Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review: The F-it List

The F-it List
Author: Julie Halpern
Published: November 12, 2013
Hardcover, 256 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer. 

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.

There are a lot of "cancer" books out there. Some have become so popular (The Fault in our Stars) and others hang out under the radar (Send me a Sign) but they all have one thing in common: they will tug at your heartstrings and make you cry. There are some that read as a morbid tale, making everything in the story and everything you feel afterwards feel like death. I feel reluctant to plunge into some of them, knowing that I will be depressed and cry and someone may die, but I read them anyway and The F-it List takes everything that I love about reading these kinds of books and turns into a story of friendship and love with cancer hanging out in the background. It starts out with a blast. Alex's father has recently died so Alex is already in grieving. When she finds her best friend, Becca, in bed with her boyfriend. an unforgivable action, Alex blocks Becca from her life, spending the summer without her for the first time in forever. But when school starts up in September, Alex gets news she would never expect to hear - Becca got cancer over the summer. Finally realizing she needs to forgive her so that she can be with her friend during this time, Alex puts everything else aside to help Becca. Their relationship quickly goes back to normal, or as normal as it can be with cancer in between them. Becca shows Alex her bucket list and begs her to help her complete it just in case. It's takes some convincing, but soon Alex is ready to check some things off the list.

Becca's list is exactly what you'd think a teenage girl would have on her list. There are some silly things like eating a hot pepper and prank calling people, but there are also more important things like making love with someone you love. This book is written so perfectly for a cancer novel, completely turning it into real life with cancer. Becca does not let it rule her even as it eats away at her and Alex stays strong even when she can't bear to look at her dying friend. Becca takes to flirting with the boy next door and Alex starts spending time with a boy from school who she's seen at horror conventions in town. As much as they stick together, they also start new lives, exploring new things while checking off things from the F-it list. 

There is a lot of swearing and sex themes in this novel, and that may be different than what we see in most YA novels, but it's realistic. Teenage girls want to kiss boys, want to do more than that with them and anyone dealing with cancer would be angry. There are so many nerdy references, like comic books, horror movies and conventions. This added to the story so much giving it a life of its own and letting us focus on things besides the cancer. Every relationship in this feels real. Alex and Becca struggle to stay happy at times when there is so much to be unhappy about. Alex is still very guarded since the death of her father and even though she loves being around Leo, there are moments where he can't fix everything. I love their secret hiding place at school and I love how it becomes something so much bigger as the book goes on, especially when things aren't going so well with anybody. 

I won't lie when I say you'll cry, but you'll also laugh and smile and  get excited when they meet Bruce Campbell. Friendship isn't always easy and grief is harder to deal with than everything else. The only thing we can do is learn to survive after everything and learn to move on when we don't want to. This book made me want to write my own bucket list and do everything on it now just to be able to say I'm living life to the fullest. 

“I wished I could erase the message, suck the word “sorry” from the En glish language, and hack it to pieces with a rusty ax.” 

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