Friday, November 8, 2013

The F- It List by Julie Halpern

Best friends Alex and Becca haven't spoken all summer after Becca did something terrible on the day of Alex's father's funeral.  On the first day of school when Alex is all ready to forgive her, she learns that Becca has been diagnosed with cancer.  Now Becca wants Alex to complete her bucket list (renamed the f- it list), just in case she isn't able to do it herself.

So now I've read two books in a row about death and overcoming guilt.  This one had a much lighter touch then Ketchup Clouds.  I'd read Julie Halpern's Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, which I loved, and this had the same light wit.

Alex was already dealing with a lot, what with the death of her father, and it feels, to her, that the bad things just keep on piling up.  And that she seems to be the common denominator.  She knows she didn't cause her father to die (he was killed in a taxi accident) or cause Becca to have cancer, but that doesn't stop the guilt she keeps feeling that she alive and healthy.  Becca deals with this by not allowing herself to really feel.

She quickly runs into a problem, however, when she starts spending more time with Leo, a guy from school Alex has always kind of had a crush on but never really talked to before.  Alex wants it to just be physically relationship.  Just something that can let her feel good for a little while, but won't get in the way of all the things she has going on.  But Leo is more than just that, and when Leo has a family death of his own, Alex can't stand it, and she bails.

I thought The F-It List did a great job showing how Alex felt she had to be strong and tough all the time, and how that and her feelings of guilt (and she really didn't have anything to be guilty for) lead her to shut herself off from everyone - her brothers, her mother, the boy who actually really liked her, all in the name of having to focus on Becca or take care of her mom.  Becca is the one who finally tells Alex to stop using other people as an excuse not to deal with her feelings, which is exactly what Alex was doing.

The book also had a pretty thoughtful portrayal of sex.  Alex and Leo have sex not long into their relationship, and while it's physically very satisfying, Alex is trying to keep feelings out of it, which is hard for both of them.  After being apart for a while, they start their relationship up again, but they hold off having sex for a while, allowing themselves to truly get to know each other beyond a physical relationship.

The F- It List comes out November 12, 2013.

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