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The Last Forever

Review

The Last Forever

I must admit --- when I first looked at the title and cover of Deb Caletti’s THE LAST FOREVER, I was expecting a story straight out of a Taylor Swift song.  Boy, was I wrong. The story Caletti has crafted is a tapestry whose threads and images give volume and depth to an array of issues. THE LAST FOREVER incites hope, specifically regarding the belief in love and how it is always possible to fix something, no matter how broken it seems.
 
The book follows the story of 17-year-old Tess Sedgewick, an intensely relatable teenager who is still reeling from the death of her mother from cancer six months ago. Her father doesn’t seem to be faring much better, which is evident when he pulls Tess from school with only two weeks left until summer vacation to take her on a road trip from their home in California up the Northwest coast until they settle into the small coastal town of Parrish Island. There, Tess meets her estranged grandmother, Jenny, who is rough and distant at first, but time and talk reveal her to be a nurturing, supportive maternal figure who never assumes the role of mother and holds her own beautifully wizened identity, both as an individual and in relation to Tess. She meets other inhabitants of the town and instantly forms bonds with them, the strongest of all being with Henry Lark, her self-professed “first true love.”
 
But do not, I repeat, do not let those cliché-sounding words fool you. THE LAST FOREVER is anything but ordinary, no tropes or stereotypes to be found here. As Tess moves forward in her relationships on Parrish Island, she struggles with guilt, self-acceptance and understanding all that this life has to offer. As she grows closer to Henry, she discovers what real love is, and though there were times she may have dwelled on describing him in cutesy, swoony terms --- there’s a lot of emphasis on how perfect his lips are --- the reader comes to realize that this isn’t some overly-sugar romance language here. It’s real, it’s honest, and Tess owns up to every thought and feeling she has in a genuine but not overbearing way. Her passion for everything perfectly balances between control and zeal, creating a mixture of enthusiasm and the creeping doubt that lies behind everything we want to believe in and love. 
 
THE LAST FOREVER is a story that both sings and whispers to the reader, and in both cases, it is music to the ears. 
 
There were many details that I found profound and delightful, like the author’s casual handling of a lesbian relationship, meaning that she didn’t “make a big deal” about it. It was great to see such cool, progressive confidence. Also, I welcomed the fact that the character Jenny had a non-dramatic/traumatic reason for being distanced from her family because it was realistic --- I know of many cases where people become separated because of small reasons, just simple incompatibility and arguing.
 
Caletti is a flourishing writer --- words rise effortlessly from the page exactly the way they need to be said and you want to hear. She hits just the right emotional pitch for each scene, and you never walk away from one feeling out of place or disconnected. There are many pleasant surprises throughout the story, both in reagrds to their content and execution. She handles her plot with precision and deliberate choices that pay off immensely. And the general through-line of botany and plants was refreshing (no nature pun intended), and while I didn’t always read the little plant encyclopedia entries at the beginning of each chapter (mostly because I was too engrossed in the story to stop), their presence was somehow soothing, and I was glad they were there. The ending is satisfying, and THE LAST FOREVER is the kind of book that you finish feeling a sense of calm purpose, a subtle seed (pun totally intended) embedded deep inside you that will start taking effect in the time to come. 
 
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to believe in everything that life has to give, because regardless of where the reader is in their life, they will end up feeling good by the end of this story. I’m very interested to see what else Deb Caletti has to offer, and I will most likely look in to the rest of her bibliography. THE LAST FOREVER is a story that both sings and whispers to the reader, and in both cases, it is music to the ears. 

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on April 9, 2014

The Last Forever
by Deb Caletti

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2014
  • Genres: Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • ISBN-10: 1442450002
  • ISBN-13: 9781442450004