I think you know that a book is good when it can make you laugh and make you cry. Yesterday I finished Crutcher's book Deadline and wow... what a good book.

Chris Crutcher is pretty cool, IMHO, because he's an Idaho author who writes books about Idaho teens - most often teenage guys who like sports. But they're not frivolous little books that assume that all athletic boys are dumb jocks. Instead, Crutcher writes about very real-seeming guys who have to deal with tough, real problems. And they're set in Idaho, with jabs about the state and casual mentions of local curiosities; Crutcher's description of Boise, its footballmania, and its blue turf made me laugh out loud.

Deadline is about a high school senior named Ben Wolf who lives in Trout, Idaho. Ben is funny, smart, and smart-alec. Right before the school year begins, Ben goes in for his cross country physical and the doctor discovers that he has an aggressive form of terminal blood disease. In short, Ben Wolf has at most a year to live.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, or milking the situation for special treatment, Ben decides that he's going to pack an entire life into his one year. That means going out for the football team (and proving that small guys can play ball), giving his small-minded government teacher a hard time, and getting the girl. And it means that he can't tell anyone. Ben decides that no one is going to know that he's dying until it's too late to hide it, because he wants to be able to live his last year on life as normally as possible.

What Ben discovers - in addition to the joys of football and feminine company - is that dying isn't for sissies, and neither is living. It turns out that he's not the only one with a tough secret to hide... and with only one year left to live, Ben finds out what the purpose of his life is to be.

If you love football - playing or watching - I think you'll like this book. If you like reading about places you know, you'll feel right at home in Crutcher's Idaho. And if you like reading realistic stories about how people get through tough situations, then this book is definitely for you. It's a light, easy read that really doesn't have any "slow bits," even when Ben talks philosophy with a dream figure named "Hey-Soos." It does have a few $5 words in it, and there are some tough "adult situations" in it (mentions of sexual events, but no details) that make it a solid PG-13 book. Qualifies for AERP and available from my classroom library!



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