Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review: The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

The Last to Let Go
Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date:February 6, 2018
Published By:  McElderry Books
Website:Amber Smith 

The Last to Let Go on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher

Where to get:


How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.


Much like The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go starts right in the thick of things. Brooke is headed home from her last day of school before summer and the cops are already swarming her apartment building. Fearing the worst, she is shocked to see her mother being taken away in handcuffs.

The story that follows is one of love, loss, acceptance, and learning to let go (sorry).

Brooke's life has never been easy. Her father abused her mother, and occasionally her older brother before he moved out, she and her sister lived in constant fear of him, and Brooke is so focused on her studies that she has zero friends to speak of.

After her mother is arrested for murder and is awaiting trial, Brooke is desperately trying to hold on to any semblance of family she can, but it's proving to be more difficult than she imagined. Her sister is barely speaking after witnessing the events between her parents and her brother is struggling just to keep a brave face. In addition to her issues at home, she is dealing with a new school and her growing feelings for a new friend and classmate.

The Last to Let Go feels like multiple stories at once, almost as if Brooke is living separate lives. There are flashbacks of Brooke's life when her father was alive, her life with her siblings now that he has died and their mother is in jail, and her life with Dani. And while these all feel, on some level, like they are separate from one another they form the heart wrenching tale of the Winters family.

Domestic violence is a serious topic and Amber does an excellent job of balancing Brooke's fictional tale with the realities of these situations. She doesn't belittle these experiences or victim blame, but approaches it with depth and honesty. She shows us how domestic violence affects not only those within the household, but also those outside of it. How this one aspect of someone's life can greatly affect everything in their life.

The Last to Let Go is a reminder that while we may feel alone and think we must shoulder the burden of ourselves and others, that is not the case. If we are honest, not only with ourselves but also with those in our life, we may not be as alone as originally thought. And we may find the strength we need to let go and move forward.

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