Book Review: The Last Good Day of the Year

Posted May 11, 2015 by Kara in book review, Kara, Lyn / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Last Good Day of the YearThe Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on May 19th, 2015
Genres: mystery-thriller, young adult
Pages: 278
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.

Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.

Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in this arresting page-turner.

Lyn: What is with our picks of emotionally draining books all of the sudden?

Kara: I don’t know! Kat asked me for a book rec last night, and I told her I hadn’t read any happy books because I really hadn’t. I have no idea. It’s weird. I need to read something happy next, for sure.

I mean, obviously, I had this for review so I had to get to it at some point, and since it releases this month, the time is now. But the timing for the others is still really weird. Surprisingly, though, this was more of a me book–even though it wasn’t perfect–than the others. How did you feel?

Lyn: First, I want to say that I had no interest in this novel, until you were reading it. The cover really threw me off. I don’t know, it just seemed kinda middle school thriller stuff.  But that was so the opposite of what this book has in store.

Like you said – the book isn’t perfect, but it was well worth reading.  I quite enjoy reading about siblings going through a tragedy together, and I think we need more literature with the tragedy happening to someone that is not the main character.  There is an audience out there of readers who have known something to go through something tragic and horrible, and in their own way, they are the silenced, overlooked victims of crimes and abuse.  I loved that the author took the approach to the story.

Kara: The opening of the book was just so utterly terrifying for me. With the Santa Claus in the backyard and him entering the basement. The imagery just CREEPED me out. I used to have lots of sleepovers as a kid and it just brought back a lot of childhood memories and how horrifying that would be to happen to a child at that age.

I don’t know. I just loved the way this story was told. I kind of feel like the blurb was a bit misleading. I felt this was more family drama than a kidnapping thriller, although that was a part of it. So I think that kind of affected how I felt about the book. When you expect one thing and get another, it can affect your enjoyment. I still really liked it though.

Lyn: Yes! I use to have sleepovers with my cousins and my sister, and since we lived out in the country, sometimes we would sleep outside in the summer, on the trampoline in the wooded areas of our land. It hit home when I read the opening. I never thought someone would take me away, and then using a character that is a symbol of happiness and the joy of children was heart shattering.  Watching something happen when you can do nothing is a terrible feeling.  One of the emotions I remember from childhood was feeling utterly helpless.  As a kid, you depend so much on others to survive, and I can recall many times when I felt afraid of the world because it was all so scary.

Kara: Yes. Really good point you brought up there. Using Santa Claus to symbolize fear. Horrid. And that kind of sets the tone for the rest of the book. I loved the writing. Like I can’t even tell you. I love simple writing with great imagery that tells an amazing story like this did. I don’t need all the bells and whistles in so many books these days. Stylistic choices, I know, but I prefer to not have to work to understand what I am reading.

That said, there were a couple of things I didn’t like. The ending felt rushed to me. The way it ended confused me a bit because it was someone I had never even considered and I feel like there was no foreshadowing to get me to that conclusion. If I was smart enough, I should have been able to guess who kidnapped Turtle, but there is no way in hell that would have ever happened.

Also, I didn’t really need the romance. Couldn’t they have just been friends? It felt so tacked on to me. Meh. It just did nothing for me, because I thought they had more chemistry as friends than anything else.

Lyn: I was really hoping that the romance wouldn’t happen. I would love to see a tight knit couple of friends, a boy and a girl, getting through something together.  There were many things that felt so forced, such as the romance, the ending, and the volatile relationship between Sam and Gretchen.  The story was solid on its own, and the extra stuff seemed, to me, that the editor was complaining about the lack of other typical YA ingredients.  I didn’t think it was fair for the main boy to have a girlfriend who sucked, and was obviously going to be replaced.  I still think the ending was weak.  I loved the doubt that was planted in our heads during the story, and I kept flopping back and forth on the Whodunnit, but I would have liked to see a few more clues about the end. It was just…tacked on.

Kara: I actually really liked the relationship between Sam and Gretchen because I felt it brought an interesting dynamic to the story, but I can understand why I might be alone there. But yeah, I think the editing was a bit poorly done. Of course, we could be totally wrong and maybe the author came up with that on her own, but I don’t know.

I just felt like there was too much going on. The writing was simple, the story was tense, and it should have continued that way. It all started out so promising, and then halfway through, it started to fall apart.

I didn’t mind so much that Romy had a girlfriend at the beginning who disappeared because it was obvious to me that she was not going to be a character who was in it long. If she had been and continued to be represented in a negative way, I would have had a problem.

But yeah, the ending pretty much made no sense to me. There was just no lead up to it going there! And that was the most frustrating part of the book to me. Blerg.

Lyn: My main issue with Romy’s girlfriend is that I am so sick of seeing the entire “the current girlfriend is the WRONG girlfriend” approach.  It feels so cheap and convenient. That is my personal take on it.

Gretchen was her own special sort of fucked up. I think it was sad. Maybe I am taking that way too personal, because it did add a different sort of tension to the novel.  The dysfunctional family falling apart when they are rocked by a tragedy. It helped to show how weak the center of the household was before Turtle vanished.

Another thing that bothered me, and this was very much a Lyn thing, is that I was so sick of the weed use. I’m not opposed to it, like, it shouldn’t be illegal, but there is only so much I can handle. It just felt really out of place.

I did like this book! Like you said, how the story was told in two perspectives was interesting, and I LOVED the interviews! It was very clever and refreshing.

Kara: Yeah, I know what you mean about the weed. I very much feel that way about our current read, Black Iris, too. There’s just too much and it’s not necessary.

But yes, family is so fragile, and I think that was one of the things I loved most about this book. I think the reactions to Turtle disappearing were realistic. Mom had a replacement child, sister blamed herself forever, etc. The feelings felt all so real to me.

I don’t really have too much else to add at this point. One thing I can say is that amidst all the dark contemporaries I am reading this year, as much as I liked it, it’s probably not going to be all THAT memorable. Though the opening Santa Claus scenes will. I wish the rest of the book had stayed on that path.

So for me? Final rating is a 3.5.

Lyn: I am really happy I gave it a shot.  It was compelling, and I read it all in one day because it kept sucking me back in.  The cover and the blurb are very misleading, because it didn’t sound interesting at all when I got it in the mail.  For me, I am sticking with a 3.

Kara: Yes! It was so compulsively readable! It’s the first book I finished in under 24 hours too!

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