Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Crutcher, C. (2007) Deadline New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 316p.

Summary: A thought provoking story of a young man who learns he is terminally ill and has one year to live. Rather than choosing treatment in an attempt to prolong his life, he chooses instead to pack all the life he can into the time he has left. It seems shocking that the main character, Ben, makes this choice for himself. However, as you’re introduced to the other characters and get to know Ben better, an understanding of why he chooses as he does becomes more understandable and acceptable. He wants his life to be as normal as it can and he lives it to the fullest making every minute count while coming to terms with the fact he’s going to die.

Characters: Ben is a typical high school student attending school in a very small town. Outside of the fact that he’s terminally ill, he’s a pretty normal kid with strengths and weaknesses. Ben’s family is representative of many families and is dysfunctional. His mother suffers from mental illness and alcoholism and relies more on Ben than Ben can rely on her. Ben’s father is caring, but weak as head of the household. He is interested in his sons, but ineffective with his wife. Cody, Ben’s brother with whom Ben shares a positive and close relationship, is also dependent on Ben. Cody, who is dyslexic, counts on Ben’s private coaching at home to help him maintain his position as quarterback on the high school football team while planning to earn a sports scholarship to college. The other characters in Ben’s life that impact his life are his coach, Dallas Suziki the girl of his dreams, and Rudy Moore a homeless alcoholic.

Deadline is well written and the characters are realistic and easy to connect with especially if you are an adolescent male. The sports scenes intermittent in the story are detailed and exciting. Most adolescent boys will appreciate and lose themselves in those scenes as well as those where Ben is fantasizing about Dallas and those where the relationship develops between the two. Crutcher knows and understands his audience. He knows how to write in a language they relate to and with problems they will understand. Girls may enjoy this book, too, but I think the target audience would be high school boys, especially those interested in sports. I think the appropriate age would be 14 and up. The book could be used as a whole group read because of the selection of themes inside to choose from so there is something for most readers.

Death is something everyone must do, but few know when their time is up. Through Ben, readers can explore and consider death. They can experience how it changes the way Ben lives his life. Hopefully, they also learn to take risks and make every minute of life count.

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