I’ve been working on catching up on all the YA titles I missed over the last five years or so. While I read a lot of YA as a sixth grade teacher, there were certain books that I knew did not have a place in my classroom, with my particular students. Thus, I rarely purchased those books. (See, I justify buying books because I put them in my classroom library after I read them. Really, I buy them for my classroom and I just get to read them first!) Now that I teach freshmen and sophomores, there is a lot of YA I can finally add to my library. I have been stalking book sales and finally picked up a copy of Chris Crutcher’s Deadline.
At a routine summer sports physical, Ben learns that he has a terminal blood illness. Without treatment, he will most likely be dead within the year. With aggressive treatment, he will most likely be dead within a year, and incapacitated for most of that time. After considering those he loves (a mother with a mental illness, a father with too much on his plate, and a brother who is also his best friend), Ben decides not to seek treatment and not to tell anyone about his diagnosis. As an 18-year old, he has that right, despite his doctor’s misgivings. Ben is determined to live, really live, as normal a life as possible while trying to experience as much as he can in the following twelve months. What follows is an amazing look at life, death, religion, love, immortality, and so much more.
Crutcher tackles a lot of tough topics in Deadline– mental illness, child molestation, death, suicide, trust, censorship, and the meaning of life/living. But what could be a depressing book is inspiring and full of humor. Ben’s voice is spot-on for a teenage boy, with just the right amount of self-assurance and lack of that same self-assurance. Ben’s an 18-year old boy who knows when his life will end. He wants to accomplish great things: confronting the bigotry in his town, helping his brother secure a college football scholarship, and trying to help his mother heal. But Ben also wants to accomplish typical teenage boy goals: hooking up with Dallas Suzuki (the girl of his dreams), playing a great game of football, and annoying his least-favorite teacher as much as possible.
Deadline is a fantastic book and one I highly recommend for high school libraries. It has some mature themes, so I wouldn’t have shared it with my sixth graders, but it definitely has a place in any upper school library.