Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: Queer YA Mystery
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: Read this book for the own-voices insight a not-yet-out teenage boy gains as he navigates the deception his girlfriend and best friend created while trying to protect the status quo.
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.
This book has three parts to it. One is the story of Flynn’s girlfriend January’s disappearance. The mystery aspect made for fast reading. Next is learning about January’s deception and in exploring hers, he has to confront his own. I felt Flynn’s righteous anger as he learned about patently false allegations about him to people he thought were unimportant to January and, it’s this anger that compels him—and the reader—to try to find out what’s really going on. Finally, the coming out aspect of the story, in which Flynn’s fears both turn out to be realistic given casual mentions of homophobic slurs and the opposite as family and some friends unequivocally stand by his side.
Flynn’s character, as an imperfect teenager (weren’t we all?!), who must come across as more authentic in person than what the not-so-nice thoughts that cross his mind are very realistic. For the most part, he’s a good judge of character. Kaz, notably, plays a guardian angel, as does his bestie’s girlfriend, Tiana. January is captivating, both before her disappearance, and in how her more complex character is revealed later on. It’s this aspect that makes me think this is a book I would have loved to have read as a teenager. The implications and fear around coming out spoke to feelings I remember having. More than that, it was refreshing to see an imperfect teenage hero willing to seriously reflect on who he was, how he got there, and make future decisions based on conscious decisions of who he wants to be.
What you may not like: The mystery aspect is interesting but for the avid mystery reader/TV watcher, it is formulaic with false starts masquerading as red herrings. The villains were obvious and one-dimensional. It’s anticlimactic—even if it is realistic—to see some baddies be on the receiving end of justice. The age difference with the love interest (what college kid wants to date a 15-year-old) wasn’t particularly believable. Finally, the instaforgiveness for outing? I’d hate for a kid to read it and think they’d have to follow suit.
What you will love: The exploration of how hard it is to share ourselves and to see the flip side—when you think you know someone really well and it turns out not to be true. I loved the self-reflection on how Flynn looked at his own behavior when trying to understand January and the truth about their relationship.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra