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Liz Czukas/Ellie Cahill has become one of my favorite YA/NA authors - always eager to gobble up her next adventure! I highly recommend!
Mariska has graduated High School and will soon be leaving for college. Her mom has no issues reorganizing the house several times a year. That means her mom is always throwing stuff away and “starting over”. Mariska is the complete opposite – she does not want to let go of anything. She wants to keep every picture, every flyer, every yearbook, every newspaper clipping, all of it. While cleaning out her room in preparation for college, Mariska’s stepfather accidentally takes the box full of everything she wants to keep to the shredding company. When Mariska discovers what happened, she is devastated. How would she be able to remember everything? After a long talk with her best friend, Sun, they set out to try to recreate six specific photos so Mariska can take with her. Along the way, she finds a new friend in the most unlikely of people. Maybe this unfortunate accident wasn’t a complete disaster.
Liz Czukas knows how to write adorable contemporary stories, there is no question about that. What I did have an issue with throughout this entire story was Mariska being so freaking hung up on having those photos back. I get being attached to memories, but this protagonist acted like High School was the peak of her life. She talked as if her life would never, ever get better than the memories and experiences she had in High School. I could not stop rolling my eyes because I wanted to scream at her, “It gets better after High School!!! Stop being so childish!” She was able to recreate most of the photos and this story was about that, but I just could not get behind that. Meaning, I know that I would not have ever done something like that. Many years ago I accidently threw away photos I really wanted to keep but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it so I chalked it up to a stupid mistake and moved on. This character just could not do that. She made it her mission to recreate specific photos simply for her own sanity. It just bothered me because it felt selfish. Mariska asked several of her friends to stop what they were doing to help her do these photos again. Most of them did and then went about their normal lives so that lead me to believe it did not mean as much to them as it did to Mariska. Shouldn’t she have picked up on that??
I did like the two other major players in this story – Sun, the best friend, and Caine, the love interest. Sun was such a fun and outgoing spirit, but she did encourage Mariska on her quest for new photos. Not one time did she sit her down to talk her out of anything. Sun was a good best friend but I was hoping for some type of real talk about how she might need to learn how to let things go and know that the memories of the events will never go away. (That never happened, by the way.) Now Caine was the adorably shy and quiet nerd that was always in the background of the scene. He was thinking like me, he didn’t understand the big deal behind wanting/needing to get these photos back. The back and forth between him and Mariska was sweet, I will admit that. The inside joke with the yearbooks was a lot of fun to read about.
The one really positive thing I can say about this story is that it is a super fast read. I finished in no time. This was not a complicated story, just the characters running all over their town to recreate events. This was not a hard story to get through but I just could not completely agree with Mariska’s thought process. She even verbally lashed out at her mom for not keeping personal items and redecorating so often. Mariska really was naive enough to believe her own mom would not keep items from important moments in her life. I liked how level headed and realistic her mom was because it felt like someone was finally being the voice of reason. This was 3 star read for me but that’s because of the adorableness between Mariska and Caine, and how quick the read was. This was not my favorite Czukas story but I will continue to instabuy her books.
I think the reason I loved this one the most was because I could really relate to Mariska. When I was younger, I saved everything. I had boxes of notes my friends and I passed around to each other. I kept movie stubs. And I took pictures of EVERYTHING. I still do that. When my kids were babies, I tried to take pictures of everything. I was so afraid of forgetting a moment of their babyhood and felt like if I didn’t have evidence of it, maybe it didn’t even happen at all. And a lot of that is how Mariska feels. When we first meet her, she’s dismantling her room before heading off to college. She’s plastered her walls in photographs of her friends and her life events and it’s the only room in the entire house that her mom won’t touch but now that it’s time for her to move out, she also has to give up the room to her mom so she can redecorate it. And it’s been tough for Mariska to take everything down and cut what she saves to just a few boxes. Having been through those big moments of change and being stuck between wanting to move on but also not wanting anything to change, I really empathized with Mariska through these scenes. And my heart broke for her when she realizes what’s happened to her stuff.
This was where I started to worry a little about the book because it could have taken a horrible turn for the worst. I worried I would start to be annoyed by Mariska and her quest to recreate her most important pictures. I thought that maybe it would get over the tip ridiculous and I’d be rolling my eyes along the way. But Liz created such beautiful moments through these new/old experiences that I couldn’t help but love them. And I loved seeing Mariska’s change while trying to recreate them. She goes from needing everything to be just perfect like the original picture to realizing that you can’t make something beautiful and spontaneous happen again and that’s okay.
Of course my actual favorite part of the book was the friendships and banter that came along with them. I absolutely loved her friendship with Sun, who kept her grounded but also supported her crazy ideas. I always love positive female friendships in books because sometimes I really think they’re underrepresented. But Sun and Mariska were great together. And of course, Caine. The way their relationship developed was cute and while it was pretty predictable, I still loved them both and always like it when two people meet in the middle with their ideas and feelings. Both influenced the other’s thoughts and I really liked seeing how it all played out.
Overall, Throwing My Life Away was another great Liz Czukas book. It was fluffy and fun but also felt like the most realistic of all of Liz’s books. It could be because the main character was so relatable to me but I felt like everything was very real. Though, still, maybe a little softer than real life. But the parent/step-parent/child relationship felt almost normal here. And all of the feelings of being right on the edge of big changes were there with enough humor to keep it light.
If you’re looking for light YA contemporary books, you really need to check out Liz Czukas’ books. I really enjoy all of them and highly recommend all of them when you need something fun but this one is my new favorite!
Most recent customer reviews
I liked Mariska.Read more