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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Time We Say Goodbye is the story of a high school senior, Lexie Riggs, dealing with the aftermath of her younger brother's suicide. Her ability to cope is complicated by her parent's recent divorce and her lingering guilt over whether she could have stopped her brother. Lexie tries to hide her feelings, thinking she's being strong, but not facing her emotions takes a physical and emotional toll on her. Adult characters drink and smoke. Teen characters smoke, and there's some minor kissing and making out. Swearing is infrequent but includes "f--king," "a--hole," and "s--t."
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What's the story?
High-achieving high school senior Alexis Riggs is a smart and responsible teen. She still hasn't completely come to terms with her parent's recent divorce when her popular younger brother Tyler commits suicide in the family's home. Lexie, as she's called by most people, tries to put up a strong front, feeling that if she doesn't show her grief, it means she's dealing with it. But it doesn't work that way. She's experiencing terrible guilt over not preventing her brother from killing himself. This guilt manifests itself in violent dreams, panic attacks, and her withdrawing from her friends, who clearly want to help her but don't know how. Her guilt is complicated by the fact that she's a senior and will be going to college the following year. She struggles with the notion of moving ahead with her life and leaving her grief-stricken mother behind.
Is it any good?
THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is a well-written and heartrending story. Lexie Riggs is a mature and responsible teen and a relatable protagonist. When her younger brother, Tyler, commits suicide, her world is completely changed forever. People don't know how to talk to her, and she feels like an outcast, when in reality she's casting herself out. She mistakes dealing with her grief alone for being strong. She doesn't want anyone to see her cry, but her efforts to avoid dealing with her grief start to have terrible effects on her emotionally and physically.
In many books, it can be frustrating to see characters shut themselves off, but Lexie's character is well-fleshed-out, so we understand why she tries a rational approach to an emotional problem. The depth of her mother's sorrow is raw, real, and heartbreaking. And even though Lexie feels she should be strong enough to help her family heal, she's a kid harboring her own guilt at not being home to stop her brother from killing himself. Her grief puts a strain on all her relationships: her friends, her boyfriend, and her parents. Author Cynthia Hand creates very realistic scenarios for Lexie and her family, which make for a compelling, moving story. The chapters alternate between Lexie's present, past, dreams, and journal her therapist asks her to write. As the book progresses, the reader gets a deeper glimpse into the family and personal dynamics at play in Tyler's suicide and the aftermath.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about teen suicide. What help is there for teens who are feeling suicidal or for teens who are grieving the loss of a friend or loved one?
When you see popular kids at school or famous celebrities in magazines and on TV, do you assume they have happy lives with no problems?
Do you keep a journal? If so, how has it helped you? If not, might you consider keeping one?
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