The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand [twitter • website]
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: suicide, loss of a brother, life after loss, counseling
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Lex’s brother committed suicide and she’s not entirely sure why. She wants answers she’ll never get; she wants more than his one-line-post-it-note on his bedroom mirror. Lex wants to go back to way things were before.
• • •
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is going to be really difficult for me to review well. I wish I could draw a diagram for you that showed all of the emotions and feelings I experienced while slowly (because it’s like the best, most delicious meal you’ve ever had: it must be savored) worked through Lex’s story.
Lex’s life is divided into befores and afters:
Before when she was happy.
After her brother committed suicide.
Before when she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
After when she’s lost touch with all of her best friends.
Before when she was sure she’d met her soul mate.
After when she broke things off with him because it’s just too much.
Lex’s mom is barely functioning; she goes to work, comes home, cries herself to sleep in Tyler’s room, rinses and repeats. When her mom swears she gets a whiff of his cologne, Lex blows her off. But then a few things start happening to Lex and she’s positive her therapist will prescribe her medication if she tells him she has seen Tyler’s ghost. Or that she’s noticed photographs have been removed from frames throughout the house. Surely this can’t be happening, right?
This was my first of Cynthia’s books and I have to say I’m just so incredibly in love with her storytelling. I’m an “issues” kind of girl when it comes to books so I’ve read a number of books that deal with a similar situation. But man, it felt like Cynthia really forced me into this world. Everything just felt so right with the pacing, the environment, the friendships, and Lex trying to figure out how to move forward. There’s an added element of Lex’s journal entries that her therapist forces her to write, and honestly, sometimes these kinds of things can feel jarring because they break up the story. It worked so, so well here. (Especially when everything really came full circle at the end. Cue the tears.)
The Last Time We Say Goodbye is heartbreaking and takes a good, long look at a family after the surprising loss of a son and brother. There are so many questions and so, so few answers. It’s less of an emphasis, however, on Tyler and the choice he made, and more about accepting his decision and how Lex and her mom move forward. Just in case you’re wondering if this is a ghost book, my answer would be no. It’s a very realistic adaptation of a grieving family with a very logical explanation for why these things are happening to Lex and her mom.
I caution you to prepare a continuous stretch of time for The Last Time We Say Goodbye. You won’t want to move an inch. And quite possibly, if you’re like me, you’ll be angry you haven’t read Cynthia’s work until now. Don’t worry — I’m off to correct this!
• • •
Add THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE to Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Stephen Metcalfe may be new to the young adult scene but he brings with him a ton of experience from his work on various stage and screen plays. His first novel, His Tragic Life, hits bookstores on March 3, 2015 and brings readers an authentic male character who devotedly observes the world around him and, at the same time, reacts to it in some of the oddest ways too. I’ve seen this book compared to the likes of Catcher in the Rye, and even Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I’m confident fans of Jason Myers and even Robyn Schneider will enjoy this quirky novel. It’s full of moments that stabilize us but also the ones that pull us apart in unexpected, dark directions. It’s honest, and heavy on the oh-man-I-can’t-believe-that-happened side.
We’re happy to welcome Stephen into the young adult world today with a Q&A about Billy, The Tragic Age star, his writing inspiration, and more.
Billy is such an observer but, even so, his tendency to be this way is all about burying his true feelings over his sister’s death and all the changes in his family. How did you dive into writing about Billy? Did you know exactly how he would be dealing with all this tension in his life or did it develop as you were digging deeper into the story?
I started with a number of givens when I began writing Billy. I knew that he had, as he puts it, “a mind for useless information”. Billy is a sponge for knowledge – he “likes knowing things”. At the same time I knew that Billy’s fixation on knowing things was also an escape. He uses books, newspapers, the internet, television and movies as a means of not dealing with everyday life. He uses facts to hold feelings at a distance. I wanted Billy to have an air of what I call “innocent cynicism”. He’s trying so hard to pretend he doesn’t care about anything. The reality, of course, is that he cares far too much. I knew part of Billy’s character arc would be that as the story progresses, he finds the burden of “not caring” more and more difficult to carry. And yes, while the voice was consistent from the beginning, the character changed and developed as the story progressed.
There’s definitely something about the pacing of the book that feels like a classic literature tragedy. At some point, I was feeling so positive for Billy. Even if some of his actions were questionable, I was like “hooray he is finding his own happiness”… but well. You and I know how that all goes. Were there any particular books that inspired you (or helped you) in the writing of The Tragic Age?
I wanted very much to write a coming of age story along the lines of Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace and James Kirkwood’s Good Times, Bad Times. All three books have young protagonists who learn and grow through adversity.
It was really great to read a book that was incredibly sex-positive and just doing its thing. Was this a concern when you decided you were writing YA or did you just decide to go with what was natural?
Frankly, it never occurred to me I was writing YA. It was St. Martin’s Press that suggested that The Tragic Age would be best released as Young Adult and after discussing it and thinking about it, I agreed with them. Billy is a young adult. He is dealing with the challenges and uncertainties that have been the bane (and the wonder) of all of us when were young – friendship, sexuality, family, isolation, competition – the future.
What kind of books do you find yourself reading the most frequently?
I read a bit of everything. I have my stack of what I call “airplane reading” – this is the mostly mindless stuff you buy in airport books stores when you want to escape the tedium of plane travel. They don’t take a lot of work and are usually a quick and (hopefully) enjoyable read. The other stack is the stuff that needs and warrants focus, concentration and contemplation. I eat them in mostly small bites, the better to enjoy and analyze the flavors. When I find a writer I like, I eventually try to read everything he’s written. I read two newspapers every day and like Billy, if something intrigues me, I always want to learn more about it.
Thanks so much for taking the time, Stephen! Congrats on the book!
The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe publishes on March 3, 2015 from St. Martin’s Press.
Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy at B&N
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: depressing, suicide pact, family problems, friendship
Format read: ARC from Alex @ Little Wing Book Reviews. (Thanks!)
Summary: After trolling a website called Smooth Passages, Aysel decides to answer Roman’s ad for a suicide partner. They meet and agree to a “deadline”, yet their new-found “friendship” has Aysel thinking in a way she hasn’t in a long, long time.
Aysel reminded me a little bit of Joey Potter — forced to deal with the aftermath of her father’s sins, the girl “wrong side of the tracks” who can’t go anywhere without whispers following her. Though in Aysel’s case, her father has murdered someone and she is now living with her mother, step-dad, and half-sister in a home where she feels incredibly unwelcome. Aysel is convinced her family and everyone who lives in her small Kentucky town thinks being a murderer is hereditary, and she’s dangerous too. Lonely, she spends her time at a job she doesn’t like, and visiting a website called Smooth Passages. She’s ready to make the ultimate leap and commit suicide.
Smooth Passages opens Aysel up to the idea of a “suicide partner” and upon reading an ad, she meets Roman and decides to commit to his date. It’s an odd relationship because even though they are planning to die together, they are still strangers. Strangers who are trying to trust each other in 24 days. As Aysel gets to know Roman, she can’t help but feel confused. His mom is thoughtful (even if she’s overbearing), he’s been in relationships, he has talents, and people actually want to talk to him. How can this guy want to end his life? The more she gets to know him, spend time with him, and understand his sadness, the more her dark cloud seems to be moving somewhere else. Could they possibly help each other and forget about their end date? Would Roman ever go for it?
My Black and Other Black Holes is a compelling debut. I honestly had no idea how it was all going to end, feeling so anxious as each chapter counted me down until the day. Like Aysel, I was rooting for both of them to take a different path and Warga did a noteworthy job of building up this wall of depression, and the lengths it takes to penetrate it. It is frustrating, scary, heartbreaking, and any reader wants to make life easier for these two, wants to believe that this friendship makes the difference. The writing was great (even if I wanted a bit more development especially when it came to Aysel’s “new” family), I loved the details that made up both of these characters, and, it must be said, I loved how it called itself out for being a little cheesy at times. Tough to read but well-worth the rocky ride.
Add MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES to Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Promposal by Rhonda Helms [twitter • website]
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: promposal, public displays of affection, LGBT, Dive Into Diversity
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: When best friends Camilla and Joshua find themselves in less-than-ideal situations for prom, one of them going with someone she doesn’t want to date and the other lusting after his male best friend who wants to ask someone else to prom, their usual gleeful attitudes become quite glum and they don’t know how to turn things around for themselves.
• • •
In case you’re unfamiliar, a promposal is an often public proposal, in which one person asks another to the prom, eliciting joy or mortification. (Definition was copied from the Goodreads summary.)
Here’s a really sweet example to get you acquainted with the idea:
I’m going to make this a Why in 5 review to keep things short and sweet because I know you’ll get carried away watching more promposals after seeing the one above…
- Camilla has a massive crush on a boy named Benjamin. While they’ve spoken very little, she hopes that he’ll pick up on her crush-vibes and ask her to Prom. That isn’t exactly how things pan out; she’s asked to prom on live television by a guy she barely knows. How does she turn him down in order to seek out Benjamin’s potential offer? The answer: she can’t because she refuses to publicly humiliate someone. Camilla is a sweet, smart girl who finds herself in a sucky situation. It’s her senior prom and she’s going with someone that’s annoying the crap out of her. She’s got a huge heart and is so, so kind.
- Her best friend, Joshua, is by her side offering his best advice throughout her whole ordeal, but he gets a bit sidelined by his own drama. He’s gay and his second best friend, Ethan, has been his crush for years. Ethan is also gay, but seeks Joshua’s help asking another guy to prom. This entails brainstorming ideas and Joshua trying to disguise all his hurt because he wishes he could be honest with Ethan about his feelings.
- Camilla and Joshua’s situations aren’t enviable, but they’re handled really maturely and respectfully. A promposal, to me, is a little silly and I think in many regards it’s unnecessary. But it’s a thing now and I kind of had to get past my adult notions to embrace the concept. Helms did a great job including a current trend and not allowing it to feel extremely cliche and silly. I came to admire Camilla and Joshua as they grew to understand that the only way out of both circumstances was to either suck it up and be a loyal friend or to speak up and be honest. I really appreciated that Helms presented the idea of a Promposal as something a person might not be expecting and how it might feel to be on the receiving end of that; I’d never even considered this before.
- Promposal reads easily and was a quick, enjoyable book. The story is about two genuine, innocent characters who want things to finally work out for them. My one issue is that maybe sometimes Camilla and Joshua seemed a bit younger than they were, as in the language didn’t always match the mindset. (But I have to remind myself that I was that naive, happy-go-lucky senior so maybe I’m seeing the characters through my adult microscope.)
- The chapters alternate between Camilla and Joshua’s perspectives and neither story outweighs the other. This is a really well-balanced Dive Into Diversity book; we’re given an inside look into Joshua’s divorced family and how his Dad supports his sexuality and nudges him to make a few decisions regarding Ethan. (No, I’m not telling you what happens.
• • •
Add PROMPOSAL to Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
The weather outside maybe frightful (at least in NYC) but Rather Be Reading is ever so delightful as contemporary romance writer Jennifer Snow stops by to crank the temperature up a notch with a spotlight of two of her heroes. I had a great time reading one of the books in the Brookhollow series over the holidays, and let me tell you, Snow can write complex yet sweet romances and nails the small town feel.
Here are two leading men you might want to schedule a date with ASAP:
“…for the first time in my life, I’m feeling something real, something exciting.” – Ethan, WHAT A GIRL WANTS
“I smell gingerbread cookies again… that delicious smell is coming from your skin?”
- [Brad] asked, intrigued, THE MISTLETOE MELODY
Can best friends take their relationship to the next level? Do second chances really exist? Two of my favorite genre questions are answered in these two titles from Jennifer Snow. Whether you’re a romance novel newbie or a classy
vet, time to add Brookhollow on your list of upcoming destinations. xoxo
♥ find Jennifer Snow on her website | twitter | amazon ♥
Psst. Do you prefer a firefighter over a country music star? Comment below and you’ll be entered to win a prize from the lovely Jennifer Snow. Thanks for stopping in!
…I’ve got my romance novels to keep me warmmmm…
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
Whether you love or loathe this holiday, you’re here today because of one common love: reading. We’re thrilled to host Kieran Scott today (you may know her as Kate Brian), who released the final book in the wonderful, charming, funny TRUE LOVE trilogy. Cupid is punished and banished to NJ where she moonlights as True and has no clue how to be a “normal” teenager. True is focused on pairing up meant-to-be couples so she can return to Mt. Olympus (and hopefully fulfill her own love story, which got her in this mess to begin with) so in the spirit of love and fate and all that good stuff, Kieran was kind enough to share her own love story with her husband, Matt.
You are going to love it. Take it away, Kieran!
♥ ♥ ♥
My husband and I never would have met if my best friend’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced. I know, it sounds like bad karma, but let me explain.
My bestfriend Shira went to one high school all the way through ninth grade, where she was friends with my future husband, Matt. Then, in tenth grade, her mom and her new stepdad decided to move their family, which took her out of Matt’s high school and plopped her down right in front of me in sophomore English. (The first thing I thought about her was “Holy crap, I’d kill for that hair.” It’s the exact opposite of mine.) Now, Shira is one of those people who stays friends with everyone she’s ever met, which turned out to be lucky for me and Matt, because ten years later, we met at Shira’s 25th birthday party, which was packed with her middle school friends, high school friends, Hebrew school friends, college friends, camp friends AND work friends.
Actually, all things considered, how we found each other in the crowd is beyond me. What I do remember is Matt asking me if I wanted the last mozzarella stick instead of just taking it for himself. I remember the fact that he readily admitted to watching Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. I recall that he mentioned he was going to be exhausted at church in the morning and that he couldn’t talk to me about politics, because, well, most people didn’t agree with him and he didn’t want me to walk away just yet.
We hung out throughout the party and at four in the morning, I was lying awake in my friend Wendy’s roommate’s bed (she was away for the weekend), staring at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face. I knew something big was happening. I just never would have been able to predict how big.
After that party, Matt went away with his friends for a week and I heard nothing. If he wanted to call, he couldn’t have, because he was in Jamaica. So of course, I was obsessing. What was he doing in Jamaica? Was he hooking up? What if he met someone there? I spent that whole week stressing that I was going to miss out on this great guy just because of a previously scheduled vacation. Then, a couple weeks later, I went out to dinner with my three best girlfriends and Shira asked me what I thought of Matt. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. But I didn’t want to give away the farm, so I played it cool and said, “Why do you ask?” She said that she’d spoken to Matt and he’d said, “That Kieran is my kind of girl.”
Oh my God, it sounds so hokey now, but I almost died. We set up a big group date and the rest is history. Over the years we’ve found out that our relationship didn’t exactly begin the night of Shira’s birthday. We’d been at other random parties of hers together over the previous couple of years and whenever he walked into a room I’d ask my friends, “WHO is that again?” And they’d say, “It’s Matt! God, if you think he’s so hot, you could at least remember his name.” I also found out that he’d asked Shira about me once before, but it was when I was in a serious relationship with someone else, so she’d told him I was off the market. We’d been circling each other for years, but that birthday party was the first time we were both single, and both in the mood for mozzarella sticks.
All of this goes to show that you never know. You may have already met the guy you’re destined to be with, but the timing might just be wrong. Or you may have already met the girl who’s eventually going to introduce you to the guy you’re going to be with (don’t even get me started on how Wendy and her husband Barry ended up getting together). So, yes, it was lucky for me that Shira’s parents got divorced (they are both VERY happily remarried, by the way). Otherwise, I might never have met the person I was meant to be with.
P.S. The priest called Shira up at our wedding so everyone could meet our matchmaker. It was so awesome.
Thanks so much for sharing today, Kieran!
The love is not over yet, folks. The great people at Simon Kids are providing one lucky winner with a hardcover set of TRUE LOVE trilogy.
Open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Add SOMETHING TRUE to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Kieran Scott