This Last Adventure
Using Grandpa's old journal entries as inspiration, he creates shared role-playing fantasies with epic quests for them to tackle together―allowing Grandpa to live in the present and stay in touch with his fading memories. But as Grandpa's condition gradually worsens, Archie must come to terms with what's happening to his hero. The limits of the fantasies, revelations about Grandpa's past, and a school project about the future force Archie to grapple with what it truly means to live a life worth remembering.
Illness, injuries, and death are parts of young people’s lives, and this book focuses on Alzheimer’s Disease. Archie looks up to his grandfather and loves him with all his heart, but Archie worries about the times when his grandfather’s memory slips. His grandfather forgets to use Archie’s nickname during their daily greetings, and he doesn’t remember he’s living with Archie and his mom. The author skillfully expresses the frustration, anger, and fear of watching a loved one’s mental capacity slowly deteriorate. He also addresses how the loved one experiences those same emotions to demonstrate how Alzheimer’s affects the entire family. You’ll go through the same range of despair. However, the story leads to a tender, emotional resolution that will bring you to tears.
The characters create subplots that mesh into an overall engaging book. Archie and his best friend Zig work in a school group with Archie’s crush, Desta, and the school’s top jock, Spencer. Zig adds humor to the story, and he’s truly a loyal friend. Desta is pretty, intelligent, and the most popular girl in school, and she’s equally kind to everyone. Archie manages to help the others in his group improve their projects, but he’s frustrated and embarrassed that he can’t think of a career for himself. Becoming an author is the obvious choice, but does it reflect his passion? Maybe there is something more important than asking a seventh-grader what he wants to be when he grows up.
The grandfather has good days, bad days, and really bad days. On the good days, he enjoys time with Fletch, his nickname for Archie, and he offers life lessons to his grandson. He’s kept a journal of happy and sad memories and shares it with Archie. He marks the pages Archie’s allowed to read, and Archie uses those moments to create fantasy adventures with his grandfather to stimulate positive thoughts. However, Archie and readers will wonder about the forbidden pages in the journal. Grandfather is Archie’s hero, so it’s impossible he could have done anything too terrible to share. The truth is revealed in the end and forces Archie to reflect on his expectations of others, and himself.
The final verdict:
A special, loving bond spanning generations. This book shares an emotional roller coaster of adventure, heartbreak, and affection. The curse of Alzheimer’s is a ruthless enemy, but pleasant and passionate memories must not be forgotten. This book will appeal to a wide range of readers, and I highly recommend you add it to your list of must-reads.