The Last Forever

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
The Last Forever Book Poster Image
Heartfelt, realistic depiction of teen going through a loss.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the different ways people cope with grief and loss. Many details on seeds, plants, and the different geographic locations in the book.

Positive Messages

Extraordinary things only become so because of the importance we place on them. Reach out to others when you're hurting. Life's too short to stay estranged from family members.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tess' grandmother takes her under her wing. Acquaintances support and become good friends with Tess as a new member of their community. Tess' dad works hard to make positive changes to improve his relationship with his daughter. Characters grow and change in positive ways. Estranged family members learn how to communicate and mend relationships.


There's kissing. And two characters have sex, but it's not described graphically.


"F--k" and its 'ing" variation, "s--t" and its variations, "a--hole," "ass," "bastard," "balls," "goddamn."


Manny's Pale Ale, Diet Coke, La Quinta, Disneyland, Safeway, McDonald's, Marshall's, Bic, Maybelline, Dr. Scholl's, Rite-Aid, Barbie, Costco, Oreo, Roadrunner, Frisbee, Tostitos, TacoTime, Arby's, Altoids, Datsun, Volkswagen Beetle and van, Honda, 76 station, Alberston's, Converse, Lufthansa, SAS, REI, GOR-TEX

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke pot and cigarettes. Teens drink alcohol at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Deb Caletti​'s The Last Forever is the compelling story of a funny, sarcastic, self-deprecating teen girl, Tess, who's recently lost her mother to cancer. Tess and her father are drifting apart, as they cope with the loss in their own ways. Tess' dad takes her on a surprise road trip that leads to new friendships, love, heartbreak, and self-discovery. A few characters smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Teenagers drink alcohol at a party. Strong language includes variations of "f--k" and "s--t."

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What's the story?

THE LAST FOREVER is about Tess, a junior in high school, whose mother has recently died of complications related to cancer. Tess and her dad are grieving deeply and have retreated into their own shells. Her dad smokes pot and doesn't do much parenting. Tess starts to withdraw from her friends because she thinks they'll never be able to understand the depth of her grief and the ways in which her life will never be the same. Tess' dad takes her on a spur-of-the-moment road trip, hoping it will bring them closer together, but initially it drives the wedge between them deeper. She needs him to be a dad, but he can't deal with life without his wife. The two end up in the Pacific Northwest town where her dad grew up. Tess gets to know the grandma who's been out of her life, due to her dad's estrangement from his mom. She also makes new friends, falls in love, and learns how to accept the love around her and how to deal with her grief. Woven into the story is the tale of a mysterious plant, the pixiebell, Tess inherited from her mom. Tess works hard to keep the plant and her mom's spirit alive. Her pixiebell project draws the interest of the locals, who rally around her and help her in her quest.

Is it any good?

In The Last Forever, author Deb Caletti spins a sweet, compelling tale with a wonderful message: that extraordinary things only become so because of the importance we place on them. The book realistically portrays the way teens deal with loss and the ways in which grief can get mixed up in the other emotional ups and downs of being a teenager. Once Tess and her dad arrive at the Puget Sound island where Tess's dad grew up, the story begins to take shape and to get more interesting. Tess meets many new, intriguing people, including the paternal grandmother she's never known. The small town is populated with eccentric adults and teens, but Tess' relationship with Henry, the boy she falls in love with, isn't well drawn and is too one-dimensional. This is a shame, because Henry's character has a lot of potential and doesn't get a chance to shine.

Tess is funny, sarcastic, and self-deprecating. She's never funnier than when she's playing out the film version of a scenario in her head and then has to face the less-than-ideal reality of the situation. She finds it hard to open up emotionally because she knows she'll completely fall apart when she does. This is a heartfelt, realistic depiction of someone going through a loss. Her father and grandmother are excellently written characters. Caletti has written a fun and sweet read, with a few laugh-out-loud and tear-inducing moments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about reaching out in times of trouble to people in your life and to new people who might help you through your troubles. Do you find it difficult to talk about your problems and fears? Why?

  • How does The Last Forever compare with other road-trip books you've read or movies you've seen? 

  • Tess throws herself into researching the pixiebell plant and keeping it alive. Have you even been obsessed with a project? What interested you in it? Was there a motivating factor?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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