Cover Image: The Last Words We Said

The Last Words We Said

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Member Reviews

Nine months ago, Danny went missing. No one knows what happened and no one found his body. While everyone is moving on, Ellie is still seeing and talking to her boyfriend. Rae is rebelling against the world and baking everything imaginable. Deenie is diving deeper into her practice of Modern Orthodox Judaism.

First things first, I’m so glad to see a book that represents Modern Orthodox Judaism so beautifully. Typically, we see tons of Reform Judaism in books. There’s very few mainstream books that represent the Modern Orthodox community. I can only think of 2 others, and one doesn’t really do it justice. Judaism is truly central to this story, and that made my heart so full because each character has a different relationship to it. Also, I love these characters. I love how they all came of age in this book. Often I find that books that discuss grief in young people result in coming of age stories, and I think Scheier handled grief wonderfully, especially with the notion of being honest with yourself. I loved the pacing of the book and how it flipped between past and present. The ending fit the book so well too because we got to see the characters start to accept and heal.
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Wow! This was an incredibly emotional, poignant book. The characters were realistic, the writing was tight and flowed well, and there wasn't a dull moment between the present day narration and the short stories sprinkled throughout. Learning more about the Orthodox Jewish community was a privilege and I hope we can see more books follow suit in the YA genre for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended to readers of all ages!
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In The Last Words We Said, we follow Ellie, who is still reeling from her best friend and boyfriend Danny's disappearance. Their other friends and families are fairly convinced that Danny is gone, but Ellie has yet to give up hope, and still even sees and talks to Danny. She knows her friends, parents, and therapist would like her to move on, and she often placates them with false promises she knows they want to hear, but deep down, she's not ready to let go.

It makes sense, of course, that the three friends who remain are dealing with Danny's disappearance in vastly different ways. Deenie is throwing herself as far into their Orthodox Judaism faith as she possibly can, while Rae is fleeing from their religion more than ever. I loved the deep insight into the modern Orthodox community, I felt like I learned so much while reading this story. Even more, I loved how much it played into each characters' grief process, as religion (or lack of, even) plays a huge part in feelings on loss in general.

This book not only explores grief and loss within the current events surrounding Danny, but in general. It also delves deep into the group's friendships, both pre- and post-Danny. In addition, there is a huge element of family and community involvement, which was a great addition to the story. I think my one qualm was that I didn't feel wholly connected to Ellie herself outside of her relationships with everyone else, but otherwise this was a strong and highly emotional story.

Bottom Line: A beautiful story about grief and loss, friendship and love, this one will certainly pull at your heartstrings.
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This is a story about loss.  Ellie is part of a tight knit Modern Orthodox community in Atlanta.  She is closed to her parents and her two best friends, Deenie and Rae.  On a plane trip, she meets Danny and feels an instant connection to him.  After they leave the plane, Ellie believes she will never see Danny again — until one day, he moves to her neighborhood, becomes the fourth member of the friend group, and chooses to attend their school.  Ellie and Danny’s connection is undeniable and soon they are a couple and blissfully happy. 

But one night, after a party, Danny does not return home.  The wrinkle?  Ellie can still see and talk to Danny.  As more time passes, she is convinced he is simply missing, while almost everyone else believes he likely died — and Ellie is coping through her visions of Danny.   As the story unfolds, we see Ellie’s family, friends, teachers, and doctors seek the best way to support her when, to them, she seems increasingly delusional, and they are dealing with the grief in their own ways.  We also learn the backstory of each of the characters, the heavy burdens they are carrying, and the secrets they are keeping from each other — and how that is distorting their relationships with each other. .  

This is a compelling and powerful story of grief and growing up.  The author does a terrific job of showing how grief shapes people’s experiences after loss, and the way the same loss can impact people very differently.  The author also deftly explores the dynamics of friendships and relationships among teens, at a time of change and strong emotions in their lives even at the best of times.  

Highly recommended!
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"There was a boy that followed me everywhere, who lived in my dreams, both day and night. Was he a kind of idol? Everywhere I looked, my Danny was there."

What an emotional and consuming book. This is one that I kept thinking about even when I had to put it down and kept getting back to as soon as I possibly could. There is so much in this exploration of love, family, friendship, religion, community, and secrets. 

The Last Words We Said is about a group of friends: Ellie, Rae, Deenie, and Danny. Danny has been missing for nine months and his friends are all trying to cope in vastly different ways. Set in the modern Orthodox Jewish community, this group and their close-knit community struggle with their loss and their own perceived guilt about what happened. Ellie, our narrator and Danny's girlfriend, can't let him go... because she still sees him every day. Unfortunately, she's the only one who does. 

Some of the things I loved about this book:

1. It takes place in an Orthodox Jewish community. Each of the characters grapple with their religion a bit, some going deeper in while others withdraw. I was glad for this representation because it's something I rarely see in YA books I pick up. I was also thankful to see it depicted with obvious warmth and as a connected community, but without making it or its people out as perfect. 

2. The format of the book. This book is told in the present, with Danny missing, but also includes "stories" that allow us a look at these relationships building and give readers a glimpse of the story building to its present mystery. Unfolding if each of Danny's stories was "truth or fiction" as more information comes out along with the characters was intense. 

3. The FEELINGS. I think the author did a great job of depicting high school feelings, those of platonic, romantic, and familial relationships. There were cringe-y  bits but high schoolers are cringe-y! I was pulled in by not just how much Danny and Ellie loved each other, but just how much ALL of these characters love each other. Ellie's relationship with Danny's father is one of my favorites in the book. 

4. The plot and its take on Danny. Can it be called a ghost story, and exploration of mental health/ mental illness, or is it magical realism? There's no way to really know. It's all three and I loved that. 

I think this is a really gorgeous and emotional book. I would recommend it to people who love YA contemporaries with lots of feelings, YA mysteries, books like If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or books with an amazing friendship group. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC!
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Not dead, missing. Even after nine months, that’s what Ellie believed. Their community was still feeling the effects of Danny’s disappearance, but none more than his three closest friends – Ellie, Rae, and Deenie.

I won’t lie. This was a heartbreaking story. Watching these three try and deal with the loss of their friend had me in quite an emotional state. I think all losses are difficult, but not having that closure, not knowing for certain what happened to Danny made it a bit more painful. That battle between having and abandoning hope was a true struggle.

It was interesting seeing how each young woman dealt with Danny’s disappearance. Rae amped up her cooking, Deenie immersed herself in religion, and Ellie sank deeper into denial. Each were punishing themselves in some way, and when the truth was uncovered, my heart ached for them. The pain, the weight, the guilt they carried for so long was awful. I mean, I was still sad, but there was some amount of relief found when they unburdened themselves and allowed themselves to heal a bit.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. As the story flashed back and forth, I got to share many happy moments with the characters. Each had a connection to Danny which was built on a strong foundation of friendship, and it was very sweet seeing that turn into more for him and Ellie. Central to the story was the friendship between Deenie, Ellie, and Rae. Though their relationship was experiencing some growing pains, they always seemed to be there with love, support, and forgiveness.

I cannot say I have read too many books set in a modern Jewish Orthodox community, so I really appreciated that. There were things I knew, but I also learned a lot about of new things. I truly appreciated that window into that community and their faith.

Overall: Emotional and heartbreaking, but a beautiful exploration of grief and loss.
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What do you do when someone so important to you is suddenly removed from your life? And then what do you do when everyone assumes they’re dead… except for you?

<i>The Last Words We Said</i> tells the story of Ellie and her missing boyfriend Danny. He has been missing for nine months and everyone in her life has assumed the worst outcome. Ellie, however, holds the hope and unwavering belief that Danny is out there and alive. She still sees him. She hears him. She spends time with him. The problem is… no one else can see him and no one believes in what Ellie is convinced is the truth. 

I had a rather difficult time with this book. I struggled with the way the characters interacted with each other, especially as things started coming to light at the end. By the time I was finished, I felt more gutted than some of the characters did. 

One of the things I absolutely loved was the Orthodox Jewish representation in this book. It was so nice to be pulled immediately into this world. A lot of people have preconceived notions about modern Orthodox Judaism and seeing different kinds of belief and practices in here was so powerful. 

There is a strong emphasis on stories in this. The stories we tell each other, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories that we change and rewrite to help cope with grief and trauma. Flashbacks are used through the stories that Ellie is remembering or the stories that are being shared with her. It’s how we learn about Danny and get to learn the whole story about how Danny went missing. I love stories within stories because I love seeing different perspectives on the same experience. This was no different. 

When I finished this book, I felt unfulfilled. The characters ended up getting closure that I, as a reader, never even came close to feeling. I was more worked up upon finishing the book than I was at any other point. This will be a book that others will love, but unfortunately, this is not that book for me.
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Synopsis:
Nine months ago, Danny disappeared and everything changed for his friends. Rae’s pouring herself into rage-baking. Deenie's deepening her commitment to Orthodox Judaism. And Ellie—Danny’s best friend and girlfriend—is the only one who doesn’t believe he’s dead.

Because she still sees him.

Moving back and forth between past and present, the story of Ellie and Danny unspools, from their serendipitous meeting to Danny and Ellie falling for each other. In the past, they were the perfect couple—until it all went wrong. In the present, Ellie’s looking for answers. Her friends are worried about her mental health, but Ellie’s certain that the tragedy that’s rocked their modern Orthodox community isn’t as simple as they all believe. She’s determined to uncover the truth about what happened to the love of her life. But to do that, she’ll have to be more honest with herself.


Review:

Thank you so much to Simon Pulse and Netgalley for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I'm super conflicted on how to rate this book, because it definitely had it's great moments, but I didn't love all of it.

Let's start of with the characters! As a main character, I didn't really like or understand Ellie. She was clearly not in a good mental place, seeing a ghost of her missing boyfriend, and pushing everyone else out, which is understandable because of the trauma that she faced, but she never seeked help, which confused me. She finally opened up to her friends about blaming herself for Danny's disappearance, but it was clear that she didn't do anything wrong. The side characters were very lovable, (I'm having a huge run of books where I don't like the MC, but love the side characters for some reason?) Deenie, Ellie's close friend was a great character. Unlike Ellie, she did cope with grief in a way that was understandable to me, and despite being very upset, she still was an amazing friend and daughter to everyone around her. Rae, Ellie's other friend, was similarly likable. I'm not sure how I felt about Danny's character. He's one of those characters that everyone feels something strongly about, but honestly I just thought he seemed like a normal kid. He lied a lot, he was occasionally nice. He didn't seem very special to me..

Another aspect of this book that I want to touch on is the Jewish Orthodox part of it! I love the representation here, and I'm so glad that we are seeing this part of life in books. I feel like Orthodox Judaism isn't portrayed often in young adult literature, especially in books published by the Big 5 publishers. So don't get me wrong when I say, I'm genuinely so glad this book exists! But, it just felt a little too challenging for me in terms of religious content. As an Atheist, I felt like an outsider, but I was so grateful to have a glimpse into this very rich community. Please note that I don't feel that this is a flaw of the book in any way, I just neglected to realize that this book would touch on quite a lot of religious content. I have no trouble believing that so many readers will love, enjoy and cherish this book because it represents them!

The plot and setup of this was such a unique idea! I like how, rather than spiraling into 'unexplained magical' territory, it was a very raw portrayal of mental health, grief, denial and loss. I feel that after reading this book, I've learned so much about how people feel sadness and why.

The writing and format was my favorite part of the book. I never once found it to lag, and I always thought it was engaging! It was also super interesting how it had the main story line of Ellie, after Danny goes missing, and the story line of before, when Danny was still in her life. I like how the author weaved in the 'short story collection' to space out the emotionally draining main story line. The ending honestly made me tear up a little. It's sometimes really sad to see people my age struggling so much, and I felt so much relief when there was some closure for everyone.

I'm still a little on the fence about how I feel for this book, but overall, I think it was a very valuable read, and if you are thinking about reading it, I'd say give it a shot!

Anticipation: 3.5: ooo I like the cover (are we sensing a pattern here)
Enjoyment:3: so many Thoughts

--> 3.5 stars
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I liked the side images and cover. I liked the descriptions. The cost was hard to read.i liked the characters
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Alternating between the past and the present, Ellie and her two close friends, Deenie and Rae are dealing with the loss of Danny Ellie’s boyfriend who has mysteriously disappeared and whose body hasn’t been found. As time goes on, Ellie realizes she can see Danny’s ghost and talk to him. Her friends get this and know she needs closure. As truths come out, the girls realize they have all collected secrets about Danny and told lies.  This book shows us that some spirits never leave us, and that you can be haunted by their memory or you can embrace it.
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This was a really good book. I feel like it had a lot of lessons in it about grief. It was a tearjerker for sure. Or maybe it's that I've experienced loss recently. The characters are all grieving the loss of someone, who the MC still sees. At first, it was a little confusing for me about Danny, but it gets cleared up pretty soon and the story begins. 

The book centered on their religion, which helped to really develop their characters and their circumstances. Leah Scheier did an amazing job.
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Isn’t it the hardest thing saying goodbye to someone who already became inseparable part of your life? Is there any specific way to deal with your grief? Restraining, denial, lying to yourself may be the temporary solution but the pain is always there! It never goes away! 

Nine months Danny disappears. Her three friends including her girlfriend Ellie who was the last person she’s seen him deal with his disappearance with different kind of defense mechanisms. 

  Deenie obsessively deepens her commitment to religious rituals of Orthodox Judaism as Rae turns into 24/7 Hell’s Kitchen contestant, pouring out her anger, resentment , sadness to create delicious bakeries.

But Ellie is the worst who may not differentiate the dream and reality: she keeps seeing her everyday. Even they have girl talk at their kitchen she thinks he is with them, smiling their sassy comments.

  We see how they fell for each other by moving backward and learn what went so wrong. 

  Ellie still thinks he’s alive. They keep talking which worries her friend about her mental health.

I think this book is very much informative about Orthodox Judaism and the characters’ choices centered around the religion. We also understand the effects of religious doctrines in their lives and realize how their characters shaped, how they developed different personalities. 

  Interesting fact about the book is even though this book is about three unique different girls’ lives, their self discoveries, growing pains in a different secluded society, Danny may be the main the character of the book. We informed that he got lost from the first page but his unique existence appears at each chapter, helping to develop the entire structure of the emotional, heartfelt story.

  Overall: I mostly enjoyed this heartbreaking young adult, thought provoking, sad and meaningful story a lot. 

So many thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
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It’s funny that I talked about this book in my Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Radar (6/1/21) and then later that day it became available on Netgalley so I requested it. I didn’t mean to get approved for this right away and then immediately binge it in the same day but here we are.

Even though the blurb talks about Danny disappearing and Ellie still being able to see him, I didn’t think that this book would be the tearjerker that it was. There is a lot of talk about grief and that definitely hit me hard. I could relate to the characters, especially Ellie.

Ellie belongs to the Jewish community and goes to a Jewish school as well as having friends who are also Jewish. I do not belong to this community so I can’t talk about that aspect of the book but I did learn new things about the community. I also understood her friends who have taken different routes when it comes to their faith and how they choose to practice since I have grown up in a religious household. It is very relatable and it shows that not everything is as black and white as some would think.

Ellie and her friends also deal with the loss of Danny in different ways as well. They each have their reasonings and the plot circles around the night of his disappearance. The plot also deals with the friendships of these girls because of the strain put on it by Danny and their choices when it comes to religion. There is a lot going on when it comes to topics but there isn’t one that overshadows the other and they all come together to make a plot that is very powerful and emotional.

The unique part of the book is that even though Danny isn’t really there he is still very much a big part of the book. Through stories that Ellie gathers about him, the friendship he shared with the group of friends, and the way that Ellie grieves He is always there in his own way. This definitely helped to add the connection I needed to him and really give me understanding about the characters feelings towards him and because of that it also made me cry.

Overall, this was a great book and I would highly recommend checking it out! I know my review is quite vague but I truly think it is one of those books where it’s better to go in blind like I did.
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