Last Lesson by James Goodhand
Published by: Penguin Random House Children’s
Released: 2nd April 2020
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Last year, Ollie Morcombe was a star pupil, popular and a gifted musician.
Then, after the accident, everything changed. Now he’s an outcast, a prime target of the school bullies who have made his life a living hell.
Today – the last day of the school year – he’s brought those bullies a gift. A homemade pipe bomb.
What has driven a model student to plan an unspeakable revenge? And with the clock ticking down to home time, what can anybody do to stop him?
Trigger Warnings: Grief, bullying, death, sexual assault, mental health, violent porn, murder, bombing
Ollie Morcombe was a star student, popular and a talented musician. That is until an accident causes Ollie to become an outcast and target of the immoral school bullies who are set on making his life hell, with threats of violence and death. Having had enough of the bullying, on the last day of school Ollie brings those bullies a present in the shape of a homemade pipe bomb. With his rage set to boil over will Ollie go through with his plan or will he be stopped before it’s too late.
Last Lesson is a book that isn’t afraid to overstep boundaries and deal with some pretty dark topics, such as toxic masculinity, bullying, death, mental health, sexual assault and pornography. So, you do have to go into it with an open mind, knowing that it isn’t going to be the most lighthearted of reads. It is also a book that I feel you need to be in the right mindset for, and that’s why I didn’t read it sooner. You need to feel ready to face the themes that are scattered within the story.
The plot, itself, despite being very easy to follow takes you on a journey through the complex and damaged mind of Ollie, our protagonist. It really does draw you in, and you want to know more about how this promising young man came to want to do something so drastic and life threatening. The layout of the story shows you Ollie’s past and present and throughout the story you do build up a picture of how Ollie came to be so unstable. It really helped me to understand how if we bottle up our feelings when it comes to grief it can mutate into something much worse. Also, with regards to the bullying aspect of the plot you really start to feel empathy for Ollie and also disgust and contempt for those bullying him. Put all this together and you can really see how Ollie’s mind came to be so fractured.
Ollie is a character that you can feel sympathy for, but at the same this doesn’t deter you from excusing his actions. I felt afraid for him, but I also felt scared of him at times throughout the book. With his mental health becoming more and more unhinged as you journey through, you start to wonder what he’s really capable of. Mind you, I did understand why his motives were what they were, and to be able to create a character as complicated as Ollie is commendable to the author. Ollie is really a one of a kind character and one that in one way or another you will feel sorry for at some point throughout the story.
Mental Health in men is something that isn’t spoken about or tackled enough in fiction, in particular YA, so I applaud the author for making this the main topic of Last Lesson. We see through Ollie, how harshly your mental health can deteriorate after a traumatic experience such as being in an accident or experiencing a death. Men, are often the ones that try to hide their mental health issues, for not wanting to be seen as weak, and this, I feel, came across extremely well in Last Lesson. With regards to Ollie’s mental health, it’s never glamourised and doesn’t excuse why he did what he did. It just shows us that there are no sides to take when it comes to this issue.
Last Lesson was a complex, intriguing read, that yes, will be controversial, but is a book that is solely needed in today’s times. It will hopefully force conversations out with regards to mental health in men and maybe bring someone the courage to get help for the issues they are facing.