The Wrap-Up List
By Steven Arntson
Gabriela Rivera is a modern sixteen-year-old girl living in contemporary America. But there are two very different things that separate her world from ours.
The first is that she lives in a country on the brink of war. Many of her fellow classmates have already been called in for the draft.
The second is that, in her reality, there are beings called Deaths – strange, tall, supernatural creatures – who come for members of the population at random for departure to the afterlife, and account for one percent of all fatalities.
Unfortunately, this is where Gabriela’s story begins.
Opening her mailbox one day, Gabriela finds a Death Letter addressed to her. These departures are much like having cancer; you are given a small amount of time to get your affairs in order, make peace with loved ones, and write a Wrap-Up List. This list contains things that you would like to see happen in your life before you die. You send it back to your Death, and they use what influence they have over the workings of the universe to make them happen as best they can.
Departures are also like cancer in respect to the fact that they come like a hard, unexpected slap to the face.
But there is always a small glimmer of hope for those who are taken before their natural time. Every Death has a Noble Weakness – something that, if guessed correctly and performed, will grant you a Pardon. That Pardon means that you get your life back.
Gabriela has one week to make sure everything on her Wrap-Up List happens, and to guess the Noble Weakness of her Death, Hercule. Otherwise, there will be no turning back.
I have to say, this book went pretty fast. I managed to finish the better part of it within a day. Perhaps it was the style in which it was written, because the subject matter certainly wasn’t lighthearted (although there were some very funny moments). At the same time, it wasn’t dark, either.
At first, I actually thought the odd alternate America where Deaths existed was a rather unattractively created world, and was a bit repulsed by it. After a while, however, it and its almost bureaucratic structure grew on me. The world crafted by Arntson is nothing intricate or over the top, but it gets the job done.
The characters are nothing to write home about, either. They are neither awful, nor amazing. I did quite appreciate Hercule. He was very real in a way an eight foot tall gray man probably shouldn’t have been. I also liked his sense of humor.
What made this book for me were the brief, scattered moments of poignant clarity and realization that Gabriela had once she saw her time was coming to a close. They allow her the privilege of looking at the world through eyes that pierce beneath the surface of everything, and take in and appreciate details that most of us would never notice, or simply take for granted.
While there was some Deep And Meaningful going on, I wasn’t too overly impressed or blown away. The Wrap-Up List is decent light reading, but don’t exert yourself fighting someone for the last copy of it at the book store.
I give it 3/5 stars.