Book Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Posted February 6, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 4 Comments

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

by Cynthia Hand

Last Time We Say Goodbye

Expected Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen

Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for a final review. This is no way affected my final opinion of the work.
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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.

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I enjoyed every book in Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy, but my favorite was Hallowed because of the way Hand wrote about grief and loss in that book. That same careful consideration is present in The Last Time We Say Goodbye, though in this book there’s no angels or heavenly tasks–just a girl who has lost her brother and is struggling to keep the remaining pieces of her life together.

I would say The Last Time We Say Goodbye is about a lot of things, but they ALL revolve around Lex’s consuming grief. After Tyler died, Lex has a hard time feeling anything. She’s numb and going through the motions. She can’t be bothered to concentrate on her schoolwork, even though she’s a star student. She broke up with her boyfriend. She doesn’t bother to care about whether the colleges she’s applied to have accepted or rejected her. These are all things that would have been important to Lex previously, but now she’s just numb.

Reading about Lex going through the motions was almost agonizing at times. It didn’t take much for Hand to make me sympathize with Lex, because her “before” and “after” parts of her life were just so prominently contrasting. There’s another layer in Lex’s grief, which is that Tyler’s death was a suicide, not an accident or something like an illness. Lex struggles with not only her brother’s death, but the circumstances of it as well.

They don’t understand yet. That they are all waiting for that one phone call that will change everything. That every one of them will feel like me eventually. Because someone they love will die. It’s one of life’s cruel certainties.

While I think Hand explores grief very well, there’s only so long that one can read about Lex’s journey through her grief. Because she’s such a numb character at the start of the book, it’s easy to sympathize with her but much harder to understand her. And I don’t mean just where’s she’s coming from–that’s the easy part–but to understand who this character is. Eventually, though, Lex slowly surfaces back to her life. It’s still a struggle for her but after reading about her grief for so many pages I as a reader felt proud of this character for doing so.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is about grief, but it’s also about living through that and living with that. I think anyone who’s lost anyone as close as a family member realizes at some point that life, for so many people, hasn’t changed just because it’s just so much for you, and what you do with that can set the course for the rest of your life.

 

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While I wasn’t surprised, I was happy to see that Hand wrote about grief just as well here as she did in the Unearthly trilogy. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is heartbreaking, but it’s also hopeful and is such a beautiful book at a girl who’s lost someone so close and how she goes forward. 4/5 cupcakes.

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4 Stars

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4 responses to “Book Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

    • Stormy

      I totally get that! It’s definitely a quieter book that you’d need to be in the right mindset when picking it up.

  1. I don’t always love books about teen grief. There are lots of them and they all seem the same after awhile, you know? This one sounds like it’s well-done, that there’s more to it than just all grief all the time. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!

    • Stormy

      There are definitely a ton of books about teen grief–I skip most of them, but I feel I read one or two every year. I thought Cynthia Hand wrote about grief so well in the Unearthly trilogy that I knew this would be one of the few grief books I read this year, and much like after I finished that trilogy, I feel like Hand just *gets* that grief so, so well.

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