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The Last to Let Go

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A twisted tragedy leaves Brooke and her siblings on their own in this provocative new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used To Be.

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.

369 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2018

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About the author

Amber Smith

9 books1,079 followers
Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of young adult and middle novels, including The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, Something Like Gravity, and her forthcoming middle grade debut, Code Name: Serendipity. She has also contributed to the YA anthology, Our Stories, Our Voices, edited by Amy Reed. An advocate for mental health, gendered violence, and LGBTQ equality, Amber writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her wife and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. You can find her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 365 reviews
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
June 7, 2018
I really enjoyed this read! Personally, I did not enjoy it as much as Amber Smith’s debut, but I’m still extremely glad I experienced this story! Once again, emotionally jarring and awe-inspiring. Consider me a huge fan of what Amber Smith can do with YA fiction.

CW: spousal abuse, death/murder

One of my favorite parts of this novel is the excellent examination of a very specific teen experience. The Last To Let Go is a fabulous emotional tale of children who are forced to grow up too early due to circumstances out of their control. It follows teens who must make their way without parents to guide them for the first time in their lives. Teens who must work to survive. Teens who must care for their younger siblings because no one else will. Teens who’s education suffers because getting good grades is the least of their worries. It focuses on financial instability and the difficult measures one will go through to survive. I’ve personally never read a novel that validates the lives of young people in these situations, but it was an eye-opening pleasure.

Though the catalyst for the story is centered on spousal abuse, it’s not the primary driving force of the story. The Last To Let Go greatly focuses on how this issue affects children involved, moreso than the effects on the victim. If I’m being honest, I actually would have enjoyed more scenes describing what it was like for Brooke to live in this household as well as what it was like for her mother. I think it would have strengthened the story to have more context as to the family’s situation before the start of the novel. Therefore, I would not say this is a fleshed our portrayal of what it is like to live IN a home with domestic abuse, but moreso the consequences of it.

Once again, Amber Smith has forced me to question what it means to open yourself up to the perspective of a fictional character. Throughout the novel, Brooke attempts to hide her family’s tragedy from her new friends and girlfriend (yay for surprise lesbian rep!), therefore, this book falls into the trope of main characters lying to and hurting the people they care about even though telling the truth would solve many of their problems. I found myself infuriated all throughout the story (Your girlfriend is extremely kind and supportive!!!! She will understand!!!! Stop creating more problems for yourself!!!!). But it is Amber Smith’s talent for characterization that inspired me to think beyond the typical frustration and examine Brooke’s need for privacy and personal healing connected to her lies. I adore the authors ability to write complex, sometimes unlikeable, main characters. The journey I experience from her books is always something enchanting and unique, and I cannot wait to read her future works.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this wonderful contemporary novel! If you love character driven stories that deal with intense topics, The Last To Let Go is a great read for you.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
March 31, 2019
“Brooke,” she says more firmly. “We can ask ourselves what if all day long, every day, for the rest of our lives, but I couldn’t help her because she couldn’t deal with the fact that she needed help. I’ve managed to stop blaming myself over the years. I hope you will too.”

3 1/2 stars. The Last To Let Go is a book about letting go of an idea of a perfect life, letting go of the idea that somehow everything will be okay, and learning to make the life you have better, to make it yours.

This is also one of the few books about abuse I have read recently that I have not hated, and for that it deserves some praise. [I am totally serious. It’s like a disease.]

But… listen, this was not really that great. It was a quick read for me and had several good points, but I think I was disappointed.

I want to shout out a few things first. First of all, Brooke!! I really liked her and found her story – though I have a lot of bones to pick – super compelling. As an added benefit – I sort of binged this. And yeah, I definitely appreciated the rep in her being a lesbian, and her girlfriend Dany is so great. I wanted more pagetime for their relationship, but a solid dynamic. 10/10.

Unfortunately… the book just doesn’t really go to the depth I wanted from it. And I think the problem is one of character. Brooke’s character is so closed off that nothing progresses until near the end. And as a result, basically nothing gets discussed until the last thirty pages.

The issue is that Brooke is a somewhat developed character, and an interesting lead as a character desperately struggling to hold on to her family, her voice is not quite strong enough to hold up the story. While I thought initially that her cold, emotionless narrative was a result of her personality or her trauma, it began to bother me quickly when I realized that 1) the telling and not showing did not work for the story and 2) the story stayed on that flat note the whole time.
And holy shit, this flat note and th resulting lack of substance is noticeable in a lot of elements.

✔ The treatment of parental abuse here did not bother me partially because I don’t think it’s really handled that much at all. The main discussion of abuse offered by this book is a secondhand discussion of spousal abuse that I didn’t think did anything new. I really wish we’d gotten more from Amber about how she reacted to her treatment by her dad, because it felt as if that wasn’t actually explored on page. Subtextually? Maybe. On page? No.

✔ And the side characters in this book… also get very little depth. I think Amber Smith tried, but the reality is that we don’t see much actual motivation for most of these characters because Brooke is so focused on herself. And we also don’t see the subtleties of their trauma being shown because the narrative is so cold and tell-tell-tell-tell.

✔ And… then there’s Brooke. See, Brooke felt like a really compelling character, which is why I am so disappointed that we never really saw her. In books like this, there has to be some kind of moment where she drops the armor and you see who she as a person, right? A moment where the audience can see themselves in a mirror, in a different situation or maybe not even that. But The Last To Let Go just never got to that moment of connection with Brooke.

It was just… frustrating. I kept feeling as if the story were on the verge of going there, of giving me everything I wanted and more out of a book… but it just didn’t quite make it there.

Oh well. Maybe next time.
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aaaaand our finale: → elise nitpicks her faves ←
There’s one convo around page 62 where Aunt Jackie gets out a game of scrabble and the kids all say they’ve played it, but only on the computer, which is sort of understandable because of their weird family situation but I’m getting the sense the author just thinks millennials have never played scrabble in real life board form and personally I think this is bullshit? There’s also that one scene where Brooke says “do you mean g-g-g-g…..ga–gay?” and listen, no one talks like that. No one. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
Profile Image for  ••Camila Roy••.
161 reviews49 followers
May 23, 2018
RATING: 4.5/5

I loved Amber Smith's first book The Way I Used To Be , so when I found out about this one I just had to read it. Before starting this I was in a reading slump but somehow I made it through effortlessly.

Amber Smith has definitely improved her writing skills. I felt more attached to these characters than I did in The Way I Used To Be. The writing felt real, like I was moving along with the story and the events weren't fictional. Maybe it's because these types of things happen in real life, and even though we don't experience them a part of us understands.

This book made me reflect a lot. How much are we holding on to? Would things be better if we just let go of our pasts and our sad memories? Or are those memories important because they'll make us better, stronger people in the future?

The only complain I have is this: I could not stand when someone made excuses for the main character's abusive father. He knew what he was doing. You don't hurt someone you love over and over again 'accidentally'. Any type of excuse made for domestic violence pisses me off. It's not normal, it's not ''something that happens''. It's messed up. Big time.

In conclussion, I really liked this and if you're not sensitive to topics like abuse and violence, then I would definitely recommend it!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,479 reviews29.7k followers
March 16, 2018
i wasnt a fan of the way i used to be, so i was surprised to find myself picking this up. luckily, i didnt hate this one as much as smiths debut, but it still left me feeling a little bit disappointed. i just dont think her books are for me, unfortunately.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Brooke.
274 reviews137 followers
March 31, 2018
I LOVED this.

THE LAST TO LET GO is my first Amber Smith novel so I wasn't sure what to expect. With any new author, I tend to lower my expectations, but this impressed me from page one. I've read plenty of trauma related novels, but not so many aftermath ones. This book didn't focus so much on the abuse itself as what happens after. I feel that there aren't enough domestic violence YA novels out there, so this was a nice change of pace. I could relate to Brooke so much- her sense of duty to take care of everyone, the way she feels (or tries not to feel) about Dani, & just needing everything to be "okay". I loved the dynamics of her & her siblings, & the fact that they aren't a family unit, that they're just off going in their different directions. The pain of Brooke trying not to be like her mother but ending up like her anyways was so painful. Brooke is torn between trying to hold onto what was familiar & letting go to start a new chapter. It's some real uncomfortable shit & I appreciated that Smith didn't sugarcoat anything.

Brooke & Dani's relationship, as well as her friendship with Tyler was something I was rooting for. All of the characters felt necessary & fleshed out; the length of the book seemed just enough. Brooke is not perfect & her flaws make her even more realistic as she is trying so hard to keep everything afloat. At the end, all of her mistakes aren't just magically forgiven. Trust needs to be earned back & things can't just go back to the way they were before. I'm rating this a 5, not because I found it faultless (the ending could have used a touch-up), but because it's a gem in my heart & one of the few stories I wouldn't mind reading again.

Honestly, this wasn't even on my radar & I just picked it up as a last-minute library glance, which is a shame because I definitely feel this book needs more hype. The aftermath is so important & I can't wait for more stories dealing with it. I am glad I found a new author to enjoy & look forward to her future works. Recommended for contemporary fans & those wanting something a little "different" (i.e. not just your average abuse novel).
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,005 reviews1,050 followers
May 12, 2021
“I think love also means you have to stand on your own for a while, stand with yourself and for yourself, before you can ask someone to stand there next to you. I think maybe that’s the trickiest part.”

It's beautifully written although sometimes it gets just a little bit tedious but probably only because of the subject matter. It's a young adult contemporary but it also reads like a literary fiction painting a picture of a used to be happy family turned broken.

A mystery hovers over the plot from the very start which makes the read intriguing. What pushed Brooke's mom to finally fight against her dad? What did Callie, her little sister see that left her traumatized and unable to speak?

Brooke therefore becomes a character you wouldn't have any choice but to empathize with as she seems left alone with all these unanswered questions and conflicting emotions because how is she supposed to deal with all these things- her mom in prison waiting for trial, her dad gone for good even though she never wanted him dead, her sister wouldn't speak to her and on top of that, she's plainly just a girl trying to figure out who she is. Does she like girls for sure is one more thing putting her in an inner turmoil.

It’s pretty angsty although with this kind of story, I guess there's no room for humor or even a little comic relief. It's also not really about the mystery in what really happened between Brooke's mom and dad. But it's more about a young girl's coming to terms with her life, herself, her family no matter how imperfect. It's about acceptance, letting go, and learning how to love yourself in order to be able to fully love and be loved.
Profile Image for Hilly.
684 reviews1,220 followers
April 29, 2018
“Well, I think there’s a difference between giving up and letting go. What would happen if you let go?”

This review was really difficult to write. This book left me in a puddle of self-reflection and I can’t seem to get out of it. Amber Smith is a master with heartbreaking plots.

However, I wish I liked The Last To Let Go as much as I liked the author’s debut. And I wish I’d waited to read this when I was actually in the mood for contemporary, not fantasy. I’m sure I would have liked this more in another occasion.
Btw, it was nonetheless a great book. I enjoy reading committed and dark contemporaries more than I enjoy fluffy ones, and this categorizes as one of them.

Honestly now that I’ve waited some time to write this review the only thing that comes to my mind and that really stood up in the book was Aaron’s character. I guess I liked him a lot, but he was also so complex and conflicted, and I can’t stop thinking about how he should have been the main character. He shines so much brighter than Brooke in my opinion. In fact I didn’t connect with Brooke as much as I wanted.
I love the relationship the two siblings have though. I usually don’t focus my attention on siblings when I read contemporaries but these two and how they managed to stay afloat of all their problems were the highlight of the book. They’re really supportive of each other and help each other out when it comes to get over their dad’s actions.

In regard to deeper messages, it was important how at the end it was recognized that both the mother and the father had responsibility for the way the family turned out. The title was also spot on and it was great to finally understand the meaning behind it.

“I mean you have to watch how you treat people. You have to watch how you let people treat you. They’re in us, both of them.”
Profile Image for ellie.
539 reviews166 followers
April 13, 2018
book: emotionally destroys me to a point where i can actually feel the character’s grief inside myself
me: 5 Stars!

so i don't know where to begin. i don't know if i ever will be able to fully describe how much this means to me. i connected with brooke so deeply - i feel like she embodies me, in so many ways, but how could that be? she doesn't exist. but i just found myself in her, i guess. i feel like i am stuck between these forces that are my parents - and it's constraining most of the time, and it's a little hard to breathe, but it's why i don't fall apart. i'm not allowed the space to fall apart. and the thing is, brooke is given that space. she keeps teetering at the age, falling over and over, making mistakes, messing everything up.

i think brooke might be one of the most self-destructive characters i have ever read from. but that's what makes her so real, you know? her messes didn't seem calculated by the author, carefully put in different scenes to instigate character growth or whatever. she just kept trying, over and over, to be the person everyone expected her to be. and of course, they kept clashing. and she had to break. and she did. i swear to god, my eyes literally filled to tears every time hers did. because i am as stubborn as her. because i do not allow myself to fall apart completely, like her. because i do not let go, like her.

because letting go is somehow even more terrifying than falling apart. because when you're used to falling apart, you get used to it. you expect the shame, the feelings of failure, and the tears. but you can never expect what happens when you give up control. it's so fucking scary to let things be. and that, i think, is what amber smith explores in here. i think she did it well. i know many people did not like this book - that is okay. i do not like myself very much either. i think if i revealed myself this deeply and in this achingly real way as brooke did, many would not like me either.

i can go on to talk about how much the side characters made sense to me, too. how everyone was struggling with their own issues and couldn't see you struggle. brooke couldn't fall apart, because people were expecting her to be better than that. i felt that so deeply, i can't even tell you...i feel like sometimes i am given so many burdens to shoulder, and i do it, because i love my parents so much, but i could've done without those worries, you know? oh boy this is getting a little too real

anyway! so! um! this is not a book i would recommend to everyone. but brooke gave me a little bit of hope, i think. she alleviated the pressure in my head for a while. i will love her forever. this will be a hard book to reread, but i think i will do it. for brooke, for dani, for callie and maybe even for aaron.

oh. i have to say that other than brooke, my favorite part was the writing - it was a little stream of conscious-y at times (is that a word?) but it made me connect to brooke even more. we are both a little all over the place. so i'm going to type out my favorite quotes now, because i loved them that much. as for the rest of the pages i marked, i will put post-its when i buy my own copy to hold to my heart.
so here they are:

I pull the pillow over my face and hold it there, hearing my own pulse thumping in my ears. I try to think about something else. Anything else. I think about this time next week, this time next month, this time next year, five years, ten years from now, measuring out the distance to a time when things will be normal, when things will make sense, when things will be right again.

I try not to think about it, though. There's no point, anyway. Because how would I have time for that with everything else that's always going on? How could I ever find the space for another person in my life when I barely even have enough room for myself?

"I was just thinking..." He trails off, shaking his head. "I don't know, how much more am I expected to give? How much more am I expected to take?" he asks, like there are answers to these questions.

I think my heart actually stops beating. I swear, I die. A temporary little death. Because that's when the whole picture shifts into focus, the puzzle pieces fitting together, yet the picture they form making no sense at all.

Another hour has passed. I don't understand how time keeps doing that. Moving forward when all I need is for it to stop, to give me a chance to work back through all that's happened today, which is impossible to do when the seconds keep marching ahead, piling new minutes on top of all the old minutes, building a landfill of lost time.

I want to follow her, tell her not to leave. I want to know what she knows. But I can't do any of those things. I can barely feel my hands and feet. The world seems to tilt on its axis just a little too much. I have to sit. Because my thoughts are racing in a million different directions and I'm sure my brain is short-circuiting one region at a time, neuron by neuron.

I think about the now again, because this is a place composed solely of nows. In this moment - in this now, I have no past, I have no future. And I don't know why, but somehow this is one of the most comforting thoughts I've ever had.

"Being with you is like that."
"Like what?"
"Like I've been living my whole life in this right-handed world, where everything felt slightly off, everything a little too difficult, out of sync in this way I could never really explain or understand."
"Okay," she says.
"And now-when I'm with you, I mean-everything feels right, easier. Like I've been looking to the next thing, waiting to finally get to that place where I'm supposed to be, but when I'm with you, I feel like I'm already there. I've never had that before."

"You know those tightrope walkers you see, like at the circus or something?" I ask. "It's like you've been walking along on this tightrope your whole life. And you always thought you were doing it all on your own. Keeping your balance, putting one foot in front of the other. You look down sometimes, and see the ground, but you never really worried about it. One minute you're walking along, same as always, and then the next it's like suddenly you can't find your footing and you realize that you weren't doing it all alone like you thought. Something was keeping you up - someone."
"Keep going," she whispers.
"But pretty soon you swing your weight an inch in the wrong direction, only to realize there's nothing there anymore. You see yourself teetering from side to side, but there's nothing you can do. And then, finally, you just fall. And it's like you keep falling and falling through the air and there's nothing to hold on to, and all you want is to hit the ground so you know where you are again, but you don't - you can't." There's this pang in my chest, interrupting the dull, steady ache that always seems to be there, making the words get caught in my throat. I swallow hard. "It's sort of like that, I guess."
"Brooke? You can hold on to me."
So I do. I hold on, tighter and tighter.

It means me telling her to leave me alone when I meant to say I love you, when what I really meant was "Don't leave me alone like everyone else - I have this hole inside of me that's getting so big I think it might swallow me up."

"Go on."
I do. I don't know why, but I do.

On the walk home, I think about how the spring suits Callie. It makes her brighter, like something inside of her is in bloom, something coming back to life. And maybe we're all like a season in that way. If we are, then Aaron would be the fall - all fiery and fickle, complicated and beautiful in his own way, in this way that lets him forgive him for doing whatever he needs to do to keep going. And me, maybe I'm most like the winter. Maybe I need that stillness, as much as I've tried to fight it. I need it like oxygen, that quieting of the world around me, so I can finally listen to myself.

Mom and Dad, I think they're both like summer. And maybe that was the problem. They were too similar; they needed the same things from each other. I have to think that their love was like the sun, warm at first, comforting, peaceful. Perhaps they thought they could bask in each other forever, but they burned too hot, too fast, too bright, until all they had was a fire that raged out of control, uncontained and wild - dangerous. And maybe I have a little of that heat inside of me, too. But I have enough of their good parts in me, I think, to balance out.

I think about how I've finally learned something here after all. About what love is and what love isn't. It's not so monstrous, not so dangerous and unknowable-not something to fear. And it's not as simple as just finding someone else to hold on to; it's not letting that other person crawl into those hollow spaces inside of you. I think love also means you have to stand on your own for a while, stand with yourself and for yourself, before you can ask someone to stand there next to you. I think maybe that's the trickiest part, and that's where our parents got it wrong.
Profile Image for Kathleen Glasgow.
Author 10 books4,935 followers
April 17, 2018
Amber Smith is so good at covering difficult topics (if you haven't read The Way I Used to Be, please do so soon!). She's got an empathetic touch, wonderful writing, and a great way of writing thorny characters and situations. Loved this book.
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,403 followers
February 28, 2018

The Last To let Go is obviously an important story. It captures abuse and how it affects each family member, not just the ones being abused (in this case, the father was abusing the mother). However, the story was very lacking to me. I felt like I couldn’t get into this story. I expected so much more, especially more abuse to be featured. I really was hoping for a story that helped me continue dealing with mine…it didn’t. That would be because this story barely focused on the abuse element, despite it being the central plot. It overall felt very weak. From the execution to the writing and characters, I just really wasn’t able to fully appreciate this book for what it is. I guess the abuse books I’ve read lately are just destined to let me down.

The Last To Let Go is from the perspective of Brooke, a girl who absolutely loves school so much she’s transferring to a new school for her junior and senior years in order to take better AP classes. Things start to go wrong though the summer before this when she comes home from her final exam to police and ambulances at her home. She thinks it’s finally happened. Her dad has finally killed her mum. However, the opposite has happened. Brooke’s mother has snapped and killed her father. His abuse and controlling nature being too much to take. This sends the family into a whirlwind, especially since the youngest sister was there to witness it all and won’t talk about it, the event too traumatic for her to even talk about. The Last To Let Go by Amber Smith really highlights how abuse affects each family member in a different way. However, it repeatedly drops the ball on the topic and lets it fade to the background with it leaving Brooke’s mind. As someone who hasn’t witnessed abuse in almost five years, I still am fearful of it and it’s on my mind everyday.

This doesn’t take away from the fact The Last To Let Go is an important story about letting go. However, I just feel like, overall, the abuse could have been dropped from the narrative and the book simply focused on the tragic death of a parent.



A lot of people I’ve spoken to seem to think domestic violence is a big secret. That screaming matches don’t occur that alert everyone in a three-block radius of what’s happening. That sometimes the children are affected. Sometimes you’re the reason for the argument, or you’re being accused of it. Domestic violence in a household is intense. You can’t escape it as a child and all you can do is fear that someone will die, it may even be you or your siblings. This is speaking from experience.

The Last To Let Get shows in small areas what it is like to be affected by this. I found it was more so obvious to the other siblings, not Brooke. Brooke seemed okay and not weighed down by what had happened, in my opinion. The abuse in her past affected some of her personality, which was clearly identifiable, but I really felt through her internal monologue she wasn’t as affected by what had happened.

Basically, what I liked is that this story made it very obvious that the children in a parental domestic violence situation are affected and struggle with it.


The messy family dynamic is a big one. The Winters’ are a mess. They don’t get along and they don’t have a sibling relationship. Something I understand. I love when the family is included in a book, but as someone who isn’t close to their sister despite everything they’ve been through it was good to see it mimicked in text, to an extent. Family isn’t easy either; it never will be easy, especially after an event like this. There will be opposing views and a weird sense of relief, which is followed by guilt. I just wish that had been translated to text more.

Everyone deals with traumatic events in different ways and in those events family isn’t whom you can always turn to. It was good to see that so well put in text.



I didn’t like Brooke. Her whole character was inconsistent and she was severely inconsiderate. Throughout the whole book, she only thought of herself. She barely spared a thought for anyone, not even her sister or her brother. It was all about her and what she wanted. She wanted to go live back in her house? So, she forced her brother to come back despite his terrible memories of it which resulted in him and his girlfriend breaking up. She forced her sister back into the place that she witnessed a traumatic event, no doubt forcing her to take backwards steps in her recovery. It was just so frustrating. Even at the end of the book, Brooke remained only caring about herself.

I don’t mind a main character who only cares about herself, but in a book like this I really wanted a more empathic person and someone I would want to root for. This isn’t what I got with Brooke.


The writing wasn’t there for me. It felt choppy. As if we’d get to one scene only to be ripped out and put in another. It was pretty frustrating when you’re already struggling to feel sympathy for the main character. I wanted to scream at times because a scene was beginning to be developed and we’d change.


I adore f/f romances. I think there needs to be so many more, especially with the ration of m/m to f/f. However, I didn’t feel the romance in this book. It felt incredibly underdeveloped and as if the characters themselves weren’t involved in their own romances. A lot of drama comes from it and for the duration of most of it, Brooke isn’t even truthful or forthcoming with what’s happening in her life. It really felt as if a romance wasn’t needed in her life at the time it came. Maybe it’s just me though, but as I said it’s been five years since I’ve seen abuse and I can’t see myself in a relationship due to fear.


Now, this was very annoying. The literal message of the book was barely touched on. We get around four flashbacks to the past, which shows the abuse. We can feel sympathy for Brooke and her family. Brooke’s actions after these flashbacks don’t invoke sympathy though – and obviously, actions speak louder than words. It just felt like I was promised a book that dealt with abuse of a parent and I didn’t get that. I didn’t get the book I desperately wanted. If the abuse was taken out from this book it would still be a concise story that wouldn’t interest me.

Overall, I just don’t have words for how The Last To let Go by Amber Smith made me feel. I am disappointed beyond words and expected too much. I think it’s time I take a step back from books that feature abuse and hopefully when I return I’ll find something worth my time.

Also, if you're looking to buy any books over at Book Depository, feel free to use my affiliate link! I gain a small 5% commission at no extra cost to you.
Profile Image for sarah.
377 reviews397 followers
October 12, 2019

The Last To Let Go is Amber Smith's sophmore novel that begins with Brooke coming home from school to discover her mother has killed her abusive father. All members of the family process this differently, and express their grief in realistic and individual ways. This is a slow paced story about family, hurt and letting go

" You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love."

✔ L I K E S

✔ LQBTI+ rep!
This was a huge surprise to me but I was so happy! A f/f romance takes place in this novel and Dani is the softest girl ever.

✔ Flashbacks
This is both a like and dislike for me. What flashbacks we got I really enjoyed but they were few and far between. I think I would have connected and sympathised with the characters if we could see more of their backstory.

✔ Messy family dynamics
Obviously every experience of domestic abuse is different, but I think this novel did an amazing job at showing the complexities of the situation. Brooke found it difficult to decide what to feel. Her father was both the hero and villain of her story, and she wasn't sure whether or not to place blame on her mother. The sibling dynamic was also messy, but enjoyable. Aaron was one of the characters I found myself most intrigued by, and I almost wish it were told from his perspective.

✗ D I S L I K E S

✗ Brooke
Our main character is something I am most conflicted about. I tend to connect the most with main characters in books, because we spend time in their heads and get to see them for who they are, not through how other characters view them, often resulting in a skewed perspective. However, that was not this case in this book. I know she went through a lot and I don't want to sound as if I am saying she is grieving in the wrong way- but she just didn't connect with me. Brooke was so selfish. She forced her siblings back into their old house, aware that it would bring back traumatic memories. She pushed away those who tried to help her (and not in a respectful way either), she refused to communicate with her girlfriend even though she would obviously have been okay with everything!

"sometimes all I want in the world is to be left alone. Other people make things so complicated. But then I'm finally alone and all I want is other people around."

✗ The pacing
This book
I felt like nothing was happening, which could be due to the fact that we were stuck in Brooke's head and she was also doing nothing. It did not make for a particularly riveting read. I also found myself skimming a lot of this which I NEVER do.

“Being in the present is like coming up for air, and coming up for air only makes me realize I’ve been suffocating. Easier not to breathe at all, like maybe with enough practice I can learn to live underwater like those aquarium fish, lie myself into believing things are okay, that this is what life is supposed to be.”

✗ I was bored
Similarly to the last point, nothing happened. The only point where I could feel potential was in the court room (I love seeing the process of court procedures in books) but alas it only lasted like two chapters.
It was one of those books that when I was reading it I was relatively enjoying it, but as soon as I shut it I forgot all about it.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,330 reviews231 followers
January 26, 2018
This book was a Can't-Wait Wednesday pick for me, and my initial thoughts based on the synopsis were that there would be a lot of suffering and loss. I can confirm, that the main character and her siblings suffered a great deal in this story, but they also pushed forward, and as the title states, they let go.

•Pro: Considering this was a book about domestic abuse, there was a strong sense of family woven into the story. After their loss, family and family-like members reached out to help Brooke and her siblings, reconnecting with them after many years. I was happy to watch these relationships grow and flourish as Brooke and her siblings worked through their issues.

•Pro: We shared many painful and beautiful moments with these three siblings. Though their connections were strained, I never doubted their love for each other.

•Pro: I like that this was not a story of abuse. We did witness some abuse through flashbacks, but the bulk of the story was the aftermath. Brooke had to deal with the emotional damage, as well as, manage her life without her parents. Don't get me wrong, this was painful, but I appreciate the focus on the recovery versus the battle to survive.

•Con: Although hopeful, the ending left me a little wanting. I watched these three kids struggle throughout the book and would have liked a few more questions answered.

•Pro: Thank you, Amber Smith, for giving us Dani and Tyler. They provided most of the bright spots in this story, and I really needed those moments.

•Pro: This was a tough and honest look at the cycle of abuse. Brooke's grandparents were abused or abusers, and her parents ended up being abused or abusers. By the end of this book, I felt hopeful that the cycle would end here for this family. Brooke and her sister were getting professional help, they were talking about what happened, and were receiving care and support, which had previously been missing.

•Pro: Witnessing Brooke trying to hold onto her past life brought tears to my eyes, because the harder she tried to keep things the same, the more she unraveled. I breathed a sigh of relief, when she finally came to terms with the situation, and, as her siblings had, let go.

•Pro: Brooke was a fighter, no doubt, and I was rooting for her the whole time. She made mistakes. She paid for her mistakes, but she grew and came out stronger from this ordeal.

Overall: This was a beautifully written book about something very ugly. My heart broke over and over again as Brooke tried to hold onto the past with both hands. However, my heart was mended, when she ultimately found solace by letting go.

ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Amber Smith.
Author 9 books1,079 followers
January 10, 2018
I'm NOT going to rate my own book, but...I do want to share some of the early reviews The Last to Let Go has been getting!

* “Smith’s deeply felt sophomore effort (following The Way I Used to Be, 2016) explores the rippling effects of domestic violence and its ability to carry through generations . . . Vivid characterizations of the extended family Brooke gets to know, along with others who people her first year on her own, bring the story to life.”

* “Smith illustrates the unraveling of a complex web of abuse . . . realistic and heartbreaking . . . The Last to Let Go shows the cycle [of abuse] in every heart-wrenching detail, making the reader much more aware.”

“Smith will take readers’ breaths away with every vivid sentence of her sophomore novel . . . Smith boldly explores this very serious, very real topic through beautiful, captivating prose.”
RT Book Reviews (TOP PICK)

“A well-crafted and honest look at family issues and a good pick for fans of Sara Zarr and Laurie Halse Anderson. Highly recommended.”
School Library Journal

“Smith takes up domestic violence and its far-reaching consequences in this empathetic novel . . . But Smith never sugarcoats Brooke’s life; she’s forced to make peace with her new reality, one that readers must accept alongside her in this difficult, honest novel.”
Publishers Weekly

“Complex and nuanced.”
B&N Teen Blog
Profile Image for Jenna.
255 reviews77 followers
December 8, 2020
"sometimes all I want in the world is to be left alone. Other people make things so complicated. But then I'm finally alone and all I want is other people around."

Amber Smith is back with her second novel and brings us on another emotional journey. The Last to Let Go follows Broke Winters, who has grown up in an abusive household.

" Their love was like the sun, warm at first, comforting, peaceful. Perhaps they thought they could bask in each other forever, but they burned too hot, too fast, too bright until all they had was a fire that raged out of control, uncontained and wild - dangerous."

Brooke's world is shattered when her mother is arrested for killing her abusive father. Brooke and her siblings find themselves without parents. Through love, heartbreak, struggling to embrace her identity and the shadow of her family's violence looking over her, Brooke must find her place in the world.

5/5 stars. Trigger warning for this book: abuse, death of a parent, suicide

"I think there's a difference between giving up and letting go"

I found this book emotionally gripping and raw. I enjoyed 'The Way I Used to Be' by Amber Smith more, but I found The Last to Let Go to still be a great novel. If you enjoy contemporary YA reads, I highly recommend both of Amber Smith's books. She has become an insta-buy author for me, if I see she's written another book, I will buy it, no questions asked.

+ I really enjoyed the LGBTQ+ representation in this book!

" You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love."
Profile Image for Eve.
337 reviews459 followers
June 15, 2018
Actual Rating: 2.5



Amber Smith. You good? The Way I Used To Be is one of my favorite novels, what the hee haw heck happened here.

I was so mind-numbingly bored I had the nerve to skim the last few chapters. SKIM. Who am I? I don't participate in the devil's work.

I did not give a flying rainbow shit about these characters. I don't even remember the protagonist's name and I finished this about 15 minutes ago. That's how little I cared.

Wat tha fack?


Idk what to tell y'all. I'm not going to shit all over Amber Smith. I know she is capable of writing works of art such as The Way I Used To Be. I don't know who the fuck let The Last to Let Go into the party.

2.5 stars because I guess the beginning was okay? And anything less than that would bring it into Willow & The Cellar territory, and while TLTLG was boring AF it was definitely not complete literary trash.

Alright. Well. It's been fun. I'm gonna go drug myself with Sudafed and mouth breathe. #justgirlythings

Profile Image for Cory Marie.
261 reviews91 followers
February 1, 2019
Okay, Amber Smith, I see you. You’ve now got yourself a reader for life.
Profile Image for Laurie Flynn.
Author 8 books1,059 followers
September 8, 2017
It's no secret that I was a huge fan of Amber Smith's debut, THE WAY I USED TO BE. When I got a chance to read her sophomore novel early, I had extremely high expectations. Amber has such a gorgeous writing style that's packed with emotion and nuance, and THE LAST TO LET GO builds on the all of the qualities prevalent in her debut. It's a story that demands your attention in the first chapter and never lets go (no pun intended)! Brooke Winters, the main character, returns home to sirens and chaos-- her abusive father is dead, and her mother is arrested for his murder. Brooke and her two siblings, older brother Aaron and younger sister Callie, are left on their own, awaiting their mom's trial and grappling with the horrifying aftermath of what happened, not just that day but for the years leading up to it. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, love, heartbreak, pain, and acceptance.
Brooke is a character who is forced to deal with so much more than any teen should have to take on. She desperately tries to hold her family together when every external force tries to rip them apart, but is faced with the truth of what she's holding onto so tightly, and whether it even exists anymore.
What I love so much about Amber's writing style is her ability to get into not only a character's head, but her heart as well. Brooke is complex and multifaceted, as are her siblings, as they have all endured a childhood marred by domestic violence, the effects of which are evident in every choice they make. Brooke is at turns angry, sad, lonely, and hopeful- hopeful for a future where she and her siblings are free of fear, but afraid that she is destined for something else. The novel is full of moments where Brooke is on the precipice of happiness but backs away, feeling herself undeserving and afraid. These moments are especially poignant as they demonstrate the lasting echoes of violence, and how they are embodied in a teenage girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
THE LAST TO LET GO is a novel you'll be thinking about long after you finish reading it. It's bold and beautifully written, sensitive and encompassing, and a study in the act of letting go to grab onto something better.
Profile Image for Erica Chapman.
Author 2 books176 followers
October 2, 2017
Amber Smith just knows how to write emotion. It's a gift. This is the heart-wrenching, emotional journey of Brooke, a teen who has lost everything she knows and is desperately trying to get it back. There were times I was screaming at her and times I wanted her to make different decisions but through it all I understood why. There are so many great lines in this. The analogy of the water throughout the story highlights just how delicate and fragile life can be.

Emotional, heart-breaking, and real. The Last to Let Go is a story about the courage to let go of the life you thought you knew and accept the life you deserve to have.
Profile Image for Shea.
Author 7 books4,283 followers
August 2, 2017
I just finished an ARC of THE LAST TO LET GO and WOW!!!
This book is both devastating and beautiful!!!
It’s about courage and strength and the spirit of the human heart to get through almost anything. Amber Smith captured so much emotion in this book that I found myself feeling crushed at times only to feel redeemed pages later.

This sophomore novel does not disappoint and Amber Smith has proved herself to be a powerhouse—writing novels that tear you apart then build you back up.
I am wrecked by this book, in the best possible way!

A MUST read in 2018!!!
Profile Image for Gaby (lookingatbooks).
431 reviews429 followers
February 9, 2018
This is utterly beautiful. You can feel the passion Amber Smith has poured into it.

I’m going to write a longer review in the morning because right now it’s 2:30 am and I have barely any coherent thoughts. This book has just left me a puddle of mush.
Profile Image for Miia.
274 reviews56 followers
December 24, 2019
This wasn’t a bad book. It just was very hard for me to read (maybe because of the domestic violence that this book has) and I feel like I never got really into it. At some points I enjoyed this but at some points I was really struggling. I don’t know I guess the domestic violence made me very anxious so these kind of books might not be best for me.
Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,263 reviews215 followers
February 10, 2018
After Brooke’s mother kills her abusive husband, the teen and her siblings’ lives change forever. Her younger sister Callie, who witnesses the killing (accident? murder?) becomes mute while her older brother is trying to stay strong. Brooke knows if she can keep her family together, everything will be okay.

Brooke broke my heart over and over again. She was understandably distrustful and afraid to allow anyone to break through the protective walls she built around herself to stay “okay”. Parentified due to her mother’s learned helplessness, she held on to her her siblings and secrets, as if loosening her grip would make the little she had left fall to pieces. She was THE LAST TO LET GO. Her need to know what Callie saw, while understandable, was clearly detrimental to their relationship. Amber Smith wisely didn’t allow Brooke’s relationship with her love interest to be a panacea for life’s woes. Brooke’s half-truths and secrecy wasn’t excused and forgiven simply because her life was a nightmare. Forgiveness didn’t mean reconciliation went back to square one, trust would need to be relearned.

Amber Smith has become an automatic preorder for me. THE LAST TO LET GO is a gem.

THEMES: domestic violence, siblings, family, LGBT
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Val.
266 reviews53 followers
August 6, 2018
"Well, think about rivers. Every river leads to the ocean-that's their whole purpose, trying to find a way back to the ocean. They cut through rock, move moutains to do it, but they always carve out a path (...) to reach that other body of water out there.
Funny thing is, (...) people do that too, don't they? But then again, look at what we're made of."

So apparently, 2018 is the year I read more contemporary books and actually end up loving them. Ah, and also the year I tear up at everything.

Anyway, onto an actual review of this book. When I read the summary, I was immediately hooked and as I said, I needed more contemporary to read, as I'm usually a much bigger fan of fantasy. This story seemed to discuss so many subjects I care about, including feminism and domestic violence. But now that I read it, I can say it does deal with these topics, and so much more.

I think I knew I was going to enjoy this book at the very first pages. My usual complain towards realistic books is the writing - I often find it too simplistic and dull, if not very often vulgar. But there, the writing immediately captivated me, it's not overly poetic or metaphorical, but it's really, really pleasant to read. It has a nice flow that makes reading the book so enjoyable, and it's beautiful, in the way you can find yourself overflowing with emotion at the tiniest details. The pace was another good point, it was quick but in the span of 300 pages, you get extremely well-written characterization and development!

I'm not usually a big fan of character-driven books, I'm often unsettled by them because I rather prefer stories which have a destination, and not just a stream of thoughts and events. But there, Brooke's story was just so interesting and heartbreaking! As I said, the pace is quick and frantic and I found myself completely overturned by everything that happened. Yes, there's perhaps no "real" action but all the characters, especially Brooke, grow and change, they realize things and move on from what was holding them back. The story too had little moments of flashbacks which, instead of being confusing and near useless like so many other books have, gave deep and major insights into Brooke's and her family's life.

This book is just so beautiful and heart-wrenching, to say the least. It tackles so many subjects with so much respect and truth, while never making it unecessarily violent or vulgar. The story just made me so, SO angry, but in a good way: I was so sorrowful about what happened to Brooke's family, especially her mom. You just get to love these characters so much, it's just so hard not to care and worry too much about them. The story is just so sad, in lack of better words: it's the story of a family coming apart, and a girl caught in the middle of a storm. You follow Brooke down into her pit of depression and hopelessness as she hopes with everything she has her family will come together again, but knows deep down it's impossible.

As a person who suffers from anxiety, I found the representation quite remarkable. Brooke's mental illness doesn't mean she cannot do anything and is only represented by how she "stresses" all the time for unimportant things, but that situations that provide stress for other people, are much more complicated to handle for her. I related SO MUCH to her, I can't even begin to tell how good it felt to see yourself so much in a character.
Other than that, I really loved following Brooke as a main character, her characterization is so well done- she's not entirely "good", but she's definitely not bad at all. She makes mistakes and says things she didn't mean, but she also grows and tries to fix what she's broken. I also really loved all the other characters - her mom, her siblings, her grandmother, her friends..., they were all so well written! Even her dad (which I freaking hated obviously) was written in a realistic manner, that was just refreshing to read!

The ending of the book was really bittersweet, but in a good way. Without spoiling anything to you, I found it to be just really well-written . It's not too good to be true, and it's not entirely depressing and hopeless - just like the rest of the book. This story is so well balanced and realistic, and shines a light on so many issues, and has beautiful representation!

If you're searching for a good contemporary that is not raw and harsh for the sake of being this way, I would definitely recommend it to everyone, it's just so beautiful while always showing the truth. I can totally say this book changed me as a person, and if that's not a proof of my love to it, then I don't know what is!

"I didn't want him to die." (...) "I just needed to live."
Profile Image for des.
396 reviews16 followers
August 18, 2018
This was so well written and so painful. It felt very realistic and I really recommend this if you love character driven books with painful/heavy topics.
Profile Image for Sera Indelicato.
21 reviews
August 18, 2019
3.5/3.75. a pretty solid read. not my typical genre though which is why i think i didn’t enjoy it as much as i could have
Profile Image for Danielle.
263 reviews23 followers
August 16, 2017
Trigger warning: Book deals with domestic violence

I read "The Way I Used to Be" a couple years ago and was so completely moved by the book. Amber Smith made me an instant fan with that one, so when I saw that I had an opportunity to read her new book, I jumped at the chance.

Overall, I really liked this book. Just like "The Way I Used to Be", it tackles a really difficult subject. Brooke's father is an abuser. The book opens as Brooke finishes her last day of school and comes home to find that her mother has killed her father by stabbing him. Thus begins a downward spiral for Brooke as she tries to keep what's left of her family together while navigating a tough road.

Because of the subject matter, it's a bit of a heavy read. Particularly the winter season portion of the book when Brooke is in this deep depression. But Amber Smith's writing again, is super strong. Brooke is not a perfect character, she lies, and is, at times, hard to be around but I still found myself connecting with her. I liked that even though a good portion of the book is heavy, it ends with a hopeful note. Things are not perfectly tied up but that's okay.

If you're like me and you were affected by "The Way I Used to Be" by Amber Smith, I highly recommended giving her new book a read.

*Book received through the Amazon Vine Program*
Profile Image for Stephanie Elliot.
Author 5 books180 followers
August 8, 2017
The Last to Let Go is a realistic portrayal of domestic violence and how it affects the WHOLE family, not just the two people involved -- no one comes away unscathed. Amber Smith does a terrific job of creating a family that comes apart at its very core and tells the story of a girl trying to let go of her past and move ahead in a new direction. Brooke Winters is a brave heroine, one who has a lot on her plate going into Junior year -- and this story is not sugar-coated to give the happy ending. It feels realistic, honest and, while sad at times, it is a hopeful story that will shed light on domestic violence and the impact it has on so many people.
Profile Image for Sue.
560 reviews29 followers
January 25, 2018
*Review copy via the publisher.

The Last to Let Go started off well but I found the story lost momentum about halfway through.
I just didn't feel the characters and wish they had been fleshed out a bit more.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,206 reviews111 followers
December 21, 2017
After acing her sophomore year finals, Brooke is looking forward to a fresh start. Transferring to a new high school across town with more AP options, Brooke has her path to college and the world mapped out.

But life takes an abrupt turn when she arrives home at her apartment to find flashing lights, sirens and her mother arrested, charged with the murder of her father. Lashing out at those around her and the world, Brooke must try to find a new way under a new reality. It helps that she's falling in love with a new girl at her new school even as she struggles to hold her family together.

Told from the first person point of view of Brooke, The Last to Let Go is a complex, dark and enthralling young adult novel. Brooke's dogged determination and belief in her mother's innocence and desire to have things go back to the way they were drives much of the tension early in the novel. And while it's clear that Brooke is lashing out at people and not behaving well, readers are treated to the internal struggle and justifications Brooke has for her behaviors. It doesn't help that her family has secrets and many of those are about to come to light.

A coming of age story, Brooke's raw, emotional storytelling captured my interest from the first page. Amber Smith's prose sweeps you in, capturing the emotions and conflict of what Brooke feels. This is confidently told story that deals with some big real-world issues.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.
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