May 21, 2012

Listing the best things in life

By Kekla Magoon
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While her father lies in a coma in an assisted living facility, the result of a construction accident two years earlier, Ellis Baldwin’s late-night radio goddess mother has brought up the ultimate question again: whether it’s time to disconnect him from the machines keeping him alive. As the 15-year-old weighs the approach of death and loss, she also begins to recognize the things that give her life meaning. She makes a list that becomes the framing device for Kekla Magoon’s at once bittersweet and hopeful 37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order).

Some choices, like warm chocolate chip cookies, sleeping in one’s own bed or the last days of school, are clear-cut loves; others are more complicated. Ellis still loves her best friend Abby, but no longer appreciates her increasingly self-absorbed style and wishes they could go back to the friendship they had “long before boobs and boys and parties.” Just when Ellis notices the sexually suggestive glances she’s starting to receive from boys, former best friend Cara re-enters her life. Their renewed friendship explores a new emotional and even physical intimacy, which may lead to one more love.

Ellis’ realistic, conversational style is chock full of teen appeal, and fans of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay will enjoy this equally quick yet emotionally charged story. Despite all the things she loves, they may mean more if she could share them with the people she loves. Letting go may mean letting in. As Ellis accepts finding love in truth, a good cry and ultimately saying goodbye, readers should have plenty of tissues at hand.

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