Parents' Guide to

The Last to Let Go

By Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Teen tries to hold family together in sad, beautiful story.

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A teen girl struggles to keep her family together in this sad but engaging look at the ripple effects of domestic violence. The story has little plot and is slow in places, but author Amber Smith's beautiful, lyrical writing elevates The Last to Let Go above standard YA fare. Brooke Winters, the 16-year-old at the center of the story, is hard to get invested in as a character. Though her pain of being an outsider is well presented, she is so closed off from herself and others, it can make for frustrating reading. Her progression from self-absorbed to self-aware teen is an important part of the book, but it isn't always an enjoyable journey to follow. Along those lines, her mother never explains her decisions or her actions, only saying to Brooke things along the lines of "You wouldn't understand." The story would have been better served by showing more of the mom's perspective. Her actions greatly influence the story but the reader never gets to know her.

Smith effectively shows how difficult it is to help people in abusive relationships, the long-term effects of abuse, and how it can be handed down through generations. Each Winters sibling has a different response to and different personal issues resulting from living in an emotional war zone for so many years. The ending isn't tied up in a neat bow, but it is satisfying and realistic.

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