This is classic Chris Crutcher with all of his signature trademarks -- sports, therapy, social issues, sexual issues, coming of age, and, of course, profanity. DEADLINE even picks up a strand from one of his first works, RUNNING LOOSE. Lou Banks, the teenage protagonist of that work, is now the football coach of Trout (Idaho) High School, home of this work's protagonist, 18-year-old Ben Wolf.
The wrinkle here is a death foretold. Right out of the gate in the opening pages, young Ben hears from his doctor that he has a terminal disease with one year to live. He decides a) not to take treatment for it so he can live his remaining days without radiation and chemo-related sicknesses, and b) not to tell anyone, family included. Crutcher makes him 18 -- older than your average YA hero -- so he can pull this off with the story remaining believable.
OK, so you have a year to live. What to do? If you're a short, wirey runner like Ben Wolf, you ditch track to go out for football and train like no tomorrow. And you try to win the heart of one of the school's toughest beauties, volleyball star Dallas Suzuki. You also treat yourself to dreams where you meet and have deep talks with a guy named "Hey-soos" (yes, a Spanish-sounding rendition of a guy we know from a Testament we know).
Add to the mix football action scenes, an alchoholic ex-priest with a secret, a teenaged mother with a secret, and a running, nothing-to-lose battle of wits with a pig-headed history teacher, and you get the type of book Crutcher fans look forward to. Oddly, some teenaged readers, when offered Crutcher fare, tend to find it too cerebral or "dated" in a sense. For instance, this book includes Ben's quixotic quest to get a street in his town named after Malcolm X as well as jokes about Patty Hearst -- the type of names Baby Boomers like Crutcher himself can relate to, but Gen X and Y readers might have no clue about.
Not a big deal when you consider the emotional punch built into the end, of course. We see this one coming (as does Ben), but it still takes us by surprise. Death, as a character, is like that. For that matter, Death in real Life (if you'll forgive the oxymoron) is like that, too. Recommended for Crutcher fans, adults who like YA books, and thoughtful kids who don't need plot alone to sustain them through a book, DEADLINE is a great exercise in living each day like it might be your last.