Title: The Last Time We Were Us
Author: Leah Konen
Series: No Series – Standalone
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Published: May 10th, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)The summary of The Last Time We Were Us from Goodreads:
A passionate summer love story about a girl, her childhood best friend recently released from juvie, and the small-town lies that have kept them apart. A teen romance debut with a dark edge.
Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.
Local teen convict released early.
Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.
“Everything is not what you think.”
Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?
“You’re the one person who believes in me.”
Leah Konen’s southern romance swelters with passion as it explores the devastating crush of lies, the delicate balance of power and perception, and one girl’s journey to find herself while uncovering the secrets of so many others.
I wanted to like this book. I thought it had a lot of promise. In the end, I just thought parts of it fell flat and that the dramatic elements just didn’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the book.
I liked Liz’s character growth. At the beginning of the book, despite claiming that everyone’s focus on how they were perceived wasn’t how she looked at life, Liz is very much focused on how others view her. If she wears this, has these friends, does that…she’ll be the talk of the high school and be popular. She may not be as focused as others are on “bad press,” but she still worries about what others think of her to the point that she alters herself to fit their perception of her.
By the end of the novel, she’s come to realize that what others think isn’t as important as what you think. If you are comfortable with who you are and what you stand for, then the people around you will either accept that or leave. I did enjoy that bit of character development. I think it’s an important thing for people to understand.
Part of her development has to do with Jason and how she is able to see that the perception of him doesn’t seem to fit what she knows of him as a person. When you are as close of friends as Liz and Jason were, it can be difficult to only see the perception others have and not look at the person through the lens of friendship. For Liz, this means she seems to understand that what Jason did is not exactly as it appears. She looked for the truth in him and eventually learns how to be her true self as well.
While I won’t go so far as to say I liked the reason for Jason’s trouble, I did understand his reasons for the fight that got him put in juvie. Violence is never the answer, but sometimes as a young kid, even a young adult, words are more difficult to use than violence. That certainly doesn’t excuse the character’s actions, but it does provide an explanation. It’s another example of the fact that there are three sides to every story. In this book’s case, it’s Jason’s side, Innis’s side, and the truth.
I Didn’t Like:
It was difficult to like a lot of the secondary characters in this book. They felt like exaggerations of Southern Belle stereotypes. From Liz’s mother being focused on how something as simple as a vacant house reflects upon the neighborhood and herself, to Liz’s sister being so focused on being the perfect bride…it just felt off. Eventually, some of those problems were resolved, but it was just a little too late.
Just because this wasn’t my favorite book doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I think you’d probably like it if you like your romances with a nice side of drama. Despite the exaggerated characters, I felt as though it was well written. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegan Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.