Half of this book will have you snorting with laughter, and the other half will leave you searching for tissue. Seriously. It’s a feelings read, and even the hardest hearts (me, for instance) will find it hard to resist the cast of vivid characters and their collective journey. I liked the world travel and the ridiculous antics, but I also liked the lessons about dealing with the hard things in life. I gave this book five stars.
First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.
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.
First, and foremost, this is a book about love, and sometimes it’s about finding and reveling in love, and sometimes it’s about letting go of the things you love. This lesson comes at a pivotal time in the narrator’s life and is the right mix of levity for young adult readers who are probably facing some of the same heartbreaking and breathtaking experiences. Older readers will draw from the story in a different but equally compelling way. The characters are rich, the plot is unexpected, and the culmination is absolutely worth your time. I want it for my high school classroom library because it is the equivalent of hiding the broccoli in the cheese – so good that the kids won’t even notice the important messages they are also getting. This book does take a stance on assisted death, and there are some pretty frank (and hilarious) discussions about sex as well as a few scenes of sensuality, so it isn’t for everyone, but I think it is appropriate for mature high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.