Release date: June 7th 2016
Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.
Going into this book, I was debating on whether or not I wanted to do that to myself. A book full of characters on a ‘death with dignity’ cruise sounded like it would just be waiting for the right moments to break my heart. But I’m glad I did pick it up because, yes it was full of characters who were easy to get attached to who went on the cruise with the intention of living out their last days, but it was also full of great family moments, of new friendships, of hope, and of acceptance.
At first, I was a little unsure if I would like Maddie. She came across as a bit of a superficial party girl. She really grew on me throughout the book with her interactions with her grandmother, the other passengers on the cruise, her uncles. The whole family was a little eccentric and dysfunctional but they obviously were close and I liked that we got little glimpses into how they were all handling the news of their mother’s/grandmother’s cancer. It wasn’t just focused on Maddie.
I wasn’t completely sold on the romance aspect. It seemed like it happened a bit fast and there were times when I was wondering if they would have hooked up if there had been other teens their age on the cruise. They were cute together, it just felt more like a convenient summer fling type of romance than a lifetime romance.
I would say my favourite thing was the balance between the more lighthearted and funny moments of the book and the devastating moments. Everyone(including me) would be laughing and enjoying the moment and then it would suddenly shift as they remembered why they were on the cruise in the first place. It was definitely a roller coaster ride for my emotions and a ride that I’m sure will stay with me every time I see this book.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.