Smolinski’s follow-up to Flip-Flopped (2002) offers a surprisingly un-morbid account of an underachieving young woman who decides to live out another’s unrealized dreams after a tragic car accident.
Technically, a piece of furniture toppling off a truck caused the crash that killed 24-year-old Marissa Jones. But June Parker can’t help but feel responsible, since she had given Marissa a lift home from a Weight Watchers meeting. The guilt amplifies when June discovers a list in Marissa’s purse detailing the 20 things she wanted to do before her 25th birthday. Throwing herself with gusto into completing tasks that range from silly (“go braless”) to heartbreaking (“change someone’s life”), June finds that they give her lackluster life a focus it has been missing. She mentors an inner city “little sister,” trains for and finishes a 5K race, even finds a way for her childless brother and his wife to adopt a baby. Along the way, she grows closer to Marissa’s older brother Troy, a helicopter traffic reporter with surfer-boy good looks. He not only helps June check off certain items, such as taking Marissa’s mom and grandmother to Las Vegas to see Wayne Newton, but his high-flying job inspires her to do something that just might revolutionize her stalled career. As she powers through Marissa’s list, June realizes that her own dreams need tending and tries to break some patterns that have held her back for far too long. Smolinski crafts a believable heroine, and her chipper carpe-diem message may have readers devising their own Top 20s.
Sweet, though not particularly memorable.