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.
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 listand what they learn about themselves and each other in the processmakes 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.
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.
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)