Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West – HarperTeen – Published 26 December 2017
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.
This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.
Can you make your best friend fall in love with you? Can you change your heart, become a better person with a few simple steps? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s what Abby learns in the process that makes Love, Life and the List such a fun, contemporary YA novel.
Abby’s goal is to make it into a prestigious art program. The one obstacle in her way is showing her art in an exhibit. When her work is turned away as ‘lacking in heart’, she creates a list of things to help her develop a deeper understand and appreciation of the world that will hopefully translate to her paintings. As she and her best friend Cooper work their way through Abby’s list, Abby is determined to make the experience a chance to finally get over her unrequited feelings for Cooper and hopeful fulfill her art goals at the same time.
A list that can change a person’s heart? Well, maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I actually really love how Abby creates her list. It isn’t the typical flighty, ridiculous list of summer plans gone awry. Instead, Abby chooses things she likes best about each of her friends and family members and adds something that will help her become more like that. It’s a beautiful idea.
I found the romance a little unsatisfying in this book. Not completely, mind you, because that bit right at the end was pretty cute, but on the whole I much preferred this book for what it said about character development and learning to accept yourself, despite what others think about you.
Abby worries a lot about what people think about her. Which is pretty surprising considering she is one of the most upfront, easy going, chill, unfazed, and sarcastic characters I have ever come across. Seriously. Abby redefines the meaning of sarcasm and all its various uses. Abby has a strange sort of sarcastic whit, to the point that I found her quite disrespectful, especially when talking to her grandfather and father. It’s all part of their running jokes, but sometimes it came across as mean or demeaning. I didn’t like that about Abby, but on the upside she embraces who she is as a person. Her journey centres around her discovery that her biggest problem is actually letting other people define her, her art, and her worth. Watching her discover this, accept her flaws, and face them head on was refreshing.
Best friends to more. Or not. Maybe? Honestly, I had no idea which way it would go, even right up until the last few pages. I wasn’t totally convinced by the romance, but it works to offset Abby’s journey and I think that is what’s most important about this book anyway. I did, however, really like Abby and Cooper’s friendship. They are tight, seen through all those little moments, inside jokes, and stories that speak of years of shared history.
Art is a really big part of this book. Abby is an artist and she designs her list to help her deepen her art. It was fun to step inside an artist’s mind for a little while. Abby’s concerns about her mother and her mental health were another important aspect of this book, giving it another layer of depth.
Overall, while I didn’t love this book like I have loved some of Kasie’s previous novels, Love, Life and the List is a solid contemporary novel that combines art, the complications of unrequited best-friend romance, friendship, and self discovery.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Friendship, art, unrequited love, romance, best friends, painting, lists, family, mental health.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Published: 26 December 2017 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 384 pages.