Published by HarperTeen on December 26th 2017
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.
Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.
Which is where the list comes in.
Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.
But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems... and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.
I enjoy reading Kasie West’s contemporary YA novels but I do have to admit that her last two have not been stellar. I was excited, yet skeptical about Love, Life, and the List and it was a little better than I expected. Here are the things that I loved about the book and some things that I didn’t like so much.
- I loved the family elements in this book. I enjoyed that the main character’s family members were featured throughout the book and that we got to know them. I loved the role that her grandfather played in her life and how well they got along.
- This book tries to explore mental health. Abby, our main character’s, mother is dealing with agoraphobia that she has not sought professional help for and this was an enduring aspect of the plot. I did, however, have some problems with this that I will go into more detail in my dislike’s list.
- I like the friendship aspects in the book and how well Abby got along with all her friends. She also went about making new friends and that was really great to see. I loved that there weren’t any friendship breakdowns, which can be common in contemporary YA.
- I really enjoyed that Abby is an artist and that art was a big theme in the novel. Abby is a painter and there are other characters in the book who are sculptors and actors.
- I thought the writing in this book was strong… at least compared to some of Kasie West’s recent novels. The writing didn’t frustrate me and I found it to be quick and easy to read.
- Despite liking the writing, I did not really like Abby’s voice in the novel. I found it hard to really connect with her and thought that she was a little bit shallow. Because of this, I don’t think that some of the mental health and family themes were explored as well as they could have been.
- I wasn’t a big fan of Abby’s character. I liked that she was driven and passionate about her art but beyond that, I thought she was self-centred and a bit annoying at times. She made everything about herself, especially by ignoring the fact that her mother needed help. There was also one scene where she yelled at her mother, saying that she needed help, but then immediately turning around and acting like it wasn’t her problem. I just really did not enjoy that.
- I was not a fan of the romance in this novel. Abby has an unrequited crush on her best friend Cooper, and I really didn’t enjoy her actions when it came to Cooper. She essentially throws a tantrum every time he doesn’t put her first and shoves him away every time he doesn’t return her feelings. If I’m not mistaken, people you like are allowed to not like you back?
- There wasn’t as much character development as I would’ve liked. I thought Abby’s character fell flat and she didn’t really have any dimension besides being an artist and the girl who liked Cooper.
- Following from the previous point, I would’ve liked a bit more on focus on the list and how each new experience Abby ticked off helped change her as an artist and a character. Considering that the list is mentioned in the title and kind of supposed to be a big part of the novel, I wanted a bit more from it.
Overall, this was a much better novel from Kasie West than her last one, Lucky in Love. There were some really great themes of family, friendship and mental health. I was a little bit disappointed with the characterisation of the main character and the romance in the book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the whole book in general.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to HarperTeen for providing a review copy of the book.
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Glad this was better than her last two for you. It sounds like the good bits outweigh the bad bits for the most part. I generally like her books so I hope to pick this one up at some point. Great review!
I only read two books by Kasie West and I loved them! I’m sorry to hear the last two are not so great apparently… I guess I’m gonna have to take a look at them and check for myself ^^
I wasn’t a huge fan of this one either. It was a solid Kasie West book but honestly nothing special. I wish more focus were on the list as well. I didn’t like the romance much either. Abby was definitely self-centered at times and I didn’t agree with many of her actions. I did like the family and painting elements of the book too!
Glad to hear that you had the same thoughts that I did! The romance was pretty lukewarm. It just felt like Abby threw tantrums left right and centre until Cooper reciprocated her feelings. Wasn’t really into it…
I’ve only read one of her books I think but they seem to be such a hit or miss for most readers too Jenna. I’m glad to hear this is one of her better reads though but the romance sounds disappointing and it’s hard to really immerse yourself with an unlikable main character too. Wonderful review Jenna, really enjoyed it <3
Thanks Kelly! Kasie West is kinda hit or miss for me too but I can’t seem to quit her books haha. I just wish she would stop publishing two books a year and just focus on making one great.
sdkfsdkjfl yes i agree!! honestly, kasie west books… have not been the best for me. By Your Side was pretty cute but also there were parts that I didn’t really like. P.S. I Like You was… cringy to me?? I really didn’t like it.
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Ahh I didn’t mind PS I Like You, but for me that was kind of the turning point in the quality of her novels. The ones that have come after it have not been that great in my opinion. I think it’s probably time for me to quit Kasie West…
Oohh I’m a bit scared to try this now. Kasie’s books are a hit or miss for me! For one, I love the sound of the family dynamics, especially since I was very close with my grandfather myself. On the other hand, I know the lack of depth when it comes to the mental health issues will definitely disappoint me. 🙁 Awesome review, though, Jenna!
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Thanks Aimee! Kasie’s books are also a little bit hit or miss for me but I can’t seem to stop myself from going back haha. I guess they’re all pretty quick to read at least. I think this one is one of her better ones so I would recommend checking it out if you’re interested!
Love it when books focus on the family. But yes, always a downer when we cannot connect with the voice of the MC
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Books with family themes are definitely my favourite! Especially family sagas! Sadly the family themes in this one didn’t make up for some of the other elements.
Thank you for sharing Jenna!
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I’m 40% through By Your Side right now and not loving it. I don’t think I’ll try any of the writer’s other work, particularly after reading this. Great review. 🙂
Ahhh yeah. I agree that Kasie West’s books have definitely been on the decline in the past few years. There are plenty of other great contemporaries out there and it’s not really worth wasting all of your time on books that you don’t enjoy! Hope your next read is better!