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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Last Time We Say
Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Release Date: February 10, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Kindle
Source: Purchased
Pages: 400
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
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.
When I was 17 years old, in my first few weeks as a freshman in college, on a Sunday that started like any other Sunday, I got a call from my parents that someone I’d known for many years, a close friend of my brother’s, had killed himself. I hadn’t seen or spoken to this friend in a while, but that didn’t matter. The shock came immediately.

I remember that phone call with crystal clear certainty over 15 years later, but I could not tell you one more moment of how I spent that day. I do know that my parents sent me a picture of the two of us from Prom, both of us posed but smiling naturally. I didn’t come home for the funeral (since I didn’t have a car, and school has barely started), which I regret to this day. For weeks after his death, I felt almost haunted by him. I had strange and terrible dreams about the moments leading up to it. I was consumed with thoughts about who (if anyone) he reached out to, about how I wish it had been me. I wish I could have told him that I always loved his company, that the fact he always spoke to me even though I was just his friend’s kid sister showed me that he was a decent person (especially when he did it when I was wearing my band uniform at football games). That he would be missed more than he would ever know.

Then, months later, I dreamed that he walked into my dorm room, sat on my bed, and told me I had to let him go. So I did. I’ve never had another dream about him since. I still think of him, though, even after all these years.

This long and personal story is all to let you know that there was no way I would be able to read The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand without a bias. My friend’s face swam through my mind as I read Lex’s story. Her pain is a much deeper, harder, more personal pain than mine, but I could understand so much of where she was coming from. I’ve had a decade and a half to process; Lex is only months removed. Ty’s suicide is still raw and open and present in her mind. One of the things I really loved about this is that it does not exploit the sorrow. The reader gets a front row seat for the aftermath, but I never felt like it was anything but painfully true and heart-wrenching.

And then there’s the gradual build of it all. It doesn’t feel or read like a mystery, but in some ways, it kind of is. The details matter. The holes in the stories matter. Why do they matter? So the last quarter of the book can slam into you, straight through your heart. From start to finish, it was really something.

Cynthia Hand already had her own little spot in my heart for giving me the Unearthly series, but this is beyond what I could have imagined would come next. Despite the many words above this, I’m still pretty speechless over The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

And I still miss you, friend.

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