The Last Time We Were Us – Leah Konen – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 10 May 2016
Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.
Local teen convict released early.
Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.
“Everything is not what you think.”
Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?
“You’re the one person who believes in me.”
The Last Time We Were Us is set in the summer but this is by no means a light and fluffy beach read. It reminded me of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios for its raw and rough tone and its cusp-of-possibilities perspective. It is the perfect best-friends-falling-in-love story, but with far more depth – a story about one girl’s strength and belief in herself, a story about standing up and a story about family.
When Jason Sullivan is released from jail, Liz Grant’s summer is shaken. She knows that she should stay away from Jason, but she is undeniably drawn to her childhood friend. But secretly meeting with Jason complicates her relationships with her parents and sister and threatens the budding romance between her and Innis Taylor, the brother of the boy whose face Jason permanently scarred. Complicated is perhaps an understatement.
The Last Time We Were Us is the perfect mix of romance and social issues. It’s heavy and light all at the same time, mixing wedding planning (Liz’s sister is about to get married) with jail sentences, sweet kisses with the heavy topics of first-time sex and whole-town resentment.
Liz is meeting with Jason behind everyone’s backs and still developing a sort-of relationship with Innis. You know it’s going to end badly but you can’t help but hope that maybe there will be a shred of good in that bad, that maybe there is more to the story or that Liz can help or that she and Jason will be together in the end.
Liz’s time with Jason waxes from soothingly easy to a giant mess of pain and feelings, guilt and anger. But they have a chemistry that burns hot and is based on a history of friendship and childhood memories. It makes this story both exciting and heartfelt.
This book raises some great issues about beauty, abusive relationships and prejudice that I would love to dissect with readers. I can’t say anything else here for fear of spoilers but that’s the thing about the best kinds of books, they make you think and question and change your views and sometimes even confirm the way you felt about something all along.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Jail, juvenile detention, prejudice, friendship, romance, facial scarring, marriage, social issues, Southern USA, sisters.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references and sex scenes, with some detail. Infrequent coarse language, sl**, s***, f*** (x1). Descriptions of violence and fights.
Published: 10 May 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 368 pages.