A year to live. Really live. — “Deadline” by Chris Crutcher
I’m not generally one who reads a lot of Young Adult Literature. No offense to the great writers who produce the stuff, but it’s just generally not my taste. I didn’t enjoy high school enough to want to revisit it, you know?
However, after attending the Banned Books Week 2010 Readout last Saturday, I stood in line and got a signed copy of “Deadline” by event emcee and frequently-challenged author Chris Crutcher himself.
So I read the book. And really sincerely enjoyed it.
Pint-sized Ben Wolf is about to enter his senior year of high school. He runs track, and during his preseason physical, he finds out he’s got a blood disease and probably has a year to live. Rather than tell people and go through painful (and probably not helpful) treatment, he invokes his right to confidentiality – being eighteen – and proceeds to spend his last months living the life he wanted: Joining the football team, challenging teachers set in old-school ways, and by going after a super-cool and popular girl.
The book is actually a lot darker than I expected it to be. There’s no happy last-minute ending for Ben, the super-cool girl has sincerely dark secrets of her own, and the town drunk Ben befriends turns out to have a seriously dark past of his own. There’s talk of sex, lots of foul language, pedophilia, and racism.
No wonder Crutcher finds himself banned a lot.
That said, I think it’s a book high-school me would have really enjoyed. Being a teen isn’t rosy and filled with joyous homecoming dances. It’s really hard stuff, and I think if young people can find comfort in Young Adult literature, then more power to them.
I’d definitely be interested to pick up another Crutcher book down the line.