The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

the last time we say goodbye by cynthia hand The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia HandBuy The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Special price $14.68 Regular price: $17.99
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: Melissa on March 24, 2015
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There’s death all around us. We just don’t pay attention. Until we do. The last time Lex remembers being happy was before. When she still had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who weren’t waiting for her to fall apart. Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself, and it feels like that’s the only thing she’ll ever be. In Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye, her first contemporary YA novel, Lex tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But the problem is that there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone – a text Tyler sent that could have changed everything. Lex’s brother might be gone, but she’s about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

In 2011, I fell in love with the characters and story of Hand’s Unearthly. If I remember correctly, I read it in one sitting, which is telling because at the time, my interest in YA paranormal stories of the supernatural or angelic variety was waning. And best of all, my love for her characters, story, and the author’s writing just got stronger as the series continued, so – not surprisingly – when I heard that she was writing a contemporary YA novel about a character trying getting over her brother’s suicide, I knew that I had to read it. If you haven’t read it yet, please pick it up now – I mean it and guarantee that you won’t regret it, but make sure you keep your in case of feels tissues handy because The Last Time We Say Goodbye might just be one of the most heartbreaking and lovely books in the new release section right now. Seriously…I mean, I got chills just reading the description again before starting this review!?!

As in the Unearthly series, Hand shows – once again – that she has Lex’s character development in hand. Not only does she clearly understand the feelings, especially guilt and anger, that subsumes Lex after Tyler’s death, but also she develops Lex’s voice with beautifully phrased sentences that cut to the heart of what it feels like to lose someone to suicide, including:

There’s death all around us. Everywhere we look. 1.8 people kill themselves every second. We just don’t pay attention. Until we do.

If it was any other character or book, you might think that the suicide facts that Hand peppers the story with go overboard. However, you’d be wrong because anyone who has lost a love one to suicide knows that teens, like Lex, who are MIT-level smart would not only seek out information about suicide, but also their ruminations on the topic would invariably include exact statistics. But don’t think that The Last Time We Say Goodbye is filled with facts at the expense of emotion – if my experience is anything like yours, Lex’s words will fill you with chills. In this way, and too many others to include here, Lex is a refreshingly real character who will speak to teen and adult readers of YA.

One of the things I loved most about this book is that Lex’s story is told in multiple ways. While a large portion of the story is written in the present moment in Lex’s voice, Hand also shows her main character grappling with her experience in writing, through a journal that Dave, her therapist, suggests she begin and through a series of dreams that she has in which she sees Tyler die in various ways. By using multivalent storytelling methods to tell Lex’s story, Hand demonstrates how Tyler’s death and the resulting anger and guilt that Lex feels permeate her entire life, making it something that she can’t separate herself from until she’s ready to begin moving on and forgiving both herself and other people in her life. Not everyone who loses someone they love to suicide will experience the loss in a way that’s identical to Lex, but they won’t be able to deny that this story rings true in large part because of Hand’s authorial decisions. Clearly, I think that Hand got a lot right, but if pressed, I would say that the short time line of three months makes it seem a little unbelievable that Lex would get to a point of forgiveness in the way she does. Or at least, she’d have to be someone more willing to forgive than I would be in her place if I’d ever blamed someone other than Tyler as she does. That said, I was able to suspend my disbelief to enjoy this book, and I’m sure you will, too.

If you know me, then you know that I read a lot of YA novels involving suicide. My favorite one, by far, has always been Nina LaCour’s Hold Still. It was the first book I’d ever read that dealt with a character dealing with the suicide of someone she knew closely. However, today, I can honestly say that The Last Time We Say Goodbye is the best book on the subject I’ve read since LaCour’s book. Pick it up today, and I guarantee that it’s going to be a book that you will reach for again and again.

Buy The Last Time We Say Goodbye today and benefit from 18% off the regular price!

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