Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Review: The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen

Pages: 368
Genre: YA Reastlic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.   Local teen convict released early.  Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.   “Everything is not what you think.”  Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?  “You’re the one person who believes in me.”  Leah Konen’s southern romance swelters with passion as it explores the devastating crush of lies, the delicate balance of power and perception, and one girl’s journey to find herself while uncovering the secrets of so many others." 

Liz and Jason grew up next door to each other and were best friends.  They did everything together, but as they grew up, Jason became popular and Liz, well, wasn't.  He ended up going to juvie for committing a crime and since then, she has forgotten all about her former best friend.  Now Liz is what you would call a "cool girl" at school. She is even dating Innis, the hottest guy at school, and  the only time she thinks of Jason is when she looks next door at his abandoned house.  This all changes when Jason is let out of juvie early and shows up back in her life.  He wants to be friends again, but how could Liz be friends with him after all he did? Plus, her parents despise him and so does her older sister.  But no one can deny all the memories they share together as former best friends. She wants to forget about him, but she can't.  Leah Konen's The Last Time We Were Us is an entertaining beach read for young adults. Although it has its flaws, I was genuinely interested in Liz's journey.

I enjoyed the main character of Liz in The Last Time We Were Us; I could definitely empathize with her. She wants to be a popular girl for once and fit in much like her older sister.  But when Jason returns, it throws her for a loop.  Plus, Innis is showing her some attention and she wonders if she is actually dating him? It's hard for her to navigate their relationship, especially when she has her mother pressuring her.  Then there's the pressure from her older sister who is planning her wedding. Liz is the maid of honor and things start to get a little bumpy between the two when her sister hears that she is hanging out with Jason again, which her sister is completely against.  I could sympathize with Liz in that everyone is telling her what to do and has these expectations for her, but no one is asking her what she truly wants.

The southern setting of The Last Time We Were Us was one of my favorite aspects of this novel. Konen depicts a small southern town very well and she illustrates how news travels quickly in town.  People in her community are expected to behave a certain way and Liz has to deal with this as well as her mother's expectations.  But what is interesting about this is what's truly behind the "perfect" southern community and the facade.  There is more to Jason's story than meets the eye. Also, Innis appears to be the perfect southern gentleman, but he isn't what he seems, along with the rest of his family.

I felt the romance was lacking a bit in The Last Time We Were Us. I didn't feel the chemistry like I wanted to, but overall, I thought it was an entertaining read. I enjoy coming-of-age tales and although the ending was a bit rushed, I needed to find out how things were going to end up for Liz as well as Jason.

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