For YA Contemporary Thursday, I'm reviewing Julie Halpern's The F-It List!
YA Contemporary Thursday/Contemporary Thursday is where we review all of the latest and greatest contemporary titles!
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: November 12th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
It wasn't that I didn't want to read it; it was more that I had heard so much about Julie Halpern's excellent writing, I didn't want to read something that would be too similar to something like The Fault in Our Stars or the excellent
Send Me a Sign, and let that color my opinion of her writing.
However, I figured that anything with such a cheeky title like The F-It List couldn't be too similar to anything that I read before, and I was right.
This is a smart, funny intelligent book about two girls dealing with a terminal illness, and I think that readers will absolutely flock to this book.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.
But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again--Becca has cancer.
So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend--you do it.
Things that worked:
Alex and Becca are two different forces of nature, who fit perfectly when joined together.
I loved Alex. Halpern is pitch-perfect when capturing Alex's moodiness and uncertainty, as she tries to move on in a world both without her father, and with the threat of losing her best friend.
Even though I was definitely a little surprised by just how foul her mouth was - more on this later - I thought Alex was beautifully realistic, and someone I would want on my side, if I ever went through something like what Becca went through.
As for Becca - she's saucy, cheeky, smart and brave. I think readers will strongly appreciate her journey, and how much she grows as a character.
* The plotting
Halpern moves the book along briskly. The book opens with the funeral of Alex's father (and the bombshell involving Becca) and jumps forward in time. Halpern keeps the pace going, even after Alex takes hold of Becca's list and begins checking things off for her.
Every single time Alex found herself in a position where she could check an item off, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out whether she did or not.
* The depiction of illness
There are a hundred different ways to talk about something like a terminal illness and everything author that I've read before, has chosen to handle it differently.
While I've loved every approach I've come across, I especially enjoyed Halpern's serious no-nonsense approach to illness. Becca and Alex don't dwell. They admit that things suck and are often willing to discuss dark things, but they also focus on moving forward, and living life to its every moment.
As someone who does have a chronic condition, I appreciated the fact that there wasn't any unnecessary schmaltz or overly sentimentalization of the situation. I know that I've personally been frustrated before when I've been asked to discuss my feelings all the time, when all I wanted to do was get on with my life.
So while I'm by no means a medical healthcare professional or a childcare expert, I do think that educators and parents who work with teenagers who have conditions like mine, should possibly consider giving this book to those teens. They would greatly relate to the title.
* The ending
Without giving any spoilers away, the ending of The F-It List is
Readers will strongly appreciate how Halpern has tied everything up together full circle, without being overly sentimental or schmaltzy. The ending absolutely lives up to both Alex and Becca's personalities, and the heart and soul of the book.
Things that didn't work:
Which leads me to...
Things to consider:
Alex and Becca both have foul mouths, they engage in (or frequently think about) extremely dirty sexual acts, and will use foul language at a moment's notice. And best of all, they egg each other on to act this way.
I think that any parent would likely take a look at everything I just listed, and immediately think "Hell no." However, I would urge them to think otherwise.
While Becca and Alex are undoubtedly crude - to the point where I'll be frank, I was a little surprised at what came out of their mouths - they're also beautifully realistic.
Teenagers absolutely act like the two of them these days, and Halpern has captured that realism brilliantly on paper. And outside of that, she shows parents and older readers that teenagers aren't always going to be perfect when dealing with a life-altering situation.
Ultimately, I think Becca and Alex's actions are something that can open up a lot of dialogue between educator/student, parent/child.
I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary YA literature, but also for readers who are looking for two unusual heroines to cheer on. I would recommend this book for fans of Tiffany Schmidt and Maurene Goo.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of The F-It List from Macmillan via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
About the author:
In addition to writing, Julie is a middle-school librarian. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, lived in Australia for six months, and created a couple of zines before she started writing books, and realized she was and always has been a writer. She is married to the artist Matthew Cordell, and they live outside Chicago with their daughter and gloriously large Siamese cat, Tobin.