Title: The Last Forever
Author: Deb Caletti
No. of Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult; Fiction
Origins: Simon Pulse
Release Date: 1 April 2014
Bottom Line: Poignant and self-aware
“Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.
Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town. Despite all the beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost. Her most cherished possession—a rare plant of her mother’s—is starting to wither, and with it, Tessa’s heart and her hope.
Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more important, he understands her. Though secrets stand between them, each has a chance at healing…if first, Tessa can find the courage to believe in forever.”
Thoughts: One of the most wonderful things about The Last Forever is Tessa’s self-awareness. The book may belong in the Young Adult category, but Tessa is not a typical YA heroine. She fully recognizes when she is overreacting or pulling a typical teenage tantrum. She acknowledges her behavior and consciously chooses to continue or to stop depending on the situation. Life is not one big conspiracy against her happiness, as it feels with so many other teenage heroines. She’s been through some horrific experiences and is understandably emotionally fragile as a result, but she knows that things will improve over time. It is a key difference in her attitude that prevents the story from bogging down into the dregs of teenage angst which is the death knell of many a YA story.
Ms. Caletti always creates the most realistic characters, as she does yet again in The Last Forever. The entire cast is not perfect or even close to being so. They each have their own quirks and foibles that make them human and relatable. What makes Ms. Caletti’s characters relatively unique is the fact that they never stay as full caricatures when it would be so easy to make them that way. Even Tessa’s father, who starts out as a stereotypical quirky, irresponsible, and emotionally distant dad gets his act together and takes steps to improve his fractured relationships. No one is so irredeemable that they cannot learn and grow from the mistakes they make, and they all do just that. It adds an air of hope to even the most depressing of situations.
This is not to say that The Last Forever is not without its problems. It is definitely not Ms. Caletti’s strongest novel. For one, the story is a bit too predictable. One instinctively knows where Tessa’s relationship with Henry is heading as well as her quest to protect her mother’s legacy. Then there is the general feeling of repetitiveness to the plot. It is not Ms. Caletti’s fault that there is an influx of novels dealing with grief, specifically the loss of a parent and its impact on the survivors. Unfortunately, there is a trend of this type of story line, and her version of it blends into all of the others. Given Ms. Caletti’s strong performances in both Stay and He’s Gone, both of which were different and surprising, The Last Forever is somewhat disappointing.
Still, Ms. Caletti’s weaker novels are still better than most books written and published these days. Tessa’s journey through the grief process is wonderfully poignant without being overly sentimental, while Tessa is refreshing in her understanding of herself. The Last Forever remains a beautiful ode to love and the meaning of forever.