February 27, 2015

Book Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get a copy here!

Or to my FOREVER TOP READS, I guess!

I am new to Cynthia Hand’s books circle. A lot of people said that she’s known with her amazing YA-paranormal series as debut, but as I am always like a YA-fiction girl than a YA-fantasy girl, sure I didn’t know about this. So, this is my first time reading her book and I’m so so glad I found this A-M-A-Z-I-N-G one (thanks to my attempt of joining Epicreads two weeks ago)!

I started reading this book without any expectation. I read the blurb and I was like, “oh, another book of grieving over loss of sibling through suicide”. I read a lot of books about coping of someone’s loss before (e.g. Love Letters to the Dead. Uniquely heartbreaking). I also read bunches of books with suicide as the main issue before as well (e.g. All the Bright Places. Cruelly heart-ripping). And I loved them all, really. But this is the first book that portrayed how a family dealt with loss of a family member through a terrible way, suicide. How they ―beside of dealing with their loss of beloved son/brother― also had to deal with people’s snide whispers and dirty glances. Cynthia Hand was inspired to write this book by her own experience of losing a brother years ago. I really highly appreciate her decision to write a book with this suicide issue (that must be still somehow sensitive for her, personally) and shared the insight from the mourning family’s angle so details to everyone. This book seriously deserves attention from every single person in this whole wide world if they want to be a part of more-aware-of-our-surroundings society.

Alexis Riggs’ world has been slowly but steadily filled up with guilt and what-ifs once she received that direful phone call on her night date with Steven. That night, December 20, her younger-by-two-years brother, Tyler died of suicide on their garage. That night changed every single aspect of her and her family’s life. That night worsened their already broken family. Less than 24 hours ago, he was still sitting with her and their mom having breakfast together as usual. Then less than 24 hours later, he was already lying soulless on a steel table. 

As much as it broke her heart, it broke her mother’s heart much worse. She cried every day as if she never ran out of tears. Tears streaming down face now became her daily view at home. 

At school, the nerd Alexis became popular with title the-girl-whose-brother-died. Pity looks were everywhere. Judging glances were on every corner. Alexis slowly drew herself out of her friend circle. And as she chose to break-up with her always-understanding boyfriend, she practically had no one to turn to.

And then mysterious things kept happening to her. As if they were the way Ty telling Alexis to do all those unfinished business. She found that they were things that she surely wouldn’t want to do. She kept denying everything; everything including the reason why Ty did what he did.
As Alexis tried so hard to keep her life on the right track, she discovered a lot of things along the way: they were no such ‘old’ friends in life, not everyone has similar judgments upon something, that guilt and blames would forever haunting us to the extent that they would take over our innocent and love, that hate should never be a ‘forever’ part in our life, that denying reality was such a tiring job, that there was a reason for everything in this world. When she finally could see all of that, it was now time to receive peaceful from acceptance and find someone to be the other recipient as well.

I instantly fell in love with Ms. Hand’s writing style. I was amazed how she could deliver such a deep and meaningful message via casual, often times damn-funny, and light sentences like that in every page. The humor slipped here and there was so refreshing. I couldn’t help laughing at several humors, especially those math-related. God, I had no idea that math could be so fun and romantic as well!
“You look like Euler’s equation”, he murmured as he looked me up and down.

Nerd translation: Euler’s equation is said to be the most perfect ever written. Simple but elegant. Beautiful.
See? Isn’t that funny and romantic as hell? And there were still a lot of math-related quotable words more in the book!
Every character was so well-built. My most favorite was Alexis herself. I love how she always tried hard to appear strong in front of her mom, how she manage to be so mature despite her frustration over the circumstance she was in. I really really love her every moment with Tyler. God, they had such lovely childhood. I caught myself smiling a lot (like really smile with this whole sincere vibes radiating from my face and a little ache as well) reading their closeness together. It wasn’t until her journal dated March 31 that I began crying. At first it was just this two tears fell down from the corner of my eyes then on chapter 36 I began crying a river, and on chapter 37 until the last page I sobbed uncontrollably. Once I finished, I put down my reader and stared silently at my ceiling with thousands thought crossing my mind.

There is this one sentence that I keep thinking in my mind:
…nothing can remind you of your own fragile place in the universe so powerfully as someone your own age dying suddenly,…
(Alexis Riggs)
I thought back to two years ago the evening I received the text saying one of my classmate in university passed away. We were on the same lab group during third year and among the group he was the only one I could rely on during lab work. He was smart, clever, and so persevering. Beside school, he also taught math private course for high school during days. And that’s why we often worked until pass midnight to get our assignments done. He was also really kind and never got mad at anything. He has this smile that always reached his eyes. The moment I received the text, I stared silently at my ceiling with thousands thought running in my head. I remembered how I kept trying to make myself believe that he’s passed away. That he, such a bright person, had to leave this world at such young age. That he never got a chance to graduate and got a bachelor degree in Engineering. That he never got a chance to get a job at real company. That he never got a chance to experience what I could experience until this very moment. It was a really sad feeling. His girlfriend, our junior, for weeks had this expression of avoiding people’s stares for a chance getting pity looks. It broke my heart a little witnessing it in real life.

The sentence above made me remember all these and I found myself grieving all over again but at the same time I felt thankful for the chance I keep getting until now to experience life. Ms. Hand successfully reminded me to keep being thankful for having life. And through this book, she taught us how to peacefully live with a loss feeling, how to never forget to tell our beloved ones our feeling in every chance, and how to treat the mourning family/person in a better way than what people usually do in common.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is not just a book about dealing with the loss of a family member, it is also a book about family. How parents should be more careful with how their kids would react over something big they plan to do. It was just so disappointed that the parent in this book didn’t do that…

This book will change its readers’ life in a good way. And with its beautiful cover and awesome title, I could not be agree more that this book deserves five brightest stars (or even thousands more, definitely)!
Thank you Cynthia Hand for this beautiful baby :)

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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