Synopsis: First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.
Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.
Astrid North O’Neill is now my absolute favorite bookish parent/grandparent that ever was. I am in love with her, and I wish that I could dive into this book and go on a Death With Dignity cruise with her so that she could set my life in order for me before passing away.
I don’t care what anybody else tells you about this book – READ IT – or at least, if you like quirky, bizarre, never-been-done-before plots and colorful characters who will often leave you laughing or crying loudly and in public. Those things are HUGE plusses to me, but I can see why some people didn’t enjoy this. It is crass. There is quite a bit of cussing, sex (nothing explicit, just mentions), and drugs. None of those things appeal to me, yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself from falling in love with The Loose Ends List.
Maddie is your typical self-absorbed high-schooler, but she has her moments as a narrator. But the real star of this show is her terminally ill grandmother, Astrid, whom, as I’ve already exclaimed to y’all, I am in love with. This woman could have her own television show and I would tune in every single week. I swear – she was just hilarious, frank, and totally outrageously herself. I loved every second she was in the spotlight.
This book is crazy. It’s a strange premise (A sassy, rich, often-inapproprirate dying grandmother? A cruise ship that specializes in illegally lethally injecting dying people before their natural expiration date so that they may die when and how they choose to go? What is this life?) but I loved every second of it. It was just too easy to be sucked into the fun.
I also liked how The Loose Ends List chooses to deal with death. Here is a direct quote from Astrid.
“Okay. Stop. I’m dying, not paying full price for theater tickets. Enough with the tears.”
Death is terrifying, but it’s also an inevitable part of life. Any book that can handle such a distressing topic with a large dose of humor is special in my opinion. Over the course of the story, Maddie learns a lot about grief, and about how to live life to the fullest so that when your time comes you’re ready to let go. She grows a lot as a character, and I felt I grew alongside her as I found myself becoming more and more attached to the host of supporting characters surrounding her.
So, sure, there are a few things I didn’t necessarily agree with, and it was at times a bit much, but overall I feel this book deals with heavy issues in a refreshingly light way that actually works, which is a feat worthy of celebration.
If you want a summer read that is wholly and unabashedly original, The Loose Ends List is the read for you.
Rating: 5/5 stars