Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1107
Summer Read Set in the South
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen has such a catchy title and beautiful cover that I am sold on the book before I even turn a page. The story is set down South, which gives those unfamiliar with the particular lifestyle of sweet tea, small towns, and community galas, a taste of what it could be like. In many ways, the social structure in this novel, though set in present day, is a vague reminder of the damaging and restrictive nature of earlier times. In fact, I often found myself drawing comparisons to older books that explore these themes, such as Anna Karenina, which was initially written by Leo Tolstoy in 1875 Russia. The similarities between the two demonstrate how certain human behaviors, unfortunately in this case, have endured across both cultures and time.

Leah Konen does a really great job at capturing the teenage spirit. The desire to be popular, the fights between friends, the plans of preparation for senior year, all seem genuine. Without trivializing the characters in any way, the author also does not make them too mature, too intelligent, or too perfect either. This phenomenon of exceptionally developed teenagers seems to be the recent trend in young adult novels, which, in my opinion, detracts from the coming-of-age elements of the story. Konen pens great high schoolers who are still learning about life, but in many cases, can still teach the adults a thing or two.

I also love the instantaneous chemistry between Liz and Jason. Generally, I have to wait for the majority of a novel for a love story to play out and for the characters to develop feelings. Liz and Jason’s relationship is different, which makes it quite refreshing. However, since Jason’s character is developed primarily in a retrospective way, through Liz’s memories, I would have liked to know more about him now that he is out of jail.

The book itself is a quick read, as well as engaging, mysterious, and a lot of fun. My main problem with it, however, is how similar it is to the novel Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles. While enough of the details are different, the main plotlines follow analogous trajectories. The Last Time We Were Us is the less edgy, less dramatic version. With that being said, the book is still very enjoyable. It is set during the summer and perfect for carting along to the beach.
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