Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words
Age Range
Release Date
July 02, 2013
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Sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo has death on the brain. Her summer internship at the local newspaper has her writing obituaries instead of soaking up the sun at the beach. Between Shelby, Sam’s boy-crazy best friend; her boss Harry, a true-blue newspaper man; and AJ, her fellow “intern scum” (aka the cute drummer for a band called Love Gas), Sam has her hands full. But once she figures out what—or who—is the best part of her summer, will she mess it all up?

As Sam learns her way around both the news room and the real world, she starts to make some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most important—herself.

Editor review

1 review
Extra! Extra! Teen Works at Newspaper!
Overall rating
Writing Style
What I Liked:
The best part, and what makes Famous Last Words stand out from the bulk of YA offerings is that t he main plot deals with Sam's job. At 16 going on 17, she's got a summer job as a paid intern at the Herald Tribune. She doesn't get to do much but write obits and fetch coffee, but the excitement of the newsroom delights her. In fact, she's much happier working late nights and crazy hours at the newspaper than dealing with other teens in high school.

Sam has quite the work ethic, though that is in part due to her desire to avoid thinking about other things, like her problems with her best friend, boys, and college. Getting caught up in the mystery of the case against the mayor, who seems to be doing something illicit, Sam assists the actual reporters and does some amateur detective work. Through her job at the newspaper, she discovers a passion she didn't realize she had - for writing and for life. Writing obits makes her realize how important it is to truly live. I love that the newspaper work isn't something in the background here at all; it's in the forefront and Doktorski really delves into the process and the problems facing the newspaper industry today.

As with How My Summer Went Up in Flames, I'm also largely impressed with Doktorski's characterization and writing. Most of the characters feel very authentic and human, with the little quirks that really make them feel alive. My personal favorite is definitely Sam's sassy grandma and her touching stories about Sam's late grandfather.

What Left Me Wanting More:
However, Sam has a lot of the troublesome qualities that made Rosie such a frustrating heroine in How My Summer Went Up in Flames, though I do not think Sam's quite as hateful. Both Sam and Rosie are judgmental, jealous of any girl who talks to a boy they have any sort of interest in, and terrible friends. Sam and Rosie seem like believable people, and they are well-characterized. At the same time, they're not likable, at least for me. Of course, unlikable characters can be pulled off admirably, but my issue here is that I do not think that either was meant to be perceived as unlikable by the reader. The other characters generally seem to find them charming, and any hate they get is because they're too cool or talented and the other person is jealous. The fact that the two are so similar also seems a weakness.

The Final Verdict:
My second experience with Jennifer Salvato Doktorski leaves me still convinced that she can do great things as a writer, but that she's not there yet. The continual themes of hatred of other women, of drinking and of slut-shaming bog down otherwise incredibly fun books. If you want to try Doktorski, I would recommend Famous Last Words over How My Summer Went Up in Flames.
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