The Wrap-Up List - Steven Arntson

January 15, 2013

The Wrap-Up List Steven Arntson book cover
The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source/Format: BEA 2012 || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in my review.]

In this modern-day suburban town, one percent of all fatalities come about in the most peculiar way. Deaths—eight-foot-tall, silver-gray creatures—send a letter (“Dear So-and-So, your days are numbered”) to whomever is chosen for a departure, telling them to wrap up their lives and do the things they always wanted to do before they have to “depart.” When sixteen-year-old Gabriela receives her notice, she is, of course devastated. Will she kiss her crush Sylvester before it’s too late? (from Goodreads)

The premise of this story is really a very interesting one - what would you do if you were told Death were going to come for you and that you only had a certain amount of time to do all the things you wanted to do in your life? This state of affairs is precisely what sets the story of The Wrap-Up List into motion, inviting readers to explore this strange notion as it happens to Gabriela.

What really made this story interesting to me is the idea of death by “departure”, mostly because it made me think about the pros and cons of having such knowledge. Knowing when I would be taken means I would probably take advantage of what time I had left and finish the things I always wanted to do; but knowing when I would be taken would also leave a lingering cloud of doom and gloom over every single event. It was interesting to see how it had become a normal thing for people to “depart” in the book, almost as if it were an eventuality that could exist in our own futures.

Even though the book was narrated by Gabriela, I get the distinct feeling that I didn’t really know her, but just knew OF her. However, I admired her tenacity in fighting for her right to live, as well as her consideration and love for her friends and family. She falls into a myriad number of YA characters that I’ve encountered over the years otherwise, as I’m not significantly attached to her or knowledgeable about who she is.

I did like the other characters in the book – her supportive parents, her wonderful friends (especially Iris), the family priest (who reminded me of a kind, old priest that I know back home), Sylvester – mostly because they provide a colorful cast and various facets to the story. Though again, I felt like I only got to know them on a surface level, I still enjoyed reading about them.

The story flew by fairly quickly, traveling the spectrum from more introspective, thoughtful moments to funny bits with her friends and family. I liked the balance of humor and seriousness that the author struck, and I thought he chose his moments well.

The Wrap-Up List is a fast contemporary read, with a slightly supernatural twist (thanks to Death and departures). While I certainly think that there could have been more character development, there were moments both hilarious and reflective that kept me entertained.


  1. Such a well written review Alexa! I haven't heard of this book, but the concept of it is, intriguing indeed.

  2. Love what you said about not really knowing Gabriela-I read this too and have to say that I agree.

  3. This sounds a lot like The Deathday Letter, which came out a couple years ago. I definitely agree that this is a super interesting concept. It sucks you couldn't connect with the main character, but I'm glad the other characters kind of made up for it. Very good review!

    1. Ooh, I'm going to need to look that one up! I haven't heard of that one.

  4. ooh death by departure does sound pretty intriguing! I totally get what you mean about knowing a character but not REALLY knowing them. I'm glad you liked the other characters in the book! Lovely review. :)

    1. It really does! It kind of makes me think about what I'd do if I were in that position myself.

  5. I've never heard of this book at all, but I have to admit, it sounds intriguing. I don't really mind if I don't connect with the main character as much as I'd like to if the other elements make up for it. I'll have to be on the watch-out for this one. Sounds interesting.

    1. In my case, connection to the character is usually pretty important to me, so that's why I didn't like this one as much as I'd hoped to. Still, I hope you like it when you read it!


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