Eighteen-year-old Ben Wolf has just received a death sentence—he has an aggressive, terminal form of leukemia and at most a year to live but he's not about to take it lying down. "I'm not going bald and puking. I don't have anything to teach anyone about life, and I'm not brave, but I'd rather be a flash than a slowly cooling ember, so I'll eat healthy food, take supplements, sleep good, and take what the universe gives me. And I'm turning out for football."

Jockey-sized Ben has always run cross-country instead of playing football, but seeing as this is his last hurrah, Ben's determined to make the most of his senior year, because it's probably the last year he has left. Besides helping his eight-man team reach the state tournament, Ben's plans for the year also include reaching out to Rudy, the town drunk, confronting his narrow-minded civics teacher, and winning the heart of gorgeous volleyball star Dallas Suzuki, all without letting any of them or anyone else in the tiny town of Trout, Idaho discover his reasons for living each day as if it's his last. Ben does manage to get the girl, grow closer to his brother Cody as the two become an unstoppable force on the football field, and even forge an uneasy friendship with Rudy. But as other people confide their deepest, most troubling secrets to Ben, how can he continue to hide his own greatest secret from the people he loves?

In his latest novel, Deadline, Chris 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. Ben's deadline year forces him to re-evaluate his decisions and discover that maybe his death or the way he lives his life has a lot to teach people after all.

 

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