits suicide. As someone with a brother myself, I found their sibling relationship really relatable as they jibe, bicker and care for each other just by being there. I felt really sad that Tyler was gone, because you could see just how much he was loved.
Of course, being angry is pointless. Unproductive. They don’t understand yet. They are all waiting for that one phone call that will change everything. That every one of them will feel like me eventually. Because someone they love will die. It’s one of life’s cruel certainties.
Lexxie was a really authentic character who I admired for being true to herself. As someone who is dealing with trauma and denies herself of any happiness, she copes in the most logical way she can – by distancing herself from her friends and family as she grieves. Her quiet reflection, regrets and grief on losing her brother was heartbreaking, emotional, as she slowly learns to let go and move on. I loved Lexxie as a character, with her mathletic genius, her quiet reflection and her angst which was expressed in the most elegant of ways. She wasn’t perfect, but was flawed enough to feel genuine.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye explores the aftermath of family and friends dealing with suicide. Lexxie’s mother turns to alcoholism, while her largely absent father tries to reconnect. Lexxie continually blames herself for not recognising the signs, and wondering if she did one thing different, if the outcome would be different. There was so much more to the book than just her grief though, as you’ll find out through her diary entries. It reminds us that as much as you’d like to be there for one another, even though you’re experiencing the same pain, you’ll cope in different ways. If you’re suffering yourself, you don’t have any capacity to relate to others, much less be there for them. Everyone who was close to Tyler, grieved in their own ways, whether it was alcoholism, guilt, regret or depression.
This is going to sound trite, I suppose, but you never know when it’s going to be the last time. That you hug someone. That you kiss. That you say goodbye.
There is a past romance, and it didn’t detract form the book at all. Because of her grief and guilt, Lexxie’s reluctance in connecting with her ex-boyfriend Steven was made clear. But he was such a sweet guy who clearly still had feelings for her, who wanted to be there for her but was respectful of the distance that she needed. I loved reliving their relationship as they got together through Lexxie’s diary entries, and how they had clear chemistry and geeked out over certain things. Although the focus on the book isn’t on the romance, this was a couple that seemed to really click.
Tyler’s ghostly presence in the novel added an unexpected mystery to the novel. It didn’t really become a paranormal book though and I was thankful for the logical explanation towards the end of the book.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is an incredibly beautiful, heart breaking and elegant exploration into grief after a loved one’s suicide. After reading the author’s note on how she experienced the same thing Lexxie did, it made sense how authentic the book felt. If you pick up a YA book about suicide, make it this one. It’s an emotional journey that everyone should experience, written with beauty and grace.
Rating: 5 out of 5
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.