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Chris Crutcher’s books always take readers on an emotional journey, and DEADLINE is no exception. Ben Wolf learns he has only a year to live and decides to keep it a secret from everyone. Not even his brother Cody, also a senior in their tiny town of Trout, Idaho, is going to know.

Though he was headed for State in cross country, Ben goes out for football. Cody is the star quarterback, and now they make an unstoppable team.

His next project is to date Dallas Suzuki, a beautiful, mysterious, smart girl. To his amazement, she asks him to Homecoming. But as he gets closer to Dallas, he learns that she also has some terrible secrets she’s trying to live with. She trusts him with hers, but he is not yet ready to confide in anyone about his.

As the months slip by, Ben begins worrying about what will happen to those left behind. His coach, a longtime family friend, lost a girlfriend in high school and never recovered. How would he handle Ben’s death? And then there’s his mother, who battles depression and hides out in her room for days at a time after periods of hyperactivity and crashing. Ben has always been the one who tries to stop her from her downward slides; his father has his hands full trying to help out.

Ben also learns about other people during his final year. The town drunk, Rudy, has always been virtually ignored, and Ben tries to get to know him and help him. But Rudy’s past demons prove too much for Rudy to bear, even after treasured nights of talking with Ben.

School no longer matters to Ben, of course. He spends his days questioning life, history and especially his teachers. His history teacher, Mr. Lambeer, doesn’t appreciate having his sacred textbook questioned or Ben bringing up darker points of American history. When Ben makes naming a street after Malcolm X his civics project, Mr. Lambeer threatens to prevent him from graduating. Ben doesn’t care, and the project teaches him and Cody more then they wanted to know about their town.

This is no-holds-barred Crutcher at his best. As a counselor, he knows about the struggles that all people must deal with in their lives and how to survive with them. While the premise of the year-deadline alone would be enough to make for an emotional novel, each of the supporting characters and their demons add power to every page.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on September 18, 2007

by Chris Crutcher

  • Publication Date: September 18, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • ISBN-10: 0060850892
  • ISBN-13: 9780060850890