Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Greenwillow, 2009. ISBN 9780060850913.
(Age 14+) Recommended. Imagine if, when you went to the doctor for a normal checkup, you were told that you had terminal cancer. That is what happens to 18 year old Ben Wolf, who knows that this will be his last year at school. He decides he won't tell anyone his secret and refuses treatment. He resolves to go after everything that he has dreamt about in the short time that he has left. That includes dating a beautiful girl, getting onto the football team and baiting his Civics teacher about his conservative viewpoint of history.
As well as facing a terminal illness, Ben has to come to grips with the effects his death will have on his mother, who is suffers from depression and often hides out in her room for days at a time. He is the one who usually helps her out. And he realises that he is not the only one to harbour a terrifying secret. When he gets to know Dallas Suzuki, the girl he has dreamt about, he discovers that she is concealing things too as is the lonely drunk, Rudy, whom he befriends. They trust him with what has happened in their lives and Ben is faced with the dilemma of whether he should let the people he loves know about his cancer.
Crutcher tackles some big themes in Deadline: death, mental illness, child abuse, trust, suicide and the manipulation of history, but they are woven into a engrossing story that is difficult to put down. Equally engrossing is Ben's try-out for the football team and the way he and his brother Cody work together to win. I was fascinated by Ben's arguments about racism and American History with Mr Lambeer his teacher.
Crutcher has struck just the right note with this story, which could have been a tearjerker, but instead is thought provoking with lots of humour interspersed to keep the reader going. It was one of the ALA Best Books for 2008 and certainly deserves this accolade.