Book Review: Planning to Live by Heather Wardell

Determined to lose weight for her best friend's wedding, goal-obsessed Rhiannon flees her parents' Christmas Day feast to avoid overeating but her car skids off the deserted road into a tree. Trapped and bleeding, with her cell phone out of reach, she struggles to escape, and to accept that she's spent her whole life planning but hasn't ever really lived. Will she get the chance to change that?

This was such a powerful read.  I wasn't expecting to be so moved, or to take the book's message to heart like I have.  This book reminded me in such a good way of how I felt reading Gayle Forman's If I Stay.

Rhiannon is a thirty-something perfectionist.  She holds herself to unattainable standards and is always beating herself up about her weight and not being good enough at every part of her life.  She has a tragic past, which is revealed little by little as she reflects on her life throughout the story.  Rhiannon gets in a car wreck on the way home from her parents' house on Christmas Day.  The whole reason why she's driving home in a blizzard is so ironic, because she's trying to escape the temptation of fattening foods at her parents' house. 

The story starts with Rhiannon stuck in her car, just off the road, and she can't reach her phone to call for help.  While she waits to be rescued, she thinks back on her life.  The entire book alternates between Rhiannon in her car in the present day and flashbacks.  Sometimes this kind of writing style can be choppy, but it works well here and keeps the story moving at a fast pace.  I found this book impossible to put down.  Wardell grabbed me right from the beginning and I finished this book really quickly because I couldn't wait to find out if Rhiannon gets her happily ever after or not. 

Just One Gripe:
Don't judge this book by its cover.  The cookies actually play a large role in the story, and have a special meaning.

The Best Thing About This Book:
The best thing about Planning to Live is the positive message.  You'll feel better about yourself and will appreciate your life more after reading this book.  How many books can you honestly say that about?

Appropriate for a younger audience:

Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Setting/Imagery: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Ending: 4/5
Total Score:  23/25

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an impartial review.


  1. As you say it can be sort of choppy, not to mention downright confusing, when the story alternates between past and present - I'm glad to read that this wasn't the case here.

    Hoping to take part in a Christmas reading challenge again this year, this sounds like an ideal book.

  2. This sounds extremely poignant, and I'm so glad you brought this book to my attention. I struggled with a horrible eating disorder for almost half my life, and looking back, I can't help but regret having wasted so much time wishing to be something else.

    Books that mean something are always nice to put in my TBR pile...brilliant review :)

  3. Wow. This sounds reallly really good. You have me thinking I should try it. Great review.

  4. Sounds like it would be an interesting read. I'll keep this one in mind.


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