Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rosie Reading Update: Deadline

I just finished (as in, on Sunday) Deadline by Chris Crutcher.

This book joins the ranks of many, many novels written about teenagers facing death just as their "real" (or adult) lives are about to begin. Take a look around. There are tons of these. It's a pretty common theme.

And usually, the teenager is either (1) whiny, childish, boring, unendurable, etc. or (2) they are overly mature to the point that you no longer believe that they are a teenager with no prior health problems.

Strictly speaking, this novel was the latter. Ben Wolf, though, has an excuse.

Ben is a firstborn child and he has spent the majority of his childhood caring for his mother, who has periods of mania and depression. He also has acted as a parental figure/best friend to his younger brother Cody.

So I could almost understand the difference between the average teenager and Ben. And that let me make it past the first chapter.

If I didn't think about it too much.

Then, Ben sees a specialist who tells him basically: you have one year, give or take. But mostly take. So, Ben says, "Fine. No treatment."

Which I can kind of understand, because Ben has the choice between dying from the treatment, sick all year long, or dying from the disease, living as well as he can for as long as he can.

And he decides to keep it a secret. Because he doesn't want to stress his mom, who is too sick to deal with it, his brother, who has to worry about getting a football scholarship that will take him to college (no hope otherwise), and his dad, who is busy dealing with...everything.

Also, Ben wants to live normally, or as normally as possible. He doesn't want his teachers or fellow students watching him for signs of sickness, he doesn't want to miss out on sports, and he doesn't want to be forced into treatments he doesn't want, while his mother falls apart.

So he lies.

By the time I got this far, two things happened. First, I did not believe that a boy like Ben would ever exist in any circumstance. Second, I did not care.

Because Ben is an engaging narrator, his football success combining with his brother's to lead their team to new heights, his compassion leading him to help the town drunk, Rudy, get sober, and his stubborn clashes with his obstinate Current Events teacher keeps Ben like-able, despite his strange circumstances. And they are strange: think late-night conversations with "Hey-Soos"--at once irreverent and profound.

And I did like Ben. I liked how good he was to Dallas Suzuki, the improbably named girl of Ben's dreams. Despite how improbable a girl she is...

Bottom line: although I found it hard to keep my mind on task through the many sports detours this novel took, it was still good and worth reading. Guys--you will like this book.

That's what...three down? And... 18 to go?

See, that's because I'm not counting books that I read before I found out they were Rosie nominees. So I am re-reading John Green's Abundance of Katherines and Gabrielle Zevin's Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

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