The Survival List

Katherine Tegen Bks/HarperCollins/. Sept. 2019. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062655004.
Gr 8 Up–When Sloane’s cherished older sister Talley unexpectedly kills herself, she doesn’t leave a note. A lover of puzzles, Talley leaves a list of items (among them the Sunshine Crew, Crescent Street, a phone number) without any obvious significance to Sloane. Reeling with guilt and confusion, Sloane calls the phone number. It belongs to 17-year-old Adam in California who claims to have never met Talley, although he does know the meaning of several items on the list. Desperate for any scrap of connection to her sister, Sloane flies to California, where her quest to untangle the meaning of the list begins to illuminate hidden parts of her sister’s life. It is the connections she makes along the way, though—including to a long-lost aunt and to Adam, whose platonic friendship buoys her—that ultimately offer Sloane a path through her loss. While the use of a list as a plot device after suicide suggests obvious comparisons to 13 Reasons Why, this is a vastly more hopeful book, focusing on reasons Talley wanted to live rather than unraveling causes behind her death. Sloane’s grief is painfully raw and her journey toward healing is believably halting. However, the slow pace results in an overwhelming number of revelations in the book’s last quarter, many of which are not explored in sufficient depth. An author’s note includes suicide hotline contacts.
VERDICT While the protagonist is well developed, a rushed final act denies readers a deeper exploration of these critical issues. For large collections.

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