Review: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

March 16, 2015 / 6 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Author: Cynthia Hand (website | twitter)

Publisher: Harper Teen
Source/Format: ARC from Harper Collins Canada (thank you!)
Publication date: February 10, 2015
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 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.


I finished this book several weeks ago, but I’m still processing it even now. So here is my attempt to distill it down to what you need to know (other than that you should definitely, DEFINITELY pick this one up):

6. It does not hold back or dumb down death, but it’s also not as depressing as you think.  

If you’ve read Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series, you know that Hand really understands death. She knows how to write about grief and how to shepherd a character through it. With The Last Time We Say Goodbye, Hand gets an entire book to explore how a character comes to terms with not only grief, but also guilt and rationalization and knowing how to laugh again and wanting to save others and how to cope. It’s not all sad, though – the book alternates between flashbacks through her journal writing and present day, where Lex assigns herself tasks to fulfill what she thinks her brother’s ghost wants. That sounds morbid, but it’s actually fascinating and uncovers new layers to the people she knows.

5. Cynthia Hand is brilliant at normal – or as normal as it can be when you see ghosts. 

For those of you who are paranormal junkies, you may shy away from this one. Don’t. First of all, this is her subtle quiet writing at its best. You will feel all the feels of the Unearthly series, just in a different context.

Also, there are quite a few moments that feel very otherworldly as Lex is dealing with her grief.

4. It doesn’t pretend parents don’t exist.  

One of my favourite parts of the Unearthly series was how much interaction the parents had with the kids in the series – they helped move so much of the story along. Hand understands how much influence our parents exert on us and how they shape us, and she always builds them into the narrative. At the beginning of The Last Time We Say Goodbye, Lex and her mother are both so weighted down by their grief that they can barely move. I felt like they were stuck underwater, living in a slow-motion atmosphere. And Lexi’s father is nowhere to be found. The complexities of Lexi’s relationships with her mother and father are brilliantly maneuvered, and key to how she moves on and how she learns to live again.

3. There’s math nerdery – but it’s not written about in a nerdy way. 

I love, love, LOVED that Lex was such a geek about math and science, and how methodically she approached life. Cynthia Hand brilliantly constructed a character who wasn’t at all cold or distant, but who definitely had a view of how life should be. I just loved how weird she was, how much we got to know her, and how much she recognized her own weirdness and never shied away from it.

2. It has one of the swooniest romances I’ve read in awhile.

You wouldn’t – or at least I didn’t – think that the romance in this book would be so charming and swoonworthy. But it is. The love between Steven and Lex doesn’t take up a lot of time in a book that’s definitively about grief – but the moments between them are so powerful in their normalcy, in the little moments of two people who are just right for each other, that I fell in love, too.

1. [semi-spoiler – highlight to read if you are one of those people who doesn’t mind knowing my opinion of parts of the book] It has, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant endings I have ever read in a YA novel.

Look, you might not agree with me. And I sure hope that me telling you this doesn’t bias your view of the ending. But the ending is so circular, so pitch-perfect in emotion and weight and resonance and what matters that I can’t write this review without mentioning it. I put a lot of weight on endings and more often than not, I’m a little disappointed. This one elevated the book and had me at a complete loss for words or thoughts. I was just a ball of emotion.

Book Theme Song:

Dirty Projectors – While You’re Here

His ghost is quiet, but we’re crying again
Then I hear you saying while you are here
You are alive, but you are here, you are alive

The Final Word: 

It’s hard to review a book that is so much about feeling, but I think Cynthia Hand has pulled off something extraordinary – a book where I didn’t notice structure or writing or even feel like I was reading about a character, but where I was just going through the grieving process with Lex. It really, really hurts – but it’s a hurt that changes you and helps you learn about yourself. Highly recommended for anyone who loves contemporaries or who needs help getting through a loss.

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is out now. Have you read it yet? Are you interested in reading it? Have you read Cynthia Hand’s other books? Can you read books that are sad or about grief? Hit the comments and let me know. 

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6 responses to “Review: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

  1. I've been reading nothing but positive reviews about this book, but this is the first time I saw a review broken down into details like that. Great review, Tiff! I'm gonna read this over the summer, as soon as the semester ends. 🙂

    • Thank you so much – I'm so glad it helped you decide to read. It's a wonderful book, and there are lots of things in it that I didn't touch on. You do have to psych yourself up a little to read this book – it's not light. But you'll learn a lot. =)

  2. I loved The Last Time We Say Goodbye! I personally felt like Cynthia Hand really tackled grief from a fresh perspective, and I fell in love with Lex and her story.

  3. I can't wait to read this one! I went to a signing of hers a few weeks ago and bought it, but still haven't read it. Everyone's been saying it's a total me book, though, so I need to get to it ASAP!

  4. I've been on the fence about reading this book. But I'm really glad that you brought up the points that you did, because there are a couple that really stuck out and made me think, "Ooh I should give that book a try!" Particularly: It doesn't pretend that parents don't exist. SO MANY YAs LACK PARENTS or lack parents that set boundaries for the teenage characters. Like, in what world are parents not involved in pretty much everything (much to the chagrin of the teenager), and the kid acts like a full-functioning adult? I think it's weird.

  5. I have had this one for a long time, but I have put it off again and again. I will start it, and then stop. It sounds good, emotional, and definitely something I might like. But the ending of the Unearthly series, a series that I ADORED, angered me. I know I shouldn’t hold that against this one, and I try not to let it, but… I need to just forget that one and focus on this. Especially with your spoiler (yes, i peaked!

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