Publishing Info: May 10, 2016 by HarperCollins
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: March 18, 2016
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.
So we know that best-friends-to-more is one of my favorite tropes and it’s something that immediately attracted me to THE LAST TIME WE WERE US. Add in a reuniting factor and I was so hooked. This book had so much potential and I feel like it just… fell flat. I really, really wanted to love it and I really tried but this book and I just didn’t connect.
I actually didn’t really realize how many thing bothered me until I had finished and I sat down to write some thoughts. The more I thought about the book, the more I felt like it was just full of unnecessary drama. The characters were absolutely horrible to each other, thinking they had each other’s best interests at heart. Liz’s family was terrible. Her mom only cared about their reputation and what the neighbors/friends thought and didn’t seem to care about what was actually good for Liz. She thought she was protecting her but when it really came down to it, looking good always seemed to be more important. She didn’t take the time to think of how Liz might feel about things and was so obsessed with status that she ended up shoving Liz toward the popular boy even without even a question if they were right for each other. Liz’s sister was pretty much the same way. It felt only marginally more acceptable since she was getting married and focused on the wedding, plus she was still young after all (I felt like her mom should know better) but it was still incredibly irritating. Then Liz’s friend MacKenzie was obsessed with being popular, hooking up with the popular boys, and making moves in order to improve her social status instead of following her heart. She often encouraged Liz to do the same because it was what she wanted and didn’t think about what Liz wanted. AND THEN LIZ EXCUSES THEM ALL. Excuse me? They made your tough decisions even harder and gave you tons of crap and then you say it’s all okay because they were doing what they thought was best? Maybe they really believed they were but good friends and supportive family members should at least try to listen to someone’s side of the story and understand their feelings. Liz’s friends and family didn’t ever try to listen to Liz and see things from her side. Any objections were immediately shut down. It was just so hard to watch.
The romance was far from swoon-worthy. Firstly, it was best-friends-to-more. How did this not feel swoony at all??? I think in part it was the estrangement. Even before Jason was away in juvie for two years, he ended up ditching Liz when they were thirteen. They were best friends as kids and then he got accepted by the popular kids (this again??) and he was too cool for Liz, so they never really had those flirty romantic vibes going on. The book starts with Jason being back and then all of a sudden BAM. They have such strong feelings! Wait… They used to be best friends (just friends). They never had a romantic or even flirty past. And then it’s super normal that they’re essentially in love? I missed the awkward back and forth, the cute wanting-to-say-something-but-can’t, the banter, the jokes, the sly touches, the subtle hints… All the things I usually love in friends-to-more and it wasn’t there at all. There was no build up to the romance so I really didn’t feel any chemistry at all. I liked Jason, sure. He was a nice kid, a good character, and you knew there was more to his story… But it just wasn’t swoony because there was no good foundation. Also, I have no problem whatsoever with physicality in YA because it’s a perfectly natural part of adolescence… but because I felt like Liz and Jason’s romantic feelings came out of nowhere, I also felt like they got physical way too quickly and it just wasn’t romantic at all. It felt forced and I didn’t feel like the actual relationship developed naturally.
Then there’s this whole story line with Liz trying to get Innis to call her his girlfriend — and she is genuinely interested, although maybe not for the right reasons (it’s not like it’s just a ploy, although Kensie’s pushing doesn’t help) — and so it’s not really a love triangle but it kind of is? There’s this little overlap and it just bothered me because the relationship with Innis really didn’t feel necessary. I would have much rather spent that time with Liz and Jason, watching THEIR relationship grow instead of watching Liz struggle with Innis and spending so much time on something that you knew wasn’t meant to be.
To top it all off, the book ended with some One Tree Hill-level drama and I actually laughed out loud when I thought of the comparison (which I really am sorry for laughing — it was not a laughing moment) but things just escalated so far that it started to just go into teen soap territory. It just started to get really unrealistic for me and that really sort of pushed me even more toward an overall feeling of disappointment in the way the book turned out.
The pros? Jason. Jason’s dad (loved him). It was a quick read. I didn’t feel frustrated until I started writing my thoughts down? Lyla’s sort of redemption. Hmm I think that’s it. It wasn’t a bad book but really, it just didn’t work on so many levels for me. Especially when the main points of why I was attracted to the book didn’t work out, it was just a let down for me.
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Liz // Character Obsessions: Innis, dating, friends, parties, Jason
Liz was actually a decent character. She wasn’t a bad person, she seemed pretty normal, but she had all of these people around her who essentially tried to control her life. Part of the point of the book was that she figures out what she wants to do and she follows her heart — which is great — but I would have loved to see more support in her life.
Jason // Character Obsessions: Work, Lizzie, family
Jason was a good character too. I liked him. But I felt like I barely got to know him. I would have loved to see him and Liz spend so much more time together — hanging out, getting to know each other again (especially since they barely spoke for literally four or five years) and I just wanted to actually know who he was.
Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic Relationships. While I didn’t feel like all of the relationships were realistic, I think this did bring some of the grittier points to the table and made a good point to the whole concept of getting the popular boy to like you and maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Left Me Wanting More: Support. Liz needed more support from somewhere. Her friends and her family were selfish. Jason was a good support but he was the love interest so I just really wanted it from somewhere else as well.
Get a second opinion
When I first finished this book, I was one of the early reviews so I’m really not sure what others are saying about it. Check out some of those other reviews before you take my word for it!
BOOKS LIKE THE LAST TIME WE WERE US
(Click the cover to see my review!)