What if you only had one year to live…and you knew it?

That logline alone caught my attention. But I had the amazing opportunity to hear Chris Crutcher read an excerpt from this book, Deadline, at the Winter SCBWI Conference last January. He hooked me with the opening scene.

The protagonist is unforgettable. I think Ben Wolf will live in my memory for the rest of my life. I feel like I just spent his last year with him. And I sobbed when he died. It was so hard to finish the book through the blur of tears. Because despite the fact that I knew he was going to die of a terminal illness, I fell in love with the character and I wanted him to live.

This is the best YA book I’ve read this year. It deals with some tough stuff–dying young, child abuse, racism, truth, and Jesus (Hey-Soos as Ben calls him).

Ben tries to cram a lifetime of living into his senior year of high school. He does everything he was afraid of doing. Talks to the hottest girl in school. Goes out for football despite his small size and weight of 123 lbs. Baits his teacher into debates about the lies in history. And in his dreams, Hey-Soos comes to help him deal with what is happening to him.

This book made me think. About our expectations of god, our prejudices, our concept of what matters. I took the entire journey with Ben. And even as I write this post, my eyes tear up because he taught me so much and I’m sad to say goodbye to him.

There were many amazing lines in this book, but this was my favorite: “Something you learn on the last day of your life is as important as something you learn on the first day of grade school, because you’re not dying, you’re changing.”

This is a YA novel that belongs up there with The Catcher in The Rye. Destined to be a classic that should be read for generations to come.