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Ashley Barrett doesn’t want to get married. At least, not anytime soon. She doesn’t care how many of her friends and family members and fellow churchgoers had weddings before they finished college — the last thing she needs in her fun-loving twenties is the dead-weight of some guy. And that’s why she created The List. By the time she completes all twenty-five goals — from learning a language to skydiving to perfecting the art of making sushi — she’ll be more ready to settle down. Maybe.
This summer in California is a prime time for Ashley to cross two items off the list: learn to surf (#13) and have a summer romance (#17). And Matt Gibson, the best surf instructor in Huntington Beach and the most wanted guy in the singles ward, is the perfect man for the job. Ashley hatches a plan to love him and leave him before heading off to grad school in the fall (#4, get a master’s degree). But when Matt decides he doesn’t like the “leaving” part, Ashley’s carefully laid plans are turned sideways. Now Ashley faces an unexpected dilemma: should she stick to the safety of The List, or risk everything for a love that may tie her down — or might set her free?
- Pages: 289
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Published: March 2011
About the Author
Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and books. After meeting her own husband on the Internet, she is now living happily married in Southern California with her growing family and a series of doomed potted herbs.
I needed Matt Gibson in a bad way.
He stood before me in sun-bleached surfer glory, the solution to
all my problems. Too bad he was at the center of the singles ward linger
longer hive, surrounded by a half dozen girls vying for queen bee
status. Stifling a sigh, I began calculating the odds of enlisting Matt as
my personal surf coach this summer. Rumor had it he had taken on
his five-student limit already.
Everyone wanted lessons from Matt Gibson, either for themselves
or their kids, and they paid a premium to get him. I hoped to get some
instruction for the bargain price of my company and offbeat sense
of humor. If I didn’t learn to surf this summer I might never get the
chance again, not to mention that The List would be all screwed up.
My cousin Celia was watching him too. “Um, Ashley? What are
you going to do if you can’t talk him into it?” she asked.
“I’ll convince him,” I said.
“Right. But if you don’t . . .”
“I will. It’s on The List,” I reminded her.
Celia didn’t roll her eyes, although I could tell she wanted to. I’d
probably even let her get away with outright mockery since she was
cool enough to share her bedroom with me for the summer while I
crossed “learn to surf ” off my list of twenty-five things to do before I
got married—or died, if it took too long.
The late August start date for my grad program at BYU loomed
in front of me, a dark vacuum of a deadline sucking up all my future
fun. I needed to knock out the next five items on The List fast before
I drowned in the book stacks of the campus library, drained dry by research and devoid of the will to live, much less finish off a list of
adventures. That’s why Matt Gibson was so essential to item thirteen:
learn to surf. Two weeks in Huntington Beach and I still couldn’t stand
on my board without falling. And that’s when it was on the sand.
Okay, that’s an overstatement. But not by much. My current
teacher, Celia’s older brother Dave, just returned from a mission to
Bulgaria, and he had two years of his own surfing to catch up on. If
the waves were good, he headed out without me—his hopeless surfing
neophyte of a cousin—in tow. If the waves were mushy, he’d
try to squeeze my lessons in around his schedule at the Beach Sport
Warehouse, but bad waves aren’t any better for beginners than they
are for veterans.
I needed the sensei of surf, the Obi-wan Kenobi of boards, the . . .
oh, whatever. I needed Matt Gibson.
The question was how to get him.
I studied the situation with a critical eye. Matt topped the
Beachside singles ward hierarchy with the guys because he could
shred on the waves, and with the girls because . . . well, he’s hot.
Even by Beachside standards. My three Sundays in the ward had
been long enough to determine a few key facts: people in Orange
County, California, are largely blond, tan, and even more attractive
than the glut of TV shows based here make them out to be. The
very best-looking of them litter the halls of LDS chapels like life-size
Abercrombie & Fitch posters. Except with more clothes on.
The three girls in Matt’s immediate orbit were no exception.
Dressed in cute cotton summer dresses, they stood with their perfectly
manicured toes peeking out of trendy sandals and their bright
hair shining even in the unflattering fluorescent light of the cultural
hall. A polite smile flashed over Matt’s face, revealing his even white
teeth as he listened to their chatter.
“He’s so hot,” Celia sighed.
“Not the point,” I reminded her, waving a hand in front of her
face to snap her out of her mini-trance. “Focus.”
I surveyed the linger-longer ebb and flow for another moment.
The activities committee had set out popsicles for everyone to snack
on while flirting—er, visiting. The tropical flavors came in neon hues
that turned more than a few tongues green or orange. Matt passed on the popsicles, standing instead with his hands in his pockets and
rocking comfortably back on his heels as he listened to his entourage
of fresh-scrubbed femme fatales.
They were no doubt cute, but growing up in Utah, the land
of countless Scandinavian descendants, had prepared me well for
competing with blondes. While I admired their pale, shiny locks, I
learned long ago to embrace my sister Leila’s beauty advice: “We look
stupid as blondes, so don’t bother. Sun-In is not your friend. Work
with what you’ve got. And by that, I mean work it.” Which is how I’d
learned to see my loose chestnut curls as an asset and to realize brown
eyes are only boring if they’re the wrong shade of brown. My sisters
and I all have a shade that’s gold-flecked. Artfully wielded mascara
and plum eyeliner does wonders to make them pop. And Barrett girls
learned early on to bat their lashes with the best of them.
However, I needed a different tactic here. Matt already had a flock
of conquests lash-batting like mad. Even with my darker, curly mane
to differentiate me, I was going to need a little something extra. I
looked past him to the refreshments and back again, a plan blossoming
in my mind.
“I need to get a popsicle,” I said to Celia.
“You said you weren’t hungry.”
“I don’t need to eat it. I just need to get it.” My small head nod
clued her into the fact that a trip to the table would take us directly
through Matt’s path.
Understanding dawned. “Oh, I get it. You’ll walk past Ma—”
An elbow in the ribs silenced her.
“This will work if I time it right,” I said. I watched Derek, a
scruffy but cute beach-bum type, head to the table. I had figured out
during last week’s ice cream sandwich linger longer that Matt usually
hid behind Derek when he got tired of girls. They would devolve into
highly technical surf conversations that discouraged all but the most
hard-core surfers from joining in.
I wandered over to where Derek stood pawing through the open
cardboard box looking for the right flavor. When he noticed me waiting,
he offered a sheepish grin.
“Sorry,” he said. “I was trying to find a lime one.” He offered me
the box so I could take a turn.
“I’m not in a rush,” I smiled. “Can you snag a red one if you see it
“Sure,” he said, staring for a second longer than he needed to
before redirecting his attention to his flavor hunt. A moment later, he
waved a popsicle at me.
“It’s red!” he announced, which kind of went without saying, but
I accepted it with another smile. If I was going to dye my tongue with
artificial food coloring in the service of The List, I was at least angling
for a color that might occur in nature. I eyed the bright red popsicle.
“You’re new, right?” Derek asked, pulling a green one out and
wrangling the plastic wrapper off.
“Yeah. I was here last Sunday too,” I said.
“So are you from around here or just visiting?”
It was a common question in a ward that regularly quadrupled in
“Both, I guess. I’ll be in HB all summer, but then I go back to
school,” I answered. As we talked, I angled my body to keep Matt in
my peripheral vision. I listened to Derek’s chitchat about a barbecue
later in the afternoon and felt a small sense of satisfaction when I saw
Matt break away from his entourage with a smile and head to Derek.
And me, by default.
He nodded at me with a slight air of distraction before turning to
Derek, who offered him a fist bump.
“Maxed out on chicks, yeah?” Derek asked with a smirk.
Matt flushed slightly but dipped his head to indicate that Derek
had nailed it. I fought a smile at his obvious relief over escaping his
admirers, which caught his attention.
“Sorry,” Matt said. “Nothing personal.”
“No worries,” I answered. “Besides, how could it be? You don’t
even know me.”
“Oh yeah,” Derek interjected. “I didn’t get your name. It’s . . .”
“Ashley,” I said.
“Ashley, nice to meet you.” Derek turned to Matt again and
explained, “We were just talking about how she’s in town for the
summer and I thought I ought to do the neighborly thing and invite
her over for our shindig later.”
“Sure,” Matt shrugged, looking around the room. His enthusiasm
“You up for it?” Derek asked, turning back to me.
I offered a shrug of my own. “I don’t think so. Thanks, though.”
Matt’s left eyebrow crept up slightly and he exchanged a look with
Derek. Now I had his attention.
“You a vegetarian or something?” Derek asked. “We got veggie
burgers too—you know, for the misguided people who don’t get that
we’re at the top of the food chain.”
I laughed. “It’s not that. It’s just . . . I’m guessing there will be lots
of people there?”
“Yeah. We do this all the time in the summer. We get a pretty
good Sunday dinner crowd,” Derek said.
“Well, there’s the problem. It sounds like I’d have to socialize.”
“You’re antisocial?” Matt finally spoke again, a slight trace of
amusement in his tone. “This linger longer must be downright painful
for you, then.”
“I’m here because my cousin Celia said I had to be. She really
wanted a popsicle and she’s my ride, so I get a popsicle whether I
want one or not,” I said. I gave the unwrapped popsicle in my hand a
little shake to illustrate.
“Okay, so you hate popsicles and socializing. What do you like?”
“I don’t hate popsicles. I’m just not confident enough to pull off a
neon tongue,” I said. Derek stuck out his tongue and crossed his eyes in
an attempt to stare at it, apparently checking to see if it was green. It was.
“What if I found you a banana-flavored popsicle?” Matt asked.
He took a quick inventory of me, not in a sketchy way, but in a curious
analysis. Instead of the bright summer dresses that most of the
girls around me wore, I had on a white pencil skirt and a killer pair of
yellow suede heels that I couldn’t resist last week at the Steve Madden
clearance sale. I topped it off with a yellow button-down blouse.
The sleeves had tiny little gathers at the shoulder for a soft, feminine
look, and clever tailoring in the bodice darts. As long as I didn’t turn
around, he’d never see the Star Wars bandage on my calf covering the
fading bruise I’d picked up from a stingray on my second day in the
water. Note to self: buy normal-colored bandages.
“Banana could work.” His theorizing snagged my attention
again. “Maybe people would just assume you were making a fashion
statement by matching your tongue color to your outfit. Like those
watches with the bands you can swap out.”
“Are you comparing me to a plastic Swatch?” I asked.
“That’s high-quality Swiss engineering,” Derek interrupted, trying
to help his buddy out. “Like a BMW.”
“BMWs are German,” I said.
“Yeah, but the Swiss speak German,” he said.
“Okay, but I don’t think they eat as much sausage, so it’s really
not the same thing,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess . . .” Derek trailed off, looking confused. I bet he
wore that expression a lot.
Celia wandered up right then, brimming with nervous energy but
trying to play it cool.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked.
“Not so fast,” Derek protested. “Is this your cousin?”
“Boys, this is Celia. Celia, meet Derek and . . .” I turned to Matt
with an apologetic shrug. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
Celia’s eyes widened at this little falsehood, but she didn’t say
“It’s Matt,” he answered. “It’s nice to meet you, Ashley,” and he
held out his hand for a shake. I always think it’s kind of awkward when
people my age do this, but I took his hand. He surprised me by squeezing
mine lightly instead of shaking it, then letting it go. “Hi, Celia,” he
continued, including my awestruck cousin in the introduction.
She blushed and squeaked out a mangled “hi” in return.
“So now that we’re old friends, you’re coming to the cookout,
right?” Derek wanted to know.
“I don’t think so, but seriously, thanks for the invite.” I turned to
Matt. “And I don’t hate socializing,” I said, smiling. “I just have a lot
of stuff to do.”
He looked intrigued but was too polite to ask what else I had
planned. Celia, unfortunately, was not so polite.
“What stuff?” she demanded.
“Boring stuff that no one wants to hear about,” I said, cutting off
her next protest with a warning glare. I felt Matt’s gaze following the whole exchange with interest.
“I’m out of here, I guess,” I said, addressing our two onlookers.
“See you around sometime.” I threw the last remark over my shoulder,
having already turned to head for the exit with Celia reluctantly
“Definitely,” Matt said. “Nice Band-Aid.”
As soon as the doors clicked closed behind us, Celia whirled on
me, bristling with irritation.
“Why aren’t we going to the barbecue?” she almost wailed. “Do
you know how hard it is to get an invite?”
“No, I don’t. It sounds like they have a ton of people over every
“People your age,” she said. “They don’t notice anyone under
twenty-one. My friends would kill for an invitation to their place.”
“Then your friends don’t have enough going on,” I said.
“I don’t get it,” she complained. “You want Matt Gibson to teach
you to surf, but you just rejected his invitation to hang out.”
“I turned down Derek’s invitation,” I corrected her. “When Matt
Gibson invites me, I’ll say yes.”
“But you don’t know if he’ll do that,” she said. “Especially since
you already said no.”
“Oh, he’ll invite me again,” I said. “He has to. Because Matt
Gibson just became number seventeen on The List.”
A great "dessert" book
by Jenny - reviewed on April 07, 2011
I read "The List" in just a couple of days and was thoroughly entertained the entire time. This book is a light read - a romantic comedy that won't change your life or alter your perspective, but is fun and engaging just the same. It's like dessert - not necessary, but so much fun. The quality of writing is also really great - natural dialog, good pacing. I fell quite naturally into the story and found the author's style easy, refreshing, and fun. If you need a book to lighten the mood, this would be a great pick.
Cute, fun book
by Frances - reviewed on September 26, 2012
The List was a fun, romantic comedy. I can't recommend most LDS fiction books because they are so bad but this one is surprisingly good. It's not going to change your life but it will be a fun read.
Laugh out loud funny and so true it hurts
by Amanda - reviewed on March 06, 2012
This book made me laugh out loud! Love all of her work but this book really made you feel that the characters were real because of their not perfect portraits. Fabulous read!
Fun and witty easy read that you won't want to put down.
by Leslie - reviewed on February 21, 2012
Melanie Jacobson does a great job of creating characters that you love. The plot is a little predictable but of course at the end, there's a twist. A great tale of young summer romance that reminded me of my youth. I couldn't put the book down and finished it in a day. Now I want a sequel!
Wonderfully witty and fun summer read!
by Rebecca - reviewed on April 06, 2011
This book was a perfect walk down memory lane for me. I think I loved it because I could relate to the main character on so many levels. Now that I'm done reading, I feel like it's the end of a long day at the beach and all I want to do is stay to watch the sun go down...not drive home in traffic. Sometimes you truly like characters enough that you never want it to end and Melanie did a great job of drawing her's out for me.
Delivers exactly what you want in a Chick Lit
by Laura - reviewed on April 07, 2011
A fun, quick read (I read it in one night) that delivers exactly what Melanie Jacobson promised. The characters are interesting and original. The dialogue is quick, engaging and very entertaining. Yet you still feel “swoony” during the romantic scenes. A great book that keeps you excited for the end!
Fun and Enjoyable Read
by Sheridan - reviewed on April 08, 2011
I thought it would be perfect to save this book for my upcoming cruise. I tried to read the first chapter to just get a taste. Well, I couldn't put it down, so I guess I need to find a new book for my cruise. :) I really loved the main character and her determination. I wanted to cheer her on. "You go girl, you finish your list before getting tied down by marriage and the kids which are the real ones that tie you down!" But at the same time I was yelling at her to just be open to love, that it matters more than a stupid list. I also enjoyed Melanie's writing. Upbeat, light and fun. When she referred to Guacamole as "squishy, green goodness" I had to smile and then go eat some. This is a perfect book for a cruise. I wish I had another of Melanie's Books to read. Apparently being at home is a great place to read it too.
by Makinzee - reviewed on April 06, 2011
I absolutely loved this book. It made me laugh out loud so many times. I started reading it while I was working and could not put it down! It just completely pulled me into the story. I've started writing my own list of things I want to do, and it's so fun finding ways to cross them off. Anyway, it's just amazing!
funny, witty chick lit
by annie - reviewed on April 07, 2011
I flew through this book, the writing is a crack-up. Great main character, the perfect scratch for your romantic itch. I'm giving a copy to my niece in college for her birthday.
by Karen - reviewed on April 10, 2011
The List is the kind of fun, romantic, and funny book you'll want to throw into your bag when you're heading out for the beach or the lake. Melanie Jacobson has created characters that are interesting and that you really want to root for. Her dialog is witty and entertaining. I couldn't put this book down!