Monday, January 23, 2017

Book review: THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand

Suicide is always a complicated issue, especially teen suicide. Adolescence is a complicated time of your life, with peer pressure and crazy hormones and all the negativity.

People always say that suicide is the most selfish decision a person can make, because those left behind will always have the grief to deal with, and everyone will also think of what they could have done to prevent the event. There is always grief and shock in the wake of news about suicide.

I admit that I myself once entertained thoughts of ending my life, but it was more of a feeling of wanting to disappear as if I never existed. I could never bear causing stress to the people I will leave behind. No matter how much we think that we are so unpopular or that our lives are useless and didn't affect other people, we are not hermits who grew up without human contact. Now, I believe that as long as you are alive there is still hope that things will get better in the end (because trust me, they will). While if you're dead by your own hand, you will leave a mess behind that other people will have to clean up.

In this book, Alexis, a graduating high school student, is dealing with the suicide of her younger brother, Tyler. He shot himself in the head with a gun. The story begins with Alexis words, writing in a journal to deal with her grief about her brother's death as recommended by her psychiatrist. Their parents are divorced as their father went off with another woman and they are under the care of their mother. This rocky relationship of their parents affected the siblings' life, with Tyler the one more affected and bitter over the divorce, wanting their father to come back but he didn't.

Tyler's last suicide note comes in the form of a post-it note stuck in his mirror: Sorry Mom but I was below empty.

The book begins with her mother still grieving. She claims to smell Tyler's cologne as if he's there. And Alexis, the logical and objective Math genius in school, is faced with something with no explanation: Tyler's silent ghost, showing up in odd places. Pictures from albums disappearing.

Alexis life has changed, and the people around her too. Tyler's friends have also changed, the suicide changing their school's atmosphere. Tyler still has unfinished business with his ex-girlfriend. All this trouble leads Alexis to break up with her boyfriend, Steven, who still loves her. Alexis is quite uncomfortable in how her friends treat her and find other means of support - reconciling with an old childhood friend and counseling.

But something is still eating away at Alexis' conscience, a text message from Tyler only revealed at the end of the book. But things are too late for Alexis, and she just has to deal with this on her own. This is a realistic look on family life after someone commits suicide. There is grief and pain, but they also learn that they have to move on. Yes, what happened with Tyler was painful and it's inevitable that they will blame themselves for the tragedy, but it's still not the end of the world for them.

My favorite part of the book is when Alexis tried to confront Tyler's ghost and tell him the truth of what she feels - that she thinks he's a selfish bastard for killing himself! Though in the end, both Alexis and her mother find closure. Tyler will always be a part of their lives, but in the end, they learn to let go, and Tyler has also learned to let go - in the end, his ghost stops haunting them and he also finds peace.

The last time their mother felt Tyler's presence in the car, she heard a voice - not Tyler's voice, that said,

Will you put your son in my hands?

She said yes, and Tyler's ghost stopped bothering them ever since.

The book ends with a touching dream, the last time the siblings meet.

(I can say that this is the best YA book I've read lately.)

Quotes:
"It's funny how sometimes you don't see the obvious things coming. You think you know what life has in store for you. You think you're prepared. You think you can handle it. And then - boom, like a thunderclap - something comes at you out of nowhere and catches you off guard."

*Interesting to note that the author herself also had a brother who committed suicide, but the book is not based on the actual events or people, but I think it's what makes the book so grim, sad, and realistic - its the magic of writing. When the writer has felt it, the reader will also feel it.

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