Review: ‘Last Will and Testament’ by Dahlia Adler

Last Will and Testament

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

Last Will and Testament is the second of Dahlia Adler’s books that I’ve read. The first was a young adult and was light as fairy floss in comparison to this (note: it wasn’t that light). Some of that is because LWaT is new adult rather than young adult, but some of it is that the story starts in a much darker place.

I admit I found Lizzie’s initial circumstances quite confronting, and if the story had stayed in that space I doubt it’d have been much more than a three-star read for me despite the stellar writing. Lizzie sleeps with whoever takes her fancy (which I don’t have a problem with), including someone else’s boyfriend (which I do, although the blame sits more with him than her as far as I’m concerned). She smokes, drinks too much, and parties all weekend so that she’s barely maintaining a passing grade.

When her parents die and she realises she needs to get her life together for her brothers’ sake, she grits her teeth and gets on with it. Over time, she grows up enough to see that she did the wrong thing by helping Trevor cheat on his girlfriend. But she doesn’t start to look down on her former partying lifestyle or those friends of hers who still take part in it. For that reason, I’m hesitant to describe LWaT as a redemption tale, because that suggests it might be sanctimonious. It definitely isn’t that. And I liked that it didn’t inadvertently slut shame Lizzie or Lizzie’s friends.

Lizzie has a lot of trouble adjusting to being a newfound single parent to two boys. I felt her pain – I only have the one child, and he’s not a tween yet, but I know how much of a scramble life can be when you’re dealing with it on your own. Adler definitely nailed that side of things. I was a little disappointed at the solution to her problems at the end, but at the same time I can see that it was the only way that things could resolve themselves under the circumstances.

Far and away the stand out thing for me about LWaT was the writing, and that’s what elevates the book from a four- to a five-star read. Adler’s snarky sense of humour comes through; Lizzie’s dialogue is a scream and had me actually laughing out loud several times. (I rarely laugh out loud when I’m reading. Usually the best a book gets is a heh in my head. I’m such a robot!)

The supporting characters are fleshed out, and I could see why Lizzie developed such a massive crush on Connor. He’s a history nerd from Canada who wears daggy clothes; I was on board with that crush before she was! I also loved her two female friends, especially the wildly flamboyant and unashamedly “pansexual” Frankie. I was disappointed that the next book in the series is about the more serious Cait rather than Frankie, to be honest!

This is definitely worth your time to take a look.

Five stars

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