The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren Book Review

Book Description

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I thought that this was a romance book but it is so much more than just about first love. This book deals with grief, hurting others because of grief, recovering from heartbreak, first love, family, and friendship.

I liked the way you got to see each of these characters deal with grief and how they have different responses to grief. I liked how they are supported through their grief but how their family tries to pull them out of it. I also really liked how we got to see the way that they view each other before and after that one moment that changed things for each of them.

I like how we got to see Lucy try to get over her feelings for ben throughout this whole book as she is also dealing with her the death of her best friend. I thought it was good to see how those two events affected each other and how the death of her best friend informed her feelings about love. I also really liked that we got to see ben’s feelings about it all, we got to see him angry and sad. I thought it was great to see grief through his eyes because it’s important that young adults see guys grieving as well because I think oftentimes they think that holding feelings in is the proper way to deal with things.

Characters: In this book, you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Ben and Lucy. You get to meet some of Lucy’s friends and her boyfriend, Simon as well as the kid that she is babysitting. You also get to meet some of Ben’s friends, his family, and his girlfriend.

I loved each of the characters that you get to meet and love how they know Ben and Lucy but they also don’t know them. I like that they only know the pieces of themselves that they show to others. I also really liked how none of the other characters know the Ben and Lucy that each of them knows, the people that they were before Trixie’s death.

I loved the moments in which we get to see Lucy or Ben interacting with Emily as those moments lighten the mood of the book. Emily is so innocent and both of them are sheltering her from reality so it allows them both to forget about Trixie’s death for a minute to just be. I also really liked how Emily could read both ben and Lucy’s feelings that they were trying to hide from everyone.

Writing Style: This book is told in the third person through the perspectives of Ben and Lucy. I really enjoyed that the book goes back and forth between the two characters as you get to see them both deal with their grief in different ways. I also liked that this book goes back and forth from the present to the past to give you glimpses of a time before Trixie’s death.

Author Information

Sara Biren lives just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and their two children. A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies with her family, and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, on the shores of beautiful Lake Superior, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith Book Review

Author Information

Joan F. Smith is author of The Half-Orphan’s Handbook and the forthcoming It Ends with December. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and has written articles for The Washington Post and The Mary Sue on destigmatizing discussions around mental health and suicide prevention. Joan works in higher education and is a dance instructor. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Joan is represented by Kerry D’Agostino at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Book Description

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again. 

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

TW: suicide mention, suicide, death, addiction

Thoughts and Themes: I knew this book would be heavy as I went into reading it just because of the subject matter that it tackles. Its hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much personal information but this book hit close to home for a lot of reasons.

I liked how the book went through a lot of the feelings that come along with grief and how it explores guilt along with loss. I thought that this book really showed how guilt factors into grief quite well and did it in a way that was still sensitive to the manner.

This book felt healing for me and made me feel a lot less alone than I have felt in a while. I liked how the story points out that healing isn’t linear and how much work goes into it. I liked that we got to see each person deal with grief differently, and all ages deal with grief as well. I liked that we even have adults in this book that are dealing with grief and it is all different forms of grief.

I cried for a good while after reading this book and the author’s note, I also messaged the author to say thanks for this book which is something I never do because I’m too scared to do that. There are books that I relate to, books that make me feel seen, books that help me heal from things, but rarely does a book do all of those things. This book felt like it was sent to me to say “hey I got you” much like Lila gets these people at camp to make her feel that way.

Characters: Through this story we are introduced to multiple characters as they interact with our main character, Lila. We meet Lila’s brother, Sammy, Madison, Winnie, Noah, Deese and Jeff. I really liked all of the characters that we get to meet and loved all the relationships that are shown throughout this book.

While we do get a romance between Lila and Noah, I thought that was a side of the book and not the main portion of it. I liked how their romance developed and the emotions that LIla has to face to allow someone to be with her. I thought it was good to see her grapple with those feelings and struggle to let herself have feelings for someone. I think this really showed how much she was holding onto the past and not letting herself move forward with her life since her dad wasn’t there anymore.

I like how we get to see each character’s backstory and the reason for the way that they act towards others. I thought it was good to finally get Madison’s feelings out and the truth about Noah out as well. I liked how this was handled and how Lila is forced to see that she isn’t the only one dealing with a loss. There were times where Lila was annoying because of her attitude and the way she treated others but there was an understanding that each of them had their reasons.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person point of view through Lila’s perspective. I really enjoyed having the story be told by Lila as a narrator because you find things out just as she does. I thought it was great to be there with her as we find out details about her father and then find out things about Noah. I think that made the story a lot more impactful because you for a minute are Lila.