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.