The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Young adult, contemporary
Feburary 2015, HarperCollins

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.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gentle, honest portrayal of the aftermath of suicide. The confusion of grief, guilt and blame in protagonist Lex following her brother's suicide is genuine, devastating, but ultimately life-affirming as she progresses through the grieving process to find forgiveness and the beginning of peace. Lex's characterisation was a highlight: her reactions in the wake of tragedy were emotional, sometimes unpredictable and frustrating but always realistic.

Unfortunately, an accumulation of suicides and attempted suicides in this novel hinder its capacity to do justice to any of them. The quick, shallow treatment of the incidents following Ty's death turn them into plot devices for trite dramatics, and cheapen Tyler's own tragedy. The novel's portrayal of Tyler's mother's grief also left me wanting. A book about a grieving mother will obviously be a different book to one about a grieving sister, but for quite a major character, the emotional life of her mother was surface level and unsatisfying: hearing that she cries all the time is not enough to convey genuine grief.

The romantic subplot was particularly well done, because it functioned in just the way it needed to in a story dealing with this subject matter. Allowing herself to be in love was an element to Lex's process of healing, but it wasn't a band-aid solution. There are no band-aid solutions to grief, and the unhurried pace and character-driven nature of The Last Time We Say Goodbye reflected the slow, organic process of grieving.

Despite my qualms with it, I would recommend The Last Time We Say Goodbye as an emotive, if incomplete, exploration of how a family can heal after someone chooses to leave them too soon.

Trigger warnings for suicide. 
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  1. Oh no. I've been hanging back from reading this one after seeing a review who had the same issues Soph. That it was a bit too busy and didn't allow for that deep, emotional connection you need from a storyline to be able to invest. I like to be drawn into the story and I'm a big crier too, but the disconnection probably won't sit well with me. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed her Unearthly series too. Wonderful review Soph, really enjoyed it <3

    1. Thanks Kel! :) Yeah I was disappointed, because it had a lot of potential that it just didn't quite live up to, for me. On the GR page it seems to be quite a polarising title though - a lot of 5 stars and a smattering of low (quite unhelpful negative) reviews, but I didn't see too many people who were just totally on the fence like I was. So it's possible you may still enjoy it - I hope so! :)