The Loose Ends List
Author: Carrie Firestone
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the NOVL Magazine giveaway in exchange for an unbiased review.
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.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The Loose Ends List is one of those books that I have a hard time deciding how I feel about. For the most part, it was a fun book to read. It drew me in quickly with Maddie’s sassy point of view. It kept my interest throughout the entire story, but were just some things that bugged me.
I’ll start with what I liked. Carrie Firestone’s writing was really good. Her plot was fresh and compelling. I can honestly say death with dignity cruises would never ever have been something I would have thought about had I not read this book.
The cast of characters was wonderful. Maddie was the perfect spoiled little rich girl. Her world revolved around her friends and boyfriend. She was devastated by the news that her favorite grandmother was ill and had a hard time dealing with it. I could completely understand her fear of death. I’ve always been scared of it myself. Not to the extent Maddie was, but I do avoid thinking about it.
The rest of the family was hilarious. They all brought something special to the story. I especially loved Maddie’s Gram. The way she brought her family together to celebrate her life was really touching. I loved that they got a chance to truly get to know Gram and her story.
My favorite character, though, was Paige. She was a young mother on the cruise, and I found her part of the story to be completely heartbreaking. I found myself wanting to know more about her. I wasn’t pleased with where this story left her. I needed more.
What I loved most about The Loose Ends List was the ending. Those last few chapters were perfect. I wish the entire book would have held the same tone. It was pretty cool.
As for the things I didn’t like…The way Maddie and her cousin Janie spoke and thought about the people on the cruise ship. It made sick the way they judged them before getting to know them. I know that young people, teenagers especially, probably see the sick and disabled with less empathy than most adults. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s coming to understand that one is not invincible that changes views. I don’t know. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I know it was a learning experience for Maddie and Janie (and probably some readers), but it made me uncomfortable.
Another thing that bothered me were some of the things Maddie’s relatives said to her. I couldn’t believe her mom was telling her that she needed to wear Spanx. She’s 18 and a size 8! There couldn’t have been anything wrong with her body! Plus, that is bound to scar any teenage girl. And then there were all these comments about Maddie’s sometimes IBS. I just didn’t think that was something to joke about.
Finally, I thought it was strange the way Maddie’s parents and relatives were so supportive of her sleeping arrangements with Enzo. I get that he was a great guy, but they let them get away with stuff I would never let me daughter get away with. And I like to think of myself as pretty understanding.
The Loose Ends List was an enjoyable book to read, even if I didn’t love everything about it. I loved the writing and I’m looking forward to seeing what Carrie Firestone will write next.