Sixteen-year-old Claire is walking across Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver when a young man approaches. He’s laughing and 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.
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