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New Books: Denton Little’s Death Date

Reading Listamy sharonyComment
 

Denton Little has always known that he’s going to die on the day of his high school senior prom. In his world, where predicting life expectancy is an exact science, everybody knows when he’s going to die.

So Denton’s busy making the most of the end of his life — including planning his big funeral speech, recovering from his first hangover, and trying to connect with his heartbroken girlfriend while being weirdly attracted to his best friend’s angsty sister — when a stranger shows up, wanting to talk about Denton’s mom, who died on the day Denton was born. Suddenly, Denton’s trying to unravel a mystery years in the making, but things like the creeping purple rash on his leg, almost getting hit by a car (twice), and nearly getting shot (just once, but the day’s not over yet) keep reminding Denton that the deadline for finding answers is getting smaller and smaller.

If this were 1985, Denton would be the hero of a John Hughes movie, alternating between tender, tear-jerker moments of saying goodbye to his life too soon and sometimes cheer-worthy, sometimes cringe-inducing hilarity. He’s such a likable, believable 17-year-old that it’s easy to forgive the places where the book can’t quite figure out what to do with its charming main character and novel plot line. (And just so you know: The end is one of those places where the book loses its footing. But for me, that was OK — Rubin, like his hero, doesn’t know exactly how to let go of the life he’s created.)

Hand this one to your mature teenager, not for the storyline, which is really just OK, but for the stellar character development and interesting questions about life and the meaning thereof that Rubin raises.