The Throwback List encourages readers to reflect on the past to see not only how far they may – or may not – have come, but to move forward regardless.  

Author Lily Anderson here invites readers to Sandy Point, Oregon. Sandy Point is a quiet beach town that is home to an occasional karaoke bar, a giant anchor statue and a renowned Sunday Sundae Surprise at Frosty’s ice cream joint. Jo Freeman, Autumn Kelly and Bianca Boria-Birdy once dreamed they would leave this town far behind after graduation, but life had other plans.

The book is broken down into chapters focusing on each protagonist: Jo, Autumn and Bianca. Though written consistently in third person, the chapters explore the experiences and perspectives of the three very different women who come back together in more ways than one.

Bianca Boria-Birdy is a former prom queen and valedictorian, and always an overachiever. She manages the family tattoo parlor while juggling care responsibilities of her grandmother and adapting to her recent marriage. Her schedule is tight, leaving no room for anything not on the calendar. What she really needs is to go on that long-postponed honeymoon but that seems to now be bumped once more. Meanwhile, Autumn Kelly was once an actor. She now teaches drama at the local high school and may have had to farewell her dreams of stardom. But teaching up-and-coming performers has given her new appreciation for what her life might mean and what she has to offer. Jo Freeman returns home to Sandy Point after getting fired from her fancy social media Silicon Valley job which also puts an end to her attendance at the trendiest fitness studios and any plans she might have had for that down payment on her dream condo. She finds herself back at home with her parents, jobless, and not sure what to do next.

The crux of the story is that Jo finds an old bucket list in her childhood bedroom. It sets the three women on a path down memory lane while bringing them closer together. Jo, with the help of her friends, decides to accomplish all the items on what she dubs the “Throwback List” and post about it on social media. This book is filled with lots of pop culture references and relatable nostalgic content, but it lacks any thrilling drive or gripping storyline. There is very little drama, no strong climax and one must read about three quarters of the way through the book to learn why the impact of the Throwback List might be important. In the early and middle chapters, I also found it very hard to like Jo, the main protagonist, because her seeming entitlement to her fancy life goes unchallenged and she remains largely dismissive of her small hometown and anyone else’s life and commitments. This made it difficult to care about her and what she set out to achieve until very late in the story.  

Despite my reservations, there is some interesting commentary about the way we live our lives in today’s society and how we each can view things differently. The following excerpt is a good example of this:

Jo found the idea of reading social media without participating unsettling, a digital form of peeping. Jo loved the mini-community in her comments, the people cheering her on and sharing their own happiness honeypots, but now she saw all the comments through Wren’s inherent disapproval: strangers partaking of a false intimacy, leaving their approval in misspellings and meaningless emojis.

The roles that social media play are ripe themes for a coming-of-age story and though this book touches on it, it did not explore it in any great depth. The diversity of character backgrounds and lifestyle preferences is also excellent. Those in a time of transition in their lives (whether professional, personal or otherwise) in which they may be feeling uneasy or insecure may also find some comfort in this story. Some quotes that I found worthwhile to reflect on were as follows, though I ultimately wanted more from The Throwback List.

  • What if all her life needed was a fresh coat of paint? What if she could preserve what was precious and still move forward?
  • Just because its nostalgic doesn’t mean it’s good. Or that you need it.
  • If you are looking for the meaning of life, I haven’t found it. What I have found is that the most fun thing about being alive is the scariest damned part. You get to be whoever you want to be.
  • My priorities changed and that changed how I fit into the world.

The Throwback List is set to be released on October 5th, 2021.