Book Review

Someone Else’s Bucket List By Amy T. Matthews

Someone Else’s Bucket List

  • Author: Amy T. Matthews
  • Genre: General Fiction
  • Publication Date: May 23, 2023
  • Publisher: Highbridge Audio

Thank you to NetGalley and Highbridge Audio for providing me with an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: cancer, emesis, grief

Readers of Josie Silver and Rebecca Serle will adore this bingeworthy, bittersweet P.S. I Love You for the digital age. After the untimely death of her outgoing, hugely successful influencer sister, an introverted woman takes on the terrifying challenge of completing her sister’s bucket list as the world watches, in a bid to save her family—and others—from the crippling medical debt her cancer battle left behind.

My dying wish is for you to finish my bucket list. I refuse to die without knowing this list will be completed. And I refuse to die without knowing my family will be okay . . .

Jodie Boyd is a shy and anxious twenty-something, completely unsure what to do with her life. Her older sister, Bree, is an adventurous, globe-trotting, hugely successful Instagram influencer with more than a million followers. She’s the most alive person Jodie knows—up until Bree’s unfathomable, untimely death from Leukemia. The Boyds are devastated, not to mention overwhelmed with medical debt. But Bree thought of everything—and soon, Jodie is shocked by a new post on her sister’s Instagram feed.

The first of many Bree recorded in secret, the post foretells a jaw-dropping challenge for Jodie: to complete Bree’s very public bucket list. From “Fly over Antarctica,” to “Perform a walk-on cameo in a Broadway musical,” if Jodie does it—and keeps all Bree’s followers—a corporate sponsor will pay off the staggering medical debt. If she gains followers, the Boyds won’t be the only ones to benefit. It’s crazy. It’s terrifying. It’s impossible, immoral even, to refuse. So, despite the whole world watching, Jodie plunges in, never imagining that in death, her sister will teach her how to live, and that the last item on the list—“Fall in love”—may just prove to be the easiest.

This came up on my radar, and sounded so interesting. This is the kind of book that has the potential to be so good if it’s done well, and let me tell you, despite the number of baseball references that made no sense to me, this book knocked it out of the park!

I liked that the story started with Bree, healthy. We get to know her as a person, rather than a dying person, or someone who has already passed. We get to see that spark in her personality that just draws people in and makes them love her instantly. And just as I started to get attached, she gets sick, and the whole downward spiral is shown. As someone who has watched a love one die of cancer, I can say that everything felt so accurate. 

It’s always hard to lose someone, but it’s especially hard losing someone young and full of life. Bree was one of those people who grabbed onto life with both hands and lived as fully as she could in the time she had allowed. And while she’s gotten a lot of her bucket list accomplished, there’s still a few she hasn’t checked off, and she bequeaths them to her younger sister. Even better, if she completes them all and documents it on her sister’s social media account, all of her sister’s staggering medical bills will be paid off. 

It says a lot about the country we live in where simply trying to beat a deadly illness can bankrupt an entire family, even after the person dies. It felt like it added an extra layer to the grief that the family was feeling, and I know from experience that seeing a bill arrive in the mail can feel like a punch in the gut.

Jodie is as different from Bree as two sisters can be—while Bree is extroverted and gregarious, Jodie is anxious and introverted. So when Jodie sees the bucket list and the ways in which she’s going to have her life broadcast on social media, she’s not looking forward to this at all. But the need to escape out from under the crushing medical debt is motivating her. And the fact that if she can increase the followers on her sister’s account, that generosity will be spread to others. So she’s really motivated.

I loved watching Jodie come out of her shell, even as she’s dealing with her complex grief. The further into the story we get, the more she starts to challenge herself, both in the list items and in life, overall. My favorite thing about this book was the way relationships were so central to Jodie’s wellbeing. She needs the support, and a long-term friend of both sisters is by her side for every step of this journey, both giving and receiving support. I loved seeing Claudia be viewed as family rather than simply a friend. And part of the crew involved in handling this mission also becomes more than just assistants, but turns into genuine friends, helping Jodie through some of her most difficult times.

This is a fantastic story about grief and loss, and the different ways that people get through the loss of a loved one. It’s probably one of the most heartwarming and bittersweet stories I’ve read in a long time, and this one is definitely going to stay with me.

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