The Last Time We Say Goodbye – Cynthia Hand

17285330ISBN – 0062318470
Publisher – HarperCollins Australia
First Published – 2015
Pages – 400

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

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.

OH THE FEELS, FRIENDS. THE FEELS.

It’s not often a contemporary novel touches me so. But I suppose, as morbid as it sounds, I have a thing for ‘suicide books’. I need to know how a character will cope, I need to know why it happened. I get VERY invested. And I get sad.
Which seems totally illogical. I like books that make me sad.

But I do.
There’s something about a book that makes you so invested that you’re physically affected by reading it. If a book can do that to me, it’s a good one. Cynthia Hand takes us right into Alexis’ grief. She’s numb and logical and her encounters with others are blank and calculated. She’s a shell and boy, do we feel it.

The story is split between present day and diary entries that Lex writes as a suggestion from her psychologist. He suggests she writes about firsts and lasts, and so they focus on the beginnings and endings of relationships and important days. They’re written so casually, and often feel like they’re being written to you that it becomes easy to get to know Lex.
I find that books that deal with deaths and trauma often turn their protagonists into cold, world-hating biatches. And I get that, because trauma is probably going to do that to you. But it’s often a struggle to like the MC in light of that because we aren’t struggling with that trauma too.
This is definitely not a problem in The Last Time We Say Goodbye. Lex is a mathematical whiz at heart and so her moves are logical and cold; she steers herself away from emotion. But somehow it still finds her and warms her.

I loved the introduction of Lex’s old best friend Sadie. She was wild and funny and a bright distraction from the general sadness the rest of this book has to offer. Lex’s mum also forms a large part of the novel and we watch her deal with her son’s death from the perspective of Lex. Often parents in YA with deceased children react by turning into shells. Lex’s mum does start to fade, but she still carries on with life which I find both admirable and realistic. People do carry on after death. Even though they don’t want to and they don’t know how, they most often do. That’s not to say Lex’s mother is happy and issue free – she isn’t, but she learns to cope alongside Lex and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

I really enjoyed The Last Time We Say Goodbye… oh, and that ending! The book itself didn’t feel overly emotional for me until right up until the end. We’re taunted with the mysteries of a text and a letter throughout the novel and it’s only at the end that we discover what they say. These were totally unexpected for me, and they were truly heart breaking (I didn’t cry, but I felt a little teary, I’ll admit!).

If you’re looking for a down-to-Earth, realistic portrayal of teen suicide and coping with loss, Cynthia Hand doesn’t disappoint. Her writing is at times a little simplistic, but she captures the emotions perfectly with realistic characters and a gripping mystery.
I’d also like to point out that I was very confused and disappointed when I started reading and thought this was going to be a paranormal (reading back on the blurb, it really does sound like it might be), and was greatly pleased when I worked out it wasn’t and was a firmly grounded contemporary. Don’t be fooled friends!

Rating (out of 5):

4 cups

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.

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