Release Date: January 25th, 2022
CW/TW: depression and anxiety, mentions of self-harm and suicide, bullying
Time’s up for Vassa Blackwell.
With her college graduation looming, Vassa reflects on the past four years. After a devastating betrayal from her closest friend leaves her ostracized, she trusts no one. Now she is mega disappointed. No wacky misadventures, no drunken nights, and no regrettable mistakes that you can NEVER tell your parents. Work and class, class and work. That’s it. College is supposed to be the best years of your life… Right?
Vassa feels as though she’s cheated herself out of a full college experience. Notable with romance and boys and stuff. So, she makes a college bucket list. Then the worse thing ever happens. Her list falls into the hands of Lazarus Gilbert. King of the baseball team, sworn enemy (in her opinion), and her annoying upstairs neighbor. He thinks he’s found something fun to do. She thinks she’s in trouble. That’s until she discovers there’s more to Lazarus than he lets on…
With the pressures of post-college decisions and failing classes, can they complete the bucket list before the semester runs out? Are Vassa and Lazarus just too different to get along? Will they both come out winners in the end, or will she retreat to her safety-zone? Is it too late for her to learn to live and let live, and let love enter her heart?
Look at this cover! It’s so beautiful and it really nicely depicts the story of Vassa and Lazarus, but what the cover also doesn’t show is just how deep this story runs! It Started with a List is a fantastic debut and one that’s got me excited for what Tinia Montford has coming next!
Vassa Blackwell’s life isn’t going as planned. Her former best friend not only ruined her life, but it’s also pushed her back into her hole of solitude. She had great plans for life during and after college, but with the way things are turning out, she’s not sure if she’s ever going to be able to achieve all the things she set out to do. But in order to take control of her downward spiraling life, Vassa makes a bucket list and decides to start ticking things off of it. Problem is, she’s not the most outgoing person and most of the things on her list would require some guidance. Enter Lazarus Gilbert. He’s big man on campus, captain of the baseball team and an all round popular guy. Lazarus also lives in the apartment above Vassa and when her list ends up in his hands, he makes it his mission to ensure that she gets to do it all and then some.
First things first, I love their names. Secondly, I love how much we get of each character and how in depth the author goes to make sure you connect with each of them. While slow to start, the book picks up pretty quickly and once you set off on this bucket list journey with Vassa and Lazarus, you soar through the book. These characters are also so real. Vassa isn’t perfect and she’s fully aware of it, plus I could relate to her in so many ways, so I justified all of her actions. And Lazarus feels like someone you should definitely know in your life and probably do, maybe just not as a blonde jock.
The book is not your typical enemies to lovers, because the enemies side of things is entirely in Vassa’s head. It’s definitely a grump x sunshine, because even on his bad days, Lazarus is the epitome of sunshine with all that blonde hair and golden retriever personality. However, I loved how even their friendship was a slow build. Especially for Vassa. She’s gunshy about relationships of any kind after the way her last friendship collapsed and even though Lazarus seems earnest and genuine, she’s holding herself back because she’s not sure what’s going to happen and how all the things are going to fall apart.
Set in San Francisco, this book takes you all over the city. It was like I was travelling with them to cross things off Vassa’s bucket list. They visit bookstores and parks, take in the sights and really just enjoy the small things in life. And somehow, that adds to the strength of their relationship. I loved that Lazarus didn’t let Vassa back out of anything just because she was scared, always providing her with the necessary strength to keep going. Heroes like that are always welcome in my life.
Vassa and Lazarus’ relationship builds slowly, through their bucket list adventures, their tutoring squabbles and just their healthy friendship. I liked that it wasn’t rushed and it felt so real, just like the characters themselves. You rooted for them and cheered for them, laughing as they process everything that’s happening and falling in love at the same time. I also loved that Lazarus falls first, because there’s something to be said about a popular jock falling for the nerdy quiet girl who keeps trying to push him away.
It Started With A List was a fun and entertaining read. For everyone who’s ever done crazy things in college, this one really resonates. And it’s a great debut from Tinia Montford and here’s hoping we get more stories from the other students at PGU, because what we got? I loved so much!
Thanks to Tinia Montford & Xpresso Tours for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.