“The Last to Let Go” hit home with me more than I was expecting. Amber Smith has a good handle on writing flawed heroines who hit rock bottom in the face of overwhelming grief. On one hand, you see how they lash out in ways that hurt the people around them, but at the same time, you feel for how horribly they’re hurting – and in moments, I was right there with Brooke in her depression and desperation to hold herself and the life she wanted to live together. The presentation is shaky, but the emotion is still really strong through much of the work.
Brooke’s family is thrust apart in the aftermath of a tragic crime (though very little details are actually given about the crime in the beginning of the book, which admittedly left me in suspense and I wish had more exploration throughout the narrative – I feel like that could’ve given more weight to the narrative than it had in the longer scope of the plot). Brooke, alongside her brother and younger sister, struggles to adjust to being thrust into a new reality while their mother awaits trial for the crime of killing their father. The focus lends more towards scenes where Brooke deals with the trauma of her father’s abuse in their family, the aftermath of his death, the conflicting emotions she feels over her mother, the growing distance of her siblings, and struggling to keep up with a life that takes her away from the horrible reality in front of her. She finds herself falling in love (a cute girl-girl relationship that immersed me in the novel for a time – though I felt like the relationship ended far too quickly before it really started hitting home), but while Brooke is using that among other things as an “out” for her problems, it comes to a head as the cruel reality hits a more immediate breaking point. Brooke descends more into the anger and anguish building up inside of her, which causes her to push away the relationships that mean the most to her. It’s frustrating to watch Brooke make this descent – making horrible choices in the process). But I’m not entirely without sympathy/empathy for her in spaces.
When the novel hits with intimate conflict and sentimental points, it hits hard, but I felt the book start dragging in the middle and towards the end. It was more rough for presentation than “The Way I Used to Be”. I will admit that I still like the overarching novel for what it aimed for – the journey was well worth it to see how Brooke grows in the midst of everything happening around her. I only wish that the characters here – aside from Brooke – had more room to shine. They were interesting, but it felt like while this was firmly Brooke’s story, some important POV moments were missed that I feel could’ve substituted for the moments this book lagged for pacing and non-essential dialogue.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.