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By Carrie Firestone
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Grandparents and Extended Family, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Teen Life: Family, Teen Life: Relationships/Sexuality
Grades: 7th & up
Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way—and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.
★ “While readers know from the very beginning how this story will end, they will be surprised to discover that the journey is far more about life than death. Maddie’s first-person account is filled with humor and fun, introducing readers to a raunchy, heartwarming, and endearingly dysfunctional family. The story is made all the richer by a cast of quirky supporting characters that includes her two gay uncles, a sweet and slutty cousin, her larger-than-life grandmother, and a small handful of terminal patients and their families who are celebrating and grieving alongside them. Best of all is the achingly romantic love story that unexpectedly blossoms between Maddie and a fellow shipmate and lends the story much-appreciated moments of passion and levity. A poignant and important story about compassion, love, and the decision to live life on your own terms—right up to the very last minute: all aboard.” —Kirkus