Books: The Next Thing on My List

On the recommendation of a friend, I downloaded this from Amazon. Within the first few pages it had me hooked. The death of someone you know, even if it’s someone you weren’t particularly close to, can be a life-changing experience. But June Parker would never have expected exactly how life-changing the death of Marissa Jones would be. They met at a Weight Watchers meeting and when June spots Marissa waiting for a bus later that night, she offers Marissa a ride home. During the ride Marissa unbuckles her seatbelt and reaches into the back of the car for her purse and a recipe for Taco Soup. That recipe and a dresser falling off the truck in front of them ended Marissa’s newly-skinny life. Afterward, while cleaning the blood off Marissa’s purse before she returns it to her parents, June discovers a list: Twenty Things To Do Before My Twenty-Fifth Birthday. Without knowing why, she keeps it. It’s only when she accidentally runs into Marissa’s (gorgeous) older brother Troy on the six month anniversary of her death that June decides to finish the list in Marissa’s place.

Here’s the problem… Marissa’s birthday is only a few months away and she had only completed two of the tasks (1- Lose 100 pounds and 4- Wear sexy shoes). The rest of the list ranges from the easy (13- Eat ice cream in public) to the enjoyable (16- Get a massage), from the challenging (5- Run a 5K) to the odd (6- Dare to go braless), and from the awkward (15- Take Mom and Grandma to see Wayne Newton) to the seemingly impossible (3- Change someone’s life). June works her way through the list, stumbling at times but never failing thanks to assistance from her friends–and Marissa’s brother Troy. But try as they might, no one can figure out number 7: Make Buddy Fitch pay. Who is Buddy Fitch? Is Marissa talking about revenge or a literal debt? Is Buddy a nickname or a legal name? Will this one task stand between June and completing a list that has come to mean so much to her?

Jill Smolinski is brilliant. The plot is creative and well thought out, the characters realistic and three-dimensional. I read this book in the space of a single day despite work, appointments, and errands and I can’t even remember what else. Even Marissa (who technically dies before the book even starts) becomes a person you can relate to through what June learns about both Marissa and herself. There are so many characters who come through this period better people after finding hope, peace, love, forgiveness, acceptance, courage, confidence, or awareness. Every reader will find at least one person to identify with and I highly recommend this book.

Erica’s Rating: 5/5

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