For most teenagers twelve months is a small chapter in an epic novel that spans a lifetime. In Ben Wolfe’s case however, it’s all he’s got. Upon forgoing risky teatment for terminal cancer Ben decides that while he may be short in stature, short on luck, and short of time, there’s no reason he can’t make his final year a story worth the reading, complete with unexpected turns, shocking discoveries, and an existential crisis that finds him challenging both himself (and us!) to find the answers to questions we all have.scoveries, and an existential crisis that finds him challenging both himself (and us!) to find the answers to questions we all have.
If Deadline was a flesh and bone human being, compared to the ink and paper it actually is, I think this would be the point where I called it quits on our relationship. I imagine we’d be curled up in bed, cup of tea in hand, where our relationship first started three days before after a trip to the library. Naturally I would take a cue from romcom’s everywhere and start off by saying how good our relationship was and everything I loved about it (and trust me, there was lot’s) , but then how things subtley changed to the point I could no longer look past it. Finally I would have to say that though we invested lot’s of time and energy into making us work (in my case 311 pages worth), I’ve realized we’re doomed, but please undertsand it’s me not you, and I 100% believe there’s a girl, or reader, out there who will fall in love with your pages.
In all seriousness though, I really believe everything I said. I could tell reading it Chris Crutcher is an incredibly talented author that can write side-splitting humorous scenes (my favorite part of the whole book, I think his wisecracking one-liners will put a smile on lots of readers faces and it was a joy hearing Ben’s inner monologue’s), also as a character driven reader I really appreciated how Crutcher spent so much time developing even side characters voices through dialogue and Ben’s observation. As any reader can tell you that takes lots of skill to flesh out each characters voice and build their own distinct personalities/ backstories, but Crutcher did it to the point where I could almost imagine their speaking mannerisms and quirks like a real live person. Yet another shoutout goes to the heart and tenderness he gives to taboo topics most other authors would shy away from, readers will really appreciate the respect he gave to real world problems such as bigotry and teen pregnancy to name a few. Crutcher thoughtfully weaves them into the story, painting an interesting picture of the secrets we all carry and the way we can choose to embrace them or allow it to destroy us, an important message that dynamically layers and add a new side to Ben’s own problem as he comes to grip with it.
So naturally what everyone reading this is thinking, why is it only a three star book for me if I technically enjoyed so much of it? Well, my dilemna is two big holdups that drastically changed my reading experience. One, that even though Crutcher wrote an otherwise amazing book, as a girl with no interest in ever being able to speak the language of football, I was incredibly alienated by almost the entire first half of the book, as I’m sure most female redaers will be. Football was a big part of Ben deciding, despite everything, that he was going to live his life on his terms no matter what so I understand it’s place in the book, but if it could have been written in a more approachable way (see Gym Candy or Dairy Queen) I think it could target more people. The second reason is that this book was written eight years ago way back in 2007. This might not seem like a long time but in the world of YA, where every year more and more books come out about terminal illness, I don’t think Deadline necessarily offers any refreshing take and there’s many books about similar themes I would recommend over it. In short, it’s good but hardly the best.
Please understand Deadline, it’s me not you. If I was a less jaded, less critical teenage boy looking for a funny, easy to fly through, but still thought provoking book I’d be all over you. Alas, it was not meant to be.