Published by Allen & Unwin on March 28th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
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A hilarious and heartwarming romp, from The New York Times Bestselling authors of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily.
Siblings Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing parties for their friends - and now they've prepared their final blowout, just before graduation.
The rules are simple: each twin gets to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn't know who's coming until the partiers show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.
One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right, as well...in rather surprising ways.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I absolutely love David Levithan’s novels and his collaborations with other authors are no exception to this. Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah is equal parts fun, heartwarming, and weird and I highly enjoyed it. The novel follows Sam and Ilsa who are twins and have been attending and hosting dinner parties at their grandmother’s snazzy New York apartment since they were young. The apartment is now being sold and the story takes place during the evening of their last dinner party. They’ve each invited three guests and have kept their guests a secret from the other, causing all sorts of drama throughout the novel.
I have to say that the idea of the dinner party was a little bit pretentious. But I guess it’s New York and I didn’t really mind it when I got further into the novel. The story was fun and exciting throughout but also delved into some coming of age and family issues. I really liked the way that identity was explored throughout the book. Sam and Ilsa don’t really know who they are or where they belong away from this apartment that has held fond memories. They’re hesitant to move on and away from New York. But as they interact with their dinner guests, some of whom are exes or complete strangers, they start to learn a little bit more about themselves and who they have the potential to be. There is a lot of sibling rivalry and resentment between Sam and Ilsa, especially from Ilsa’s end since Sam has always been their grandmother’s favourite. However, they also learn that they need each other and respect each other deeply.
I really liked both Ilsa and Sam in the novel. They were great characters and I immediately connected with Sam because I felt like his personality was a little bit like mine. Ilsa took slightly longer to warm up to but I ended up really empathizing with her and understanding where her struggles were coming from. There were only 8 other characters that made an appearance in the novel, including a sock puppet called Caspian, and I thought that they all had their unique personalities and enjoyed what they brought to the story even though they might not have been my cup of tea. The stand out for me was Parker, who is Sam’s best friend and Ilsa’s ex-boyfriend. I thought he was sensitive and caring, and I wanted to read a lot more about him. Jason, Sam’s ex-boyfriend, was also an interesting character to me. Having former partners at an intimate dinner party probably isn’t what most people would want but I think they added plenty to the story and also played a huge part in the coming of age storylines in the book.
David Levithan has always done LGBTQIA+ novels so well, with Every Day, and this novel was exceptionally well done too. I enjoyed the romance aspect of the book and the fact that it was there as a bridesmaid to the other issues rather than taking over. The thing that I loved most was that it was subtle and really well incorporated into the story.
Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah was a really enjoyable read for me. It tackled issues of identity and family very well and I enjoyed every last bit of it. I absolutely cannot wait to read more from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, having also really enjoyed the two books about Dash and Lily.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book.
Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah will be published on 28th March, 2018 by Allen & Unwin. It will be available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.
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