18 Things by Jamie Ayres

I had the honor of meeting Jamie Ayres at the 2014 UtopYA conference in Nashville, and she was super sweet to give me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

17253972OlgaGay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name and not attending prom with Conner, her best friend and secret crush since kindergarten.

Then, Conner is killed in a freak boating accident and Olga feels responsible for his death.

When she downs an entire bottle of pills to deal with the emotional pain, her parents force her into counseling. There, her therapist writes a prescription in the form of a life list titled “18 Things”: eighteen quests to complete the year of her eighteenth birthday.

But there’s more to Olga’s quests than meets the eye and when her therapist reveals a terrifying secret, her world is shaken.

There’s only one thing she knows for certain: her choices won’t just affect her future, but all eternity.

I really enjoyed 18 Things in the beginning. The main character Olga (who has a horrendous name and knows it. Loved this aspect of the story.) deals with the death of a very close friend and crush, Connor. Even though I only knew Connor for a few pages and a handful of memories. I mourned for him. I felt his loss as deeply as Olga. (However, I’ve recently read The Fault in our Stars by John Green, so maybe I’ll always cry about pretty dead boys…) When the love interest, Nate, comes into the story, I was hesitant at first to accept him just as Olga was. I loved how their relationship developed slowly. However, Nate was a complete mystery the entire time, like he was never truly honest with her. For example, it’s never explained why Nate was so in love with Olga — in almost a prophetic way. I wanted to know the motives behind the characters’ actions.

Speaking of actions, the 18 things that Olga must accomplish to deal with her loss were entertaining. Some were silly. Some were dangerous. Some were wishful thinking. I liked the list but I wish there was an actual list somewhere in the story to help me keep track. Olga would refer to the third or seventh thing and I’d have no idea what she was talking about unless I re-read an entire chapter of dialogue between five different characters to remind myself. My favorite item on the list had to be when she broke a world record. It was incredibly sweet.

And then, the end happened. As a reader, I never like to be duped. As a writer, I’ve always been told not to dupe the reader, so I was shocked and a little hurt that the story took such a dramatic turn. It felt like everything I knew was a lie and all the feelings I felt were no longer justified. I wanted there to be healing and a happy ever after, but this seemingly contemporary romance turned into a fantasy/paranormal novel. I enjoyed the story up until the end, but the ending felt like a betrayal, leaving me unsatisfied. The second book in this series, 18 Truths, is already out.

STARS: 3 out of 5

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