“I wonder if fish can miss the sea, even if they’ve never lived there. If something instinctual tells them, This isn’t real, this isn’t what life is supposed to be like.”
I received a digital ARC of Amber Smith’s The Last to Let Go from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. After absolutely loving The Way I Used to Be, I was thrilled by the opportunity to read her new release a little bit earlier than anticipated. So thank you, NetGalley!
The Last to Let Go is an exploration of domestic violence and familial relationships. It centers on Brooke, a junior in high school who comes home to discover that her mother has killed her abusive father. The story follows Brooke and her siblings as their lives are completely uprooted over the course of their mother’s trial.
My favorite thing about this book is that it focuses on domestic violence from the perspective of the kids, not just the abuser or abusee. Children are immensely affected by abuse in the household, yet I feel like theirs is a point of view I never see in these types of stories. The novel also questions how witnessing such behavior could affect their own romantic relationships in the future, which I thought was an interesting topic.
It took me a while to connect with the characters, but they begin to feel more vivid around the halfway mark. I loved the dynamic between the three siblings, even with all of their conflicts. And the way Smith manages to create such nuanced characters, allowing us to empathize even with the most flawed of them, is impressive.
The cast is also satisfyingly diverse, and there is an LGBTQ+ romance in this novel. The romance doesn’t overtake the entire story, but it does offer a nice break from the heavier components of it.
The pacing in this book is a little fast for my liking, though I understand why Smith frames the story the way she does. She wanted it to encompass the entirety of the mother’s trial (and the grieving cycle), and I understand that. I just wish the book had been a bit longer. It would have allowed more room to truly unpack the serious subject matter.
I gave The Last to Let Go a 4 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads. It was an enjoyable read, and it’s definitely an important addition to the Young Adult genre. It hits shelves on February 6th, and I’m telling all of you to go pick it up! Seriously. If you love YA contemporaries with deeper themes than romance, you will not regret it.