The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

“The pain of losing doesn’t get less with each person I lose. But I have the wisdom of knowing the pain isn’t forever. That fades. The memories stay. And the love isn’t going anywhere.”


Synopsis from GoodreadsMaddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home. With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter.

Feelings: When I randomly picked this book up at my local bookstore, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Death cruise? Dying grandmother? One of these things I could relate to. The other was a curveball. Friends, I read this book in a day. I mean, I devoured it. I laughed. I cried. I was totally enveloped. Sometimes when you read a book about cancer and death and family heartbreak…there’s just a lot of sadness and ugly crying. This book, however, was just the right mix of humor, crudeness, sadness, and sass. I never thought I’d enjoy that combination, but I really enjoyed this book. For every sad moment, there were 5 funny and heartwarming ones that followed it up. One aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was the parallel of Maddie’s firsts and her Gram’s lasts. Maddie is experiencing some things for the first time and while her Gram is at the end of her life, she’s able to walk her through them and shake some sense into her along the way. 

Issues: I think this book teeters on the line of realistic at times. I’m not talking about the big stuff, like a cruise ship that lets you die with dignity, but the little things. For example, every time they decided to throw a party out of the blue and have the most random food…am I supposed to believe that was all stocked on the ship? Also, how could that ship be a secret? The people of this world would find out about it and tweet about it, giving it all kinds of crazy hashtags. The whole top secret death cruise idea is hard for me to completely buy.

While I kind of enjoyed the crass and rude moments every once in a while, some of it felt out of place and awkward, like it was forced. It kind of broke up the flow of the story, but it would always pick back up again pretty quickly.

Characters: Maddie annoyed the heck out of me at first. She had this group of friends that honestly, are terrible friends (except for Rachel). And the fact that Maddie ignored Rachel at school was SO high school. But then I thought…she’s a high school girl. This is what high school girls are like sometimes (aka most of the time). Then I went on this journey with Maddie and my opinion of her changed some. I kept having to remind myself that she was 17 and then 18…still a kid, learning about the world and about people, obsessing over a boy she just met and having plenty of pity parties.

I don’t know about you, but neither of my grandmothers would have been caught dead saying the things Maddie’s gram did. I guess because of that, I found her to be a refreshing grandma character. She’s so far and away from the normal grandma I’ve read about, or known in my lifetime. It was really interesting to find out some things from her past alongside her family. She lived a full life, full of adventures and mishaps, but zero regrets. It was nice to read the wisdom she gave Maddie about love and life, considering what all Maddie was experiencing.

I was hoping for some more character development in the end. I had high hopes for Janie, that she’d get out of her slutty slump and commit to something real with Ty. Jeb saw some growth, and Maddie did, too, except for the fact that she was back with her idiot friends in the end. Come on, Maddie girl! A little more resolution between Maddie and her brother would have been welcome, but in real life that doesn’t always happen!

Final thoughts: While death is the headlining topic of this book, it’s not a story dripping in sadness and despair. It’s full of love, hope, and reminders to live for those snow globe moments. Something that I appreciated about this book was how there wasn’t some magic cure-all at the end, taking away all the sadness. Maddie experienced real heartache and a very real response to it. Then she had to pick herself up by her bootstraps and learn to live on. In the end, I enjoyed how unique this story was and how engaging the writing was. This is actually one that I’d read again.

Pick this up if you liked:

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Goodreads rating: 3.8/5 rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn


3 thoughts on “The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

  1. I’m glad you gave this a good rating! I’ve heard mostly negative reviews for this one – I think because of the protagonist’s personality – and pushed it to the back of my TBR. It’s good to know that it’s unique and engaging, and I’ll definitely give it another try. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

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