The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Summary: 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.
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½
My Thoughts: The Last Thing You Said follows Lucy and Ben over the course of the summer as they continue to grieve over the death of a loved one. The complex emotions that weave throughout the novel, drive the story which follows two journeys of grief, loss, and acceptance in this YA Contemporary.
This was a very difficult book to rate, because it had strong elements that really made it stand out from other YA Contemporaries and above all aspects that made it a good story in general, however there were elements which disappointed me, that just couldn’t allow me to rate it any higher.
Biren does a fantastic job at developing and presenting deep and emotional complexity in her characters (clearly shown through Ben & Lucy POV’s). With how she executed her st person POV’s, I will definitely be interested to read more of her future works.
Told through 1st person, they felt so real I could sympathize with their differing stages of grief over their loss of Trixie. To Ben, she was a beloved sister and to Lucy, she was a dear best friend.
Seeing how this loss impacted them so differently was unique to see in a YA Contemporary and above all, they were so developed and it was interesting to read their story unfold as they come to terms with it being almost a year since Trixie’s passing.
Biren introduces such supportive friends and family helping the characters (especially Lucy) in coming to terms with the loss.
Lucy hasn’t spoken to Ben since Trixie died, so she still struggles with the hurt and grief she still has for her best friend, while also feeling she will never sort things out with Ben (who was also her long-time crush).
However, since then Lucy has come to know Hannah and the 2 are inseparable. Hannah was completely understanding of Lucy’s loss and no matter what, always made an effort to help her and just be there when she needed someone.
Then there is Simon, a new guy who rents a house with his mother next door to Lucy to stay for the summer and when the two quickly connect, he also is very understanding and supportive as Lucy grieves. He really likes Lucy and wants to help her move past her feelings for Ben, above all he was a great character to read about.
Seeing Hannah, Simon, and Lucy’s parents give her the time and space she needed was incredible to read. It was also great to read how much they also just wanted to help her gather the strength to move on.
Then there’s Ben, who is going through the grief much differently than Lucy. He’s drinking, out partying, and finding girlfriend after girlfriend.
While it added so much depth to the story exploring and expanding on grief and loss from differing characters, I felt the dual POV really slowed the story down and I did have problems with Ben’s POV.
Above all, reading from his POV made me really dislike his character more and more as the story went on. Even though he acknowledged his actions and how he treated people poorly throughout multiple chapters, he really didn’t change at all throughout the novel and that was pretty disappointing.
Its revealed he and Lucy were together in the past for a short while, but got into an argument shortly after Trixie died and he pushed her away.
Aside from that, it never felt like he appreciated or acknowledged the pain/strain of certain relationships like his father who was also grieving (at least in the beginning), current girlfriend, or Lucy when he knew why he was feeling so upset and frustrated all the time. Above all it just didn’t seem like he ever wanted to make an effort for anyone else and only cared how things would benefit himself.
As I mentioned above, he does mend the relationships as the story progresses, but not till very later on in the novel and that really made this novel hard to get through. They were very understanding and it just didn’t seem like he cared. So while his POV really shows a different side of the impact of Trixie’s death, moments of his POV really dragged and ruined the story for me.
As for additional elements I really loved about The Last Thing You Said, Biren shows an array of positive role models from friends to parents that help/show support for Lucy and Ben as they grieve Trixies loss.
The formatting and presentation of the book also made it stand out! The text of the novel is purple and aside from that, it’s also divided into 4 parts (May-August), features illustrations of a lake + forest in between chapters, and inspirational quotes. Overall I really loved how the book was presented!
The dual POV really expands not only on how the grief impacts people differently, but in general delivers a unique take on an emotional summer contemporary!
The Last Thing You Said is an enjoyable summer contemporary that really tackles grief in an honest and unique way. While the pacing and some character decisions make it slow to get through at points, the story above all follows the impactful and emotional journey of grief and acceptance.