14 May 2015

Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Denton Little knows when he's going to die: the day of Prom. Thanks to AstroThanatoGenetics, everyone in Denton's world knows when they're going to die.

It sounds like the plot for some dystopian thriller, but it's not. DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is a coming-of-age(-and-then-dying) comedy set in an alternate version of the present.

When Denton Little wakes up with a massive hangover the day before he's supposed to die, he doesn't remember where he is; he doesn't remember sleeping with his best friend's sister (thereby cheating on his girlfriend); he doesn't remember when he started getting the weird purple rash that's spreading from his legs. But Denton tries to make the most of his final days on Earth. He attends his funeral (and delivers an amazing eulogy) and then settles in for his Sitting: waiting at home for death to take him. Needless to say, with love triangles, mystery illnesses, death threats, and the very real possibility that one of his classmates is trying to murder him, Denton's Sitting turns out to be anything but calm.

Rubin kept Denton's world grounded in our own: aside from the conceit of the death date, DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE felt exactly like the here and now. Rather than relying on dystopian tropes of scarred psyches and angsty worry, Denton relied on sarcasm, wit, and charm to tell his story. He was mostly kind, but he made mistakes. He genuinely wanted to leave people better off for knowing him. He was scared and he was angry that his life was nearly over. But he did his best.

In other words, he was absolutely human.

Denton's narration was vibrant, mostly because of the excellent supporting cast: best friend Paolo; Paolo's sister Veronica; girlfriend Taryn; Denton's brother and father and stepmother...every relationship was complex, full of inside jokes, long-standing misunderstandings, and those impossible-to-quantify sparks of deep, abiding familiarity that real-life friendships are made on.

The ending really surprised me, in both a good way and a bad way: good because I did not expect it, but bad because now I expect more and it's going to be a while before I get it.

I would say the wait is going to kill me, but that might be too on the nose.