The Wrap-Up List | Steven Arntson | Book Review

Perhaps I am morbid, but I really enjoy reading books that take on the subject matter of death. I especially like it when young adult books talk about that subject matter, as for many young people, death does seem outside the realm of possibility when you have your whole life ahead of you. Thus, The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson caught my attention with it’s gritty topics, yet Arntson handles death with a light touch and writes a story that is both touching and funny.

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson | Good Books And Good Wine

Gabriela lives in a world where 1% of the population are tapped by grim reapers called Deaths to depart. A person receives a letter saying they’ve been chosen for departure and is assigned a specific death. The person tapped must then respond with a wrap-up list — or things they wish to accomplish before heading into the great beyond. Typically the person also asks for a pardon – meaning the Death must give them a clue about it’s noble weakness. It’s then up to the person to figure out their Death’s noble weakness and commit the deed in order to receive the pardon. Gabriela comes home from school one day to one of the red envelopes — she’s been tapped. And so, The Wrap-Up List is essentially about Gabriela trying to accomplish the items on her list and find out her Death – Hercule’s noble weakness so she can live the rest of her life.

Gabriela is a thinker and a very intelligent young lady. She’s the sort of girl who keeps her priest on his toes, as she argues theology with him. I found her to be an interesting protagonist – in that she’s well rounded and not all hung up on some guy even though her list centers on first kisses for all her friends — and her. Gabriela is close with her family, but there’s still some tension and dysfunction there. Her parents are not the Cleavers. She also is best friends with Iris, Raahi, and Sarena – a diverse set of teens. I also found that I liked how Arntson wove religion into The Wrap-Up List but made it so it wasn’t preachy, just a facet of Gabriela’s life.

For a slim book, The Wrap-Up List excels in creating a believable world. The way Arntson weaves in the Deaths and their 1% ‘tax’ comes across as effortless. I realize when it comes to fantasy, paranormal and speculative fiction there has to be a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader – however, it’s up to the writer to make the reader want to suspend their disbelief. Arntson does a wonderful job of doing this. He makes the Deaths unique and interesting — with rules they must follow and no deus ex machinas in sight. I really thought the world of The Wrap-Up List  was fascinating.

If you’re looking for a book that hooks you within the first few pages - The Wrap-Up List is that book. It is engaging because you want to find out more about Gabriela, her family, her friends. Will she get her first kiss? With the boy she likes? And question of all questions for this book — will she get her pardon? I flew through the pages of this book and found myself intrigued by each new reveal.The reveals did feel totally organic and natural to the story, instead of tacked on to fulfill a checklist.

I really enjoyed my time reading Arntson’s work. I loved the concept behind The Wrap-Up List and the execution as well. Gabriela is a wonderful choice for a protagonist and one I found myself rooting for. If you are down for a book with an interesting take on death, you should definitely pick up a copy of The Wrap-Up List.

Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine

Other reviews of The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson:

Alexa Loves Books – “The premise of this story is really a very interesting one
Bookworm1858 – “a fun fast read with a lot to think about
Gabby Reads – “this tale was very unique

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I was looking at this on GR and it had a lot of bad reviews, but I think I will like it a lot from what you say. I mean, morbid dark subject with humor is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

  2. Whoa, this book seems kind of intense. Interesting, though. I kind of want to read it, and I kind of want to hide under my covers. Sometimes (okay a lot of times) stuff like this freaks me out. But at the same time, I want to give it a try. I’m all indecisive now.

  3. Sounds very very interesting. I like YA books that deal with death, not in a morbid way, but because they can be so different. I think YAs deal with death a lot differently than we do as adults, so it’s always interesting to see the different takes on it. That being said, I do like this fantasy/paranormal twist to the idea of death! Will definitely have to try this one out!

  4. I like the fact that death was handled in a unique way in this one. The idea of having the chance to accomplish your wrap-up list and to find a way to outfox Death was pretty interesting to me! Glad you ended up liking this one 🙂

  5. I really liked the way this book dealt with religion, especially Gabriela’s pressing of her priest. I didn’t think anything was preachy; just thought-provoking.

  6. This sounds interesting. I might be morbid, too, because I like books that focus on death. But there are so many out there nowadays, so it’s good to know this one handles it in a unique way. Great review 🙂

  7. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this one! I requested an ARC thinking it sounded pretty interesting, but I didn’t exactly expect to enjoy it. But I fell in love. It’s powerful in such a quiet way and definitely one I’ll remember for a long time.

  8. I hadn’t heard of this book at all and then it arrived in my mailbox, and a few days later I saw this review. The synopsis on the book sounded interesting, but I’m even more excited to pick up this book now – I’m happy to hear the concept is done well. Great review =)