Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrah by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrah by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
Release Date - April 10,  2018
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 224 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**borrowed from a friend**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The New York Times Bestselling duo behind Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily return with twins out to throw the party of a lifetime--or at least the best party of high school!

Siblings Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing parties for their friends--and now they've prepared their final blowout, just before graduation.

The rules are simple: each twin gets to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn't know who's coming until the partiers show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.

One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right, as rather surprising ways.
David Levithan and Rachel Cohn are known for cute, almost rom-com like reads. I enjoyed the previous books they released, and was excited to see that they had a new one coming out. Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrah feels a little more serious than their previous works, while still filled with the charm they are known for.

This novel offers up a whimsical dinner party that is filled with an eclectic, larger than life, cast of characters. The characters are a vibrant contrast to the deeper, more serious elements that the novel eventually introduces. There is a lot of heft to this novel that I wasn't expecting and I wish some of these topics had been fleshed out a little more as there was a lot of interesting elements at play within the plot the authors constructed.

Sam is the perfect twin, or that is how everyone sees him He's hiding a lot from those he loves (or at least thinks he is). He's someone who falls in love with pretty boys, and uses cooking as a way to distract himself from some of the things he is dealing with. He struggles with the future, and what he wants from it in a way that is pretty relatable. Who isn't nervous or scared about leaving home for the first time? It is a turbulent time, and filled with unknowns and that is reflected in Sam perfectly.

Ilsa is the twin that is always in trouble. She feels that everyone likes Sam more than her (and admits that she would like him more too if she were someone else). She also thinks she is hiding things from those she loves, and is struggling with letting go. There are many similarities with what Ilsa and Sam are going through, even if they wouldn't admit it to themselves. Ilsa also undergoes a discovery about herself at this party. Ilsa discovering her bisexuality was one of my favourite elements of the novel. It's done in a way that felt realistic. She isn't sure what it means, but she knows she is attracted to Li and wants to see where it goes. It's sweet and filled with promise without being instalove.

The romance between Sam and Johan is sort of a bittersweet one. It's filled with promise and potential but also with a heavy dose of reality. Both of the romances within this novel are pretty realistic in that neither is promising forever. All of these characters are starting off on different journeys. College, and other things, are taking them in various directions. I appreciated that this book didn't try to make these some grand romances. The hint of a possibility and the hope for something more is enough in a case like this, along with the reality that the future could hold endless other possibilities for them.

This novel is really about Sam and Ilsa at its core. It's about the complex dynamics that exist between siblings. It's about the pain and excitement of growing up and growing apart. It's about the fear of starting out on your own and making something that is just yours when you're so used to be part of a set. This dinner part is a goodbye in more ways than one and those emotional beats are perhaps the strongest elements of this novel.

My only real complaint is that the fast, almost frenzied pace, of this novel doesn't really allow for the more serious parts of the novel to breathe. The impact isn't felt as deeply as it could have and that just feels like a missed opportunity. There is a lot to unpack here and I am not sure it got the time to do it.

Fans of David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's other works will find much to love within these pages. Readers who are new to their work will discover a whimsical dinner party that is actually about so much more than you expect when first opening the novel. It's a perfect read for those wanting something quick and enjoyable. 

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