Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: February 10, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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."
Things aren't going well for Alexis. Her parents are divorced, thanks to his dad finding a new wife, and her brother, Ty, committed suicide. She even used to have a boyfriend, but that's over now. Everyone looks at her at school like she is fragile. They don't know what to say to the girl whose brother committed suicide. She is trying to move on, but how can she when she thinks she sees Ty in her house, smells his cologne everywhere and has recurring dreams about him. To make matters worse, her mother is constantly crying and claiming her life is over. Her parents want her to see a therapist, so now she has to write about her feelings, which is hard since she is a super-smart math student with plans to go to MIT, not someone who is used to writing about her thoughts. Plus, there's the cloud of guilt that is hanging over her head...the guilt that she could have stopped her brother's suicide or done something about it. Cynthia Hand's The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a heartbreaking tale that follow's Alexis's journey dealing with grief, family, guilt, and how to move on past it all.
Alexis, or Lex, is an interesting character and one whom finds comfort in math, logic, reasoning and the like. So, when she starts to think she sees her brother's ghost, it throws her for a loop. She barely has anyone to lean on through her grief, as her mother is pretty unstable, and her friends don't know what to say to her. She can't even go to her ex-boyfriend, because that would be too weird. She has her therapist, but she feels strange completely opening up to him, so she writes in the required journal. Slowly, Lex starts to figure things out in The Last Time We Say Goodbye and even though her journey had me sobbing and feeling all the emotions, I couldn't get enough. I held my breath with the hope that she would somehow be able to pick herself up after this tragedy and even though her scars would always be there, I was hoping that with time they would fade, because she has so much to live for.
Hand took me by surprise. You can tell she writes from a familiar place. The way she brings to life grief is so well done that I felt myself falling into a dark hole of panic, anxiety and despair right along with Lex. It was smothering and choking at some points, that is how real The Last Time We Say Goodbye made grief feel. It was an extremely accurate portrayal.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye deals with more than just grief though. Lex finds herself reconnecting with her childhood friend, Sadie, despite the fact that they drifted apart many years ago. I really enjoyed their friendship and how they could lean on each other. It's also about forgiveness. Lex has to deal with the fact that her father left her mother for another woman and now he is married to this woman, which makes things really hard. She never truly forgave her father and Lex feels that Ty wouldn't have committed suicide if her dad didn't destroy their family. Lex has to navigate those tough waters and I think many young women could relate to her issues surrounding her father, his new family, and how divorce can be difficult.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye stayed with me. It hurt to read at some parts, but I was so invested in Lex's life. I had to know how it was going to end. I won't lie. This book made me sad. It obviously wasn't sunshine and rainbows, but I think it's an important read, especially for people that can relate to Lex and are dealing with grief. This book will really speak to them.
So, if you are looking for a powerful read that is smart, well written, heartfelt, gut-wrenching and tearjerking, check out The Last Time We Say Goodbye. Many weeks later, I am still thinking about this book and my heart still aches a bit.