Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrah
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
4.5 out of 5 stars
Synopsis: Sam and Ilsa's grandmother has taught them everything they know about throwing perfect dinner parties. How to invite the right kinds of guests, the perfect amount and kind of food to make, and why the 'no phones' rule is especially important. Now that their grandmother is moving out of her NYC apartment to settle down in Paris, they have one last chance to throw their last hurrah to destroy the humdrum of everyday life.
When I first heard that my favorite author duo had published another book, I had to run to the bookstore immediately. I've always valued and admired the writing dynamic between these two authors and their style. The first thing I loved about the book was the cover. The confetti in champagne glasses were classic and I really enjoyed the way the confetti does not stay in the glass. It's a wonderful visual representation of the novel.
My first impression of this story was a fast paced one. Cohn and Levithan are excellent at diving right into a story and not wasting their opening breaths with backstory or boring lines. I immediately got the strong dynamic between the two main characters, twins Sam and Ilsa. Both characters adore each other even though they are only alike in genetics. Sam is a virtuoso on the piano, anxious, passionate about cooking, and (according to his sister) very good at dating nice guys that don't get him out of his safe zone. Ilsa is not the favorite grandchild of the grandmothers apartment they're partying in. This is clearly evident in the first chapter when they talk about Sam's room in the apartment but Ilsa only has her room at her parents apartment. Not that Sam doesn't have a room there, but the favorite grandchild needs an extra room for the Baby Grand their grandmother bought for him to play. Ilsa, on the other hand, classifies herself as the trouble child. Hot temper, reckless with love, and seeming to have no ambition.
One of the main rules of their dinner parties is keeping the guests they invited a secret from each other. An interesting rule that plays a huge part in the way the entire novel works. Both twins invite people that the other one hates and both invite a new boy to flirt with Sam to help get over his ex, Jason, a little bit more. All six party guests that are invited are wonderfully vibrant! A rich snob, a subway boy, two ex's, a gift giver, and someone who takes the liberty to invite another guest with them.
There was never a dull moment at the party which lasted the entire span of the novel. I've always admired the way Cohn and Levithan tell the story of one night with so much life and story inside of it that it lasts an entire book. A lot of themes were touched on in the book including mental illness, sexuality, the future, the end of the world, and other thought provoking themes. My favorite theme was the recurring one of 'What's next? What now?'
I will always read anything these two authors publish together and hope I keep enjoying every book they write.
The half star away from 5 is from one particular moment in the book that struck me as a writer. The characters play a game where they each put a city in a hat and draw out someone else's city. Ilsa puts down 'Paris' and the city is never drawn from the hat.