Sheryl Benko’s The Last of Will is a stunning combination of outlandish plot and down-to-Earth characters. The well-written and believable characters find themselves in increasingly unbelievable scenarios, and the combination of the two made for a story that was really easy to feel a part of. Between Greer’s internal monologue that seems to be actually directed at the reader, the believable reactions of the characters to their experiences, and the really well-developed characterization of each member of the story, I felt as though I was actually following Greer on her journey, sharing eye-rolls with her behind her dad’s back. It was a really unique and entertaining feeling, and it was incredibly well cultivated.
My favorite thing about this book was Greer’s voice. Her thoughts, actions, and dialogue are so unmistakably teenager in a way that no author I’ve read before has been able to accomplish. She has this sarcastic, witty, rambling monologue that brought me into the headspace of a teenager in a way I’d forgotten I was capable of. Greer is both self-deprecating and egotistical, compassionate and naïve, stoic and creative. It’s the paradoxical way all teenagers see the world, one foot in childhood and one in adulthood, but instead of Greer being mocked or belittled, Benko really lets her teenage psyche shine, and reminds us of that tipsy-turvy world that most of us blocked out of our minds as quickly as we were able. Greer isn’t expected to grow up and see things the way we expect her to by the end of the story, instead we as the readers are forced to accept her as she is, and through that learn to forgive ourselves, in small ways, for having been teenagers. I thought this was really impactful, because it was exactly this “teenager-ness” that allowed Greer to accomplish the things she does in the story. Instead of adolescence being an embarrassing time to be forgotten, it’s reshaped into a time of self-discovery, self-actualization, and growth.
Greer’s dad is also really well developed, and while we only see him through Greer’s eyes, we can see him as a man who’s been through a lot, who has lost what he invested his identity in, but who learns through a trip with her daughter what really matters most to him in life. At first, he seems to barely notice Greer, and once he does, he only tolerates her, but through the course of the story he learns to appreciate her point of view and value her as someone on the verge of adulthood. Through his conversations with her, I think he realizes that maybe he had more to learn than he thought, and that he has a lot more to be thankful for than he recognized.
This book is available on Amazon and is 100% worth the read.