THE SURVIVAL LIST by Courtney Sheinmel


Age Range: 14 - 18
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A 17-year-old Jewish girl seeks answers after her sister dies by suicide.

Sloane laments missing critical signs after her beloved older sister, Talley, takes her own life, leaving only a list bearing a California phone number, the initials “TSL,” and cryptic references to names and places. Determined to decipher Talley’s code, Sloane embarks on a road trip across California with Adam, the phone number’s handsome, evasive owner. As clues fall into place via an implausible series of coincidences, Sloane learns that Talley was keeping a painful secret. Unfortunately, Talley is portrayed as one-dimensionally “special”: brilliant, kind, and universally admired. However, Sheinmel’s (Let’s Mooove!, 2019, etc.) painfully realistic depiction of depression sensitively emphasizes that “it's a medical condition, a potentially fatal one.” Though the author intricately portrays Sloane’s grief and guilt, her poignant take on the butterfly effect—including thought-provoking references to the Holocaust and its legacy—explores not only suicide and its aftermath, but survivors’ capacity to heal. The bond between Sloane and her fiercely supportive best friend, Juno, lightens the mood, their chats about boys and babysitting gently reassuring readers that life goes on. With few physical descriptions, the book seems to follow a white default. Juno is deaf, and two of Sloane’s friends are gay.

Contrivances notwithstanding, this is a sympathetic, thoughtful exploration of depression, suicide, grief, and healing. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-265500-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2019