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The Last Forever

The Last Forever

4.7 3
by Deb Caletti

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Beginnings and endings overlap in this “surprising story about love, loss, and putting down roots” (Booklist, starred review) from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all Tessa can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, and her happiness from


Beginnings and endings overlap in this “surprising story about love, loss, and putting down roots” (Booklist, starred review) from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all Tessa can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, and her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in Tessa’s grandmother’s small coastal town. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more importantly, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa’s willing to do anything to bring them together—because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Tessa's mom recently died. Before her junior year of high school finishes for the summer, she and her dad leave on an impromptu road trip that leads them to a small coastal town in Washington State. Here, the teen is able to confront her feelings of loss and begin the task of accepting new family relationships, friendships, and a burgeoning romance. When her new buddies embark on a journey to help her save the one thing that is most important to her (her mother's plant), Tessa finds the power within to move on because "good things can sit in the distance, just beyond your view, waiting until you go toward it." Caletti creates a wonderfully unique voice in Tessa, filled with wit, confusion, and mature reflection. The mood isn't all somber and confusing; through realistic dialogue and even pacing, readers get a true sense of Tessa's growth as a young woman. Teens get to know the diverse cast of supporting characters through her lens, including a bisexual character. Each chapter opens with a seed description, and the climax relates to the fate of Tessa's mom's plant. It is through these devices that Caletti explores the idea of longevity and "lasting forever."—Stephanie DeVincentis, Downers Grove North High School, IL
Publishers Weekly
★ 01/27/2014
After a trying bout with cancer, Tess’s mother has died, but she’s left behind a one-of-a-kind pixiebell plant. “My mother vowed that the last pixiebell would never die on her watch, and now that I have it, it isn’t going to die on mine, either,” Tess vows. When her impulsive, pot-smoking, less-than-dependable father takes her on an extended road trip to the Grand Canyon, Tess brings the plant with her, but keeping it alive during their journey through the desert is a struggle. Unexpectedly, Tess’s father brings her to the home of his mother, an artist Tess barely remembers. Tess is in for some life-changing lessons about old family grudges and secrets held by new acquaintances, including a boy who makes it his mission to help Tess save the withering pixiebell, and wins her heart in the process. Featuring sharp-witted first-person narration, some fascinating facts about plants and seeds, relatable characters, and evocative settings, Caletti’s (The Story of Us) inspiring novel eloquently depicts the nature of mutability. As with her previous books, this love story reverberates with honesty and emotion. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
"Wholly absorbing."
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Morgan Brickey
Tessa, a junior in high school, has been having a hard time since her mother died a few months ago. So has her mother’s last gift to her, a one-of-a-kind heirloom plant that Tessa must protect. When her father decides they should go on an unplanned adventure to the Grand Canyon, Tessa brings her mother’s fragile plant along for the ride. Afterward, Tessa’s father unexpectedly drops her off at her estranged grandmother’s home on isolated Parrish Island, Washington. Even though she is not excited about being abandoned in a strange place, Tessa quickly finds her niche and a new boy to like at the library. The plant, however, does not take all the change well and starts to die. Tessa and her new friends find out some secrets about the plant and realize that she must preserve its seeds forever at the seed vault in snowy Longyearbyen, Norway. Though this read is not groundbreaking, it is enjoyable. Caletti uses plant names and detailed descriptions as epigraphs, which is a fresh way to introduce new themes and chapters. The central characters, though, are not very dynamic and are not detailed enough to elicit a strong reaction from readers when something happens to them. The ending comes fast, and many situations snowball together for a strong finish. The book avoids being like other romances in the genre and will appeal to Caletti’s large reader base, as well as other teens looking for a light romance with some surprises. Reviewer: Morgan Brickey; Ages 15 to 18.
Children's Literature - Kim Dare
Tessa and her dad are barely hanging on since her mom died a few months ago. While she tries to go through the motions at school, her dad retreats into a pot-smoking, rerun-watching haze. A week before school ends, he decides that an impromptu road trip from San Bernardino to the Grand Canyon will help them both. Knowing all-too-well that her dad’s whims can carry them in any direction, Tessa packs the necessities. Most important? A said-to-be-extinct pixiebell plant that Tessa’s grandfather stole years ago and that accompanied her mother through the stages of her life. The Grand Canyon trip extends to Las Vegas, then north to Portland and Seattle, and Tessa is angry but not surprised when her father drops her at her estranged grandmother’s house on Parrish Island and takes off without a goodbye. Over the following weeks, Tessa gets to know the island’s year-round residents, and is immediately drawn to handsome library employee Henry. When Pix starts to wilt, Tessa blames herself, and Henry and her new friends rally around to try to save the plant that represents the last bit of her mother. The result of their efforts is as unexpected as it is bittersweet. Henry’s and Tessa’s relationship has its own bittersweet undertones, and Caletti beautifully portrays two teens whose love for each other is not “happily ever after,” but who both come out on the other side stronger and wiser. A lovely story of imperfect people who make beautiful things happen. Reviewer: Kim Dare; Ages 13 up.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-12
A despairing father and his 17-year-old daughter take an emotional journey together that brings redemption, hope and healing. Tessa's mother has recently died, and the teen is struggling to adjust to life with her loving but irresponsible pot-smoking dad, who is also fighting to right himself. To shake them from their spiritual stupors, her father suggests they take a spontaneous road trip—but there's a precious reminder of her mother that Tessa can't leave behind: a rare plant handed down by her grandfather and lovingly cared for by her mother. The trip ends at her grandmother Jenny's house, but the journey does not. While her father and Jenny try to repair old rifts, Tessa slowly warms, forming a new bond with her grandmother. Enter Henry, a kind, handsome library employee and fellow book geek who seems totally in sync with Tessa, but even as their relationship deepens, he inexplicably keeps her at arm's length. Meanwhile, Tessa's plant is withering, and she is desperate to keep it from dying. Henry and the library staff collectively join the frantic research—and the ending is so enchanting it's certain to reduce readers to bittersweet tears. Caletti's writing is seamless and fluid, rich with descriptions of Tessa's physical world as well as her inner ruminations. A story that proves there can, indeed, be life after death. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Simon Pulse
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HL720L (what's this?)
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Last Forever

  • Silene steophylla: narrow-leafed campion. Seeds from this delicate, white-flowered plant were found in a prehistoric rodent burrow in the Siberian permafrost. Scientists were able to successfully grow them, making these twenty-three-thousand-year-old seeds the oldest living ones ever discovered.

    In those early months, when the beautiful and mysterious Henry Lark and I began to do all that reading, I often skimmed over the name. Svalbard. I’d see all those consonants shoved together and my brain would shut off. I thought it sounded like a Tolkien bad guy, or a word that might cast a spell. Here’s what I suggest—don’t even try to pronounce it. Just imagine it. I love to imagine it: a hidden building, a narrow wedge of black steel jutting from the ice. When I close my eyes, I see its long, rectangular windows—one on the roof, one at the entrance—a beacon of prisms glowing green in the deep twilight of the polar night. Fenced in and guarded, with steel airlock doors and motion detectors, it is the most protected place on earth. Outside, polar bears stomp and huff in the frigid air.

    Or imagine this: that first monumental day of excavation, when the mayor of Longyearbyen, Kjell Mork, stood on the chosen spot with a fuse in his hand, ready to blast open the side of a frozen mountain. Longyearbyen, Kjell Mork—more Tolkien words, and Kjell Mork himself looks like a Tolkien king, with his snowy white hair and full blizzard of beard, the ceremonial chain of silver discs around his neck, representing his people and his place. Okay, he’s also wearing a blue hard hat and an orange construction vest, which would never work in the film version. But that fuse burning down, it would. He looks grim but determined in the pictures.

    It all sounds like a fantasy novel, but it’s real. As I write this right now, as you read this, that place is there, tucked inside that mountain. As I pour my cereal or shove my books into my backpack, as you pay the cashier at the drive-through window or stare at the moon, it’s there. And it’s all—the guards, the buried chambers, the subzero temperatures—in service of the most simple, regular thing: a seed. Actually, a lot of seeds. Three million seeds. That’s what it’s for. To protect seeds in the event of a global catastrophe. To make sure that, even if there’s a nuclear war or an epidemic or a natural disaster, even if the cooling systems within Svalbard itself are destroyed, the seeds will survive for thousands upon thousands of years.

    What should never be forgotten is this: Even when times are dark, the darkest, even when you are sure that life as you know it is over, there are still things that last. I learned that. Henry Lark and I both did. You may not be able to see those things. They may be hidden deep under the ground, or they may be tucked even deeper into your heart, but they are there.

    And how did I, a regular person, as regular as those seeds themselves, become connected to a frozen vault 3,585.1 miles from home? (5,769.7 kilometers and seven hours and twenty-seven minutes away by plane, to be exact.) You never know what life will bring; you never do. It’s something my mother always said. In good times and in the worst times she said that, and she was right. We—that vault and me—we’re an unlikely pair. There is that land of wintry wildness and midnight sun and the eerie blue of polar nights and then there’s me, a person who chops her bangs and reads too much. But I am now forever connected to this most brave and defiant place.

    How and why is what this story is about. Here to there. Here to there is where all the stories are. Here to there is the sometimes barren land you must cross to find the way to begin again.

  • Meet the Author

    Deb Caletti is an award-winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include Stay; The Nature of Jade; and Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, winner of the Washington State Book Award and the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her books for adults include He’s Gone and her latest release, The Secrets She Keeps. She lives with her family in Seattle.

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    The Last Forever 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    That was aot 2 months ago. Why i cant remember what happened tells me I musnt have liked it enough