Cover image for Sam & Ilsa's last hurrah / Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.
Sam & Ilsa's last hurrah / Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.
Title Variants:
Sam and Ilsa's last hurrah

First Edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.

Physical Description:
209 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A BORZOI BOOK"--title page verso.
When twins Sam and Ilsa throw one last party before they graduate from high school, they add a twist, each sibling gets to invite three guests and the other won't know until they show up.
Added Author:


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COH Book Teen Collection

On Order



The New York Times Bestselling duo behind Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily return with twins out to throw the party of a lifetime--or at least the best party of high school!

Siblings Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing parties for their friends--and now they've prepared their final blowout, just before graduation.

The rules are simple: each twin gets to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn't know who's coming until the partiers show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry , and tonight is no exception.

One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right, as rather surprising ways.

Author Notes

Rachel Cohn was born on December 14, 1968 in Silver Spring Maryland. She attended Barnard College and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science intending to be a journalist. Instead she moved to San Francisco and began working at a law firm and writing. After moving back to New York City, her title Gingerbread was published. It was followed by several other books including: The Steps, Shrimp, Two Steps Forward, You Know Where to Find Me and Beta.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nearly 18-year-old twins Ilsa and Sam are throwing a final dinner party at their grandmother Czarina's rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The party is final for two reasons: Czarina has finally agreed to sell her lease for an outrageous sum of money, allowing her to move to Paris, and the twins are graduating from high school. Described by Sam and Ilsa in alternating chapters, the dinner does not turn out as either anticipated. The twins and some of their guests are harboring secrets and grudges, and by the time the evening is over none of the relationships is quite the same. In their fifth collaboration, Cohn and Levithan (The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily) present another love letter to New York City while exploring a complicated sibling relationship. The duo excels at creating witty characters who deal with real-life struggles in heartwarming, humorous ways, but this novel's funny moments rely less on sharp banter than on snarky comments made by a sock puppet named Caspian, undercutting some of its emotional impact. Ages 12-up. Agent: (for Cohn) Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, William Morris Endeavor; (for Levithan) Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Eighteen-year-old twins Sam and Ilsa each invite three surprise guests to a final dinner party at their grandmother's soon-to-be-sold apartment. In this fifth collaboration, Cohn and Levithan revisit their tried-and-true formula--NYC setting, two teens alternating narration--but with less success. This novel is too talky and gratuitously over-the-top (there's a snarky sock puppet guest), detracting from its thought-provoking musings on identity and relationships, hopes and fears. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



One ILSA My brother is way too obsessed with our grandma's sex life. "I think Czarina has taken a lover," Sam says, holding out his hand to me. "Spatula. Stat." My job is to maximize the chef's surgical efficiency by passing him the gadgets he requests. I hand him the spatula. "That's an egg-­turner spatula. The spoon spatula, Ilsa," he says, like it's so obvious. "Observe!" I look at his bowl, filled with cheese and spinach. Seems like any old spatula could work in that bowl, but if it were up to me, we'd order takeout from Zabar's and not bother with DIY cooking at all. Sam's an amazing cook. But all that work! No, thank you. He gets me for a half hour as sous-­chef, and the rest of the meal is on him. My job is planning fabulousness, not catering it. I should have been the gay man, not my twin brother. I hand Sam the spoon spatula. "What makes you think Czarina has taken a lover?" "She's gone to Paris three times in the last six weeks." "She's a fashion buyer. That's her job." "There's something different about these trips. I feel it. Did you notice how . . . nice she seems when she gets back? It's upsetting." "What are you really upset about? That she's been nice, or that she took Mom and Dad and not you to Paris with her for the weekend?" I love when Czarina goes away and lets us use her apartment. Then I get to be the queen of her castle, and not have to share Sam with her. "That's the thing! She never takes Mom and Dad anywhere. Says they're bourgeois bores." "I love 'em, but they kind of are." "Don't be bitchy." "Don't ask me to be anything other than who I am." Sam laughs, then raises an eyebrow at me. "Aren't you just a little concerned? Czarina even said we didn't have to leave her bedroom door locked. Of all the dinner parties she's let us host in her apartment, her one and only strict rule has been"--­and here Sam mimics Czarina's gangster-­worthy growl--­" 'no teenage miscreants shall miscreant in my bedroom.' " "Yeah, that's why she always shows up during dessert, despite saying she was taking a night out to go to the symphony, and even when she's locked away all the liquor. The control freak can't take our word for it that we won't let anyone in her bedroom or break into her booze." I reconsider what I just said, and then amend my statement. "I mean, take my word for it. She knows Sam the Saint won't break her rules." "Not true. Remember the party when #Stantastic wanted to see Czarina's vintage Dior gowns?" "You texted Czarina and got her permission to go into her closet. That's not rule breaking." "#Stantastic had a beer!" I let out a sigh. "Scandal." What constitutes legit rule breaking? Perhaps that party two years ago when Parker and I jimmied our way into Czarina's brandy collection and then ended the party making out on her bed, with the bedroom door locked so no one else could get in. Best aperitif ever. Miscreants, and proud! Czarina was in Milan, so I knew for a fact she wouldn't be barging in. My parents say I'm too reckless, but even I know not to expose myself to Czarina's in-­your-­face wrath. I know exactly how that brutal wrath works, because it's the primary trait of hers I inherited. That, and we both look good wearing almost any shape of hat. I aspire to be more like Czarina in ways other than being wrathful. I'd like to be a heartbreaker, rather than the one left heartbroken. The boss of any situation. Like Czarina, I want to travel the world and have wild affairs, but with the security of a grand Manhattan apartment as home base. (Insert the sounds of my parents' cynical laughter here.) Unlike Czarina, I don't aspire to wear bright-­colored caftans and chunky jewelry as my signature look. Aside from dinner parties, I'll be content with the more humdrum look of skinny jeans and extremely cute tight shirts. Sam counters my sigh with his own. It might be our only twin thing: supportive sighing. "I can't believe this is our last party here. I can't believe she's finally leaving this place." Where Sam and I live with our parents--­a few blocks away, in a bland Manhattan apartment that's, typically, too small, with an office alcove converted to a third bedroom that Sam uses--­is the real humdrum. Czarina's abode? Spectacular. Our grandmother lives in a gorgeous apartment in a historic building called the Stanwyck, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It's a huge two-­bedroom apartment with a dining room and a study big enough for Sam's piano, and views of the city skyline and the Hudson River. (Anyone who feels bad about Sam getting the crap office alcove for a bedroom at our parents' apartment should know that Czarina's spare bedroom is basically a shrine to Sam--­decorated with his music awards, photos of Sam at every recital since he learned to play piano, and the most comfortable bed in the world, picked out by Sam. The duvet on the bed--­also chosen by Sam--­might as well be embossed with needlepoint hand-­stitched by Czarina, announcing: sam! sam is my favorite!) Czarina has experienced a good but not lucrative career, so no way has she had the income to support this type of Manhattan real estate. By New York City real estate standards, she's a pauper, but she's lived like a queen, all because when Czarina was a young, broke fashionista, she moved in with her grandparents, into their rent-­controlled apartment. And she never left. Hers was the only apartment in the one-­hundred-­unit building that didn't convert to condo. (Thank Czarina's bulldog lawyer.) Her building is now basically 99 percent rich people, and Czarina. She's the 1 percent at the Stanwyck. Or, she was. After twenty years of buyout offers, Czarina finally agreed to leave her palace. All it took was an extra zero at the end of the financial settlement--­before the decimal point. She basically just won the lottery. She's been married five times, and we thought she'd won big when she divorced the Brazilian taxidermist. That settlement was nothing in comparison; she used most of the windfall from that sicko, preserved-­moose-­head man's money to splurge on a baby grand piano for her Virtuoso Sam, and on a fancy oven for her Chef Sam, so her precious grandson could wow her guests with his amazing meals and music ability. Tonight, I get those all to myself. I should be mad that Czarina chose my brother over me as her favorite, but even I will acknowledge that Sam is a better person than me. He's everything I'm not. Patient, kind, sweet, talented. I would choose him if I was Czarina, too. To be honest, it's a relief that Sam's the star in the family. Being the fuck­up bitch is the role I know. I fit into it like anyone's favorite pair of jeans. Excerpted from Sam and Ilsa's Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.