Sunday, October 21, 2007

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if I were told that I had cancer and the chances of recovery were not good? Would I go ahead and get treatment in the forlorn hope that it would work or at least stretch my life out a little longer? Or would I accept what was and try to live the most meaningful life I could in the time I had left?

Ben Wolf makes the latter decision. He’s eighteen years old, a senior in high school, when he finds out that he has an incurable blood disease. He orders his doctor not to tell anyone (and because he’s of legal age he gets away with it) and he sets out to have the best year possible.

Now Ben has his reasons for making the decision not to tell anyone. His mother is bipolar, with nightmarish manic and depressive cycles. Ben has no idea how his mother will react to the news, except it won’t be good. His father has all on his plate that he can handle. Ben also wants to be treated normally – he doesn’t want to be known as the “dying kid.” Finally, he wants to do some things that he would never have had the nerve to do otherwise – such as playing football (at 123 pounds) and seeing how far he can go with Dallas Suzuki.

So Ben plays football with his brother, starts a relationship with Dallas, and continually irritates his government teacher by pointing out how bigoted he is. To Ben, “somehow I knew my chances aren’t about living, they’re about living well” (p. 10) and that’s what he does.

Now one might assume a book about a dying kid would be depressing but this book is anything but. Ben has his moments of self-pity, but mostly this book is about getting the most out of what life you have and I must say I loved it. A couple of times I thought Crutcher might reaching a little far in the number of problems he brought into the book (a child abuser, a child molester, a victim of incest, etc) but the plot stays on Ben and that’s what makes the book work. This book was a winner.

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