10 Things to Do Before I Die

( 16 )


1) Lose my virginity

2) Apologize to Rachel

3) Get back at Biff

4) Jam and party with Shakes the Clown

5) Laugh in death’s face

6) Go...

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10 Things to Do Before I Die

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1) Lose my virginity

2) Apologize to Rachel

3) Get back at Biff

4) Jam and party with Shakes the Clown

5) Laugh in death’s face

6) Go to Africa

7) Rob a bank

8) Tell Mark to screw himself

9) Find out why Grandpa and Dad don't talk

10) Tell the truth

After a nurse informs Ted that he has a brain tumor, he wants to start living life to the fullest.

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Editorial Reviews

Seventeen-year-old Ted Burger is convinced that he is dying. He is so convinced that he and his friends are on a mission to complete the ten things he wants to do before he dies. It began as a list of things to do over spring break, but after he suspects that his French fries have been poisoned, the list becomes far more important in light of his imminent demise. Several items involve a punk rock band called Shakes the Clown, of which Ted is a rabid fan. As Ted races around the city attempting to accomplish his To Do list, he learns some lessons about life, including that idol worship is not all it is cracked up to be, that friends are not always who you believe they are, and that revenge is not always sweet. This book wants to be a chatty, funny, fast-paced look at life and death. Unfortunately it tries too hard to be all of those things. The reader never really cares about any of the characters because even though life lessons are pitched at them left and right, they never seem to catch them. The implausible plot is filled with frantic trips to the airport, limo rides from the Bronx, and a coffee-table-dancing prostitute. This book does not have that spark that will draw readers in and keep them reading. VOYA CODES: 2Q 3P S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Delacorte, 224p., and Ages 15 to 18.
—Lynn Evarts
Children's Literature
Sixteen-year-old Ted is doing his usual thing: hanging out at the local burger joint with his friends Mark and Nikki. Talk turns to spring break, which has just started that day. When his friends find out that Ted has no real plans for the time off from school, they decide to help their friend out by compiling a list of things he needs to do. Later, when the trio determine that Ted has been poisoned by a disgruntled, dismissed fry cook, the list becomes even more important to them. With an estimated 24 hours left to live, Ted is supposed to accomplish all the things on his remarkable list, including jamming and partying with his favorite band, losing his virginity, and getting something named after him. How Ted and his friends attempt to accomplish the things on the list—and what they learn about themselves and each other in the process—makes for a fantastic whirlwind of a story. 2004, Delacorte/Random House, Ages 12 to 16.
—Heidi Hauser Green
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2004: "Have you ever really lived, Burger?" Ted Burger's best friend Mark asks him. Ted has never taken any risks in his life, but Mark proposes that he act as if the upcoming spring break is his last time on Earth, and together with Mark's girlfriend Nikki, on whom Ted has a secret crush, they make up a list of what the 16-year-old New Yorker might accomplish. For instance: "1. Lose virginity..." Other items include partying with his favorite band, Shakes the Clown, robbing a bank, and doing something heroic. It all sounds like silly fun until Ted hears that a fry cook with a grudge has poisoned his French fries--and it seems that he really only has a short time to live (of course, that's not exactly true, in the end). So naturally, he sets out to do what he can from his list. A great premise, if somewhat hard to believe, and Ted's self-deprecating narration is funny and authentic-sounding. It's a bit racy but not terribly raunchy, and lively fun to read, with a clear message about learning to discover oneself, reach out to others, and seize the day. KLIATT Codes: S--Recommended for senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Delacorte, 219p., $7.95.. Ages 15 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Ted Burger's friends Mark and Nikki counsel the protagonist to step outside his usual pattern of cautious behavior as they consume their usual after-school fare at a Manhattan diner. Suddenly, a recently fired fry cook bursts in and threatens mayhem-with what turns out to be a water pistol. Mark takes quick and effective control of the situation while Burger watches and feels himself getting physically sick. No sooner does he get home than he is told that the crazed cook has poisoned him and he has just 24 hours to live. Rather than seeking medical attention, he decides to tackle the list of adventures his friends have devised for him, including liberal doses of alcohol and sex, taking on a bully from his past, and partying with the punk-rock band he worships. As the hours pass, and his nausea waxes and wanes, Burger begins to make plans of his own-an escape from the city to Africa. Instead, he wakes up in a Brooklyn hospital, diagnosed as suffering from panic disorder, rather than food poisoning. While all of the characters are engaging and likable, Ehrenhaft's plotting feels erratic. The buildup to the poisoning is long in coming while Burger's numerous escapades all get packed into about eight hours. The moral and ethical issues come fast and furious-the old bully is now in a wheelchair and saintly, the punk rockers are bored with themselves, Burger's shallow parents ultimately seek depth in their son. There are several great scenarios here, but the stitches needed to gather them into one story don't bear up to even casual scrutiny.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ted Burger, 16 and with "Brillo pad hair," has always played it safe, choosing to experience the wilder sides of teenage-boydom vicariously through his bonkers best friend, Mark. But when he discovers he's been poisoned by a lunatic diner chef and has only 24 hours to live, he enlists the help of Mark and his girlfriend Nikki to dash off a list of brilliantly hair-brained activities he must accomplish before he dies. The trio then embarks on a dizzying New York City roller-coaster ride of booze, rock-and-roll concerts, drunken taxi rides, and a credit-card-stealing prostitute. Believable? Not exactly. Fun? Totally. Ehrenhaft's keen characterizations and teen-speak dialogues ring true, and with so many fabulously taboo plot twists, one would think this could be his one-two punch to Quick Pick stardom. But somehow he caps this shameless and entertaining whirlwind race against time with a syrupy, half-baked, and predictable ending guaranteed to piss off and/or disappoint every teen reader who for 200 pages succumbed to and believed in Ted's full-throttle quest for complete spontaneity. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385734066
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/13/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 790,956
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Ehrenhaft

Daniel Ehrenhaft, the author of Tell It to Naomi, has written numerous novels, often under the name Daniel Parker, and is the recipient of the 2003 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel for The Wessex Papers, Volumes 1 through 3. The author lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue: The Story of My Death
My name is Ted Burger. I am sixteen years old. I am an only child. I live in New York City.

I will not live to see seventeen.

What else? Let’s see. . . . My voice is pretty deep but it squeaks sometimes, like an old rusty bicycle. I have curly brown hair. “Brillo pad hair,” in my best friend Mark’s words. I am tall and skinny. My fingers are, too. They look like twigs. “Musician’s fingers,” says my guitar teacher, Mr. Puccini. (Translation: “Girlie fingers.”) I’m good at blowing stuff off. I have a hard time admitting certain things to myself. According to my parents, I have a “nutty, Borscht Belt sense of humor!” (I include the exclamation point because they tend to speak at a high-pitched volume.) What they mean is that I’m a third-rate clown, but they aren’t really ones to talk.

This is the story of my death.

It starts the way all my stories do, as a bad joke whose tragic punch line somehow ends up signifying my whole life. Or death, in this case. Ha! Ha . . . ha . . . okay, maybe my parents are right. Maybe I am a clown. I don’t have the greatest comic timing. I rarely instigate–bad things simply happen to me. Pie-in-the-face sorts of things. But don’t just take my word for it. Consider the fortune I received on my sixteenth birthday (ironically, my last birthday ever, although I didn’t know it at the time) when my parents took me to the Hong Phat Noodle House–and I swear I am not making this up:

You will never have much of a future if you look for it in a cookie at a Chinese Restaurant. J

My mom’s fortune promised a lifetime of infinite happiness. My dad’s, a lifetime of wealth and fulfillment. When I complained to the waiter about mine, he told me that I should be pleased. “It’s true, young man,” he said with a smile. “One should never look for one’s destiny in a dessert item. One should look for it in experience.”

I agreed, sure–but deep down, I still felt sort of gypped. I asked for another one. He refused. Hong Phat policy is one fortune cookie per customer, period.

The real punch line is that I don’t even like Chinese food all that much. I like french fries. But my parents forced me to go there because they said that I needed to learn how to use chopsticks. “It’s a skill that will make you part of an important demographic, dear!” Mom insisted. That’s a direct quote. To this day, I have no idea what she means. (I never learned how to use chopsticks, either.) My parents work together at the same advertising firm, so they talk a lot about stuff like “important demographics!” It’s pretty much all they talk about. Maybe one day I will understand their baffling pronouncements. I would if I weren’t doomed to an early grave, that is.

Speaking of which, the story of my death also starts at a restaurant. It starts at the Circle Eat Diner with Mark and his girlfriend, Nikki. I can’t imagine it starting any other way. Everything starts at the Circle Eat Diner with Mark and Nikki, at least everything that matters . . . everything that happens during those sublime, BS-filled hours when the three of us laugh and rant and eat, the hours just after school and before I have to run back home to Mom and Dad.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I rarely have to run home to Mom and Dad. They aren’t around very often. They take a lot of business trips. All of which is a long way of saying that I spend more time hanging out at the Circle Eat Diner with Mark and Nikki than I probably should.

Much more.

You’ll see what I mean shortly. The story of my death has a very dramatic, pie-in-the-face beginning.

A Very Active Inner Life
Spring break has just started. No classes for a whole week! Woo-hoo! It’s one of those rare gorgeous afternoons in Manhattan when the sky is swimming-pool blue and the breeze is crisp. There’s no humidity at all.

Freedom! the day seems to shout. Rock and roll!

Well, the day might seem to shout that if I were outside. Inside the Circle Eat Diner, the day doesn’t seem to shout anything. It stinks of grease. The three of us are huddled over the remnants of a burger, fries, and pickle. We pretty much order the same meal every time: Circle Eat #5, the Burger/Fries Combo. I eat the fries. Mark eats the burger. Nikki eats the pickle. The way Mark and Nikki are slouched across from me in the booth, they look more like a pair of models than a real-life couple–rail thin, dark, unblemished . . . poster children for the wonders of the #5 diet.

Mark’s brown hair is a mess. His ratty T-shirt bears the logo give this dawg a bone. His brown eyes are wild. They’re always wild. This stems from a belief he’s had since he was a little kid that something bizarre and miraculous could occur at any moment–a giant-squid attack, the Rapture–and when it does, it will require his personal involvement in some way. So he’s perpetually on guard.

I envy him for this. I always have. He’s never bored.

Nikki is hardly ever bored, either, but for less delusional reasons. She’s got a very active inner life. This I can relate to. She’s constantly turning everything over in her mind–every event and conversation, no matter how trivial–and milking it for its hidden wisdom. You can tell from the way she listens, from the way she looks you in the eye . . . you can even tell from how she dresses: mostly in black. With Nikki, blackness doesn’t have an agenda. She isn’t trying to play the role of a misunderstood hipster or a sullen goth. She isn’t trying to fit in with any crowd, either. (To be honest, the three of us don’t really belong to any crowd. Not unless you include the other people who hang out in the Circle Eat Diner all the time, like Old Meatloaf Lady and Guy with Crumbs in His Beard.) Nikki just doesn’t put a whole lot of thought into her wardrobe. She’s got too much else going on inside. Once she told me that the only reason she dresses in black is so her clothes will match her hair. I loved that.

Her eyes are what really tell the story, though. They’re like onyx, calm to the point of being alien: the eyes of the extra­terrestrials you see in UFO documentaries. They radiate that same mysterious, hypnotic “we-come-in-peace” vibe, even when she’s joking around or scheming.

Funny: I probably think more than Nikki does about the way she looks. Ha! Not that I’d ever admit that to her. I definitely wouldn’t admit it to Mark. I have a hard enough time admitting it to myself.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    10 Things To Do Before I Die

    What would you do if you found out that you were poisoned? Well the main character, Ted, in this book lived his life as best as he could in 24 hours when he found out that he was poisoned. After eating with his friends, Mark and Nikki, at their favorite cafe, Ted became very ill and began to vomit. Soon after Ted left the cook of the cafe that had just been fired came to the cafe and claimed that he had poisoned some of the food and whoever ate it only had 24 hours to live. Now instead of calling his parents or going to the hospital,after Mark and Nikki told him what the cook had said back at the cafe, they wrote out a list of 10 things Ted should or needed to do before he passed away. Some things such as: lose virginity, party with favorite band, etc.Ted isn't the most adventurous teen and spent most of his time in his room with his guitar, so that is why the 10 items on the list are so far out there and may seem impossible for a teenager to achieve, but you will be amazed at what Ted can and does do. Being poisoned changes Ted's life. I'm not sure what I would do if I was poisoned, probably end up going to the hospital but I think the author had a point to the story. Maybe, dont just sit there and let life pass you by, acheive all of your goals and dreams in life and experience life to it's fullest. I would definitly recommend this book as a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    What would you do if you know your about to die?, and just to make things worst than what they were you been poison
    and you have 24 hours to live. That's just crazy. Well here is Ted with his friends Mark and Nikki. while ey were eating fries Daniel one of the ex workers told them that he had poisen his fries. There was tha time were Ted and Nikki and Mark had this crazy idea about a list with 10 thing Ted should do before he dies. As Ted began to feel dizy and vomit more often, Mark and Nikki decide to do a list. They stared by Ted first most wanted thing. . Lose my virginity, yea the was the number one in the list. Nikki wisent converse that Ted wisent able to do it. Ted was the type of guy that always wished to lose his virginity to someone the will truly love him. He was thinking on Rachel his girlfriend. Ted didn't want to tell Rachel about his problem, who would? That's something that you will never wish to hear from someone you love so much. Jam and party with Shakes the Clown, this was the 2nd in the list and they did party with them. I guess that they haven't party like they did that time Ted even went to play with them. That was for Ted one of the more amazing things that he have done in his all life. Ted was usually in his room, his parents just pass there time traveling. They didn't have much time for him. When Ted realize that he wasn't going to survive in the conditions he was in to. He just wanted to end everything and go to Africa to die apart from the people that he know.
    Over the entire story was one of the best that I have read. I enjoy to the fullest. I strongly recommend reading this story is just really fun to read. You just wasn't to keep reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2005

    I love it!!!

    absolutely love this book. It's funny in a sad sense, and sad in a funny sense... I want to live my life to the fullest like Ted Burger.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013


    Haha yeah so this book is really cool. It ia kkinda like a list but it is a story. Haha the frst thing on the list is to loose virginity. The second is to jam with Shakes the clown his favorite band. I think the author was trying to say yolo. haaahahahahaa jkjkjkjk but seriously we all only live once so lets me the best of it.


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  • Posted April 22, 2011


    Is this a book or a list?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Different Perspective

    Wow. This book was so cool. One of the first books I have read in a guys point of view. And from a guy author. It was really good. I stayed up half the night to read it, then got up really early to finish it. I hope there will be more good books like this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2008

    10 things to do before I die

    Great book for teens I read it in one day very funny and awesome

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2006

    Great book!

    It was very funny and easy for teens to relate to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2006

    Now my favorite book!

    This book is just so funny and well written you won't be able to put it down. I started reading this book and could not put it own! I read it all in one sitting. This book is alot like Catcher In The Rye, but better. I highly, highly recommend this book. You will love it! I reccomend this book for age groups 12-adults because anyone will enjoy this book. I am 11 and I loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2005

    Funny and Refreshing

    It's nice to finally get a break from the shallow teen books such as the Gossip Girl series this book was able to keep my interest without the unnecisary cursing and sex and it was amazingly funny

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2005

    Really funny

    i've been reading the lemony snicket series for a while now so i needed a change, so i went to the bookstore and i saw this book and i thought well this might be a fun book to read so i bought it, that night i started reading and i loved it!!!! i mean LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!

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    Posted November 27, 2010

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    Posted March 14, 2010

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    Posted August 21, 2009

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    Posted December 9, 2009

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    Posted May 31, 2009

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