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Book Review: The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly by Meredith Tate

Publisher’s Book Description:

When band-geek Ivy and her friends get together, things start with a rousing board game and end with arguments about Star Wars.

Her older sister Autumn is a different story. Enigmatic, aloof, and tough as nails, Autumn hasn’t had real friends–or trusted anyone–in years. Even Ivy.

But Autumn might not be tough enough. After a drug deal gone wrong, Autumn is beaten, bound, and held hostage. Now, trapped between life and death, she leaves her body, seeking help. No one can sense her presence–except her sister.

When Autumn doesn’t come home, Ivy just knows she’s in trouble. Unable to escape the chilling feeling that something isn’t right, Ivy follows a string of clues that bring her closer to rescuing her sister… and closer to danger.

Autumn needs Ivy to find her before time runs out. But soon, both sisters realize that finding her also means untangling the secrets that lead to the truth–about where they’re hiding Autumn, and what Autumn has been hiding. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

I picked this book up thinking I was going to read an engaging psychological thriller with paranormal twinges, which I did. What I did not realize was that I was going to be reading a thoughtful commentary about sexual violence and the long term effects of trauma in the life of teens. I’ve been thinking a lot about this book after finishing it, which is always a positive sign. There are layers upon layers of social commentary that I was not expecting in this book.

At the end of the day, this is a rich, feminist novel that looks at the resiliency of sisterhood, the power of friendship, and the ways that we accept the abuse of our daughters as the collateral damage to live in the patriarchy and the long term harm that does. It’s also a book about healing in a wide variety of ways.

As someone who works with teens and has been reading some about trauma informed librarianship, it’s also a stark reminder that there is always a reason for a teen’s difficult behaviors and that before we dismiss our challenging teens out of hand, we should extend to them grace and help to connect them with the tools they need to unpack their trauma and find their pathway to thriving. The story of Autumn is a shameful reminder that we, as a society, are failing our youth every day in a wide variety of ways.

Although both main characters are white, Ivy is a fat girl who is mostly okay in her body, though she does wish others would stop commenting on her weight and diet. Ivy also has a wide variety of strong friendships and there is some rich LGBTQ representation here as well. I appreciated Ivy’s story in this just as much as I did Autumn’s. Ivy is strong, brave, and inspiring while still being very real and flawed. I thought the various issues she talked about, including her relationship to her body and her complex feelings of self worth in her home and friend relationships, were complex, authentic and relateable.

There’s a lot to unpack in this feminist novel disguised as a paranormal mystery. Strongly recommended for all readers. And then I hope we will all sit with it a while.

This book was released February 11, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Comments

  1. Hi Karen! I don’t want to put words into your mouth, so let me ask: Would you say, then, that this novel seamlessly weaves plot and theme? Kind of “picking the reader’s pocket” for the thematic value while engaged in a strong plot? Just curious about your thoughts on that. This sounds like a great read, looking forward to taking a look! It reminds me a bit of “Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee” by Mary G. Thompson, which had similar thematic elements. Also a good read. Thanks!

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