Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deadline ~ by Chris Crutcher

Title, author, copyright date, and genre (setting).
Deadline ~ by Chris Crutcher, 2007, YA fiction (Idaho), 10/10
Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
When Ben Wolf learns he has only one year to live, he chooses to tell no one of his "deadline" so he can lead a normal life as long as possible.  He figures he has mere months to experience all he can, and he wants to do that on his own terms.
What made you want to read the book?

Four years ago, my friend Donna told me how good the book is.  When she started a blog around that time, this was the first (and still the only) book she reviewed.
"Ben Wolf's conversations with 'Hey-soos,' as well as glimpses into his close relationship with Coach Lou Banks (from previous Crutcher stories), meticulously guides us through Ben's adventures and his maturing as he travels this part of life's journey.  This is perhaps my favorite of Crutcher's young adult novels, and that is saying much since he is, in my view, one of the best young adult authors today."
And then recently, Stephanie @ Confessions of a Bookaholic reminded me of the book:
"Without telling ANYONE, including his parents or younger brother, he sets out to make his Senior year unforgettable.  Honestly, I'm having a hard time not tearing up just writing this paragraph.  It really is an exceptional book."
What did you think of the main character?

Ben is a smart kid, and best of all, he's a reader.  Unlike some people I know, who tell me they forget a book almost as soon as they finish it, Ben talks about what he's read.  He mentions some of these only once, but refers back to others:

A Short History of Nearly Everything ~ by Bill Bryson (p. 25)
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong ~ by James W. Loewen (p. 40)
Outgunned: Up Against the NRA ~ by Peter Harry Brown and Daniel G. Abel (p. 43)
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream ~ by H. G. Bissinger (p. 51)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X ~ as told to Alex Haley (pp. 83, 86)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln ~ by Doris Kearns Goodwin (p. 157)
Robert McNamara's book (p. 293) He doesn't say which one, but maybe this one:  In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam.
And Ben quotes the poet Robert Burns: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley," which we usually translate into "The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry," which I translate into, "The best laid schemes of horny dying short guys oft land in the shitter" (p. 115). [Yes, watch out for teenage male language.]

Which character could you relate to best?
Dallas Suzuki, the girl Ben wanted to date, probably because she was the only female character who was really developed.  I could also relate to Marla, the therapist, who appeared briefly near the beginning and then again very briefly near the end.
Were there any other especially interesting characters?
I really liked Coach Lou Banks, who truly cared about his students.  Here's one reason to like him:
"Lambeer is a teacher who cares what you think.  Coach cares how you think" (p. 159).
And then there's the town drunk. I began to understand his pain and his guilt and, to that extent, began to warm toward him as a human being.
Were the characters and their problems believable?
Oh, yes!  Ben Wolf, the protagonist with a "deadline," began to be overwhelmed with all the problems of the people around him.  And I began to think of the people I see from day to day, wondering what grief and despair they may be hiding from the world.
What was the book's central question, and how was it answered?
How will Ben Wolf (also known as "little wolf" and "little big brother") get through the year facing his "deadline"?  Mostly pretty well, I think.
Was location important to the story?
Yes, in that Trout, Idaho was a nowhere little town, making some of the events more likely than in a large city.
Share any favorite quotes.
Ben's opinion (p. 284):  "Planet Earth is a tough town."

Hey-Soos tells Ben (pp. 241-242):  "God isn't a guy.  God isn't a girl.  God is a force.  You have all these people trying to figure out whether to believe in God or the big bang.  God is the ultimate scientist. ... Just know that everything started as one, everything still is one, and it will end up as one."
Did you like the way the book ended?
I finished the book with teears running down my cheeks, yet it was still satisfying.  Crutcher wrapped up the loose ends, and I could imagine what Ben's brother Cody and others, like Dallas Suzuki, might do in the future, which looked good.
What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
Reading about Ben's world that was suddenly turned upside down (see the cover photo above) is likely to stay with me.  I expect to continue thinking about him and how he faced that year of his life, maybe for a very long time.
Would you recommend this book?  How would you rate it?
Yes, I highly recommend it, having given the book my highest rating:  10/10 means I couldn't put it down.


Helen's Book Blog said...

I am finally getting around to reading Deadline, but I am only on page 5. So far, no surprise, I really like it

alisonwonderland said...

I bought this for my Kindle several months ago when it was offered at a special price. It sounds like I really need to bump it up on my to-read list!