Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back? Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Um… Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find? Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?
Would I recommend? If you want a light book about finding yourself/friendship.
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I’m sure everyone and their mother has heard of this book. I’m sure everyone and their mother has read this book, and I’m somewhat proud to say that I fall into this category. Because of the amount of hype this has been getting, it’s safe to say that my expectations were sky-high for this one. I’ve read only one Matson book before: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and I wasn’t as big on it as a lot of people seemed to be. While I enjoyed my second venture into Morgan Matson’s books, I still wasn’t blown away. Sure, it was better than Amy & Roger, but it wasn’t life-changing like a lot of people had told me it would be.
Emily finds herself alone for the summer; her best friend Sloane has disappeared without a word, leaving nothing but an empty house and a bucket list behind. There are thirteen things Emily needs to check off; things that scare her, confuse her, take her out of her comfort zone. When Emily wonders if the list might lead directly to Sloane, she embarks on the summer adventure of a lifetime. With the help of an unassuming ally, Frank Porter, Emily steadily works her way through the list, hoping it will bring her best friend back to her.
The premise was interesting. I’ve always been interested with bucket lists, but I’ve never read or seen anything that revolve around them, so I was excited going into this. It was a pleasant surprise that the bucket-list aspect wasn’t pushed to the backseat- it remained constant and consistent throughout the novel. I enjoyed how each chapter centered around one of the things on the list, but the story wasn’t disjointed. I enjoyed how, despite the book being mainly about Sloane’s disappearance, we got to see a lot of Emily’s life: her family life, her friendships, her past relationships, her workplace etc. The flashbacks were also a welcome surprise; they offered wonderful insight into Emily and Sloane’s relationship, and made the present mean more than it otherwise would have.
However, I wasn’t too big on the romance, and I’m probably one of the only people who thinks so. Frank Porter has a years-old relationship, and Emily (obviously) finds herself drawn to him. I knew as soon as Frank was introduced that these two were going to end up together, but the presence of Frank’s girlfriend made me very, very uncomfortable- I found it extremely difficult to root for their relationship.
I didn’t much care for the ending either. I felt that Sloane and Emily’s relationship was slightly unrealistic.
I initially liked Emily’s character a lot, because I found myself being able to relate to her. She’s an introvert; she likes to stay in the safe zone, and as soon as she’s pushed to go out of her comfort zone, she has absolutely no idea what to do. That’s literally me. But as soon as the romance aspect was introduced, I started to draw back from both her character and Frank’s character. In the end, I didn’t much care for either of them.
The secondary characters played significant roles in this book, and I appreciated that. Collins (Frank’s best friend) was much-needed comic relief, and he was a fun addition to the overarching drama. Emily’s personality could have been built up much more effectively if her family was given a little more attention.
The writing was okay. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It read a lot like most contemporaries, but I do appreciate the lack of cheese in this one. I hate cheesy dialogue, and Morgan Matson is good at avoiding it. I also liked how she paced the book- there weren’t dull moments, so I flew through this. She knew when to get heavy on the drama, when to keep it light. I do wish the ending was given more attention. It felt like Matson wrapped up everything a little too quickly.
Overall, this book was okay. It wasn’t good as I was hoping it would be, but by no means was it a bad one.