Perhaps I am morbid, but I really enjoy reading books that take on the subject matter of death. I especially like it when young adult books talk about that subject matter, as for many young people, death does seem outside the realm of possibility when you have your whole life ahead of you. Thus, The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson caught my attention with it’s gritty topics, yet Arntson handles death with a light touch and writes a story that is both touching and funny.
Gabriela lives in a world where 1% of the population are tapped by grim reapers called Deaths to depart. A person receives a letter saying they’ve been chosen for departure and is assigned a specific death. The person tapped must then respond with a wrap-up list — or things they wish to accomplish before heading into the great beyond. Typically the person also asks for a pardon – meaning the Death must give them a clue about it’s noble weakness. It’s then up to the person to figure out their Death’s noble weakness and commit the deed in order to receive the pardon. Gabriela comes home from school one day to one of the red envelopes — she’s been tapped. And so, The Wrap-Up List is essentially about Gabriela trying to accomplish the items on her list and find out her Death – Hercule’s noble weakness so she can live the rest of her life.
Gabriela is a thinker and a very intelligent young lady. She’s the sort of girl who keeps her priest on his toes, as she argues theology with him. I found her to be an interesting protagonist – in that she’s well rounded and not all hung up on some guy even though her list centers on first kisses for all her friends — and her. Gabriela is close with her family, but there’s still some tension and dysfunction there. Her parents are not the Cleavers. She also is best friends with Iris, Raahi, and Sarena – a diverse set of teens. I also found that I liked how Arntson wove religion into The Wrap-Up List but made it so it wasn’t preachy, just a facet of Gabriela’s life.
For a slim book, The Wrap-Up List excels in creating a believable world. The way Arntson weaves in the Deaths and their 1% ‘tax’ comes across as effortless. I realize when it comes to fantasy, paranormal and speculative fiction there has to be a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader – however, it’s up to the writer to make the reader want to suspend their disbelief. Arntson does a wonderful job of doing this. He makes the Deaths unique and interesting — with rules they must follow and no deus ex machinas in sight. I really thought the world of The Wrap-Up List was fascinating.
If you’re looking for a book that hooks you within the first few pages - The Wrap-Up List is that book. It is engaging because you want to find out more about Gabriela, her family, her friends. Will she get her first kiss? With the boy she likes? And question of all questions for this book — will she get her pardon? I flew through the pages of this book and found myself intrigued by each new reveal.The reveals did feel totally organic and natural to the story, instead of tacked on to fulfill a checklist.
I really enjoyed my time reading Arntson’s work. I loved the concept behind The Wrap-Up List and the execution as well. Gabriela is a wonderful choice for a protagonist and one I found myself rooting for. If you are down for a book with an interesting take on death, you should definitely pick up a copy of The Wrap-Up List.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine
Other reviews of The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson:
Alexa Loves Books – “The premise of this story is really a very interesting one”
Bookworm1858 – “a fun fast read with a lot to think about”
Gabby Reads – “this tale was very unique”