13 August 2015

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Man. I've read so many books about suicide this year. THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was another addition to that stack, but it was definitely one of the better ones.

High school senior Lex's younger brother Tyler committed suicide just before winter break. In the months since then, Lex has drifted apart from her former friends, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been going through the motions at school, despite being a straight-A student with ambitions of getting into MIT. Her divorced parents have been struggling, too: her distant Dad never talks about Tyler, and her mother has taken to self-medicating with white wine.

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE's approach is different from the other books about suicide survivors I've read: it's a family story, studying how Lex and her family cope with the loss and try to move forward with their lives. That's not to say there's no focus at all on why Tyler did what he did—it's just not the main thrust.

Hand's prose was melancholy and achingly beautiful, but it was so heavy at times, it was hard to sustain my usual reading pace. I had to put the book down several times to get a breather. I think that's okay—hard books should be hard to read. Ty's specter hung over the entire plot, and I getting to know him through Lex's recollections made me lament his death all the more.

I liked THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE a lot, but I didn't quite love it. The characters never excited or moved me as much as I wanted them to be. They were real, well-drawn people, but the sort of cathartic change I enjoy in books never really occurred.

All that said: I would definitely recommend THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE to anyone who asked.