Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meet the Deadline

My last realistic fiction novel is Deadline by Chris Crutcher. Ben Wolf goes in for his senior year cross country physical and finds out he has leukemia--a lethal form that will kill him within the year and treatment might give him a few months more. Being the persuasive geek he is, he convinces his doctor not to tell his parents (he's 18), and he's determined to live out his senior year as full of life as he can. This includes trying out for football (no need to fear brain injury), asking out Dallas Suzuki (rejection won't kill him), and terrorizing the government teacher who refuses to look at the other side of any issue (he doesn't need that diploma anyway).

Ben's no nonsense attitude to his last year is courageous and dumb. It's totally the move of an 18 year old who just found out he doesn't have the rest of his life ahead of him. If he was in my class, I'd find him terribly annoying, but in his brain you can't help but love him.

(Image from Fantastic fiction)

There's a lot going on in this book. His mom is bipolar and as the major peacemaker of the family he struggles with what will happen to his family once he's gone. He befriends the town drunk discovering a history of a Catholic priest scandal and a really good guy who just doesn't know how to do the right thing. He unites with his brother (the quarterback) to make an unstoppable team. He discovers hidden depths about Dallas Suzuki and helps her heal from her own history of abuse. But in all these things, he messes up like a normal teenager. He does ultimately realize he should tell everyone what's going on, but the revelation causes its own turmoil.

My favorite parts of this book had to be Ben's dream conversations with Hey-soos (you know the Spanish pronunciation of Jesus). They are irreverent as can be and verge on heresy, but Hey-soos provides the sounding board Ben needs when he can't talk to anyone else. He guides and directs and calls Ben on his bluffs. While I'm not in favor of reducing God to a Jiminy Cricket, let your conscience be your guide character, the scenes were just endearing.

Ben also gave some awesome book recommendations that I'm putting on my list. I can't help but love him.

So all in all Deadline is a pretty awesome book. It has the standard warnings of language and sexuality. (One of Ben's goals is to get laid before he dies.) But I think the whole tone of the book rises above that. There is a lot of football in it. Chris Crutcher is famous in the sports genre of YA and this one is about half sports, half YA drama. The teenage me would have been totally lost during the games. But if you can make it through that, it's worth reading.

This is the last in my realistic fiction. (Yes!) Except that multicultural fiction is up next and it's realistic fiction, in a different cultural setting. Sigh.

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