Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 14 to 18
- Grade: 9 to 12
Sixteen-year-old Claire is walking across Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver when a good-looking young man approaches. He's laughing, talking on his cellphone. Then, when they get close, he reaches out, hands her his phone, says, "I'm sorry,? " then climbs over the railing and jumps.
This is the shockingly vivid first scene of Leanne Baugh's young adult novel, Last Words, a moment that profoundly changes Claire's life as she searches for an explanation to this mysterious suicide. In the end, Claire's investigation becomes an assertion of life, rather than a mourning over death.
Pivotal to the story is Claire meeting with Kiki, a young cancer patient whose determined passion for life inspires her to embrace the everyday. Then there's Claire's sister Belle, who has Down's syndrome and is a steady reminder that life is messy but full of possibilities.
This profound novel is rich in diverse characters that illustrate what it is to live fully in this world.
About the author
Leanne Baugh has been a waitress, receptionist, teacher, stay-at-home mom and a screenwriter. A few years ago she fell in love with writing fiction, and now is finishing her third Young Adult novel. Leanne is passionate about books, films, beach walks and hummingbirds. When she isn't at home in Victoria, B.C., she's off travelling the world.
"Tackles suicide with lots of quoted poetry but without actually being poetic. Sixteen-year-old Claire is taking photographs from the Lions Gate Bridge in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, when a handsome, young stranger jumps over the railing. . . First-time novelist Baugh approaches death with a series of thoughtfully researched vignettes.
— Kirkus Reviews
"Last Words examines both the reasons why someone would choose to end their own life and the ramifications this choice has on family and friends. This beautiful poignant novel deals with the topic in a profound and thought-provoking manner and is never sensational.
"I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy realistic fiction as well as those living with, or have friends, dealing with mental health issues. The interview with the author at the end of the book, as well as the discussion about mental health, may help readers reach out to the resources they need to deal with their own issues. Lastly, Last Words is a beautiful exploration of relationships, be they friendship or familial, and most readers should be able to see themselves in one of these relationship types.
— CM Magazine
"Claire is a very interesting character. She is an artist but can no longer paint. She eats little, talks little. She makes a new friend her age, Kiki, who is dying of cancer but so full of life. Kiki cannot understand how anyone would kill themselves when she so desperately wants to keep on living.
"An added plus here is that the story is Canadian, taking place in Vancouver, BC. American teens can contrast a Canadian teen's life with an American's."
— Youth Services Book Review Starred Review