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Anchors Aweigh And Seize The Day

Take a charming cruise through life's firsts and lasts in The Loose Ends List.

Anchors Aweigh And Seize The Day

BOOK REPORT for The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Cover Story: Seaworthy
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist of Sass
Bonus Factors: Kickass Gram, Globetrotting, Being Rich
Relationship Status: Snow Globe Moment

Cover Story: Seaworthy

I'm surprised that the cover artist didn't go with a snow globe (since it's a prominent symbol in the story), but the anchor is a nice nod to the family cruise that makes up the bulk of the book. Overall, the artwork is playful and colorful, and while the cover is a little misleading given the ocean of tears underneath, I love the fact that it doesn't scream AHOY YOUNG ADULT.

The Deal

Maddie O'Neill Levine is busy crafting her Loose Ends List (i.e. things she needs to accomplish before the summer ends) when her grandmother surprises the family with a list of her own along with the news that she's dying. And the item at the top of her agenda? Take everyone on a death-with-dignity cruise called the Wishwell. Heartbroken over the looming loss of her gram, Maddie embarks on the journey to say good-bye, but as she gets to know the other passengers (including the super-hot Enzo) and explores exciting and exotic places, she finds herself saying hello to a whole new world of possibilities.

BFF Charm: Yay!

For someone who comes from an insanely rich family, Maddie is surprisingly down to earth, with a no-nonsense attitude that she inherited from her grandmother, Astrid. (Full disclosure, that woman is the real bestie jackpot in this book. But more on her later.) She doesn't take shizz from people, but she's also incredibly compassionate, and her self-awareness results in a combination of youthful sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years. Thanks to a delicious sense of adventure and a grounded sense of reality, Maddie makes for that rare friend, the kind who is steady in her loyalty and spontaneous in her affection.

p.s. I wouldn't say they're all bestie material per se, but I basically fell in love with Maddie's entire family. This exchange between Maddie and a fellow passenger, who overhears them cherishing a "snow globe moment," pretty much sums up their lust for life and their cantankerous charm:

"I like that," Paige says. "Snow globe moment, like we're suspended in a snow globe."

"It's our family saying," I say. "One of them. Our family also likes the phrase 'you're an asshole.'"

As a unit, they're a madcap mess, a whirling dervish of drama, humor and more than their fair share of eccentricity, and if there was a way to get adopted by this unconventional clan, it would be first on my Loose Ends List.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Maddie meets Enzo on board the Wishwell, which his mom runs. He's British, but he half grew up in Italy, and he surfs and plays soccer and OKAY THAT'S ENOUGH, MR. PERFECT. Though their courtship is too accelerated for my personal taste, Maddie and Enzo are aces at flirtatious banter, and their ensuing connection is poignant and sweet without a trace of sugary aftertaste.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist of Sass

There's a line in Steel Magnolias when Dolly Parton's character says, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Now, I don't know Carrie Firestone personally, but I'm willing to bet that she shares this sentiment, because her writing tickles your funny bone just as deftly as it tugs at your heartstrings. Candid and comical, Maddie's voice pulls you in immediately, and though the storytelling has a certain whimsical quality, the inhabitants of this book feel very, very real. The DNRIP (Do Not Read In Public) tag on this review could really go either way, because I snickered out loud like a crazy person just as much as I cried like a freak.*

*Okay, but really, it's the tears you need to watch out for. They will FLOOD YOUR FACE.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gram

If you took the best qualities from each of the Golden Girls and rolled them into one person, you would have Gram, a.k.a. Astrid O'Neill. I'm sure you're thinking, "There is no way that one woman could be that fabulous," but YOU WOULD BE WRONG. Gram is a straight shooter (Dorothy), a sweetheart (Rose), a lover (Blanche) and a mothercussing live wire (Sophia). Bold and brassy, she knows when to give the most amount of f**ks--like her one-on-one time with each member of the family--and the least amount of f**ks--like the day she decides to force everyone to try on thong bathing suits in Brazil. I just about died when she looked at Wes, the husband of her son Billy, and said, "Wow, Wes. Billy never told me how large you are. Good for you."

Although things get serious, Astrid never loses her joie de vivre, even when her granddaughter is crying her eyes out on her lap:

"Okay, stop. I'm dying, not paying full price for theater tickets. Enough with the tears." Gram pulls me up by my hair. "People are going to think I've pissed myself, and the one thing I have left is a stellar bladder."

Astrid O'Neill, I would be honored to call you my spirit animal.

Bonus Factor: Globetrotting

The Wishwell alone offers a pretty fantastic trip, but Gram takes the clan on a few jet-setting side missions, including jaunts to Italy and Taiwan. Like I said, DEAR O'NEILLS, I AM UP FOR ADOPTION.

Bonus Factor: Being Rich

No one is a snob about it, but it's obvious that Maddie's fam is ridiculously rich, which allows for trips to Saks, luxurious vacation homes and, though it may carry death, a ship that's also equipped with the stuff of dreams. I REPEAT, O'NEILLS, TAKE ME, PLEASE.

Casting Call:

Georgie Henley as Maddie

Douglas Booth as Enzo

Relationship Status: Snow Globe Moment

As mentioned above, when Maddie's family experiences something special, they refer to it as a Snow Globe Moment--a glittering second in time that you wish you could encase in glass in order to relive it over and over again. This book shook me up with its enchanting characters and emotional punches, but when the dust settled, I was left with a wonderful portrait of love and the power of a carpe diem attitude.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review. The Loose Ends List is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).