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The Last Thing You Said

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Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 4, 2017

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About the author

Sara Biren

3 books234 followers
Sara Biren lives in eastern Wisconsin with her husband, their two children, and two cute schnoodles.

A true Minnesotan, she is a fan of hockey, hotdish, and hanging out at the lake. She enjoys seeing live bands, watching movies , and drinking coffee. Her love of cheese knows no bounds, so moving to "America's Dairyland" wasn't a horrible idea.

Sara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She works as a part-time copy editor for a Minneapolis marketing firm in addition to her freelance editing business.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 325 reviews
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,074 reviews491 followers
July 7, 2021

Lulu, Trixie and Ben were rarely out of the waters of Halcyon Lake. Ben was finally aware of Lulu as more than a friend, and Trixie made sure to challenge Lulu's brother to a race to the dock to give Lulu and Ben time alone together. Life was simple and idyllic - until tragedy struck and the gang disintegrated.

I was very much moved by the depiction of grief, acceptance and then the movement towards forgiveness, happiness and love in this very well-written new adult novel.

The story is set in a resort town in Minnesota on the shores of Halcyon Lake. Four friends are swimming and basking in the hot sun. Two of them dive off a floating raft and race each other to a rocky island in the near distance. One of them never makes it to shore.

Lulu (aka Lucy and Lucille) has lost her best friend, Trixie, in a shocking way. Ben, Trixie's brother, is also hit hard by his sister's death and channels his misguided feelings of guilt into self-destructive fast living and hard drinking. Ben and Lulu's budding romance was completely derailed by Trixie's sudden death.

I like that the author does show that there is an end to grief, and that time really does play a factor -if we allow it. You never forget, as this story illustrates, but you do move on. Lulu didn't wait around pining for Ben while Ben drank and partied his pain away. I felt Ben's pain, don't get me wrong, but he went too far with his misdirected guilt and anger, lashing out at everyone within reach. If only he hadn't been thinking about kissing Lulu on that raft, he might have gotten to his sister in time....

The characters and the setting were hauntingly real to me. The burning question throughout was: will Lulu and Ben ever be able to find their way back to that sweet true love that was hinted at the beginning of the novel? Do we get our HEA?!?! (Let's just say that when I turned the very last page, I went right back to the beginning and read it through all over again!)

A really well written, heartwarming and enjoyable read. Highly recommended!

Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
616 reviews499 followers
April 13, 2017
Actual rating: 3,5

This book was good, but not better then that.
I liked the story itself, but I just couldn't connect with characters or with their grief. I mean, I know losing a best friend/sister is one of the worst things one could experience, and the even though the grief plays a big part in this story, I just couldn't feel it.
I am still debating whether the thing is is me, or in the author's writing.

It also didn't help the fact that I didn't like Ben's behavior at all.

Reading this book was like reading a weak version of one of Katie McGarry's books.

But please don't let my words put you off this book.
Maybe you will end up loving it, like so many other people who already read it.


I was lucky enough to receive a physical ARC of this ya contemporary novel.

So far, so good!

Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
October 5, 2017
I really, really enjoyed this book. It's so complicated, and so wonderful.

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by a fellow blogger

Summary (from Goodreads):

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

What I Liked:

YA contemporary isn't usually my thing, and I'd not heard of this book until a few months before its publication. I did a trade with a blogger, and I didn't really need this book, but I wanted to help her with a specific collection of hers, and so I chose this book to receive. I started reading and was a little wary of the story, but I quickly fell in love.

Almost a year ago, Trixie (Ben's younger sister and Lucy's best friend) died, when she was swimming in the lake and her heart gave out. On that day, Ben and Lucy were about to express their feelings for each other. Everything changed, and things were said, and Ben and Lucy never became a couple. They stopped talking, and almost a year later, things are awkward and painful between them. But they can't avoid each other all summer, given that their small lake town is small, and Lucy babysits Ben's five-year-old cousin. It's been almost a year, but Ben and Lucy's connection hasn't diminished, even if they have changed so much.

When I started reading this book, I began to feel a little unsure of it. Ben has a girlfriend, and Lucy starts to show interest in a new summer renter. But it's painfully obvious that Ben and Lucy never got over each other, and still care about each other. They never dated, but they loved each other for years, and that wasn't going to go away. Ben "dates" girls and dumps them just as quickly, as part of some sort of weird coping mechanism. And Lucy... Lucy starts to hang out with Simon the renter at first to show Ben that she wasn't thinking about him, but then because Simon was actually a decent guy.

So I ended up not minding the romance being this way at all. Given that Ben and Lucy technically never dated, they don't owe each other anything - especially with how things ended between them. Ben was an incredibly huge jerk who lashed out, and Lucy wasn't having it. The two of them have a valley of heartbreak between them, for two people that never dated.

This whole book is filled with a lot of pain and hurt and angst, and I actually really loved this. It broke my heart, seeing Lucy and Ben skirt around each other and avoid each other, and then snap at each other when they did interact. But the sheer amount of emotion that poured out of this story was staggering, and so well-written.

Ben is at fault for ruining things between him and Lucy, and so you'd think I would furious with him and dislike him automatically. But after reading several chapters in his POV, I didn't dislike him. I was still irritated with what went down between him and Lucy after the funeral, but I also understand him. I get his pain and his coping and his way of dealing with everything (although he takes a much more destructive and eyebrow-raising route than I would). Ben is a moody, brooding type that gets a lot of attention from the ladies, but he's also filled with guilt and self-deprecation, which was sad to see. As stupid as he was in that one moment with Lucy, and as stupid as he was for not trying to fix things for almost a year, I felt bad for him. I liked Ben, even when I didn't.

Lucy is a sweet and quiet girl and unlike Ben, she really internalized her pain, and didn't show people just how badly she was hurting, almost a year after Trixie died. Lucy is a good person and a good daughter. I was cheering for her when she started to hang out with Simon (even though I really wanted to see her and Ben patch things up, and I knew that they would). I think the author was right to include Lucy's relationship with Simon in this story - Lucy didn't clearly see just how in love with Ben she was until she started to date Simon, and realized how unfair she was being, in dating Simon. I liked seeing Lucy grow and mature, even if she dated a (nice) guy who wasn't Ben.

The romance isn't swoony in a traditional sense, because again, Ben is dating a girl at the start of the story, and Lucy eventually starts dating Simon the renter. But keep in mind that this book takes place over three months (or thereabout), and a lot happens in those months. There are some subtle swoony moments throughout the book (between Ben and Lucy), and then there are some actual swoony moments, towards the end of the book.

I loved seeing so many positive relationships in this book. Lucy's relationship with her (new) best friend Hannah is so strong and wonderful. I love how supportive Hannah was, and how awesome she was in general. And on Ben's side, him and his best friend Guthrie have a solid friendship that was good to see. Lucy and Emily (Trixie's/Ben's five-year-old cousin) have a great relationship, even if Lucy is Emily's nanny. Lucy and her parents have their issues, but they work on their relationship through the story. The same can be said about Ben and his parents. Also, I actually really liked Ben's girlfriend, especially when he broke up with her - she wasn't dramatic and over-the-top. She probably knew that Ben was still so in love with Lucy, and she let him go without a fight. No drama!

Overall, I enjoyed this book, probably more than I subconsciously thought I would. I don't usually like YA contemporary that is so gritty and heartbreaking and non-swoony (in a physical sense), but this book was wonderful. It ends very well, so don't worry about that! The ending is a fantastic HEA.

What I Did Not Like:

More Ben and Lucy kissing scenes would have been nice!

Would I Recommend It:

I recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary. If you're like me and hate messy romances and relationships, this one might not be for you, though I really enjoyed it. It's one of those books that you have to experience for yourself. I could repeat that the romance isn't love-triangle-y at all, over and over, but you'd need to see that for yourself. I really enjoyed the story, the romance, the heartbreak and the swoons.


4 stars. I'll be looking out for more by this author! Usually I am not one for angst-ridden YA contemporary novels, but this book was so good, and very powerful. I made need to reread it in the very near future!
Profile Image for TL .
1,820 reviews35 followers
March 1, 2017
*some edits*
I received this via Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review (thanks!). All my opinions are my own:).

Beautiful story idea and had my eyes misting a few times but at the same time I never felt fully connected to the characters. Trixie and Hannah felt like the same person yet Hannah felt more real than Trixie.

One of those I'm not sorry I read it but wouldn't read it again.

Would still recommend for some, it may touch you more than it did me.

Happy reading!
(Short review but still sick.. may add more thoughts later)
Profile Image for Dee Montoya.
942 reviews579 followers
December 23, 2016
4 ~ I Miss You ~ Stars****

(ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley)

The Last Thing You Said is a tender story about a girl who lost her best friend. About a friendship that no matter what will never end, and how grieving someone you lost is different for everybody involved.

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Lucy and Trixie have been best friends since kindergarten. They were always together, more than friends, they were soul mates. Lucy also happens to be in love with Trixie's brother, Ben. The four of them; Trixie, Lucy, Ben and Lucy's brother Clayton were always together. They grew up on a small town, with a big lake. Fishing and swimming were two things they always did. One day, that very same Lake they grew up in, is what took Trixie away.

Ben looses his mind after his sister dies. He's dealing with a lot of guilt, and a lot of what if's that haunt him on every minute of every day, also making him rebel in anger against the whole world, including Lucy.

Lucy's nickname was Lulu. Trixie gave her that name, and her and Ben were the only ones who used it, but now that Trixie is gone and Ben has pushed her out of his life she isn't Lulu anymore.

Their pain is constant, both Ben and Lucy are totally lost without Trixie. They simply don't know how to live without her, specially on that first summer since she's gone. They still love each other deeply, but the guilt and the pain is too much for both of them to handle.

This story was just wonderful. Grieving is something people convey in many different ways, and is something we all experience. I thought this author did an mazing job in creating a story that was easy to get lost into. And unlike other stories I read when someone dies, this book wasn't only about the sad moments and the pain, it had a lot of beauty in it, a lot of light.

I must confess that it did made me cry a bit, because the friendship between these two girls got to me. Also their parents were such a big part of the story. Everybody was dealing with the loss of this joyful girl, and everyone had reacted and learned something different from her death, including myself. I also smiled a lot, Lucy, Emily, and Hanna's characters were completely delightful and I loved how much more depth they added to the story.

A beautiful book, that I would definitely recommend to everyone. Don't be afraid by the subject matter of the book, because like I said before, it was done right. You will not drown in tears, your heart will feel light after reading it, and I promise that you will enjoy it.

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Profile Image for S.M. Parker.
Author 3 books186 followers
July 19, 2016
Sara Biren’s debut is a beautiful look at the enduring power of first love and how two teens must reach through the murky waters of grief to reconnect. The whole story is peppered with beautiful quotes and my favorite will stay with me for a long time: “It’s a good day to have a good day.” I loved how Biren portrayed love as a brave act—because it is such a brave act—and how she explored the courage it takes to trust in romantic love after losing a beloved friend. This is a brave debut, a brave look at the raw, messy, confusing bits of young love.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews703 followers
March 20, 2017
I loved the cover on this book and the synopsis intrigued me, so I was eager to get into it.

First off, I loved the dual POV. Getting Lucy and Ben's side of things made things interesting. And mildly irritating too. Lucy is lovely. Her grief is palpable. Ben made it hard to root for him. He's quite the ass most of the time, but I wanted them to get back on track so badly. Oh and Hannah was the best.

The plot is a bit slow and the characters do infuriating things {a lot a lot a lot of back and forth and mostly from Ben}, but I really enjoyed this story. I wish we would have gotten a bit more at the ending, but somehow it all worked.

**Huge thanks to Amulet for sending me a finished copy free of charge**
Profile Image for Stephanie Elliot.
Author 5 books178 followers
July 19, 2016
Heartbreaking and beautiful this is a story about grief, family, acceptance and love. Sara Biren tackles the tough emotions of loss so delicately and with such softness that you will probably cry when you read THE LAST THING YOU SAID, but it's the type of good crying you do when read a book that you will forever remember long after you close the pages. I absolutely love this book and I can't wait for another book by Sara Biren.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
945 reviews37 followers
April 11, 2017
Either I am an emotional wreck or I've just been reading damn good books lately because I sobbed like a fucking baby with this book.

This book was heavy. I read it in one 3-hour sitting about a week ago and I still can't stop thinking about it. That's a good thing, I suppose, right?

Death is a complicated situation. It can either bring people together, tear them apart OR both. The majority of this book is spent watching death tear people apart. And I don't just mean the main characters, Lucy and Ben, I mean everyone. The mothers and fathers and aunts and uncle, you get to see it all. Death really messes up a family but the worst part is, the person who died, would never want her family acting this way.

Trixie. This book wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for Trixie. Last summer, Trixie, Ben, Lucy and Clayton(Lucy's brother) were all relaxing in the water. Then Trixie decided to have a swimming race to the island no too far from where they were floating. Her heart gives out during the race and her friends are unable to save her. Swimming was something she loved. She died doing something she loved and it took almost the entirety of this book for people to realize that. Yes, it is still a tragedy. And that tragedy ripped families apart because those families let her death do that. And that is not something Trixie would have wanted, at all. The bits and pieces we get about her and her life throughout this book paint a picture of a loving, caring, beautiful girl with a soul that matches. The author didn't just tell us that Trixie was an amazing person and expect us to go along with it. No, she showed us who Trixie was and that is exactly the right thing to do. So, after her death, we are left with Lucy and Ben, her best friend and her brother, and we get to see just how badly losing Trixie messed them up.

Lucy is our main character. We get to see things through her eyes, past and present. I really enjoyed her flashbacks and her Trixie's(you'll find out what these are if you read the book). With these we got to know Trixie even though she was dead. It's always nice to get a back story on a deceased character instead of the author just saying 'blah blah is dead' and moving on. Now, Lucy herself, I have multiple feelings towards her. She had moments where I was sad with her and then there were moments where I wish she would just stop the stupid crap she was doing. She was definitely a case of smart girl making stupid decisions.

Lucy and Ben are left to navigate life without Trixie and it really shatters their worlds. Ben turned self-distructive and that made this entire situation even harder to bear for Lucy. He hurt Lucy and that made losing her best friend AND seeing him anywhere extremely hard. Especially since Lucy is playing nanny to Ben and Trixie's little cousin so she sees him almost every day.

I loved Ben. Don't get me wrong. I was half and half between wanting to hug him and wanting to rip his face off. I also think that he was forgiven way too easily, especially after the HORRIBLE shit he said and did. But, love isn't just another 4-letter word, it is encompassing and full of every emotion you could possibly think of. Love is raw. Love is giving someone all the trust in the world that they won't rip you apart but it is also forgiving them if they do rip you apart. Love is the most sought after thing in this world. So why shouldn't it hurt like hell? Why shouldn't it give you every emotion this world has to offer? Life isn't worth living if you don't get to feel everything it has to offer. With that being said, I hope he gets his anger issues under control because he can be a great guy when he doesn't let his rage control him.

Simon... UGH. I don't even know if I want to go there, but I guess I have to. He was a fricken creeper. He was so disgusting and lowkey controlling. I have no idea how Lucy could stand to do that entire 'relationship'. God, just thinking about it makes me sickened. I would rather lick a skunk than have been in Lucy's shoes that summer and I'm so glad he got put in his place. I'm not sure if this is how the author meant for Simon to be perceived but I can't really imagine what else she would have been aiming for.

The setting of this book was really beautiful. It took place in a small town on the water. The residents all seemed to know each other and it was a pretty nice feeling. I don't know if the author based it off of an existing town or made it up entirely but either way she definitely made it come to life. The author is also very talented in making real, believable characters.

So, with all the back and forth emotions this book made me feel, I can say that I loved it. I hated some of the situations and I got angry at some people, but if a book doesn't made you feel SOMETHING then it has no right being a book. Lucy's parents were okay people. Her brother was a mooching ass-hat. Ben's parents weren't exactly the greatest. I understand they lost a daughter but they still had a son. Sadly, this is the common situation if a parent loses a child and has other children.

Overall, I gave the book 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Marci Curtis.
Author 2 books266 followers
July 25, 2016
A beautiful, gut-wrenching story about the complexities of grief and the saving grace of family, friendship, and love. Brave, raw, and exquisitely written.
Profile Image for Ginger at GReadsBooks.
371 reviews56 followers
February 20, 2017
With a slow start, I was anxious to see where this book would take me. Never did I imagine I'd lose myself at the lake, on a hot summer day, caught somewhere between grief & hope. This is the type of story that will creep up on you & fill you with overwhelming emotions. I love contemporary YA that has that effect on me.

Oh this book, friends, add it to your TBR list!
Profile Image for Bree Barton.
Author 4 books503 followers
October 7, 2016
What a beautiful book. Every line, every image, every thought—just beauty beauty beauty, from beginning to end. OH, how I hurt for Lucy (Lulu!), for the loss she suffered, but also for the living loss she's suffered every day since. She is grieving, and this book paints a shimmering portrait of grief in all its nuances and complexities, both the heaviness and the light.

And the characters! My god, the characters. Sara is so good at drawing complete, full, rich people. Adorable, wonderful Emily—such a breath of fresh air and light amidst so much sadness. Perfect, amazing Hannah. The parents, each struggling with the loss in his/her own way. Even Dana comes off fully formed and real—she's suffering, too. There are no villains here: just a community struggling to come to terms with a tremendous loss.

The theme of female friendship is one of my favorite things about this book. Not just Trixie and Lucy, but Lucy and Hannah, too. I feel like we're told to believe women's friendships are catty and shallow, but that simply isn't true! And Sara showcases that beautifully here. She has such a gorgeous way of drawing these women who love and trust each other. It's so goddamn REFRESHING.

I'm so grateful I got to read an ARC of THE LAST THING YOU SAID before the rest of the world gobbles it up. It may be the last thing she said—but it is NOT the last thing I'll read by Sara Biren!
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,304 reviews220 followers
August 28, 2017
Lucy: Your best friend Trixie is dead. You're in love with her brother who has been treating you like dirt since Trixie's. Should you:
A-Date someone you don't really like
B-Wait until you meet someone you care about

Ben: You've been perpetually drunk and treating everyone like crap since your sister died, especially Lucy. Should you:
A-Keep being an asshole and date a girl you don't like
B-Apologize to Lucy and get your act together.

The best thing I can say is THE LAST THING YOU SAID is a predictable story about grief.

Sara Biren isn't a terrible writer, but the message of romanticizing using people and treating others badly in the name of grief is unhealthy and unhelpful. Ben and Lucy aren't without consciences; both know when they are unkind and accepting less than what they deserve from others (though Ben is mostly on the giving side). They have friends and family steering them in the right direction.

Another troubling aspect was Creepy Simon, who bordered on stalking Lucy and insta-loved her from first sight. While he respected her sexually, he was pushy in other ways, which should be a red flag for teens, not a prelude to romance.

I can't recommend this to anyone, though Biren's writing style could be given a second look if she writes something more responsible.
Profile Image for Ruth Lehrer.
Author 3 books65 followers
September 28, 2016
I was lucky enough to receive a free ARC of Sara Biren’s 2017 novel, THE LAST THING YOU SAID. Such a romantic sweet/sad tale. Biren weaves a tale of grief, forgiveness and first loves. Her talent is most apparent in the poignant portrayal of the loss of a beloved friend. I loved the parts of the story about work; Lucy works at her mother’s diner and Ben taking tourists out fishing. The description of their daily lives add local flavor to the story of this small Minnesota resort town. Definitely a good book for fans of Sarah Dessen, THE LAST THING YOU SAID will be out in April 2017. Look for it!

Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,354 reviews98 followers
March 10, 2019
This was pretty depressing. I was kind of in the mood for something sad and depressing, though, so it was ok for me. I can see where this would be helpful for people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. For the average reader, though, I thought it focused on the sadness for longer than it should have. It's not until the very end that the characters really start to feel any hope and then it's only because the romance is finally working out. I definitely enjoyed Biren's "Cold Day in the Sun" much more than this one.
Profile Image for Thamy.
453 reviews24 followers
April 8, 2017
This was heartbreaking. I know I've been giving it to too many but this too deserved a 3.5.

Lucy has lost Trixie her best friend, and her brother Ben has been treating her like trash, making her lose even more than a friend. Especially considering her long-lasting feelings for him. When a new boy comes to town, she wonders if it is time to move on.

I wasn't expecting the tone in this book. I just thought it would either focus on some drama about Ben and Lucy not being able to get together, or maybe on memories of Lucy's good times with Trixie. Of course, the book had both but they were exceedingly used. The actual tone was closer to paying homage to Trixie and all she was able to accomplish before her death.

This book centered a lot on grieving, too. Maybe it is because I have been going through some very dark weeks myself but some passages spoke to me in a way that I cried not really from being sad but from something deeper. It's hard to explain. Still, this isn't really a book written to make you cry. The author just wrote in very well how mourning someone feels. I don't think I had any moment of punch-in-the-gut, either. I feel that is an accomplishment, being able to take such a theme and resisting the urge to turn it into a tearjerker. It's much harder to reach your reader without that punch, in my opinion. And both Lucy's and Ben's grieving processes seemed real enough they brought me some comfort.

While I say that I don't mean I really liked Ben that much. In fact, if I cheered for him to finally get together with Lucy it was because she really seemed to love him. To be honest, he was unbearable too many times for me to forgive if this were me. Not that his rival was any better—he was so much worse I pitied Lucy. Yes, it was a good thing this book wasn't heavy on the romance. It focused more on friendship and bonds, including the one uniting Lucy and Ben, which happened to have the romantic aspect. I wouldn't have been as satisfied had this story really been a romance, considering what a terrible book boyfriend Ben turned out to be. I do understand he was hurting... it doesn't mean I'd want to have to deal with it.

So why didn't I rate it higher? Even though the story spoke so much to me, I felt it was still bland. Somethings also happened mostly because the author wanted, and others never received the proper attention, like Lucy's brother lacked a more complete ending besides being the big excuse for her parents to have her work extra hours at the family restaurant. Many of the characters lacked dimension, and I wasn't too into the interchangeability between Hannah, Lucy's new friend, and Trixie. Except for the accent, which you obviously can't hear, they just seemed the same person to me.

So this book had a lot of points to be improved but this was still a work that touched me a lot. It was the sort of book I really needed to read. In addition to having good themes to debate on if you want to do a buddy read, this was a very quick read. I never finish books in a day, and yet this one I did.

Honest review based on an ARC provided by Netgalley. Many thanks to the publisher for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Madison.
1,065 reviews59 followers
December 19, 2016
The Last Thing You Said is a heart-wrenching and yet uplifting tale of love, friendship, and the grief felt when all that love and friendship is lost or irreparably damaged. I truly enjoyed sinking into the world that is The Last Thing You Said. The summer days, the smell of sunscreen and ice cream, two best friends who create adventures from the simplest things, and a story of love that was never spoken and had to be hidden away. I warn you, you may need tissues while reading this book, both for sad tears and for happy tears.

Isn't it strange how book summaries can make things seem simpler than they really are. For example, the summary for The Last Thing You Said goes something like this: 'once there was a girl named Trixie. She had a brother named Ben and a best friend called Lulu. And together they had the most wonderful time, until Trixie horribly, tragically died. And Ben and Lulu were so desperately sad they didn't know what to do and so broke away from each other. But this summer they are pulled back together.' It makes it sounds like a happy summer spent reconnecting with a lost friend; Ben and Lulu reunite after a time apart and everything is ok between them. But the thing is that Ben and Lucy have never really been apart, at least not physically. They go to the same high school and live in the same town, even work at the same place. They just managed to avoid each other since Trixie died and what was beginning to grow between them, something that made them more than friends, more than friends of their sibling, died a horrible death along side their grief and guilt. And so this book, this summer, is about them continually facing each other and not knowing what to do or say, and them continuing to make it worse between them. They fight, they stay silent, they watch from afar. It is far, far more traumatic and heartbreaking than the synopsis makes it sound, and for that this book is far more beautiful and sad and ultimately, in the end, hopeful. Through this summer, Ben and Lucy learn more about themselves, what is worth fighting for, and that it is only themselves who can make the changes they want.

At the start of the book the reader is slowly fed pieces of information about Trixie's death, the way things were before her death, and why things are the way they are now between Ben and Lucy. I loved the little stories interspersed in this book. Once upon a time there was a girl named Trixie... Lucy and Emily, Trixie's young cousin, call them Trixies. The stories of their friendship right the way through from kindergarten to high school. It gives this book depth and substance to the backstory, especially Ben and Lucy's grief. And as the book progresses these little stories are used in other ways to further Ben and Lucy's story.

Trixie and Lucy's friendship is beautiful. 'Be brave', Trixie reminds Lucy. No wonder they desperately miss Trixie. I miss Trixie. Trixie who loved quotes. Trixie who was adventurous and encouraged Lucy to be brave but never judged her for her fear. Trixie who loved that Lucy was in love with her brother.

This book was a whole lot more drama filled than I expected, but I loved every minute of it. Simon the renter who moves in next door to Lucy for the summer and with whom Lucy sparks a summer...well, romance isn't the right word because it will always be Ben for Lucy, but something. Lucy and her new but wonderful friendship with the vibrant and understanding Hannah. Ben and his struggle with guilt, grief, and disgust with himself about his choices and mistakes. Ben's family and the way they are handling their grief. Lucy and her family's struggle to understand Lucy's grief and stay financially afloat. There is so much wonderful, glorious, messy love in this book- sibling, familial, romantic, and friendship love. And the characters are flawed and make mistakes, many that had me cringing and crying out, 'no, don't do that, don't make it worse.' But the characters and the story are all the richer for mess that offsets the beauty in this moving book.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Find more reviews, reading age guides, content advisory, and recommendations on my blog Madison's Library.
Profile Image for Michelle (Undeniably Book Nerdy).
1,153 reviews68 followers
April 10, 2017
Originally posted on Undeniably Book Nerdy:

This whole book is printed in PURPLE.

If you're making a list of summery, emotional-romantic contemporary YA books, add  The Last Thing You Said to your list.

The Last Thing You Said is told in first-person dual perspective through Lucy and Ben and their first summer after Trixie--Lucy's best friend and Ben's sister--passed away from an unknown heart defect. The thing was, the day Trixie died, Ben and Lucy were about to admit their feelings for one another, but in one instant everything changed. Immediately after Trixie's funeral Ben said some very hurtful things, and almost a year later they have been avoiding each other (as much as they can living in a small fishing town in Minnesota) as well as dealing with their grief.

This novel is pretty slow paced, which I didn't mind so much, because it went with the small-town and summers by lake feel. It's also dealing with a lot emotional stuff, not just with grieving for a loved one's death, but also Ben and Lucy's unresolved feelings for each other, as well as some family stuff they each have to deal with. I appreciated that we get both Lucy and Ben's POV because if everything was in Lucy's perspective I would have been hating on Ben the whole time rather than just being frustrated with him because there was a lot of back and forth with him--Lucy too, but mostly Ben. The added insight about Ben through his chapters helped me like his character more than I would have.

My favorite character was definitely Lucy. I felt a sort of kinship with her because she's on the quieter side, who thinks things through a million times before taking action, who always kind of needed her much bold friend to pull her out of her shell. And, speaking of friends, my favorite thing about The Last Thing You Said is definitely the female friendships between Lucy and Trixie (told through flashbacks and through "Trixies" which is what Trixie's little cousin Emily calls stories about Trixie and Lucy growing up) as well as Lucy and her new friend Hannah's friendship. There were none of the cattiness and trying to one up each other or bring each other down to feel better about themselves that is typical in these types of friendships in YA where one is more outgoing and wild than the other. NONE. And I so, so, so appreciate it! These girls just supported each other and pushed each other when needed, and it was just so wonderful and refreshing to see!

I do have to mention though that there is sort of a love triangle in this book. There's a new boy Simon, who's family is renting the house next to Lucy's. I liked Simon well enough--he's actually a nice guy and he was very open about his feelings for Lucy--he was basically Ben's opposite in that sense. I didn't mind his character for the most part (although I didn't like how he lied to Ben about his relationship with Lucy before they were "official"), but we all know Lucy and Ben were endgame so his presence is just another hurdle for Lucy and Ben to jump over. So, yeah, while he's okay I was just meh about him.

Other things I liked about The Last Thing You Said  include the strong family presence (Ben and Lucy's parents were very much present in the story), the small Minnesotan resort town and descriptions of the lake and summer activities and just the overall small-town community (I love books set in small towns!), and the depth of the story and characters overall. This book is no fluffy YA contemporary romance, but instead a heartfelt, emotional, romantic story to savor.
Profile Image for Katy Upperman.
Author 4 books306 followers
February 7, 2017
I talk often about “Katy Books” and Sara Biren’s forthcoming debut is definitely one — it’s as if she wrote this novel specifically with my tastes in mind. I adored this story of friendship, loss, and first love, set in a charming Minnesota lake community. Main characters Lucy and Ben are both trying to cope with overwhelming grief after Trixie, Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister, dies suddenly. Trixie’s death leaves a gaping hole in both protagonists’ lives, and challenges their fledging romance in heartbreaking ways. The Last Thing You Said is one of those stories that’ll make you feel a million emotions: sadness, joy, angst, despair, and hope, among them. If you’re a lover of intense YA romances, especially those told in alternating POVs, check this beautiful book out when it releases in April.
Profile Image for Andi (Andi's ABCs).
1,546 reviews189 followers
May 22, 2017
This review was originally posted on Andi's ABCs
I have mixed feelings on The Last Thing You Said. I’m not really sure what it is. Honestly I loved some parts of it. I loved the part where both Lucy and Ben were dealing with their grief in vastly different ways. I loved the setting of the beach. I loved Lucy’s friend. But there was also a lot I was confused by. Honestly I hated how Ben treated Lucy and how Lucy let him treat her. I hated a lot of the things that Lucy did. I do admit the grief of Ben and Lucy and how much they missed Trixie was done really well. That was the one part of the story I felt and understood. But everything else was sadly just not for me.
Profile Image for Meliss.
806 reviews34 followers
September 18, 2017
Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars

Wow. I am practically speechless. And I don't know if I will ever find the words to describe how much I enjoyed this book. It was truly heartbreaking, honest, and unforgettable. I devoured it less than three hours.

I think it's my favorite read of 2017 so far. Or, at least tied for it.

Full Review to Come.
Profile Image for Rachel's Book Reviews.
687 reviews77 followers
March 8, 2017
Consider me wowed. Beautiful writing, though I have a few things to pick at.

Whole thing was colored with a deep sense of longing and sadness. BEAUTIFUL.
Profile Image for Jaimie.
384 reviews302 followers
April 8, 2019
This was a short, sad, sweet story of a group of people left in the wake of the sudden death of Trixie. We split our time between two POVs, Trixie’s brother, Ben, and her best friend, Lucy. Before Trixie’s death they were close to developing a romantic relationship, but now a year later they’re not even speaking. Considering the topic, The Last Thing You Said is very readable, sad primarily in a bittersweet way. I never felt plugged into the tragedy enough to cry, to feel the heartbreak myself.

Mostly this novel focuses on Ben and Lucy’s (non) relationship. The back and forth struggle of will they-won’t they. And the drama it causes for their parents, friends, and SIGNIFICANT OTHERS. Yeah, they are both dating other people.

I liked Lucy. She has been through a lot, but she’s getting along the best she can. She’s made the effort to make new friends. Her new friend, Hannah was a bright spot in the book. At first I thought she was a potential negative influence on Lucy, but ended up being exactly the thing to break her out of her tragedy-induced fog.

Side note: I didn’t love how Lucy treated Simon. Poor kid read very much like a real, clueless teenage boy in the grasp of first love and Lucy led him on terribly, knowing she couldn’t love anyone but Ben.

I didn’t love Ben. As a character he…isn’t great. He’s clearly reeling after his sister’s death and I can’t blame him for that. But he treats Lucy like garbage. In his head, he’s all “I love Lucy. I want to marry Lucy. I hate Lucy’s boyfriend. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.” And then he opens his mouth and spews hateful garbage all over her. This happens over and over again, up until pretty late in the novel. Kid needs a lot of therapy and to grow up quite a bit.

Lucy deserves better than how Ben treats her. Of course I rooted for them to reunite as I was reading, but if they were people I knew in real life, I’d do my best to convince Lucy that Ben was toxic and to move on. But this is fiction, so when everything works out easily and all is forgiven, I was happy for them.

If you’re looking for a quick, well-written YA contemporary with soft touches of loss, but a central focus on relationship-driven angst, check this one out.

3 stars
Profile Image for Rachel.
353 reviews67 followers
April 28, 2017

Overall, this was a good book. While a major focal point of it was the eventual reunion of two almost-lovers, Lucy and Ben, I liked that the author focused a lot on their own individual grief and coping styles after Trixie's death. The development of Lucy and Ben's reconnection took a long time, but I appreciated it since it made it all the sweeter once they started showing more overt signs of caring for the other person.

However, I found a lot of the characters to be hard to connect to as a reader because I felt like I didn't really know them as much as I should. Despite the fact that Lucy's brother, Clayton, was also present at the time of Trixie's death, he was physically absent for 95% of the book. We got a peak into his own self-destructive habits to deal with his guilt, but I was disappointed that we didn't get to see more of him and more of his own thoughts on the matter. Also, wasn't he Ben's best friend before the incident? Why didn't they talk or even think about each other at all?

Furthermore, Simon (a second love interest of Lucy's) was a flat character. I knew almost nothing about him except for the fact that he lived alone with his mom, and that he liked to paint. He was a good guy - he was nice enough - but he was very clingy and annoying, and he came across as more of a nuisance than anything else.

I absolutely loved what Ben did in the end to get her back. I thought it was extremely sweet, and I liked that Lucy and Ben wanting to be together was never a source of contention with Trixie when she was still alive. It was a nice change from the guilt characters often feel when they develop a crush on their best friend's brother.
Profile Image for Suad Shamma.
689 reviews155 followers
December 24, 2019
Oh, no. What happened? What did I just read?
I bought this book because of how much I loved Cold Day in the Sun, but this book felt like it was written by a completely different person. The storyline was interesting, and I was really hoping for another batch of feisty characters, a heartfelt plot, heartbreaking scenes, butterflies in my stomach, something!

Instead, it was a story about Ben and Lucy, both still completely drowning in grief a year after Trixie's death, but the ugly kind of grief. The grief that only hurts other people over and over and over and over again. Ben and Lucy are in love with each other, and they know that they love each other, but Ben has this habit of constantly putting his foot in his mouth, of being a complete dick to Lucy every single time he interacts with her and they were numbered! I was honestly surprised how little of Lucy and Ben there was in this book. It was mainly a story about Lucy's journey separately, and then another parallel story about Ben, the number of times they both came together in a situation or conversation were few and brief and always ended horribly. What the hell Sara Biren?

Ben loves Lucy, he acknowledges completely that he said or did something hurtful, he puts it in his mind to go and make things right with her. He approaches her, she backs off or is defensive (rightly so!) and he flips again! And says something even worse than the first time, and then goes off to drink himself into oblivion and it's this vicious cycle that he keeps going through the entirety of the book!

How many times does someone need to get hurt before they close the chapter on this boy? I mean, this is a telling sign of how badly this guy deals with tough situations. How he turns into an asshole that hurts people with words when something bad happens, how he turns to drinking to soothe his pains...how can you trust being with someone like that?

Then there's creepy Simon. What the effing hell Sara? Who is this creep?
At first, I thought, oh cute, I actually like this guy. He's fun, cheerful, flirty, exactly what she needs! But then, he becomes pushy. And not pushy in the obvious sense, which is why it came off as creepier than it should! He kept pushing Lucy to go out with him, kept pushing her to go on a date, kept telling her he likes her and how she made this summer so much better, but he also came off as this snobby city boy who didn't really like anything about Lucy's world. He comes in the way between her and Ben by telling Ben to back off without ever asking Lucy what she wanted first. He just assumes, which is incredibly presumptuous of him. And then...he basically pushes Lucy to have sex with him! Sure, it was consented sex. Sure, Lucy didn't regret it or anything. But the way he made her do it was so effing creepy! The way he kept telling her he loves her RIGHT before he pulled her into the tent to have sex with her, the way he kept telling her he loves her after they had sex, the way he was prepared and had planned to have sex in the first place. It was all very creepy, very annoying. And he is so immature and childish. When he tells Ben "She loves me! I can prove it! She slept with me at the rodeo!" Really dude? Who says that?!

Honestly, ridiculous story. Ridiculous set of characters. I was severely disappointed by this, especially coming off the high of Cold Day in the Sun.
Profile Image for Kari.
343 reviews56 followers
April 4, 2017
4.5 Stars

I really enjoyed this book. While the story is sad at times, there’s definitely lighter moments, and lots of hope. It tells the story of Ben and Lucy. Lucy was best friends with Ben’s sister, Trixie, until last summer when Trixie’s heart unexpectedly gave out during a swim in the lake, and she died. Lucy at that time had been having strong feelings for Ben for a while, and they were on the cusp of admitting those feelings to each other, when the tragedy of Trixie’s death occurred. Their grief tears them apart, and they have a devastating falling out.

Ben feels a lot of guilt surrounding his sister’s death. Instead of dealing with that guilt, and working to move forward, he numbs his feelings with alcohol, while keeping everyone at an arm’s length away, including his parents. His guilt makes him angry, not only at himself, but with others. This includes Lucy, whom he lashes out against.

Lucy feels lost. Not only does she lose her best friend, she also loses the friendship with the boy she loves. To Trixie, Ben, and their parents, Lucy was Lulu. But with that family out of her life, she’s no longer Lulu, and is struggling with that.

Both Lucy and Ben are dealing with a lot of grief, coupled with loneliness, guilt, and anger. These things make it difficult for them to reconcile with each other, even though they both still love each other deeply. While they don't express those feelings to each other, it is evident in their inner monologues, as well as some of their actions, how they feel about each other. But grief is difficult; especially when their guilt and resentment mixed in.

It was refreshing to see both Lucy and Ben's parents play such active roles in the story. They are grieving themselves, as well as having to watch their children grieve. I felt their reactions to certain situations in the book were a fairly accurate representation as to how parents would act in real life; at least ones actively involved in their child's life.

I loved how this story showed how many different ways people deal with grief. There’s not only one way to deal with it. Everyone grieves differently, and it’s important to let them grieve in their own time. I thought Hanna’s friendship with Lucy was a perfect example of this. She was such a wonderful and supportive friend to Lucy, and never denied Lucy her feelings.

The only reason I didn’t rate this 5 stars is because for me at a certain point at the end, it dragged a bit. I like to see more of ‘the after;’ i.e. what happens after the couple reconciles. I would have liked a peek into how Lucy and Ben dealt with their grief as a couple, but I know that wasn't the focus of the story. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book.

The Last Thing You Said is a beautiful story that is both heart wrenching and heartwarming, and tells the importance of love and friendship when dealing with loss and grief.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Originally posted on Books For The Living.
Profile Image for Sue.
560 reviews28 followers
April 13, 2017
*Review copy received from publisher*
Told on alternating PVO’s (point of view) – which I love – The Last Thing You Said is simply a beautiful story.

Separated by their grief, Ben and Lucy share slithers of Trixie with the reader. In addition, the Trixie stories, interspersed throughout the book, bring her vividly to life. Sara Biren writes from personal experience and empowered by her words with their emotional triggers I sank into sorrow, joy, and hope. All the feels in one book!
Full review: http://crushingcinders.com/last-thing...
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 3 books716 followers
March 20, 2017
So much love for this book. It was so beautifully told and so sad. The stories about Trixie and Lulu were so charming and heartbreaking. Could not stop tearing up. Review TK.
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