The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson
This was an odd, quirky little story. It has a fantastical premise
(creatures called "Deaths" are responsible for 'departing' certain
individuals), and is set sometime in the future (no year is given, but
the US is on the brink of what sounds like another world war) and yet it
is centered very much on protagonist Gabriela's teenage concerns and
daily life. There really isn't much world-building going on, but given
this book seems to be more of a contemporary novel with a fantastical
premise, I don't know that it really needs a ton of world-building.
the fact that Gabriela's wrap-up list (what she wants to have happen
before she departs) is centered on first kisses, romance really doesn't
play that large a role in the story. Her "love interest," if you can
call him that, is a sad specimen and I honestly don't know why she
wanted him as her first kiss. He seemed like kind of a jerk, to be
honest. Gabriela's taste in guys aside, however, she was a likeable
enough protagonist, although her voice sounded a little younger than her
specified age -- more like fourteen rather than sixteen. I enjoyed
seeing her Mexican heritage highlighted in a natural, organic sort of
My favourite character without a doubt was the Death Hercule. He had attitude.
I wish we could have seen even more of him. Just generally, I think
some of the side characters could have been fleshed-out more; I would
have liked to have seen more of her relationships with friends and
family. It felt a little like the basics had been sketched out, but not
completely filled in.
Plot-wise, there weren't many "big events" before the climactic scene, and then the ending itself was fairly predictable (highlight for spoilers: for one thing, I totally guessed that the "wait for Gabriela" hint could refer to after Sylvester's departure).