The Life List by Lori Nelson SpielmanThe Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
Published by Bantam on July 2nd 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 354
Goodreads

In this utterly charming debut — one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris
2. Perform live, on a super big stage
3. Have a baby, maybe two
4. Fall in love

Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a naïve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all—a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, dies, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago.

Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and—just when Brett needs it—tough love.

As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

2 Stars

This most definitely not the sort of book I usually pick up, but a good friend of mine recommended it to me saying she read it in one sitting and absolutely loved it.

I wouldn’t say this is a bad book, but it’s most certainly not my book.

Look at the following quotes:

“Love is the one thing on which you should never compromise.”

And

“There will be another sky, my love, just you wait.”

Now, if these are the kind of quotes that make you swoon and want to pick up the book immediately then you might very well enjoy The Life List. You might find this novel heart-warming and touching, see it as an emotional and maybe even thought-provoking journey of self-discovery. It will serve as a reminder that it’s never too late to live life the way you always dreamed, to take a leap of faith even when your goals seem unobtainable. And that really is a beautiful message.

Except I couldn’t appreciate any of it because I was too busy rolling my eyes.

Call me cold-hearted but if there is one thing I hate it is cheesiness. And this novel is about as cheesy as it gets.

The story follows 34-year-old Brett Bohlinger who has the seemingly perfect life. She has a great job at her mother’s multimillion-dollar company, lives together with her gorgeous boyfriend in an expensive apartment in the best part of town and has all the designer clothes anyone could wish for. But when her mother, Elizabeth, dies of cancer, Brett is devastated and her entire world is turned upside down. Instead of simply inheriting her money – the way her brothers do – and getting the role of CEO at her mother’s company, Brett must fulfill the life list she wrote when she was fourteen. Only if she manages to complete all the goals on the list within a year will Brett receive her inheritance.

Some of the goals on the list are quite easily achieved, e.g. get a dog. While others are more difficult and impactful, e.g. fall in love, have a baby.

I guess I should have known better. I should have known from the description that this book wouldn’t appeal to me. But it came so highly recommended that I wanted to give it a try anyway.

The concept of the novel is an overused one and unfortunately Lori Nelson Spielman didn’t make it fresh or new in any way. This didn’t really bother me that much however; my problem was the idea that a human being can dictate another person’s life from beyond the grave. I understand what the author was going for: Brett had such a great relationship with her mother that she knew her better than Brett knows herself. But does that give Elizabeth the right to practically force her daughter to do something she essentially doesn’t want to do? To guilt-trip her into leading a “better” life? I don’t think so. Sure, it may very well make Brett happier but the woman is 34 for goodness sake! Should she not be able to choose her own path? And how is it that a grown woman is still so dependent on her mother?

This last question leads me to my next point: Brett’s character. Brett has the emotional maturity of a fourteen year old. Which is ironic since she has fulfill goals she decided on when she was fourteen. She is also the definition of a doormat. She lets everyone walk all over her and has no spunk, no wit and seemingly not a lot of intelligence. She constantly complains about how she doesn’t want to follow the life list but doesn’t even try to do anything to change the situation. Throughout the story, Brett remained the obedient daughter with no backbone. Who needs character development, right? And no, giving away possessions and then claiming to have become less materialistic doesn’t count if your character doesn’t actually change.

Brett is basically tasked to analyze her life and change the things that don’t make her happy. But of course we can’t have the readers thinking Brett is motivated by money. So the author makes it clear on every page that Brett’s motives are completely selfless, that she only does this to appease her mother. There is no possible way Brett could be motivated by money because she helps the poor and teaches underprivileged children. A goody two shoes if ever I saw one.

As for the other characters in the novel, they were all astonishingly flat and only seemed to be plot devices to pull the story along. Brett’s mother appears as a goddess that could do no wrong. Andrew is the idiot boyfriend who only wants Brett’s money. Herbert is the perfect man that has no flaws except that he is, well, boring. The list goes on.

Oh and for all those of you who thought love triangles and other geometric love shapes were a thing restricted to YA books, think again. This novel contains an actual love pentagon. LOL. And yes, it’s as annoying as it sounds.

Spielman’s writing style was quite enjoyable and she did a good job of making the book engaging (or as engaging as it could be with characters like that). But ultimately, I don’t appreciate when authors set out with an agenda to tug at my heartstrings. I don’t like it when they try to hit me over the head with their “important” message. It makes me feel manipulated, in a bad way. Perhaps this was what I disliked most about the book.

So, do I recommend The Life List? No, I can’t say that I would. If you want to a good adult contemporary romance I suggest you pick up Me Before You instead.