The Last Forever
by Deb Caletti
Middle School, High School Simon Pulse 321 pp.
4/14 978-1-4424-5000-4 $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-5001-1 $10.99
In her latest YA novel, Caletti returns to her fictional Northwest setting of Parrish Island, most recently visited in The Six Rules of Maybe (rev. 5/10). Six months after her mother’s death from cancer, Tess and her father are still adrift in their loss. When Dad suggests an impromptu road trip to the Grand Canyon, off they go — and then keep going, eventually reaching the San Juan Islands and Parrish, home to Jenny, Tess’s paternal grandmother and a virtual stranger to her. Tess is stunned when fly-by-night Dad gets back in the truck and leaves — abandoning her to be alone with his grief. Luckily for Tess, first Jenny, then new friends Sasha and Henry (especially Henry), and eventually the entire small town rally around her, helping her save the rare and mysterious “pixiebell” plant her mother owned for decades, which seems on the verge of kicking it. Descriptions of various seeds open each chapter, botanical details of survival, growth, and transformation serving, often humorously, as introduction to character and plot (“The oak can take up to fifty years to mature…the same can be said for certain people who shall remain nameless”). An altogether unrealistic conclusion ends up feeling surprisingly believable, due to Caletti’s deft hand with detail, the emotionally true writing, and a protagonist whose experience with love and loss is wholly absorbing.
From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.