I received this book for free from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman
Published by Bloomsbury on May 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, YA
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A new powerful thriller from the globally-embraced author ofBetween.
Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.
Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.
This… was an interesting read, indeed.
The blurb talks about how this is a powerful thriller, but a more apt description would be a “quiet” thriller that sends ripples of emotions to the reader in frequent, yet small doses. This is actually the first time I’ve read something like it, because when I see THRILLER, I expect SUSPENSE! MYSTERY! TWISTS AT EVERY CORNER! But Last Good Day of the Year is anything but. The first 90% is all backstory, and the actual “thriller” part comes almost at the very end.
That doesn’t mean to say that it didn’t work, though, because I found myself liking the overall touch. When Sam was seven years old, she witnessed someone go inside their house and kidnap her four year old sister, Tabitha (nickname: Turtle). If something like that happened to me, my life would definitely change, and so would my parents’, my siblings’, my neighbors’ and friends’. And the book here emphasizes that – how the lives of Sam and the people close to her heart changed, and how they felt the grief, the sadness, the blame, and the regret and how these all followed them for years until the present time. I felt all of these emotions in my very core as I read along, as there was this brutal honesty but softness in Sam’s voice that would hold your heart and tenderly accompany you from finish to end.
If there is one thing that I didn’t like, though, it’s just that there were times the narration felt dragging at times. Like I mentioned, the book was 90% character backstory, and the rest were actually for the “thriller” part (or the knowing of who kidnapped Turtle). It would narrate quite extensively about certain details that I felt were quite irrelevant, although I guess the author really wanted to flesh out the characters and let us see some sort of domino effect. It’s just weird when the book’s shorter than the usual novel and yet there were times you would feel like it’s taking forever.
Also going to throw this out there: while I appreciated the backstory, I was disappointed that the actual “thriller” part was so, so, so short, and the details and evidences pointing at the real killer were given to us in an “avalanche”. There weren’t really any clues beforehand and so the story gives it all to us in one go as if all of a sudden, the characters had a moment of HUGE epiphany. I usually look forward to the discovering of clues, to the reading between the lines, to thinking about the puzzle pieces myself when it comes to this type of books, so to see it nonexistent here bummed me out. The transition to that point of the book was also not there. So it was like “character backstory, backstory, backstory, OH THE KILLER WAS THIS DUDE AND THIS IS WHY” and every character would be like, “OH I SEE NOW” as if they all simply accepted it. I wish there were more tension 🙁
All in all, it’s an interesting novel and I would read more of this kind of thrillers, as long as the tension is also in abundance (or at least present even in small amounts). I think contemporary readers would definitely like this.
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