Author: Chris Crutcher
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2007, Greenwillow Books
Main Characters: Ben, Cody, Dallas, Coach, Rudy
Synopsis: Ben Wolf is your average senior in high school… well, no, he’s not. First of all, he’s small for his age. Second of all, he runs cross-country. And lastly, he’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. (No, that’s not a spoiler!) So what does he do? He tries out for the football team. He’s got big plans for his last year on earth… and he’s definitely going to make a mark.
- “Love, in the universal sense, is unconditional acceptance. In the individual sense, the one-on-one sense, try this: we can say we love each other if my life is better because you’re in it and your life is better because I’m in it. The intensity of the love is weighted by how much better.” (Hey-Soos, p. 129)
- “Sure there are guys out there twice my size, just like there are guys in cross-country with twice my inseam, but the only reason I never turned out before was fear of permanent damage, and permanent won’t last as long now.” (Ben, p. 20)
- “Go to homecoming with her? Go to homecoming with her? Of course I’ll go to homecoming with her. This is like getting your dying wish. It is my dying wish.” (Ben, p. 66)
- “… sometimes I forget. I’m gonna feel bad any time I get anything good, ’cause I have to give it up.” (Ben, p. 69)
- “I’ll tell you all you need to know. Look, I’m a scientist. Everything out here in the universe came from a single thing, something scientists call the big bang. That means you have within you everything the universe has within it. When you know something without learning it, it’s because some part of you connects with something out there and it is familiar. You know it without learning it. That’s just a side effect. The point is that everything that exists inside of you also exists out you. The world is practice for the inner you.” (Hey-Soos, p. 146)
- I’m lying facedown on Dallas Suzuki’s couch while she straddles me, massaging my back and shoulders. It feels so good I’m considering paying her the money I earned cleaning cars. … She kneads along the sides of my spine. “Mmmmmmmmmm.” This is deep tissue work; maybe not as good as sex, but it will stand in nicely until sex comes along. “Sooo good,” I say. “A little higher on the shoulders. Oh gawwwd! Will you marry me? We don’t have to live together or anything. I’ll just come over once a week. You don’t even have to talk to me.” (Ben, p. 183)
Review: This is one of my all-time favorite books. Ben’s dilemma over whether or not to tell his secret the people he’s closet to is something I wonder about myself: would I have the courage to go through this alone? You always imagine how you’re going to die and who’s going to be at your bedside when it happens, but you never expect to have to deal with it so soon. I think I’d be too selfish to keep it a secret.
I actually had to physically stop myself from adding more to the Memorable Quotes section because I could put the whole book there.
Between torturing his history teacher, falling in love, dealing with his depressed father, and creating amazing football plays, Ben truly does make the most of his senior year. Also, Ben’s dream-state interactions with Hey-Soos are some of the funniest, most honest parts of the book, and the lessons imparted therein will stay with me for years to come. If I was told I only had a year to live, I’d hope I’d be able to accomplish at least half of the things Ben does. He is a perfect example of pure love.
Crutcher writes with wit and emotion, and I’m not going to lie– I shed a tear more than once.
This book sets the bar for all the other books I’ll review (or have reviewed). Five stars forever.