Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia HandThe Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-stars

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.

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.

Despite the sad title, part of me was hoping for the romance of Cynthia Hand’s unearthly. Whatever the circumstances, I’ll always be hoping for swoons. As soon as I hit the dedication, which I usually skip, I knew that The Last Time We Say Goodbye would be an incredibly sad book. It reads, “For Jeff. Because this is the only way I know to reach for you.” In just those lines, I feel pain and heartbreak. The Last Time We Say Goodbye seems to me almost a character study of dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Since I wasn’t in the mood for a darker contemporary, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read The Last Time We Say Goodbye. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to read it eventually, but I figured I’d give the egalley a couple of pages, and I’d DNF it with every intention to come back to it if it didn’t grab me. There’s a reason, though, that Hand’s Unearthly, despite not being my thing plot-wise grabbed me years ago. She excels at characters and narration. This means that the book grabbed me on the first page; the first paragraph told me that I’d be reading the whole novel now. Here’s the first paragraph, so you can see why:

First I’d like to state for the record that the whole notion of writing this down was not my idea. It was Dave’s. My therapist’s. He thinks I’m having trouble expressing my feelings, which is why he suggested I write in a journal—to get it out, he said, like in the old days when physicians used to bleed their patients in order to drain the mysterious poisons. Which almost always ended up killing them in spite of the doctors’ good intentions, I might point out.

It’s that joke there at the end that told me this would be the sort of sad book that I could handle. I despise sentiment, and sometimes that’s what the so-called issue books are. Lots of sad, sad sentiment. I like my emotion cloaked in sarcasm or hidden beneath an inability to parse emotions. These things are present in The Last Time We Say Goodbye. I think these things make the book lighter in some ways, easier to digest, but also darker.

Lex hardly feels sad when The Last Time We Say Goodbye begins. Not feeling sad would ordinarily be a good thing, but in this case she’s not happy either. She’s not remotely herself, but she can’t cry anymore and she’s numb, except for the times where she feels like her insides are a hollow pit. Those times of abject pain are the best times, because at least she knows she can still feel something after her brother’s suicide. Something about that hits me so much harder than anything else.

As she should be, Lex attends therapy. There is, by the way, zero stigma attached to this, which again is as it should be. The therapy runs throughout the background of the novel, informing everything that Lex does. Her breakthroughs seem to come from talking with people in her life and not from therapy, but would not have come were she not in therapy. Writing in the journal helps open her up and get her memory going, helps her to remember Ty.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye verges on magical realism. Both Lex and her mother see ghosts. What I like is that it still feels like a contemporary and not a paranormal. Whether ghosts are real or it was some part of the grieving process, it was what they needed to go on living and find joy again. Lex finds it difficult to forgive herself and everyone else, because any one of them could maybe have prevented Ty from committing suicide. The whole book is about Lex coming to terms with that. It’s at no point a happy book, but it’s as hopeful as it can be, given the tragic circumstances.

There are two more things I want to mention. 1) I love that Lex is into mathematics. She actually thinks her way through the Fibonacci sequence to fall asleep. She worries about English class and loves calculus. She dreams of attending MIT and becoming a mathemetician. 2) The romance, which is minimal, delights me. I can’t say it was incredibly shippy, but I liked that it followed a non-traditional YA novel pattern, since View Spoiler ».

Pick The Last Time We Say Goodbye up when you’re ready for a good cry. No, for the record, I didn’t cry, but I did feel pain.

Favorite Quote:

“You have savings?” he asks, like the idea of me with money defies all logic.
“I have a little under twenty thousand,” I admit.
His eyes widen. “Twenty thousand dollars?”
“No. Twenty thousand beaver pelts. Of course twenty thousand dollars.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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6 responses to “Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand”

  1. Hannah says:

    Ah, there seems to be a rash of books dealing with suicide lately – All the Bright Places and I Was Here off the top of my head.

    I’m interested to read a contemporary from the author, having enjoyed her previous work. Think I’ll have to space out reading my pile of depressing books, however.
    Hannah recently posted…Giveaway: The Dream Thieves – Maggie StiefvaterMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      So many of them, indeed. Also the Jasmine Warga one.

      It’s very different from Unearthly obviously, with less of a romance or even really plot component. She’s still immensely talented though obviously. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed The Unearthly series and have been seeing this one get awesome reviews. I just do not know if I am ready to handle the emotions yet. But when I am ready I will give it chance. It is nice to hear that her writing is excellent in this one as well
    Ashley @The Quiet Concert recently posted…Top Ten Adult Fiction Books We Can’t Believe We Haven’t Read YetMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I haven’t finished Unearthly, but I thought the first book was great. They’re pretty different, so go for whichever one fits your mood first. This one’s definitely sad, but worth it. 🙂

  3. Lyn Kaye says:

    Can I say how happy I am that there is a book without the theme of THERAPY EVIL. LOVE IS HERO. BAD BAD MODERN MEDICINE.

    I’m so excited about this book. I love the emotional conflict. I love that someone is tackling grief in a new, refreshing way.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I am so glad too. The stigma needs to leave therapy, because, let’s be honest, we could all benefit.

      Will look forward to your thoughts when you get to this one!

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