Marshmallow has already reviewed When You Reach Me (2009) and Goodbye Stranger (2015) by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews Stead’s newest novel, published in 2020: The List of Things That Will Not Change.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family and you want to read about how different characters tackle change, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): When Bea’s parents tell her that they are getting divorced, they give her a green notebook. In it is a list of things that won’t change, even though almost everything else might:
- Mom loves you more than anything, always.
- Dad loves you more than anything, always.
- Mom and Dad love each other but in a different way.
- You will always have a home with each of us.
- Your homes will never be far apart.
- We are still a family but in a different way.
Her parents’ divorce is amicable; the reason for the divorce is that Bea’s father is gay.
After the divorce, Bea’s life splits in two different parts, sometimes living with her mother and sometimes with her father. Later, her father gets engaged with another man, Jesse. Bea really likes Jesse and looks forward to him becoming a part of the family. Not to mention that Jesse has a daughter Bea’s age named Sonia, and Bea has always wanted a sister.
But Bea has other issues to face. She has eczema which is annoying to her, and she goes to therapy to deal with her stress. Everything is now different, but Bea keeps herself up by talking with her friends and family, who are always there to support her. Bea and her family will struggle to reach their happy ending.
Marshmallow’s Review: I found this a touching book. Bea is very thoughtful, and this book really highlights and goes into her thoughts and feelings. It was sad to see how some of the folks in the book mistreated Bea’s father and his new partner because of their sexual orientation.
The List of Things That Will Not Change was extremely realistic and felt very down to earth when I was reading it. Every character was unique and well thought-out, and the narrative and tone of the book felt very genuine. That said, I don’t quite think the end was one hundred percent fulfilling, but it was definitely satisfactory. However, I did like how all the loose parts were tied up in the end. I also found it interesting how not everything was perfect in the end but it was realistic. (I’m not going to say much more!)
The List of Things That Will Not Change would be appropriate for all ages, presuming that the person would understand the plot, which I felt was easy enough to understand, though it had some extra nuances for an older reader who would see all the threads from beginning to end.
Bea’s relationship with Sonia might remind some readers of a book I reviewed a while ago: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are indeed some similarities but also a lot of differences. Bea’s health issues reminded me a bit of Guts by Raina Telgemeier, another book I reviewed for the blog. And compared with the other books I have read of Rebecca Stead, the tone and voice of this book was very similar. The setting and tone were more reminiscent of When You Reach Me, but the realism was quite like that of Goodbye Stranger. But The List of Things That Will Not Change has definitely a unique and original story, and I really enjoyed reading it; I think most bunnies would, too.
Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.