Title: Every Last Promise
Author: Kristin Halbrook
Series: No Series
Published: April 21, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)
The summary from Every Last Promise from Goodreads:
Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman,Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate’s sexual assault.
Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.
Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.
It’s a little difficult for me to rate Every Last Promise because of the topic it covers and how it handles the situation. The main character isn’t likable. I wanted to scream at her a lot. But that’s the point. And I think it makes people uncomfortable because we can all see the truth in how she acts.
The back and forth between before and after the sexual assault shows just how much the characters have changed. Before, Kayla feels as though there’s no place better in the world than her town and that her friends are some of the most important people in her life. She’s trying to avoid thinking of college and her friends going their different directions. After, Kayla realizes that her town hides secrets and that her friends aren’t the people she thought they were.
Have you ever heard the expression, “when you point a finger at someone else, there’s three fingers pointing back at you”? Basically, the expression points out that what we usually don’t like in other people are traits we don’t like about ourselves? Every Last Promise highlights this through Kayla.
We’d all like to think that we’d do the right thing when faced with an awful situation. I know I think to think that about myself. That’s why Kayla is so unlikable. She doesn’t always do the right thing and from our couches, we can judge her choices because 1) she’s a fictional character, and 2) we aren’t facing her situation.
I think that’s what I like most about this book. Kayla is far from perfect. She’s not the heroine, and she states that outright on the first page of her story. She reflects the reality of life. People are not perfect. We don’t always make the right decision, even when we know what the right decision is. We can be afraid to speak out, afraid to go against the norm, afraid that the truth will destroy happiness. Every Last Promise is difficult and uncomfortable to read because it reflects the reality of society and people. It’s not idealized, where the main character is a reflection of the best of us. It’s real and ugly and uncomfortable.
I don’t know if I can really say there’s anything bad about this book. Everything I’d usually list as problems (unlikable main character, mainly), aren’t really problems in this book because they’re supposed to be that way. We aren’t supposed to like Kayla. We aren’t supposed to see the redeemable qualities of the characters and the setting. They are supposed to be ugly and they are. It’s not fair to say these are “bad” qualities of the book because they are meant to make people think about themselves and society.
I think any teen in high school needs to read this. Honestly. There is a trigger warning (the sexual assault is depicted and referenced), and as long as that won’t compromise your health and wellbeing, you should read this. If it will make you uncomfortable, but not risk your health, you must read this. Books that make us uncomfortable make us think and evaluate ourselves and our beliefs. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.
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Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.