Anna's always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm's summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm's list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm's dream summer would eventually lead to Anna's own self-discovery?
The idea behind this book is great. Who doesn't love a redemptive how-to-find-yourself-in-your-dead-sister's-diary-romantic-summer-road-trip story? For the first time since she's been gone, I think maybe I can do this. I can figure out how to live my life. I liked a lot about this book. I liked the theme of finding yourself and who you are, of how to go on with your life while you're grieving. The road-trip was sweet, as was the romance that (unsurprisingly) develops between Anna and Cameron on their journey. Anna is a compelling character. She isn't a mean girl, she has close female friends, and real, conflicting feelings in her heart that she has to wrestle with. There isn't really any slut-shaming, and there isn't any concern about who's a "bad" or a "good" girl. That's really refreshing to read.
Unfortunately, there's a lot more with this book that made it hard for me to care too much. This book is all about Anna and her journey, so everything else kind of falls flat.
Cameron doesn't have much of a personality or a story beyond what he is to the sisters.
Anna's friendship with Piper. They mostly talk about boys and what they're wearing, Piper is often unsympathetic to her loss, and she drags Anna to awful parties she really doesn't want to go to. But yet we're also told she's a good friend (we just never see it). Of course people can get in fights and say terrible things to each other and still remain friends - I just would have liked to see a more well-rounded friendship where they actually have real conversations (there is sort of one at the end, but it comes a little late, imo).
Anna's parents conveniently leave so she can go on this journey, she has an Aunt who can easily help her coordinate this trip, she doesn't have to worry about money at all.
It's so simple and conflict-free.
In the end, I think the larger issue with me is that, because Storm dies "off stage," to to speak, I had to create the emotional resonance myself. The writing doesn't do quite get there, Storm is just this sort of vague figure in the background. Even though this loss is the driving force of the entire novel, we're just told about the relationship the two sisters had. We're told how much they loved each other, the distance that had come between them, a few sketches of their childhood. We never see it in any flashbacks or anything, and so the reader has to do the majority of the work. There are a lot of great bones to the book, I think. The ending is sweet and hopeful. Despite its heavy material, it's a pretty light read. It's a hard task to write about grief in a way that doesn't feel melodramatic, and I think Rachel Bateman does that well.
Expected Publication May 9, 2017