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4.3 161
by Chris Crutcher

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How can a pint-sized, smart-ass eighteen-year-old make his mark on the world from Nowheresville, Idaho—especially when he only has one year left to do it? When Ben Wolf learns his senior year of high school will be his last year, period, he is determined to go out in a blaze of glory.

That means not letting anyone know about his diagnosis. It means trying

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How can a pint-sized, smart-ass eighteen-year-old make his mark on the world from Nowheresville, Idaho—especially when he only has one year left to do it? When Ben Wolf learns his senior year of high school will be his last year, period, he is determined to go out in a blaze of glory.

That means not letting anyone know about his diagnosis. It means trying out for the football team. It means giving his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine. It means going for the amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki.

But living with a secret isn't easy . . . What will Ben do when he realizes he isn't the only person who's keeping one?

Editorial Reviews

In this often heartbreaking but highly empowering tale, an 18-year-old boy learns he has one year to live and decides to keep his illness a secret from his friends and family in order to live a so-called normal life. The hero is a well-developed character who shows both sensitivity and humor in dealing with his impending death, as well as a variety of other serious issues teens can relate to: romance, racism, mental illness, and more. Through an engaging first-person narrative filled with gut-wrenching honesty, Chris Crutcher delivers a thought-provoking tale that offers a great exercise in living each day as though it might be your last.
Crutcher revisits many of his familiar themes-death, child molestation, censorship and sports-but does so in the context of a startlingly heartrending plot that manages to be simultaneously wise, thought-provoking, occasionally maddening and frequently very, very funny. Ben's intelligence, zeal and sarcastic humor not only win him friends and help him cope with his diagnosis; they also make for an engaging narrative that balances wit with pathos.
—Norah Piehl
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.

... as usual, Crutcher writes vivid sports action scenes, and teens' interest will be held by the story's dramatic premise, Ben's unlikely turn as a football hero, love scenes with Dallas (including some mildly explicit sex), and Ben's high-gear pursuit of life's biggest questions.

VOYA - Patti Sylvester Spencer
This new novel, exploring how various people reflect on life choices and how to face death, fits an existential pattern. Sartre would be intrigued. Following a routine athletic physical, eighteen-year-old Ben Wolf learns that he has leukemia. He opts to use HIPPA, medical privacy law, in choosing not to inform anyone-even his own family. That choice shapes his terminal year, as he tries a contact sport, overtly challenges a narrow-minded teacher, boosts his courage with a beautiful volleyball player, and befriends the town drunk. The town is Trout, Idaho, football is an eight-man game, and Lou Banks from Crutcher's Running Loose (Greenwillow, 1983/VOYA April 1983) is the insightful coach/English teacher. Could any setting be more inviting? As usual, Crutcher does not hesitate to incorporate serious subject matter within an engaging first-person narrative. Sexual abuse from family to clergy, suicide, mental illness, racism-all topical in the twenty-first century-are woven into the observations of the narrator. Exemplifying classic Crutcher, Ben's sensitive voice uses self-deprecating humor, philosophical pondering, and effective dramatic irony. By page three, readers are quite certain of the novel's painful outcome: Ben will die. But choices, risks, challenges, and joyful events make the journey with Ben so worth the time and trip. Whether facing physical limitations, making a stand, or telling the truth, Ben is a teen hero for whom readers cannot help but cheer. What a pleasure it is to revisit a familiar setting.
Kirkus Reviews
Star cross-country runner Ben Wolf learns during a physical that he has developed a rare, aggressive, fatal blood disease. Ben is not wholly surprised by this diagnosis because in his heart he has always known that he would not live to grow old. Rather than seek treatment, he swears his doctor to secrecy, hides the truth of his health from his family, friends and coach, and decides to go after the things he's always wanted but never pursued. Those things include football (not usually the sport of choice for an athlete weighing 123 pounds), statuesque volleyball player Dallas Suzuki and petitioning to have a street in town named after Malcolm X. After football season, Ben succumbs to his illness all too cleanly and almost glamorously, describing none of his symptoms but fatigue. More disappointing than that, however, are Crutcher's heavy-handed lessons on the ills of racial prejudice and the need for gun control. Many characters, from athletes to incest survivors, are merely variations from the author's past works; their troubles are treated with care but they are often too good, or bad, to be true. Ben, like the book itself, is likable enough, but ultimately forgettable. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
880L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Early August

My plan was to focus my senior year on information I could use after graduation when I set out for Planet Earth from the Pluto that is Trout, Idaho, population 943. My SATs said I wasn't even close to brain-dead and I was set to be accepted at any college I chose, as long as I chose one that would accept me. A lot of guys use their senior year to coast; catch up on partying and reward themselves for making it this far. Not me. This was my year to read everything I could get my hands on, to speak up, push myself and my teachers to get the true hot poop on the World At Large, so I could hit the ground running. How big a pain in the ass do you think that would make me in Mr. Lambeer's U.S. government/current events class, where Lambeer regularly alters reality with the zeal of an evangelical senator?

I also intended to shock the elite by etching my name atop the winner's board at the state cross-country meet, then come home to take Dallas Suzuki by surprise. Dallas Suzuki may sound to you like a car dealership in Texas, but for the past three years, she has been the single prey in the crosshairs of my Cupid's bow, and she doesn't know it because she is way, way out of my league.

Mr. Ambitious.

Then, about two weeks after my eighteenth birthday, a month and a half before beginning my final year at Trout High, I discovered I'll be lucky to be there at the finish. A warning like that usually comes from the school office, to be ignored until the third notice, but this was from The Office Above The Office and was to be attended to immediately.

Doc Wagner left a phone message a fewdays after my routine cross-country physical; he wanted to see me with my parents in his office either ASAP or pronto. There was gravity in his voice, so I decided I'd better scout ahead to see if his message was PG-13 and suited for all, or R-rated and just for me. Turned out to be X.

"Hey, Ben," he said as he passed me in the waiting room. "where are your folks?"

"They couldn't make it."

"I'd really prefer they were here."

"My mom's . . . well, you know my mom; and Dad's on the truck."

"I'm afraid I have to insist," he said.

"I'll relay the information. Promise."

He said it again. "I'm afraid I have to insist."

"Insist all you want, my good man," I said back. "I'm eighteen, an adult in the eyes of the election board and the Selective Service and your people, the American Medical Association. I decide who gets the goods on yours truly." Dr. Wagner has known my family since before I was born and was plenty used to my smart-ass attitude. He's delivered probably 80 percent of the town's population my age and under, including my brother, and I'm not even close to his worst work. He also delivered Sooner Cowans.

"I don't feel right talking about this without your parents, Ben," he said, walking me toward the examination room. "But I guess you leave me no choice."

"I leave you exactly that," I said. "Lay it on me."

And lay it on me he did, and I am no longer quite so glib.

He sat on the stainless-steel swivel stool, a hand on my knee, staring sadly.

I said, "You're sure about this, right? There's no doubt?"

"There's no doubt. I sent your tests to Boise and they sent them to the most reputable clinic in the country. We can run them again, but unless your blood was mixed with somebody else's—and yours is the only blood I took that day—it's pretty much a lock. We have to get right on it. Otherwise you'll be lucky to have a year."

Doc took another blood sample, to be sure. I watched him mark it, but I knew the original tests were mine.

"Okay," I said, rolling down my sleeve. "Lemme sit with this a minute, all right?"

He hesitated.

"You got no sharp instruments in here, Doc, and nothing to make a noose. Go," I said, fighting the urge to let him stay. That's my curse: give me the bad news and I'll take care of you. I thank my mother for that.

Doc rose, and he looked old. He stood at the door, watching me over the top of his glasses, the cliché of a small-town doctor. The door closed behind him and I stared out the window, letting his words settle into my chest. Otherwise you'll be lucky to have a year.

The leaves of an ancient cottonwood outside the window danced in the bright sunlight, and I was breathless. I sat, digesting the indigestible, adrenaline shooting to my extremities as if I were strapped to an out-of-control whirling dervish. I was thinking of my mom. How in the world do I tell her this?

All my mother ever wanted was to be a good mother and a good wife, but that's not as easy as it sounds—for her at least—because she's crazy. She's either moving at warp speed or crashed in her room with the shades pulled. No gears in between. She calls herself a stay-at-home mom, but when she does stay at home, it's all you can do to get her out of her locked bedroom, and when she's not at home, she could be at the Chamber of Commerce or the Civic Club or any of a number of bridge or book clubs.

When Cody and Dad come home to a dark house, Mom's door closed tight like that of a dungeon, they pretend she's on vacation. I'm the one who tries to get in and make her feel better. File that under Don Quixote. Dad has his own bedroom because he's . . .

Deadline. Copyright © by Chris Crutcher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Chris Crutcher has written nine critically acclaimed novels, an autobiography, and two collections of short stories. Drawing on his experience as a family therapist and child protection specialist, Crutcher writes honestly about real issues facing teenagers today: making it through school, competing in sports, handling rejection and failure, and dealing with parents. He has won three lifetime achievement awards for the body of his work: the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the ALAN Award, and the NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award. Chris Crutcher lives in Spokane, Washington.

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