The Last Time We Say Goodbye is YA fiction. Bravely and warmly, the author tries to tackle the huge topic of what it’s like if your sibling commits suicide, and you were the last person they contacted, even as they did not tell you of their plans.
Our main character, Lex, is dealing with this huge event in her life as best she can, and it is clear that the author cares deeply about her character. However, as is often a tendency in YA lit, there is a certain sense that everything will be okay, and while this is a problem to be tackled—and it’s big—there will be a concise, clear ending. I am always annoyed when YA authors make the assumption that the reality they are writing about needs to be glossed over in some way. I say that knowing full well that it might sound like I want Lex to spend the rest of her days in black, listening to depressing music and sobbing while the ghost of her brother hangs around. I don’t; but of all things that change people at the most elemental level, murder and/or suicide are at the top of the list.
Young Adults are facing some of the most visceral experiences they will ever have during this time of their lives. From high school through college, a certain percentage of them will make a choice that will kill them or someone else, permanently hurt them or someone else, or even just experience something felt so deeply it will forever inform the rest of their lives. I really think YA writing has a responsibility to be honest with their readers about the fact that what you experience during this time of your life will permanently shape you, and some things will be with you forever; not in a punitive way, but in the way a tree is changed if lightning strikes it and it survives. We’ll always see the scorch marks. We won’t be able to just wave goodbye—but we will be able, eventually, to look at it and see not just the damage, but also the green leaves that still grow. 2 Stars.