Review: The F— It List by Julie Halpern

The F- It List

On the night of her father’s funeral, Alex’s best friend Becca slept with her boyfriend. Needless to say this didn’t go over well with Alex and she hasn’t spoken to Becca much since.

Now as a new school year arrives, Alex decides it’s time to get past Becca’s indiscretion and continue their friendship. Looking for her friend on the first day of school, Alex discovers that Becca has cancer and that the time they have to forgive and forget may be less than both of them expected or counted on.

To make up for lost time, Becca gives Alex her bucket list of items and asks that Alex begin to cross them off for her. Some are fairly straightforward and easy to cross off while others like touching the rear of Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber or having sex with someone you love may take a little more effort and work. And instead of being maudlin about the list and calling it a “bucket list,” the two decide to call it The F— It List..

In the world of young adult stories, it feels like stories centering on someone with a terminal disease are a dime a dozen these days. Julie Halpern’s The F*&^ It List brings something different to the table because it tells us the story not of the person diagnosed with the disease, but of her best friend. And while Becca’s diagnosis serves as a catalyst for the story, it’s really the story of Alex’s need to forgive herself and deal with some of her unresolved issues surrounding not only Becca but her departed father.

In short, the novel is a winner on just about every level with Alex as a fundamentally flawed character who is struggling with a lot of authentic issues and situations. It’s interesting to see how Alex uses others around her to try and escape dealing with some of her larger issues and it’s nice to see that the novel allows her to get away with this to a point and then begins to call her on it.

I’ll admit that I was drawn to the book by its title, but once I’d cracked the cover, I stayed for the well-drawn characters and Halpern’s storytelling. I will warn some of you who don’t like to deal with the fact that young adults think about and participate in such things as masturbation and sexual intercourse that you probably won’t want to read this novel. Both of these things, as well as a little flashing of the homeschooled boy who lives next door to Becca, occur in the novel. So, if you think you or your young readers can’t handle that, I’d suggest not picking this one up.

However, if you think you can handle young adults acting like young adults, then I highly recommend this book. It stands out from the crowd.

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