By Chris Crutcher
I now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. I read this book for fun with no intention of writing a review for it. DEADLINE does not seem like my sort of book. I'm an escapist reader - I like to immerse myself in the book's world and have a jolly good time. My sister likes those Lurlene McDaniel type books where someone dies in the end and you feel depressed for the entire afternoon once you finish. However, I trust Chris Crutcher. He's made me cry, many times, but I keep crawling back because he writes fabulous novels. DEADLINE is no different. I chose to write this review because I read the book this morning, loved it, and wanted to share that feeling.
DEADLINE's Ben Wolf knows he is dying. An aggressive blood disease will kill him within the year if he isn't treated. With treatment, he might extend his life some. Ben chooses to refuse treatment. He also chooses to keep his condition a secret from everyone except his doctor and the therapist his doctor forces him to see. He throws himself into his last year of life. He finally tries out for football. He pursues the girl he's in lust with. He tries to sober up the town drunk. He acts up in class because what does it matter if he doesn't graduate?
Crutcher, as usual, doesn't fear including issues in his story. There's sexual and physical child abuse, alcoholism, and bigotry. At some points these issues threaten to overshadow Ben's story, but Crutcher keeps them under control.
The diminutive Ben feels fear. He feels sad and he doesn't want to die. Every time his brother or girlfriend talks to him about the future he feels guilty for his lies. But, at the same time, he's a happy narrator. He's doing things he loves and making the most of his final year. He does not regret choosing not to fight the illness with drugs nor does he regret the relationships he makes. (He should regret some of his jokes.)
I don't regret reading DEADLINE. I cried at the end, yes. Ben dies. There is no miracle cure. But I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in his head, watching him do some things so right while still making large mistakes. I cried, but I felt happy. Ben worked hard to make sure the people he affected most would be able to handle his death. He made a choice at the beginning of the novel and defended it to the death. I respect him for that. I will also continue to read Crutcher faithfully, no matter how many of his books get banned.
DEADLINE went on sale last September. You can find out more at Chris Crutcher's website or myspace.