Saturday, January 12, 2019

Mini Reviews: The Last Time We Say Goodbye || How It Went Down








The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand



Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 390
Publication date: February 2015

Since her brother, Tyler, committed suicide, Lex has been trying to keep her grief locked away, and to forget about what happened that night. But as she starts putting her life, her family, and her friendships back together, Lex is haunted by a secret she hasn't told anyone—a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.


Likes: Honestly, when I started this book, I wasn’t sure if it was a “me” novel. It sounds very angsty. Then, within the first few chapters, the main character sees the ghost of her dead brother, freaks out, and throws her phone at him. When I read that scene, I was like, “Yep, I’m going to enjoy this story.”

The main character, Lex, is dealing with the recent suicide of her younger brother, Tyler. I think the author handles Lex’s emotions realistically. Lex keeps analyzing everything that happened on the day her brother died. She feels guilty that she didn’t answer his text messages in time. She feels guilty that she went on a date instead of staying home with him. It’s sad to watch her struggle, but it’s also relatable. I think most of us wish we could go back in time and get a do-over with an event.

Speaking of dates, there is romance in this book, and I didn’t hate it! Sure, it’s a bit unrealistically perfect, but it’s sweet and doesn’t take over the whole plot. I appreciate that.

I love how Tyler’s depression is handled. It’s not extremely obvious that he’s depressed. He goes to school, has friends, plays sports. This novel shows that depression can be hard to spot. You never know what’s going on inside another person’s head. I also like that Tyler doesn’t have “reasons” for committing suicide. He kills himself because he’s depressed. That’s it. There’s no one to blame. Nothing extraordinarily terrible happened to him. Tyler’s suicide is Tyler’s fault and no one else’s.


There's death all around us. Everywhere we look. 1.8 people kill themselves every second. We just don't pay attention. Until we do.The Last Time We Say Goodbye



Dislikes: I got frustrated with Lex, especially in the beginning. She’s sometimes ungrateful, whiny, and self-centered. I especially disliked her when she was moaning about having to talk to the expensive therapist that her mother is paying for. I guess I can’t complain about Lex too much. I was also an ungrateful, whiny, and self-centered teenager. She’s realistic.

There are actually two suicides in this book. While Tyler’s is handled brilliantly, the other one is mostly glossed over. Then Lex becomes a fake pity friend to a kid who she thinks is going to commit suicide. That whole plotline is too underdeveloped for my tastes.

My final complaint is the story’s pacing. It’s very flat. It often feels like the plot is about to pick up and get moving, but then it doesn’t. There are a bunch of little plot threads that start strong and then fizzle. The ghost thing that got me interested in the story didn’t go anywhere. I feel like I spent most of the book trying to figure out where this story was heading. Nothing really happens until the last 50 pages. This is a fairly long novel, so I got impatient with the large amounts of nothing that happens.



The Bottom Line: A realistic look at suicide and how it changes a family. I think the book could have been shorter.








How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon



Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 352
Publication date: October 2014

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down. 



Likes: Controversial opinion: This book is superior to The Hate U Give in every way. The writing is stronger, the characters are more complex, the plot is less predictable and faster paced. Why are we not talking about How It Went Down? Where is this book’s movie deal? I don’t understand! How It Went Down has a similar plot and themes to The Hate U Give, but it held my attention better.

This is a story about perspective. A black teenager, Tariq Johnson, is murdered on the street by a white adult. The crime is witnessed by a bunch of people, but no one can agree on what actually happened. The witnesses all know Tariq or the shooter, Jack. What the witnesses think happened is influenced by their opinions of the people involved. It’s complicated and layered.

But, this book is about more than a murdered boy. It’s about how Tariq’s friends, family, and enemies react to his death. The story is set in a city that’s plagued by gang violence and poverty. Tariq’s teenage friends are either avoiding the gangs or desperately trying to get accepted by them. For some characters, Tariq’s murder is a reason to commit more violence. For others, it’s a reason to get away from the drug-selling lifestyle.

This story is also bigger than one neighborhood. After the murder, the media and politicians descend on the street where Tariq died. They have their own motives for being there. Are they trying to stop the violence, or are they using Tariq to advance their own careers? Tariq’s murder causes ripples across the entire US.


I have to make peace, somehow, with my place in all of this. Peach Street is still my home; I can't keep thinking of it as a war zone, or a protest platform, or a deathbed. Put one foot in front of the other, go to work. Read the news, sprinkle liberally with salt. Ring up. Make change. Smile. Chitchat.How It Went Down



Dislikes: There are 18 (I think) point-of-view characters. Yeah. That’s a lot of characters. Many of their voices sound similar. It took me about half the book to remember everybody’s name and how they’re all connected to Tariq.



The Bottom Line: This novel has a “ripped from the headlines” plot, but the author doesn’t oversimplify anything. I loved it.











15 comments:

  1. I have the Hand book, and it actually sounds like something I would like.

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  2. Both have engaging titles. I don't ever remember reading a book dealing with suicide when I was a young adult even thought it hit home when a good friend's dad killed himself. I am glad the topic is being dealt with in an appropriate genre.

    www.thepulpitandthepen.com

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    1. Suicide is one of the top killers of teenagers, so it probably should be talked about in books for them. This one handled it well.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I've actually been avoiding The Hate U Give because of all the hype. But I might try How It Went Down. It sounds like the better read. Although 18 POVs? Come on.

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    1. Yeah, the 18 POVs were pretty ridiculous. I think some of them could have been combined or eliminated.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. Wonderful reviews! 💖 I've been very curious about The Last Time We Said Goodbye, though it sounds like a bit of an intense and sad read with that theme, I have a feeling I'd enjoy it. Might have to be ready for this kind of read though :) I'll have to check out How It Went Down, I'm glad you enjoyed it :) though.... 18 POV is A LOT, wow. Will take me a while to get used to that, too, haha :)

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  5. The Last Time We Say Goodbye sounds so heartbreaking. I can't even imagine being in Lex's situation.

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    1. It was heartbreaking. It had a hopeful ending, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. *Does a happy dance because someone else agrees that How It Went Down is the best novel on this topic yet.* (Honestly? I like I Am Alfonso Jones AND All American Boys better than THuG too, but to each their own.)I'm really, really glad you liked it. We are both suckers for multiple narrators, and I still remember, oh 6-8 of the 18 three years after reading it.

    The Hand novel was a surprise for me, as I must have had it confused with something else, and thought it was an adult novel about aging. Whoops! I enjoyed it anyway.

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    1. The cover of the Hand novel does not scream “young adult.” I’m still on waitlists for I Am Alfonso Jones and All American Boys. I’ll get them eventually. Maybe. Hopefully.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. I haven't read The Hate U Give (honestly, I know it is an important story to voice, and diversity in writing is amazing, and all that jazz, however it has felt like one of those too hyped books for me...), but I'm intrigued by How It Went Down... Not so much the 18 POV's though!! Added to my wishlist nonetheless.

    Great reviews, and thanks for highlighting some new to me titles.

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  8. Both are books I really want to read and I am glad you could appreciate both of them. I do want to read THUG but I feel like How it Went Down, being released before diversity was trendy kind of flies under a lot of people's radars. It may be better or not, I can't say because I haven't read either of them myself before. But I will definitely be reading both in the future! I want to eventually read Last Time We Say Goodbye but I am glad to hear about the good elements to it and the not too good as well. Wonderful reviews x

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  9. I really loved The Last Time We Say Goodbye - to be honest, I was actually surprised by how much I loved it. And my god, reading the author's note at the end and learning about Hand's brother hit me hard... How It Went Down sounds good, and I'm so happy you're highlighting a lesser known title! I'll have to say, the 18 POVs sound daunting as heck haha. Great reviews! :)

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

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