Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Never Eighteen

Never EighteenNever Eighteen by Megan Bostic

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boy, did this book have potential to be one of those fabulous tear-jerker "let's talk about death and dying" reads, but in the end, it's just sappy.

Austin Parker is dying from lymphoma. He knows he only has a few months left to live, and he wants to make peace with everyone he knows who doesn't seem to be living life to the fullest because he now knows how important life is. So, our hero asks his best friend, Kaylee, a girl he's also secretly in love with, to chauffeur him from house to house as he plays the Avon man version of Dr. Phil.

Admittedly, anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I don't read many triumph of the human spirit type books. In general, I prefer not to dwell on the topic of death and dying any more than I need to. However, teens know people whose lives have been cut short and we need literature to help support them in difficult times.

I could write a long laundry list of issues I had with Megan Bostic's writing. Most of the prose felt flat and pedestrian. In some cases, word choice was so poor, it was comical; not the best for this kind of book. The dialogue seemed awkward and inauthentic. Even though this may seem hard to believe, I can forgive those sins if the story is good and emotionally satisfying. This one just seemed repetitive with Austin going from house to house and occasionally thinking about getting Kaylee naked.

What's the fundamental problem here? Austin doesn't change! The assumption is that Austin is enlightened by virtue of being "cancer boy" and everyone else needs to pay attention to him because he's dying. He doesn't really go through much in the way of an emotional journey, and since the story is told from his point of view, neither does the reader. This would have been a much stronger book if it had been told from Kaylee's point of view and accounted for the stages of grief we experience when we know we're losing a peer to a terminal disease and there's nothing we can do about it.

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