One of the most wonderful things about The Last Forever is Tessa’s self-awareness. The book may belong in the Young Adult category, but Tessa is not a typical YA heroine. She fully recognizes when she is overreacting or pulling a typical teenage tantrum. She acknowledges her behavior and consciously chooses to continue or to stop depending on the situation. Life is not one big conspiracy against her happiness, as it feels with so many other teenage heroines. She’s been through some horrific experiences and is understandably emotionally fragile as a result, but she knows that things will improve over time. It is a key difference in her attitude that prevents the story from bogging down into the dregs of teenage angst which is the death knell of many a YA story.
Ms. Caletti always creates the most realistic characters, as she does yet again in The Last Forever. The entire cast is not perfect or even close to being so. They each have their own quirks and foibles that make them human and relatable. What makes Ms. Caletti’s characters relatively unique is the fact that they never stay as full caricatures when it would be so easy to make them that way. Even Tessa’s father, who starts out as a stereotypical quirky, irresponsible, and emotionally distant dad gets his act together and takes steps to improve his fractured relationships. No one is so irredeemable that they cannot learn and grow from the mistakes they make, and they all do just that. It adds an air of hope to even the most depressing of situations.
This is not to say that The Last Forever is not without its problems. It is definitely not Ms. Caletti’s strongest novel. For one, the story is a bit too predictable. One instinctively knows where Tessa’s relationship with Henry is heading as well as her quest to protect her mother’s legacy. Then there is the general feeling of repetitiveness to the plot. It is not Ms. Caletti’s fault that there is an influx of novels dealing with grief, specifically the loss of a parent and its impact on the survivors. Unfortunately, there is a trend of this type of story line, and her version of it blends into all of the others. Given Ms. Caletti’s strong performances in both Stay and He’s Gone, both of which were different and surprising, The Last Forever is somewhat disappointing.
Still, Ms. Caletti’s weaker novels are still better than most books written and published these days. Tessa’s journey through the grief process is wonderfully poignant without being overly sentimental, while Tessa is refreshing in her understanding of herself. The Last Forever remains a beautiful ode to love and the meaning of forever.