Alex and Becca have always been best friends. But when Becca does something nearly unforgivable at Alex's dad's funeral, Alex cuts ties with her and focuses on her grieving family.
Time passes, and Alex finally decides to forgive Becca. Then she's hit with another shocker: Becca has cancer. It also turns out Becca has a bucket list, one she doesn't know she'll be able to finish now. That's where Alex comes in, along with a mysterious and guarded boy who just may help Alex check a few items off her own bucket list.
Julie Halpern writes about illness, loss, love, and friendship with candor and compassion. Here is an unforgettable book about living fully, living authentically, and just . . . living.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Julie Halpern is the author of the acclaimed teen novels Get Well Soon, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, Don't Stop Now, and Have a Nice Day. She lives with her husband, the illustrator Matthew Cordell, and their family outside of Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
THE ONLY THING WORSE than having my best friend sleep with my boyfriend the night of my father’s funeral would be if she killed my dad herself. Becca didn’t, which was the one thing that redeemed her. Still, I allowed myself the entire summer after the trampful event to be mad at her.
It’s not as though I haven’t done shitty things to Becca. In third grade, I announced in front of our whole class that she would never make the lead in the school play because she had boy hair. Which she did. Kind of forward-thinking of her for a third grader, although it was probably her mom’s choice after the Lice Crisis of Room 143. In junior high I managed to leak the fact that she stuffed her bra when a tuft of tissues fell out of her shirt, and I yelled down the hall, “Becca! I think one of your boobs fell out!” And just last year, even though I swore everyone already knew, I let slip that she lost her virginity to her second cousin the night of her Bat Mitzvah. All of the above seemed unforgivable at the times of occurrence, and yet she forgave me.
Just like I forgave her for stealing my thunder as Mary Todd Lincoln in the fourth-grade play by accepting the lead male role of Honest Abe. After that, the entire play went drag, and Becca was hailed the class comedian. I quickly learned I preferred being behind the scenes, anyway. I also forgave the time she announced I had my period in sixth grade by asking in front of the alpha girls if that’s why I took so long in the bathroom. And the time freshman year when she accidentally shredded my twelve-page English essay because she thought they were pages of my pathetic attempt at a vampire novel she needed to rid the world of.
Best friends forgive each other. And I knew I’d forgive her for screwing Davis. Eventually. It’s not like he was my one true love or anything. We had only gone out for a month before my dad was killed in a cab on his way home from the airport. Davis and I didn’t talk until two days after the news of my dad went around. I had to call him to get some sympathy. Maybe if I’d had sex with him, he would have called sooner. But there was something about him that turned me off. He was always listening to misogynistic rap songs with ridiculous lyrics, like, “With my nuts on your tonsils.”
“Sick.” I reacted to the lyrics.
“What?” he asked incredulously. He was always incredulous.
“Dude, that’s like me saying, ‘With my ovaries on your uvula.’”
“Is my uvula near my johnson?”
It wasn’t worth an answer. It was just one of those lazy boyfriend situations because I was bored while Becca was off starring in the school musical, and Davis was always around. Plus, he had a car. At first, his long, wavy hair and busted-up knuckles from working his dad’s deck-sanding business were a turn-on. But the thought of his nuts on my tonsils? Not so much.
It’s not like Becca slept with guys all the time, although losing her virginity to her second cousin at the ripe old age of thirteen made it sound like she did. He wasn’t a blood relative; there were divorces and remarriages. And he was older and super hot, plus there was Manischewitz wine involved. It was stupid, she was mortified, and lucky for her the only consequence was the agonizing guilt and residual slut label that hung around for a couple of years. That wore off once we hit high school and other people really started sleeping around.
And it’s not like Becca didn’t give me a good reason for the sexual mishap with Davis. Becca loved my dad. I did, too, of course, but Becca had never had a real dad in her life, so she idolized mine. Her parents divorced when she was one, and all Becca knew from men were her mom’s grotesque attempts at finding fatherly replacements. Becca preferred my dad, a constant and caring male authority figure. Since we were little, he sort of became my designated parent while Mom attempted to wrangle my younger twin brothers, AJ and CJ. (Our family likes to shorten names as much as possible, so Andrew Jacob and Charles Joshua became AJ and CJ, and I went from Alexandra Judith to Alex, occasionally Al.) Dad took me and Becca to parks, zoos, museums, and restaurants throughout our childhood. As we got older and the twins became more outdoorsy, Dad broke out the camping equipment and fishing poles. I preferred camping in front of the TV, but Dad was still the go-to parent for talks. Becca even somehow managed to share in my first big sex talk from Dad, which went something like this, “You go near a boy’s penis, it better be wearing a condom.” Dad was frank and realistic about things, which is where I got it. He wasn’t afraid of his daughter going out and experiencing things. At least, he never showed it. Like when I told him I really wanted to study film when I head off to college, he didn’t try to convince me to go into something more practical, like Mom.
“You’re so good with numbers, Alex. You could be a math teacher. Or an accountant.” Mom was sweet, but way serious about life. Dad always said life was too short to be serious.
I wish he wasn’t right about that.
While I huddled with my mom and the twins at the funeral, Becca was in Davis’s backseat drowning her sorrows between her legs.
She told me about it, which was something. When the funeral ended, and we went back to our house for shivah, Becca busted in the door bawling her eyes out. It wasn’t beyond Becca to milk any situation for drama (she was well known for her crying-on-cue abilities), but this was over the top. She dragged me by my black-sleeved arm up the stairs of our house, so I grabbed for a tissue and thrust it at her. Instead of taking the tissue, she dove into me and cried between gulps and heaves, “I’m so sorry, Alex. So so sorry.”
“I know. It’s horrible. But you didn’t kill him. Stop. You’re crying more than I am.”
That drove her into another crying jag that lasted a good five minutes, complete with hiccups. I was all cried out from hospital visits and coffin choosing, so I lay down on my bed and stared at the green-tinted, glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling. Becca, of course, helped me affix those back in sixth grade.
When she managed to calm herself and finally took advantage of the tissue, she whispered with a look of wide-eyed horror, “I slept with Davis.”
I didn’t say anything, unsure whether she meant they just took a nap together. Like, how the word “ridiculous” can be good or bad.
“In the back of his car,” she continued, and the meaning cleared up.
“What? Why?” My empty stomach tensed into an even larger knot than had already rested there from my dad’s death.
“I’m sorry, Alex, it just hurts so much, and I felt so alone because I’m not really part of your family and Davis drove me to the funeral and we smoked some pot in his car—”
“What?” Becca and I were anti, so that was a double “what?” One of our favorite party pastimes was insulting people who drank or smoked because they were too insecure to show their real selves. Unlike us, we thought superiorly.
“I didn’t know what to do. He offered, and I thought it would make things feel not so bad, and then I just felt sleepy and he was so close and I was wearing a skirt with no tights because it was too hot—”
“TMI, Becca. Stop before he inserts his penis.”
She laughed because it did sound absurd. But she wasn’t allowed to laugh. She was my best friend. My dad just died. And she slept with my boyfriend. Who I had planned to break up with anyway, but still.
“I can’t deal with this now.” I stood up. “There are people downstairs waiting for me.”
“I’m really sorry.” The tears tumbled out of her eyes again, but all I could do was give her an exhausted glare.
“Don’t call me, okay? Don’t text or email or smoke signal or anything. I need some space right now.”
“Are you breaking up with me?” she choked.
“I just need us to take a break. I don’t need something else to deal with.” I stood up without another look at Becca and walked back downstairs to accept the trays of deli food and hugs of sympathy from everyone who knew and loved my dad.
That was the beginning of June and the end of our junior year. Becca called, texted, emailed, messaged, left notes in my mailbox, and sent a muffin basket. It was all duly noted in my mind, but I meant what I said. I needed some space and time to process the summer of shit I had ahead of me. Mourning the loss of my dad, helping my mom with two middle-school brothers, and working at Cellar Subs was all I could handle. I steered clear of social situations, unless they involved family, and I dove deeper into watching horror films as inspiration for a movie I planned to make someday.
The first day of senior year, the plan was to head straight to Becca’s locker and tell her, “Okay, I’m over it.” Then hug her and never look back.
Only it didn’t happen that way. Because Jenna Brown, a peripheral friend who was fun because of her song-parody-writing abilities but also lame because of her obsession with weight loss, waited for me by my locker. When she saw me, she offered her arms in a sympathetic hug. I assumed the gesture was about my dad, which I had hoped was already so last year, when she said, “Oh, Alex, I’m so sorry about Becca.”
“It was just a fight. I’m over it. What’s to be sorry about?”
“You don’t know?” She backed off the hug and looked at me with concern.
“Know what? What happened to Becca?” My heart leaped. Was she dead, too?
“I thought you’d know, since you guys are best friends—”
“Yes, yes, and she fucked my boyfriend. The end. What the hell is wrong with her?”
The problem with being friends with so many people from the drama department was that there was always drama. I had no patience for games of communication. Jenna looked around, frazzled, so I grabbed her shoulders and shook. “What. The. Fuck. Happened. To. Becca?”
She looked genuinely terrified, like I was going to bite off her ear. Which I actually felt like doing. She managed to eke out the worst string of words I’d heard since my dad died. And all of them before that day, too.
“Becca has cancer.”
Copyright © 2013 by Julie Halpern
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read books that deal with cancer, but this was totally different. Yes, it had an emotional impact, but it was also full of hope. It was lighthearted, while still having an emotional impact. This was not told from the perspective of the person with cancer, but by her best friend, who has just been through her own tragic issues. I loved the idea of the bucket list and Alex trying to complete it for her best friend. She not only is doing something for her friend, but she discovers herself along the way. I liked Alex, but some things about her irritated me. She is very selfish at times, but I do get that she is still having a hard time with the things that happened in her life. She at least knows that she is being selfish and feels bad about it. She realizes that her issues are small in comparison to fighting for your life, and not knowing if there is a future. She not only helps her friend and is there for her, but she discovers her own happiness that she didn't think she would find with so much hurt in her life. She fights it, thinking that she doesn't deserve to feel good. She is very broken inside and uses humor and sarcasm to create a wall around her. I felt bad for her and also wanted to yell at her to tell her to stop trying to act like the world can't hurt her. Of course with the help of a romance and her best friend, she is able to let herself out slowly and let that solid wall down bit by bit. Not that it was that easy. In fact, she created more hurt for herself while fighting to keep her feelings and emotions hidden away. Leo was a character that I instantly liked. He wasn't overly charming, or one who tries too hard. He gives her what she needs, but doesn't want to push too far. Though he is falling for her, he still tries to play it off for a while like it's just fun like she wants. He has some of his own issues to deal with too, but he knows that she is going through a lot and wants to help her. They have a weird sort of relationship, but it works. I really liked his character. It fit with the confusion and feelings that teenagers go through, especially under the circumstances in this book. This book tackles many issues such as family death, cancer, tested friendships, relationships, and family. It wasn't so dramatic that it seems like every other sad tragic book in this genre, it was very light, but very real. I loved that Becca wasn't letting herself completely fall apart, and in fact she was stronger than Alex while she was the one facing cancer and the treatments. She was very funny and it kept the story from seeming too intense and emotional, but the emotion was still there. I think that the most emotional parts of the story were other issues that were tackled. There were moments when I felt like it all might be too much for one book, but it worked since the way things went in the book really do reflect real life. I love contemporary books, and I love finding ones that are light and make you feel good even when there seems to be so much tragedy. A book full of hope in desperate situations was just what I was looking for, and this totally delivered. *An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.
This book took me completely by surprise. Raw, witty and emotional in a way that I just wasn’t expecting. There are so many “cancer books” floating around the YA book world these days and it’s difficult to find one that brings something fresh to the table and I was pleasantly surprised to find that The F-It List did just that. What really worked for me was that the story wasn’t some heartbreaking, emotional roller-coaster about the tragic effect cancer has on Becca and everyone in her life. Instead it’s a story that focuses on Alex’s journey and her learning how to come out of her head, deal with her own survivor’s guilt and be a better friend/sister/daughter/etc. Becca having cancer and asking for Alex’s help with her F-It List is what propels Alex on her journey of self-growth but does not overshadow it, which turned The F-It List into a story whose overall message was hopeful and uplifting rather than cry me a bucket full of tragedy tears, which was a nice change. It was nice to read a story that focused on all sides of the effect cancer has. Halpern’s writing was very well-balanced. It managed to be funny and emotional without being overpoweringly sad, and the plot moved at the perfect pace. However, the characters are the shining glory of this book. They were well-developed, smart, witty, and unflinchingly real and all just so likable. It’s rare for me to come across a book where I love and appreciate every character, from the major to the minor, but Halpern accomplished that in this book. Alex was so easy for me to relate to, despite her obsession with gross horror movies. She’s full of spark and attitude, but underneath that tough demeanor is a girl who is lost and suffering from some serious survivor’s guilt-both from her father’s death and because of Becca’s cancer. A lot of the book focuses on her feeling guilty over being healthy while Becca isn’t, and her coming to terms with this and discovering that it’s okay to be happy, to have nice things. Becca is almost the exact opposite of Alex. Bright and bubbly and full of life, despite her illness. I loved the way her and Alex balanced each other, and the fact that the two shared a real friendship. The tragedy of YA books for me is that they rarely portray real, honest, BFF relationships between two girls but The F-It List did not disappoint me. Alex and Becca genuinely care about each other, and it shows. I loved that they were both nerds (I fangirled over every BSG reference) and perverted and so obviously were willing to do anything for each other, despite the estrangement they suffered from early in the book. The scene where Alex shaved Becca’s head especially had me all chocked up on the feels. I loved that this book also showed two girls being intrigued by and enjoying sex in such a healthy, honest way. I know this may come as a surprise to some people but most teenage (and adult) women are perverts. We like sex and we like to talk and joke about sex and I loved that this book showed that in a healthy, honest way. Leo. Oh sweet, awkward, adorable Leo. I ADORED the relationship between Alex and Leo. Some may say that it developed a little too quickly but I actually thought it was pretty realistic. I knew plenty of people, especially in high school, who would go from just starting to talk to a guy/girl to fooling around with them the same day. Again, I thought Halpern handled the sex issue very realistically and healthily here. And while I may have absolutely DESPISED the way Alex treated him at times, I could definitely see it from her point of view and why she was afraid to let him too deep into her life. The F-It List was a fun, engaging and uplifting story filled with refreshingly realistic characters and a unique take on the “cancer” theme that I will happily recommend to everyone I know. I received my copy of The F-It List as an eARC free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchan e for an honest review.
I absolutely loved it... broke my heart and then healed it all in one book. Huge page turner.
While this book is emotional for sure because of the inherent emotional responses, there is also romance, surprising amount of humor, and a main character that I fell for. Alex is caring and loyal, but she is one to deal with her emotions on the inside rather than the outside like her best friend Becca. She has this way of communicating that makes me smile because she is honest and to the point. While she has some self confidence, she knows that she has things to work on, and I just saw a lot of myself in her. Alex also has other things in her life that need her attention, she just lost her father, and her mom is having a hard time with most of her attention focused on Alex's younger twin brothers. The friendship between Alex and Becca felt really authentic. As the synopsis says, Becca had slept with Alex's boyfriend, and although a huge trangression, Becca was mourning as well, and Alex wasn't deeply madly in love with the guy, so Becca had decided that friendship was more important, and was going to put it behind them when she found out that Becca has cancer. This is a pretty potent glue that drew them back together like nothing had happened negative, only the positive memories, loyalty and trust that had built through the years. The F-It List was the central focus, and it really worked some character development as well as self realization into Alex through completing some of the items for Becca. The writing is encompassing and I wanted to keep reading even when the outside world called my name. Also, I will say that there is swearing and sexual references. I am wondering if this should be on the line of New Adult. But it didn't bother me, I think that it is something that kids in high school legitimately deal with, talk about, and therefore can be YA. I just know that some people expect only kissing and hand holding, and this might be a shock if not prepared. So, older and mature teens only. I enjoyed the romance between Leo and Alex, and I think he is what helped Alex to feel like could still be happy and normal even in the midst of all of the tragedy. It is what makes life worth living, and is something to hold on to. The ending is perfect in ways that I can't list without spoiling, but it was just right for the book. Bottom Line: Emotional, realistic journey with surprising humor and quirkiness from a strong and likable main character.
Im turning evil
"Sometimes it takes a bucket list to start living again." That's what really sold the book for me. This is a story about two best friends, Becca and Alex. When Becca is suddenly diagnosed with cancer, she asks her best friend to help her complete her bucket list. Alex's father has also recently died, and now her best friend has cancer. Things can't get any worse than this. Alex makes it her mission to complete the bucket list for Becca. Because she can't do anything else to help her, that's the least she can do. I expected this book to be more sad, but it wasn't that bad. Julie Halpern was able to put in a lot of humor in it, which made me laugh a couple of times instead of crying. Trying to describe Alex's character is a pretty hard thing to do. One thing I have to say though, she felt real. I'm a teenager myself, so I know how we act these days. Alex is a very sarcastic person. She also tries to act tough, which is impossible when your dad just died and your friend has cancer. I've also noticed that she has a lot of pride, and it was hard for her to open up to some people. I get that. A lot of teenagers are like Alex today, so it was great to see how spot on Julie Halpern was in writing Alex's character. Becca is such a sweetheart. She showed her feelings, and I liked how she took cancer as a joke. I know, it's not something you should take as a joke, but I'm glad she didn't turn depressed and give up on life. Their friendship was something to envy. They understood each other, and they were always there for one another. I must say, this book had a lot of "scenes". More so than your typical YA book. It didn't bother me, but it was very unexpected. Like I said, this isn't one of those cancer books where you end up crying. This is about friendship, love, loss, and much more. In my opinion, this book just lacked something. I don't know what exactly, and I hate myself for not being able to give a reason as to why I didn't end up loving it, but I just didn't. If you're a fan of contemporary and a good laugh, then I really do recommend you picking up The F-It List.