When Alex, who recently lost her dad, discovers her estranged best friend Becca has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, reconciliation is followed by Alex's promise to help Becca complete her "bucket" list. Even though Hodgkin's treatment has a good success rate, Becca wants Alex to be her stand-in, completing things on the list while she undergoes chemo. At school, Alex pursues a friendship/mutual attraction with Leo Dietz. They share a love of horror movies and, soon, intense physical encounters, which help her check one or two things off the list. Quite simply, she likes the way he makes her body feel (the book's refreshingly matter-of-fact treatment of sex is one of its many strengths). But Leo is becoming attached, and that scares Alex. When Leo experiences a traumatic loss, Alex completely fails at showing support. Meanwhile, Becca's chemo leaves her incredibly sick, but she finds respite following Alex's progress with the list, and in her developing friendship/romance with Caleb, the hunky homeschooled teen next door. Alex is gruff and edgy and appealing, still in pain from losing her dad and upset by her friend's illness. Her general unease with emotional encounters is painfully and often humorously believable. She isn't unfeeling, but doesn't know how to show that she cares. The dialogue is funny, and the key relationships-the friendship between Alex and Becca, including its rough edges, and the developing romance between Alex and Leo-feel vivid and real, as do the brief glimpses of Alex's life at home in a family working through grief. (Age 14 and older)
CCBC Choices 2014. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014. Used with permission.