I received a copy from Netgalley.
I finished this book over a week ago and I'm still struggling to find words to review it. It's one of those books I'm not sure if I liked or I didn't. It made me cry at the end, so initially I gave it 3.1/2 stars, but on reflection, other than the emotional bit at the end and bit at the start, I really just didn't like it that much.
It tells the story of 17 year old Maddie, who comes from a very wealthy family. She's pretty, sassy and popular and looking forward to spending the summer with her friends. Only to find out her grandmother has incurable cancer and only a short time left to live, and has therefore booked the entire extended family on a special kind of cruise for terminally ill people to die with dignity, the way they want to without being forced to keep living by doctors and chemicals that don't do much other than prolong life. It's a very good idea, really.
And the grandmother was probably my favourite character. Nothing like you would picture a very rich old lady. She's blunt, says exactly what she thinks and does it without being harsh or cruel. She's delightfully crude and doesn't seem to have any inhibitions at all. She wants the family with her on this special cruise.
The family are all sorts of different people, Maddie and her cousin Janie are the same age, Maddie's parents are your typical rich people parents, then there's Maddie's older brother Jeb, who's described as a "moody art student who listens to angry music and paints twisted crap". Also Maddie's mom's brother Billy and his husband, Wes. Along with Great Aunt Rose who's not all there in the sanity department and bitchy Aunt Mary. So a whole host of different personalities who all have to cope with each other.
Once you get past the sudden shock and sadness of the grandmother Astrid’s news, the family head off on this cruise. Maddie’s attitude at first was delightfully snarky, but it got tiring very fast. Of course, you have to try and remind yourself as a reader, this is a 17 year old girl who’s used to the best of the best and has to spend her summer on a cruise ship with extended family, her beloved grandmother is going to die at some point and everyone else on the cruise is very ill and at the last stages of their lives with their own family. It’s a hell of a lot for anyone to take in.
The reader is introduced to the various passengers as Maddie, Astrid and family get going on the trip and learn about the different types of things the patients are suffering from and their family members. It’s uncomfortable for Maddie, but the writing is also at times actually quite humours. Maddie and Janie (of course) spot two hunks on the ship – a doctor (referred to as Doctor Do Me by Janie) and cruise director’s son, Enzo. Enter some very crude humour that was funny at first but got tiring very fast.
There’s a whole host of family drama, Maggie and Janie make friends with some of the patients, and get into flings – Janie sets her sights on Doctor Do Me and Maggie is after Enzo. One of the big issues I had with this book was Maggie’s relationship with Enzo.
It’s the worst kind of insta-love and did nothing to improve the story for me at all. She spends a few days watching him from a far, spends an afternoon getting to know him, then next thing you know they’re hooking up and tearing each other’s clothes off every chance they get. That would be fair enough – Maddie’s facing a difficult time and in clear need of distraction which some insta lust would be the perfect cure. But no, it goes well beyond that and within days they’re declaring their absolute love for each other. Completely eye rolling and utterly unbelievable and annoying. Especially when Astrid arranges some trips and excursions and all Maddie wants is to hook up with Enzo. She’s supposed to be spending time with her family – not getting her itch scratched!
Maddie could also be very judgemental in my opinion. She is uncomfortable around some of the patients in various decaying health. Though others she becomes very close to. At one point before she gets hot and heavy with Enzo her inner monologue reflects on Janie’s sexual appetites and she makes a remark to herself that she managed to be pretty and popular without drinking and without being skanky and sleeping her way around. Get the fuck over yourself, Maddie. This is when she started to annoy me. And of course, it’s perfectly okay for her to hook up with Enzo whenever she can. Urg. No.
There were quite a few moving scenes throughout with the family bonding and when other patients were lost. They had quite a bit of emotional impact. Then at other times Maddie went back to annoying the hell out of me. The end was pretty heart breaking. It did make me cry quite a bit and the aftermath was quite realistically handled, as at least by the end of the book was Maddie’s relationship with Enzo. Sad, but at least the last bit revives a bit of hope.
But there were too many problems I had with Maddie to really like this book that much. Certainly I would read something by this author again, I wouldn’t pick this book up again.
Thank you Netgalley and Hatchett Children’s Group for approving my request to view the title.