Book Title: Last Seen Leaving (Standalone) Author: Caleb Roehrig Number of pages: 272
Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?
Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Premise feels like YA Gone Girl
– Character driven novel mainly as it concerns the protagonist; can be considered more of a contemporary LGBTQIA+ centric story
– Secondary characters and their development doesn’t really exist (re: best friend), also the police are completely useless
– Even if you read with skepticism, the expectation versus reality of the resolution may not be one every reader will enjoy
I forgot to review this in a timely matter.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of LAST SEEN LEAVING from Raincoast Books.
It’s unfair to label Last Seen Leaving as YA Gone Girl but it really does read like it. (So sue me for being a sheep and labeling it such).
Even if the premise isn’t the most original, the spotlight placed on the protagonists struggles re: LGBTQIA+ themes, allow this story to hold equal weight with its contemporary (“coming of age”) counterpart. But the caveat is that this story is marketed as a mystery/thriller “plot heavy” story, so I can’t really push that aside for a character driven novel.
While there are moments that feel authentically autobiographic with football nights, common candy bars (re: Charleston Chew), and actual employment of jobs (blasphemous, I know), there’s a sleuth of world building in this story that ceases to exist in being value added in supporting a compelling mystery.
But you know what I blame the most? The incompetency of police in fiction as a measure of allowing the protagonist (re: teen hero) do shit to save the day. The entire mystery ultimately fails in this regard because people who live to serve and protect get sidelined for plot. (You’ll understand what I mean if/when you read this story).
My favourite scene in this entire book takes place when the action/mystery is at it’s peak and very similar to a scene in the 2007 Zodiac film (starring Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s tautly written and edges towards being clammy-hands territory of suspense that really allowed the mystery to peak.
There’s a no-frills simplicity in Roehrig’s writing that I really dig. What I mean is that it’s not overly dramatized and lush with unnecessary sugary prose when it just has to throw you into the thick of the mysterious circumstance and your imagination essentially fills the void itself.
I found the [male] voice in this story to be very grounded (and that’s not because this book is written by a guy). It’s how Flynn carries himself through his struggles that felt genuine in delivery and woven with his humour that allows him to stand out.
That being said, I am incredibly let down by reader’s skepticism and the unattainable fulfillment re: ending. Like…I get it? But then I don’t. It’s as if you tell me you’re hosting a dinner party, feed me hors d’oeuvre, then proceed to go to sleep, leaving the guests all like ??? without substantiated reasons as to the why. That is how I felt. Though the build-up was palpable, it just didn’t hold enough oomph from a mystery standpoint.
But let me try to explain this better–
–the strongest element that makes Last Seen Leaving a success is that it’s a character driven story centering on self-discovery while being veiled with the mystery of January’s disappearance.
January is a bit of an enigma in the story. If it weren’t for the flashback narrations developing her character, January = Februrary = March = April etc., and that in itself is a testament to the quintessential coming of age represented in this book. January could be everyone, or, January could be nobody. It doesn’t matter because though the mystery is at the forefront…it isn’t really. The intent behind the relevant themes to this book lives and dies with Flynn Doherty — a good kid with a kind family — being fine and loved and safe.
I hope you understand what I’m saying…
However, as much as the protagonist holds so much promise to this story, I am a bit torn with how the secondary character (mainly Micah) were developed in relation to the scope of this story. Flynn’s best friend basically comes in and waves a “wtf dude?” sign and then basically disappears until the resolution (re: last act of the film) where they make up and are friends again. Not to mention the police were pretty much useless (as per usual), it doesn’t really help the cause.
There is also romance in this story with a college boy but that wasn’t really what I was focused on (re: Flynn being 15 and suddenly dating college boy like huh?).
What I’m finding most difficult is that though things were “good” they weren’t necessarily “great” or top-of-shelf-must-recommend-to-every-living-soul level of story.
I blame the ending.