I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Corus on October 2, 2018
Format: eARC (320 pages) • Source: Publisher
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The day Raquel has been dreading for months has finally arrived. Sasha, her best friend in the whole world, has died of cancer. Overwhelmed and brokenhearted, Raquel can't even imagine life without her.
And then a letter from Sasha arrives. Has she somehow found a way to communicate from beyond the grave?
In fact, Sasha spent her final weeks planning an elaborate scavenger hunt for the friend she would have to leave behind. When Raquel follows the instructions to return to Sasha's grave, a mysterious stranger with striking eyes is waiting for her. There's a secret attached to this boy that only Sasha --- and now Raquel --- knows.
This boy, Elijah, might be just who Raquel needs to help her move on from her terrible loss. But can Raquel remain true to herself while also honoring her friend's final wish?
Cheyanne Young's compulsively readable breakout novel offers abiding friendship and forbidden romance, along with an incisive look at how class differences shape who we are and who we grow to be.
I’m a sucker for SO many elements of this book, which is why it was immediately added to my TBR and requested on Netgalley. I love the cover, for starters, and the whole “following a list of tasks and for someone who has moved/passed away” premise is read-bait for me. It reminds me a lot of the movie PS I Love You, which is potentially where this fascination came from for me originally.
When Rocki’s best friend Sasha passes away from cancer, she sends Rocki on a scavenger hunt of sorts to keep her memory alive and make sure Rocki doesn’t go off the deep end without her. She quickly learns about and meets Elijah, Sasha’s biological brother that wasn’t adopted along with her, and starts to complete these tasks with him.
I liked Sasha and her memory, but it felt like she was perfect. I’m not trying to “speak ill of the [fictional] dead” but it was like she was this never wrong, always kind, completely flawless person, so it was a little hard to feel much for her. I felt for Rocki and absolutely cried multiple times in the beginning of the book when she passed away, but it wasn’t easy to connect with her. Rocki constantly viewed herself as “Sasha’s friend” instead of her own individual person, which also made HER hard to connect with. I had high hopes, though, that this hunt would allow her to find her individuality. Elijah was a bit mysterious at the beginning but he grew on me as the book progressed. You get to learn more about his life and struggles – those that Sasha never dealt with because she was successfully adopted.
I’m going to toss out my complaints a little bit first. I liked Young’s writing style because it was earnest and cute, which is kind of a weird way to describe something like this, but those are the words that come to mind. As you can imagine, that led to a few cheesy bits of dialogue and places where Rocki felt too young for her age as well. There’s a bit of instalove, in my opinion, that I didn’t fully buy into. Emotions are running high in this situation and you’re likely to hang onto the memory of your friend however you can, but the two of them had so few encounters for the love to happen as quickly as it did. There’s one page where if the words about love were changed to crush or feelings, I would have been 100% on board right away. There was chemistry, but I didn’t feel the love yet at that point in the story. It was frustrating as Rocki learned more about Elijah’s situation that she wasn’t more understanding about his lack of internet access. I could tell that it was going to be an issue later and it was rubbing me the wrong way, that she couldn’t wrap her head around poverty or even be understanding when he asked her to be. I kept waiting for the inevitable moment where he told her off… which she more than deserved. Instead, he listened to horrible advice from her and dove headfirst into something that didn’t make a lot of sense. It was frustrating to read. View Spoiler »How does she think that its okay to tell him he needs to quit his job immediately, and then get mad at him when he does because he ends up homeless? He literally did exactly what you said, for some stupid reason, and she gets mad at him because he took her advice…??? « Hide Spoiler Phew. Okay. Aside from allll that more serious stuff, there were some continuity issues throughout the story that would be cleared up with another round of editing. For example, Rocki has multiple meals at Sasha’s parents’ house and every single ones she remembers as “Sasha’s favorite.”
Okay, complaining aside, I did enjoy this story quite a bit. The premise of the post-death scavenger hunt is exactly the kind of book I add to my TBR. It was going to be hard for this to not be a win for me! Despite not loving the main character for a while, she grew on me, and I was happy with the ship when it was sailing at a logical pace. I adored Raquel’s relationship with Sasha’s parents, even though it was hard for her at times. They really thought of her as another daughter and she knew that it was important to keep in touch with them. There were some good and interesting twists toward the end (along with a trip to the coolest vacation destination ever???) that made up for some of my earlier frustrations a bit.
Overall, I have slightly mixed feelings on this. On one hand, the premise was extremely interesting and there were great twists and bits of intrigue toward the end. On the other hand, I didn’t love the characters or instalove, as well as the judgement (not sure if this is the right word — I can’t figure it out) on poverty. I really loved the ending because I’m a sucker for things like that, so the whole story came together quite nicely. It was heartwarming, hard, and ultimately hopeful. I have a tendency of following the “it’s how you leave ’em” mentality and I enjoyed the ending enough to give this one 3.5 stars instead of 3.