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If It Doesn't Kill You

If It Doesn't Kill You

4.5 2
by Margaret Bechard
If Ben could say his dad was having a mid-life crisis, that would be one thing. But how can he tell people his football hero father left him and his mom for "some guy named Keith"? There's no way he can let anyone know his father is gay. Freshman Ben has a good chance of making the varsity team next year, he's well liked by the varsity players,


If Ben could say his dad was having a mid-life crisis, that would be one thing. But how can he tell people his football hero father left him and his mom for "some guy named Keith"? There's no way he can let anyone know his father is gay. Freshman Ben has a good chance of making the varsity team next year, he's well liked by the varsity players, and-as people keep reminding him-he's part of a football legacy at the same high school where his dad was a star quarterback. In this look at the emotional life of a suburban jock, Bechard gives readers a likable protagonist with a lot going on under the surface. Ben struggles to balance his own conflicted feelings about his dad with the messages he gets from the testosterone-infused world of male high school athletes, adding a palpable tension to his first-person narrative. Ben is a tightly wound character whose authentic adolescent voice rings true. It's his friendship with the hip and intriguing Chynna, a self-named girl who starts wild rumors about herself, that begins to loosen him up and by the end frees him to begin accepting his father. Realistic descriptions of the stratified society of high school, of a varsity football party, and of a trip downtown to escort Chynna to a belly-button piercing establish a definite setting and will place many readers in familiar territory. In her first venture into YA literature, Bechard (Really No Big Deal; My Sister, My Science Report) does a fine job illuminating the day-to-day struggles that make us all stronger.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It comes as a shock to Ben and his mother when Ben's father, a former high school football star and still a legend in the town, announces he is gay and leaves home to move in with his boyfriend. Ben, a star fullback on the freshman team, is filled with rage and confusion. Meanwhile, members of the varsity team are beginning to include him in their clique. Can Ben really fit in with the tough-skinned jocks, who make fun of "fairies" and are as intent on scoring with girls as they are scoring points in a game? The answers are predictable. At his first "varsity" party, Ben comes to realize that his friends' macho reputations are partly based on lies. And right after the party, his feelings about his father and his father's lover, Keith, change dramatically, as Keith helps him out of a sticky situation. Although Bechard (My Mom Married the Principal) attempts to dispel myths about athletes and gay people, her own characterizations tend toward familiar types. Teens will relate to Ben's struggles with peer pressure, but may not find much help from the easy answers offered here. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Keith has a legacy of "jockdom" to carry on. His grandfather was a high school football coach and his father was a star player. Now, however, Keith's father has bequeathed him a different legacy. Keith's father has left his family for another man. There is enormous potential here to turn the "coming out" issue on its head and to explore how teens feel about their parents' sexuality. Unfortunately, the author opts for an entirely predictable conclusion in which dad's partner turns out to be a regular guy who helps Keith out of a sticky situation. A pedestrian teenage novel.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-When Ben's father moves out, saying, "This is the hardest thing that I've ever done," his son is not overly sympathetic. If his father wants to wreck the family and become a homosexual, that's his affair. Ben has his own problems, such as being on what may be the worst freshman football team in his school's history; his shaky driving skills that keep his mother clutching the dash; and Chynna, the very tantalizing new girl next door. She's a sassy spirit hell-bent on projecting the image of daring promiscuity; even if it's fake. Chynna befriends Ben and cajoles him into accompanying her on various escapades, including belly-button piercing and a boisterous football party. When she gets drunk at the party, Ben attempts to drive her home but gets stuck in a muddy field. With no help in sight, he resorts to calling his father. When his father's friend comes to their rescue, Ben is confronted with his own limited viewpoint. The irony of Ben's unconditional acceptance of Chynna's wild affectations and his rejection of his dad's honesty is subtle, plausible, and convincing. Bechard, has done a remarkable job of taking a sensitive issue and making it comfortable for a wide audience. The absence of melodrama and the healthy doses of humor make this a winning and realistic novel.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When Ben's father went to Willamette View, where Ben is starting as a freshman, he was a killer quarterback. Ben, also a talented football player, has always been proud to be a chip off the old block, until the day his father announces he is gay and moves in with his lover. Deeply ashamed, Ben does his best to keep his father's new life a secret, especially from his tough-talking, hyper-masculine fellow athletes. As Ben struggles to act cool and be one of the guys, he learns that no one is immune from social pressure and that most of his contemporaries posture and pretend. The characters, while sympathetic and understandable, aren't emotionally involving, and the ending—Ben gets emergency help from his father's lover and realizes that he still cares for his father—is too pat. Bechard (My Mom Married the Principal, 1998, etc.) is particularly good with dialogue; her characters' off-center, awkward conversations reveal a lot, while sounding clumsily authentic. (Fiction. 12-14)

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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If It Doesn't Kill You 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In middle school, everyone made a big deal about high school but Ben Gearhart thought it was nothing. Lots of people know who he is because he is sort of good at football. Ben was sad that his Dad moved away into a house with a guy named Keith. So his Dad couldn't support him at his football games.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book, and one of my favorites. I cant beleive im the first one writing a review about it, cuz i thought it was more popular! O well! It was a great book and very well written. I also like it cuz the narrator is a guy, and its nice to see life from a guys point of view.