Someone else's bucket list by Amy T. Matthews

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When 26 year old Instagram influencer Bree dies from leukaemia, her family is left facing crippling American medical bills. In a surprise pre-recorded Instagram message, Bree explains that a corporate sponsor will pay off some of the debts every time her younger sister Jodie completes an item from Bree’s unfinished bucket list. To save the family from bankruptcy, Jodie reluctantly agrees to the challenge, but the two sisters are very different people and the bucket list items that the adventurous and outgoing Bree had chosen, are anathema to the shy and insecure Jodie.

Bree’s six remaining challenges range from the seemingly easy ‘plant a tree’ and ‘take piano lessons’ through to ‘perform on Broadway’, ‘fly over the Antarctic’ and lastly, ‘fall in love’.

As she works through the list, supported by Bree’s best friend Claude, Jodie’s personal life is increasingly intruded on. The sponsor’s representative, the enthusiastic Cheryl, frantically attempts to craft Jodie into a public figure. With her achievements relentlessly documented for social media, what could have been Jodie’s personal journey through grief and healing, becomes a 24/7 marketing campaign. This is further complicated by the reappearance of Jodie’s one-time crush Kelly Wong and their re-examining their high-school attraction.

Jodie’s adventures are fun to follow, and Someone Else's Bucket List has a strong element of romance, including a gay relationship between two minor characters. However, it also illustrates a number of more weighty themes. We see people mourn and face their fears in different ways, with tender moments as friends and family strive to support each other as they grieve. We see Jodie grow in confidence and reassess how she appears to others.

Matthews also shows how invasive social media can become, and the resulting negative impact on mental health, self-identity and self-worth. Many sections of the book describe Bree's physical deterioration, response to treatment and her emotional states. These may not be for the faint-hearted reader.

Themes: Death, Cancer, Grief, Family, Friendship, Social media, Romance, Personal growth.

Margaret Crohn