37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order) - Kekla Magoon

Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn't exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places. Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.

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Ellis is a high school sophomore anticipating the start of summer but is still held back from being TOO excited about it, as every day still starts with her beloved father in a coma. It's been two years since her father's construction job accident, with little to no sign of improvement in his condition. Ellis' mom is thinking it might be time to turn off the machines finally say goodbye to him but Ellis certainly doesn't feel anywhere near ready for that. Added to that is the pain Ellis feels from her best friend, popular girl Abby, who seems to be oblivious to the strain and heartbreak Ellis and her family are experiencing. 

 

"Ow." I land hard on my side, falling off my brand-new two-wheeler for the dozenth time. 

"Try again.," Dad calls from the top of the driveway. "You almost had it."

I roll to my back and lie with limbs spread-eagled on the concrete, staring up at the sky. 

"Get up kiddo. One more time."

I'm stuck. Frozen. Scrapes on my knees and shins, the pads of my palms sore from catching myself over and over. 

My face cools as Dad steps between me and the sun. 

"Baldwins don't give up."

I look at him through his shadow. "I'm not giving up. I'm thinking."

"Thinking's allowed," he says. "But once you know what you want, then you have to get up and do it."

 

Along with Abby, Ellis' other close friend is nerdy-type Colin. He seems more understanding to Ellis' hard times, but is also consumed with his unrequited love for Abby, who is hardcore friend-zoning the poor guy.

 

 

The scenarios Ellis and her friends find themselves in do have a certain level of believability when it comes to high school situations, but the maturity level of some of the characters, as well as much of the dialogue throughout most of the novel, struck me as being more middle-grade / jr. high age (if you were to subtract the small bits of profanity). While I could empathize with Ellis' experiences for the most part, there was still something to her character that I felt a little distanced from. But when you think about it, that is kind of a realistic portrayal... don't people tend to distance themselves from everyone else as they work through the grieving process? All in all, a mostly realistic portrayal  of that stage in life, the confusion of feelings, etc. I liked that Magoon also incorporated one of Ellis's good friends struggling with their coming out and the conflicting emotions that surround that monumental moment in the life of a member of the LGBTQ community. 

 

 

* One small scene that minorly bugged me was the scene where Ellis gets a ride home from her dad's nurse and Ellis's inner thoughts reference how she likes this nurse "because she doesn't make me buckle up" in the car. Umm, especially for someone who is in the medical field who would've likely seen their share of car crash victims, that'd actually be pretty jacked for a nurse not to insist. {It's peeve of mine. I don't care if it's "cool" or not. You get in my car, you're wearing a belt.}