The Last Thing You Said – Sara Biren – Amulet Books – Published 4 April 2017
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.
The Last Thing You Said is a heart-wrenching and yet uplifting tale of love, friendship, and the grief felt when all that love and friendship is lost or irreparably damaged. I truly enjoyed sinking into the world that is The Last Thing You Said. The summer days, the smell of sunscreen and ice cream, two best friends who create adventures from the simplest things, and a story of love that was never spoken and had to be hidden away. I warn you, you may need tissues while reading this book, both for sad tears and for happy tears.
Isn’t it strange how book summaries can make things seem simpler than they really are. For example, the summary for The Last Thing You Said goes something like this: ‘once there was a girl named Trixie. She had a brother named Ben and a best friend called Lulu. And together they had the most wonderful time, until Trixie horribly, tragically died. And Ben and Lulu were so desperately sad they didn’t know what to do and so broke away from each other. But this summer they are pulled back together.’ It makes it sounds like a happy summer spent reconnecting with a lost friend; Ben and Lulu reunite after a time apart and everything is ok between them. But the thing is that Ben and Lucy have never really been apart, at least not physically. They go to the same high school and live in the same town, even work at the same place. They just managed to avoid each other since Trixie died and what was beginning to grow between them, something that made them more than friends, more than friends of their sibling, died a horrible death along side their grief and guilt. And so this book, this summer, is about them continually facing each other and not knowing what to do or say, and them continuing to make it worse between them. They fight, they stay silent, they watch from afar. It is far, far more traumatic and heartbreaking than the synopsis makes it sound, and for that this book is far more beautiful and sad and ultimately, in the end, hopeful. Through this summer, Ben and Lucy learn more about themselves, what is worth fighting for, and that it is only themselves who can make the changes they want.
At the start of the book the reader is slowly fed pieces of information about Trixie’s death, the way things were before her death, and why things are the way they are now between Ben and Lucy. I loved the little stories interspersed in this book. Once upon a time there was a girl named Trixie… Lucy and Emily, Trixie’s young cousin, call them Trixies. The stories of their friendship right the way through from kindergarten to high school. It gives this book depth and substance to the backstory, especially Ben and Lucy’s grief. And as the book progresses these little stories are used in other ways to further Ben and Lucy’s story.
Trixie and Lucy’s friendship is beautiful. ‘Be brave’, Trixie reminds Lucy. No wonder they desperately miss Trixie. I miss Trixie. Trixie who loved quotes. Trixie who was adventurous and encouraged Lucy to be brave but never judged her for her fear. Trixie who loved that Lucy was in love with her brother.
This book was a whole lot more drama filled than I expected, but I loved every minute of it. Simon the renter who moves in next door to Lucy for the summer and with whom Lucy sparks a summer…well, romance isn’t the right word because it will always be Ben for Lucy, but something. Lucy and her new but wonderful friendship with the vibrant and understanding Hannah. Ben and his struggle with guilt, grief, and disgust with himself about his choices and mistakes. Ben’s family and the way they are handling their grief. Lucy and her family’s struggle to understand Lucy’s grief and stay financially afloat. There is so much wonderful, glorious, messy love in this book- sibling, familial, romantic, and friendship love. And the characters are flawed and make mistakes, many that had me cringing and crying out, ‘no, don’t do that, don’t make it worse.’ But the characters and the story are all the richer for mess that offsets the beauty in this moving book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Death, grief, family, romance, friendship, best friends, dating, relationships, sex.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references and implied sex scenes. Strong coarse language, f***, dic*****, as*****, sh**.
Published: 4 April 2017 by Amulet Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.