Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Next Thing on My List

The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski

When 34-year-old June Parker sets off for her first Weight Watchers meeting, her biggest complaints in life are the ten pounds she wants to lose and a relationship that’s on its last legs. Everything changes when she survives a car accident that left her passenger, 24-year-old Marissa Jones, dead. Tucked in Marissa’s purse, June discovers a list entitled “20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday” and is crushed to see that only two of the items had been completed at the time of Marissa’s death. A chance encounter with Marissa’s brother spurs June to complete Marissa’s list... in the six months left before her birthday. What begins as an errand undertaken to save face quickly becomes a noble quest that gives June’s life new meaning.

With entries as simple as “Watch a sunrise”, as difficult as “Change someone’s life”, and as confounding as “Make Buddy Fitch pay”, Marissa’s to-do list is compelling. Told by an endearing first person narrator, The Next Thing on My List is the story of June and her struggle to cross off the items on the list before Marissa’s birthday. Readers can keep track on June's progress by the increasingly stricken-through lists that appear throughout the book.

The Next Thing on My List is a very much a typical chick lit story with a typical chick lit protagonist. A twenty- or thirty-something (in this case, thirty-something) city girl is bumbling through life, career and love, to triumph in the end. In this case, June works at a ride share program in Los Angeles, where she's been passed over for a managerial position. She's single, depressed, and in need of a change. The catalyst for that change is a to-do list written by someone else. However, while completing the list is transformative for June, Smolinski's delivery falls flat. While the subtleties of some list items are thoroughly explored, others are glossed over (much like Marissa's death itself). In the end, though June proclaims herself changed, there doesn't seem to be enough evidence to prove any
lost-lasting effects.

The Next Thing on My List lacks that depth and sensitivity of Cecilia Ahern's debut PS, I love you (a novel this reader recommends on a similar theme). Nevertheless, fans of the genre will rush to pick up Smolinski's second novel and many will be charmed by her relatable heroine.

Read my review at Front Street Reviews...

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