Saturday, June 21, 2008

Too young to die.

Crutcher, Chris. Deadline. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2007.

Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Plot Summary:Ben Wolf has a manic depressive mother and a brother who looks just like him, only much bigger. Ben has always known he was a "shrimp", but he just found out he is going to die within a year. He views the option to try and prolong his life as trading quality for quantity and decides instead to live this year as his best ever by not telling anyone. He joins the football team instead of cross-country, dates the girl of his dreams, works to cure social ills, and avoids makes friends with an alcoholic ex-priest with a really big secret. Speaking of secrets, what is Ben going to do when he can't hide his anymore?
Geographical Setting: Trout, Idaho
Time Period: Contemporary
Appeal Characteristics:
As with all of Crutcher's works this novel is first-person narrated by strongly-developed, ethical, and likable young man. The story is a tear-jerker by the expected end, but told in such a light humorous way. Despite good character development and complex relationships the story clips along at fair pace. The twist on the classic coming of age story is aided by the usual Chris Crutcher story elements of small town life, courage in the face of adversity, dysfunctional families, and the triumph of good over bad...even when things don't work out for the best.
Crutcher, Chris. Running Loose. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1983.

This book features Louie Banks, the football coach in "Deadline." In this story Louie is a high school football hero. He has a great girlfriend and an almost perfect life. But that perfection starts to derail after he stands up against his racist teammates. Again all the fearless and funny Crutcher elements are all here including courage in the face of adversity, dealing with death, humor, complex relationships, and well developed characters.

Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. New York: David Fickling Books, 2007.

Tess has lived battled her cancer for four years and thus missed out on important parts of childhood. This story really focuses on the death and dying by highlighting it against Tess's quest to enjoy her last bit of life before she dies. The book is funny and poignant. Characters are more important than plot and family relationships are complex. It is a book to be enjoyed slowly.

Leimbach, Marti. Dying Young. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

If Deadline had only focused on the love story and the dying it might have ended up being something like this book. Victor is dying and falls in love with his caretaker Hillary, who in turn is in love with a healthy friend of Victor's. Again, lots of deep characterization and complex relationships. Victor's defiance of medical treatment is also similar to Ben's attitude.

Krech, Bob. Rebound. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2006.

Crutcher's books, especially deadline, often focus on sports and team dynamics as catalysts for change and vehicles of empowerment. Rebound follows with that theme. This book focuses on Ray Wisniewski, who goes against the grain in his small racially-polarized town by playing basketball instead of wrestling.

Connelly, Neil O. St. Michael's Scales. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002.

Keenan Flannery feels responsible for the death of his twin brother and plans on killing himself but is saved when he is forced to join the wrestling team and it gives him a reason to live. In the course of the book the complex family relationships and the idea of death are very fully explored.

Red Flags: Some adult themes, words, and phrases. There is the usual, sex, violence, and cursing, but also references to things that aren't really as familiar to today's teens as they were to the teens of the 70s and 80s. It sometimes seems that Crutcher's character's are well developed because he uses them again and again, and this book is no exception. Finally, the plot in this one is more of vehicle for the characters than usual for Crutcher.

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