The Next Thing on My List [NOOK Book]


Meet June Parker. She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds.

But June’s life is about to change.

After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe, and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written,...
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The Next Thing on My List

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Meet June Parker. She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds.

But June’s life is about to change.

After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe, and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written, “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.” Even though they barely knew eachother, June is compelled by both guilt and a desire to set things right and finish the list for Marissa.

The tasks before her range from inspiring (Run a 5K), to daring (Go braless), to near-impossible (Change someone’s life), and as June races to achieve each goal before the deadline, she learns more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

Funny, engaging, and heartwarming, The Next Thing on My List features a loveable, relatable heroine and a story with plenty of humor and heart.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Smolinski follows up her debut, Flip-Flopped, with an airy, hit and mostly miss novel about one rudderless woman's accidental journey of self-discovery. After a Weight Watchers meeting, narrator June Parker offers a ride home to newly svelte Marissa Jones, and the two hit it off until Marissa dies in a nasty one-car accident. When June runs into Marissa's hot brother at the cemetery six months after the crash, she makes a rash promise to carry out the dead girl's list of 20 things to do before she turned 25 (even though June is 34). The challenges that follow—running a 5K, kissing a stranger, "dare to go braless"—serve less to improve June's life than to highlight how unfortunate it is that she's taken up a stranger's goals instead of her own. Smolinski's Los Angeles is a well-executed set—June tilts at windmills as a writer for a ride-sharing nonprofit—but the most human characters in it are June's tyrannical and calculating boss and her secretly sensitive, underused brother. Though completing the list is a transformative experience for June, the leadup fizzles. (Apr.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

After June Parker offers a ride to Marissa, a virtual stranger, her passenger dies in a freak accident. Filled with guilt, June compares her own lackluster life as a mid-level L.A. Rideshare employee to the promise of Marissa, who had just lost 100 pounds and bought her first pair of sexy shoes. June knows this because she salvaged Marissa's list of "20 Things To Do by My 25th Birthday" from the crash, and those were the only two items crossed off. When June runs into Marissa's very attractive brother, she panics, telling him that she is finishing the list herself in Marissa's honor. At this point, of course, she must give up her procrastinating ways. She has six month to complete the tasks, and the challenge teaches her to embrace life and brings her closer to her friends, family, and coworkers. While the plot may sound like a recipe for unbridled sentimentality, in Smolinski's (Flip-Flopped) talented hands, June's odyssey is funny, charming, and moving. This well-paced novel with carefully crafted characters may appeal to readers of Merrill Markoe and Laura Zigman. Highly recommended.
—Lisa Davis-Craig

Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307381545
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/10/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 96,964
  • File size: 419 KB

Meet the Author

JILL SMOLINSKI is a transplanted Midwesterner who currently lives in Southern California with her son. She is the author of Flip-Flopped.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Next on the list: Kiss a stranger.

"How about him?" Susan pointed to a guy so rakishly handsome, it was odd to see him in a downtown Los Angeles bar wearing a shirt and tie instead of modeling underwear in front of a camera, where he clearly belonged.

"Let's be realistic."

"Why? It's just a kiss."

Easy for her to say--she wasn't the one doing the kissing.

It was Thursday after work, and the Brass Monkey was hopping. Susan and I had already been at the bar for an hour, casing the joint and sipping two-dollar margaritas that were, sadly, much too weak to help me muster my courage.

"What do you think--on the lips?" I asked.

"Definitely, but tongue is up to you."

After much debate, I settled on three guys at a cocktail table across the bar. Mid- to late thirties and dressed in casual business attire, they seemed harmless, which was their primary appeal. Here goes. I hoisted myself bravely from my chair as if I were about to march forth into battle. My plan was to go up to their table, explain my predicament, and hope one of them would take pity on me and volunteer for the job.

In the event that that didn't work--well, I didn't want to think about what would happen if it didn't work. I suppose it would involve skulking away in humiliation.

I swigged down the last of my drink, took a breath, and strode to the table. The three guys looked at me with open curiosity. A woman approaching who wasn't a waitress was an interesting sight indeed. Plus I'd sort of slutted up for the occasion. I wore a snug suit over a camisole, and I'd gone to town with the eyeliner. My hair was doing its usual insane tumble of waves and curls to my shoulders.

"Hi! I'm June!" I said perkily.

After a moment, perhaps debating if I was going to try to sell them something, one of them said, "I'm Frank, and this is Ted, and Alfonso."

"Nice to meet you!" And then I plunged in. "I came over here because I was wondering if you could help me? I have this list of things I need to do." I held up the list, Exhibit A, which was handwritten on a sheet of ordinary notebook paper. "One of the things on it is that I need to kiss a stranger. So I was wondering--"

"You want to kiss one of us?" Alfonso asked eagerly.

Frank chimed in, "What--you on a scavenger hunt?"

"Not exactly," I answered.

"So would this kiss be on the mouth?"




Three sets of eyes gave me a once-over, but--bonus points for them--they tried to make it appear as if they weren't.

"Aw, Christ," Alfonso said with what appeared to be genuine regret, "we're all married."

"I'm not that married," Ted added. "I mean, if it'll help the girl out . . ."

"That's okay," I said, starting to back away. Why hadn't I thought to check for rings?

"No, we want to help you. None of us can do it, but we got a buddy here from work who might be able to. Hey, Marco!" Frank shouted across the bar, and who should turn around but the underwear model. Terrific. "There's a girl here needs a hand!"

Marco trotted over. Well, he seemed eager enough. Trying not to blush--and knowing Susan was probably bursting a spleen laughing--I repeated my story. Before I could finish, he snatched the paper from my hand and started reading it aloud.

"Let's see what this list is about," he boomed. "'Twenty Things to Do by My Twenty-fifth Birthday.'" Then he paused to look at me and smirk. "Twenty-fifth birthday?"

Oh, real nice!

I'll have him know that I may be thirty-four, but in certain lighting I still get carded.

"Give me that." I made a grab for the list.

He blocked me with his shoulder and kept reading. "Let's see what it says, shall we? Ah, yes, here it is: Kiss a stranger. . . ."

Afraid the list might get ripped if I grabbed for it again, I stood still, arms crossed, fuming.

Ted attempted to defend me. "Dude, don't be an a-hole."

"Run a 5K. . . . Get on TV. . . . Oh, wait, here's the best one: Lose one hundred pounds. Used to be a fatty, huh? Well, you're looking mighty fine now, sweetheart, so I can see why that one's got a line through it."

"Look," I snapped, "it's not even my list."

"Yeah, right."

"It's not. But it so happens I need to do the things on it."

Alfonso asked innocently enough, "Why's that?"

I sighed. "Long story. Please . . ." I held my hand out. "Give it back."

it was true. The list wasn't mine.

It belonged to Marissa Jones.

Even though there was no signature on it, I'm certain it's hers. I know because I discovered it myself in the days after I killed her. I'd been washing the blood off her purse so I could return it to her parents, and there it was. Folded and tucked inside her wallet.

Of course, I gave everything of hers back--even a pair of sunglasses found near the scene that I thought might possibly be mine.

But I kept the list. Didn't say a word about it to them. After all, how heartbreaking would it be to see your twenty-four-year-old daughter's list of dreams that would never be fulfilled?

Out of twenty items, she'd completed only two: Lose 100 pounds and Wear sexy shoes. The first one was already crossed off. The second I had to mark off for her myself--and seeing it written there sure explained those silver stilettos she was wearing when she died.

Naturally, everyone insisted that it wasn't my fault.

They nearly fell over one another at the funeral offering assurances and hugs--which I accepted as part of my penance. My body was one big bruise. Even the gentlest touch was agony.

And here's the worst part: She'd been thin less than a month. One lousy month. After a lifetime of knowing nothing but being fat.

As if to rub it in, staring at me from the front of the church had been a blown-up photo of Marissa standing in a pair of size twenty-eight pants--her body fitting in one leg while she held the waist out to its side. The smile on her face clearly said, Okay, world, here I come!


The whole time the minister was at the podium, I barely heard a thing he said. Instead, I devoted my thoughts to concocting the lie I would tell Marissa's family about her final words. They were going to want to know, after all. And there was no way I was going to tell them the truth: that she'd been giving me a recipe for taco soup.

Turned out I didn't need to worry. My entire interaction with them was limited to a handshake and an "I'm so sorry for your loss." I skipped the wake, feeling that my presence there--with my bruised collarbone and big shiner--would be nothing short of vulgar. Besides, it's not as if Marisssa and I were friends. I'd only met her the night she died.

She and I had been at the same Weight Watchers meeting. I'd just joined, hoping to lose the ten pounds that had managed to creep up from the last time I lost ten pounds. She'd received her lifetime pin for being at her weight goal (the irony of that word lifetime not lost on me now). Offering a ride to a stranger is something I wouldn't normally do, but I saw her teetering toward the bus stop on those "sexy shoes." I thought about how amazing it was she'd dropped so much weight and said to myself, What the heck. Maybe her success will rub off on me.

So there we were, zipping along Centinela Boulevard and chatting about dieting. I said to her something along the lines of "I'm worried I'll fail because I get so hungry when I go on a diet."

Then she said, "I have a recipe for a soup that's super filling."

And I said, "I'm not much of a cook."

And she said, "This is totally easy."

And I said, "Really?"

And she said, "I have the recipe right here with me. I swear, it's so simple--nothing but opening a bunch of cans."

And I said, "Well, great, let's see it!"

And she reached into the backseat of my car to grab her purse, which was the reason her seat belt was unbuckled at the moment of impact.

Marissa Jones's Taco Soup

4 cans navy or northern beans

1 can Mexican-spiced tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can corn

1 package taco seasoning

1 package fat-free ranch dressing mix

Mix ingredients in large saucepan. Heat and serve.

makes 8 servings.

As best I can recall (my head took quite a whack, so my memory is dodgy), a dresser toppled off a truck in front of us, and I'd jerked the steering wheel to avoid it. The rest is unclear. Witnesses reported that we skimmed the curb at an angle, which sent us rolling.

"Landed ass over teakettle," I heard one paramedic say to another as they slid my stretcher into the ambulance.

Another thing I overheard: "No hurry on that one, she's dead."

Dead? My hands felt around on my body. I wasn't sure which one of us he referring to.

It wasn't me.

Which meant . . .

Oh shit.

Shit, shit, shit.

After the accident, I tried to go back to life as usual, without success. Seemed I'd failed to account for one simple yet irrefutable fact, which is as follows: Knowing that you killed somebody is really depressing. Honestly, I can't fathom how people like Scott Peterson can pick themselves up afterward and go fishing. I barely had the energy to report to the office and perform a job I've been doing so long that I suspect I could do it in a coma.

The weeks ticked by. The bruises faded, and yet, unable to shake the despair that clung to me like a fog, I was left to conclude that there are two types of horrible events: the type that shake you up and cause you to grab life by the throat and never again take it for granted, and the type that make you lie in bed and watch a lot of reality TV.

Mine fell into the latter category.

With no one close enough to witness my downward spiral, I was free to fall. No husband or kids. No roommate. My boyfriend Robert made his break in late August, a month after the accident. We'd been on the brink of splitting anyway, lingering at that stage where we both knew things were over and yet, like a car we weren't quite ready to sell, we kept patching and paying for small repairs, waiting for something huge like the transmission to blow. As it turned out, the relationship was totaled. Robert could barely stand to look at the wreckage I'd become, and frankly, it was a relief when he left. I barely noticed him packing his toothbrush and the extra set of shoes he kept under my bed, what with the new fall TV season starting up.

If only Marissa hadn't written that list . . . or if hers had been more like my to-do lists: a bunch of nothing that nevertheless had occupied my time for the past three-plus decades. Pick up the dry cleaning. Run to the gym. Meet a friend for lunch. Some of the tasks got crossed off . . . others were transferred from paper to paper until I'd either finally get around to doing them or decide they weren't as important as I thought they were.

If I died, what could my obituary possibly even say? June Parker, on- and off-again girlfriend, midlevel employee, and lifelong underachiever, died waiting for something to happen. She is survived by a new pack of socks, the purchase of which was the greatest achievement crossed off her

to-do list.

I'd read Marissa's list only once before hiding it away in my dresser drawer. I wasn't even sure why I'd kept it. Sure, I told myself it would be sad for the family--but still, why did it bother me so much?

It was only when bathed in the forgiving light of the TV that I could bear to admit the truth to myself: Horrible as it was that I'd killed someone, I was relieved I hadn't died. For whatever reason, I'd been given a second chance.

Which is why I felt so guilty about squandering it. The gods who spared me were probably sitting around in the clouds, scratching their heads, and saying things like "You'd assume rescuing her from a pile of destroyed metal was enough! What do we need to get through to this woman? Plague? Locusts?!"

Problem was, I had no idea how to change. I wasn't and had never been that person who could sit down and write a list of things I wanted to do and then actually do them. Marissa Jones needed to rub off on me all right. Not so much the part of her that could lose weight, but the part that seemed to at least have a clue about what she wanted once she did.

It seemed it would require a miracle to pry me from my malaise and set me on a new course. As it turned out, all it took was a guy at the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Eleventh Street selling ten-dollar bouquets of roses.

it was january 20, exactly six months from the day Marissa died. My stomach had twisted when I noticed the date on my calendar and realized half a year had passed. It felt like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. My original plans to honor the occasion involved going home after work and . . . well, I had no plans. But then I stopped at a traffic light next to the man selling roses, and an idea instantly formulated in my head. I'd visit her grave. I'd apologize, and in doing so, maybe I'd be set free.

Flowers resting on my passenger seat, I stopped by a booth at the cemetery's entrance for directions. A woman gave me a photocopied map, using a Sharpie to mark the route to Marissa's grave site. I parked and then walked the rest of the way to where she was buried. Her tombstone, a tastefully simple marker, read, Marissa Jones, loving daughter, sister, and friend, and gave her birth and death dates.

"Sorry," I whispered, and set down the flowers.

I stood there for a while, waiting for a sense of peace that didn't come, when someone behind me said, "June?"

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 101 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    Go skydiving. But first, read this book.

    This book kept me up way too late at night -- I couldn't put it down! June Parker is living life in the slow lane. Her job -- as a writer for a carpooling agency -- is uninspiring. Her love life is nonexistent. Her biggest goal is to lose ten pounds. Following a Weight Watchers meeting her life takes a sudden, awful turn: she has a terrible car accident, and her passenger, a young woman she'd met at the meeting, is killed. June discovers a 'life list' in the young woman's possession, detailing all of the things she wanted to accomplish before her twenty-fifth birthday. As a way of coming to terms with her role in the girl's death, June takes on the challenge of competing the list. The list launches June into a series of adventures -- from kissing a stranger to boogie boarding to riding in a helicopter . . . to changing someone's life. In the hands of a less skilled writer, June's progression through the list could have seemed choppy, but Smolinski crafts a tale of one woman's journey of self discovery with page-turning precision. The writing is sharp and funny, the story is original, and the characters are both flawed and believable. This warm-hearted, clever book is truly a standout.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 12, 2009

    What's on your list of things to accomplish before........?

    This book was an original approach to looking at the question "what are your dreams? Do you think you'll accomplish them?" The main character has survivor guilt over an auto accident that wasn't her fault. Instead of following her dreams she decides to finish the list of dreams that the girl who died had had. She learns much more about herself in the process.
    I especially liked that the ending wasn't predictable. Does she finish the list? The book was very thought provoking.
    An added bonus to book groups- the author will join your discussion by phone if you arrange it before hand.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Can't recommend enough! Great Read!!

    This is a great story, sad but uplifting. I picked it up because it seemed like a cute easy read but it was a truely unique story that makes you stop and take stock of your life and how you want to live it. I have told everyone about it. I loved it from start to finish it had me hooked. You won't regret reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2008

    Light and entertaining but thought provoking

    Very good book. It was light, funny, quick reading 'or listening to', yet made you think about the important things in life. Well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2008

    Just What I needed! :)

    After reading 3 bad books in a row i really needed to read a Great book! and The next thing on my list was PERFECT! I loved everything about this book! i really got into the main character and i feel like i know her! The best Chick-lit book I have ever read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2008

    The next thing on my read this book again!

    I picked up 'The Next thing on my list' and was instantly pulled into character, June's life up & down's. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and felt that there was more than one life lesson to learn from this novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2012

    Loved it

    I loved the twists and turns in this book. Once you think she completed something on the list, the task takes on a different meaning. I just couldn't put it down. It didn't end the way I predicted, and that made it even better.

    I certainly recommend this as a good easy book, that will make you reflect on your own life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 5, 2012

    Cute, quick read

    I enjoyed this book. It was fairly light-hearted, but there was a good message about making the most out of life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Very nice.

    I actually read this book twice. Its really good and sort of inspiring

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 14, 2012

    Didn't think I would enjoy this much as I have. Such a good, en

    Didn't think I would enjoy this much as I have. Such a good, entertaining, thriller. So, glad I picked this one up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

    My life

    Im not liking this its like i dead no good.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Perfect New Years Resolution

    I read this book in a day. It was the perfect read for New Years as it has inspired me to write a list of things to do thus year. Not just your typical things, but fun things too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Sad with comic relief

    After i read this book i wanted to make my very own list of things before my next birthday. This author is witty, i laughed on numerous occasions while reading. Its a good book i just so happen to come across and now im recommending it for friends. I loved the sad story mixed in with its perfect timing comic relief. Well written, so much so i looked for more of her books after i finished reading this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2011

    Great Read

    Simple, quick read about a gal going to a Weight Watchers meeting~ is killed on the way and someone carries out her "bucket list".....good stuff

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Makes me think

    I really enjoyed this book. It was great for discussion at my book club. It really made me think about my life, what I've done with it and what would I like to do with my future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    Excellent read!

    This is one of the most refreshing books I have encountered in a long time. Extremely difficult to put down, you will read it and wonder why it makes you feel so good about life. It is a simple and funny - often poignant- story which will make you reflect about life. I can't recommend it more.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

    Loved this one!

    This book was such a good read! The story was so original! I really enjoyed the way it developed and the characters had me laughing out loud. I really enjoyed this book. It is not your adverage love story and the ending is a bit suprised but in a good way. Definately worth your time to check this one out.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Cute, I suppose

    I liked the book. It was really cute and it surprised me. However, I have to think: Who edited this book?? I found so many spelling and grammatical errors, it started to turn me away from the whole thing. But I am glad I stuck through it. I just wish they would have used spellcheck.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 13, 2010

    fun read!

    This book was a great, quick read. I really don't have anything negative to say, the ending surprised me in a small way. That did annoy me a bit, but all in all I would recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2010

    Wonderful book

    I absolutely love this book. I read it in one afternoon. It's wonderful. Makes you realize that it's the small things in life that make it worth while. It really encouraged me to make my own list and I'm determined to have it done before I turn 25.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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