A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely (The Gospel of Winter; co-author of All American Boys), is the quirky and poignant story of Hendrix and Corrina, teens who spring Hendrix's grandfather from an assisted living facility, steal a car, and take off on a cross-country road trip. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, Hendrix's "Gpa" wants to return to the place where he married his wife before all memories of her vanish. Trying to keep one step ahead of the police, the unlikely trio uncovers secrets from the past, lessons for the future, and the power of love. There's little sexual content (some kissing and one instance of sex not described) and not much violence (there's a fight that lands a punch). Strong language such as "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and "goddamn" is used casually and often. Music is very much a supporting character in the novel, and the playlists Corrina creates of contemporary and classic rock songs will intrigue young music fans.
What's the story?
In THE LAST TRUE LOVE STORY, 17-year-old Hendrix wants to grant his grandfather's wish to visit Ithaca, New York, the place where he fell in love with and married his now deceased wife. Problem is, Hendrix's grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's and lives in an assisted living facility in Santa Monica, California. With help and encouragement from Corrina, a girl he knows from their high school poetry class, Hendrix sneaks his grandfather out of the facility and "borrows" his mother's VW Beetle. Telling no one of their plans, Hendrix and Gpa, accompanied by Corrina and the family dog, Big Humper, set off for New York. Corrina, who was born in Guatemala and adopted by parents with whom she is now in conflict, dreams of being a musician and finding her true place in the world -- a place she thinks may be in New York City. As the road trip unfolds and they try to stay one step ahead of the police now in hot pursuit, family truths emerge and emotions deepen.
Is it any good?
This is a heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking story of two teens and a grandfather with Alzheimer's who find friendship, first love, and a long-hidden truth on a cross-country road trip. Hendrix (the sweet but slightly nerdy boy) and Corrina (the brown girl adopted by white ex-hippie parents) could easily have been reduced to YA clichés, but their relationships with Gpa and his unique challenges let them evolve into deeply sympathetic and inspiring characters. Author Brendan Kiely's use of music as a bridge across the generations adds an unexpected dimension to the story, and readers are certain to have songs playing in their heads as they read.
Mixing teens and Alzheimer's could be an off-putting storyline to many young readers, but ultimately The Last True Love Story is a rollicking adventure in which an unlikely trio tears down the walls that too often separate people because of age or background.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the choices teens make in The Last True Love Story. Is it ever OK to break the rules to help someone? If what you were trying to do was a good thing, should you still be punished for your actions?
Gpa and Corrina bond over their love of music and the playlists she puts together for him. If you created a playlist of songs that represented your life, what songs would be on it?
Do you know anyone with a family member who suffers from Alzheimer's or dementia? How has it affected them and their family?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love adventure and romance
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.