(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Michael W. Powell on December 10th 2014
From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand comes a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.Since her brother, Tyler, committed suicide, Lex has been trying to keep her grief locked away, and to forget about what happened that night. But as she starts putting her life, her family, and her friendships back together, Lex is haunted by a secret she hasn't told anyone—a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.In the tradition of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, Gayle Forman's If I Stay, and Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a thoughtful and deeply affecting novel that will change the way you look at life and death.
So that just happened.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand was one of those books that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. It definitely has a sad topic (suicide) and for whatever reason, I have read a number of sad topic books already this year (I’m not sure why) and haven’t been super impressed with them but I admit, this story grabbed me and there may have been a few tears by the end. I will most likely not do this story a lot of justice with my review – sorry, that is usually what happens when I read something that really gets me, but take my word for it. This book is one you should definitely check out.
Lex is a senior in high school and up until about 18 months ago, the biggest thing on her mind was whether she was going to get into MIT. That isn’t to say she has things easy. As the story opens, we actually find out that she is trying to cope with the fact that her brother committed suicide and although there was a history of issues with him, she can’t really figure out what happened to trigger it. On top of all of that, she feels guilty because the night he killed himself, he sent her a text that she never responded to. As part of her therapy, she is given a notebook to write notes to someone (anyone) which is supposed to help her come to terms with what happened.
I like Lex. She obviously is smart and everything she has, she has had to work for. She isn’t necessarily popular but she also isn’t unpopular…she just kind of floats along the fringes at school and has her own group of friends but we find out that she has decided to distance herself from them after Ty’s death. It has a lot to do with how she copes with the grief and their responses to what happened but there is also another reason. Don’t hate me, but I can’t say what it is as it is a pivotal piece of why she feels so guilty throughout the story.
I thought all of the secondary characters were well done. As I mentioned, Lex has really pulled away from her friends and that includes breaking up with her boyfriend Steven. Despite that, Steven tried to be supportive – however he could…even if Lex didn’t want him to be. Sadie was an old friend who drifted away and now they have a common experience to discuss. Lex’s parents – it was interesting to see the difference in Lex’s relationships with her mother and father. And Ty – he obviously wasn’t alive but I thought Hand did a wonderful job of building his character out through flashbacks and things that Lex remembered about him.
As Lex comes to term with her feelings about what Ty did and what happened the night he committed suicide, she also starts to figure out her relationship with her father, her mother, and Steven. Her lack of communication with everyone was what was creating the distance and as she starts to tell them what is really going on in her head, things start to come together. There is still this huge tragedy that everyone has to deal with but they also slowly come to realize that they have to continue to live. All the things Lex couldn’t say out loud are documented in the notebook and this is what she uses to really let Steven know what happened and why she did what she did.
I thought Hand did a wonderful job of showing just how painful it is to go through something like this and although there is definitely sadness, there is also hope. By the time the story ends, she has clearly turned a corner and I felt optimistic that she would be ok. If you are looking for a moving story about family, love, and dealing with loss; consider checking this one out. Having read the book, the cover (a post-it note on the mirror) makes a lot of sense and I love it even more than I already did.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Teen for the review copy.