Monday, January 23, 2012

Never Eighteen, by Megan Bostic (debut)- Review

From Goodreads:
Austin Parker is on a journey to bring truth, beauty, and meaning to his life.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. The doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment, so he’s decided it’s time to let go.

But before he goes, Austin wants to mend the broken fences in his life. So with the help of his best friend, Kaylee, Austin visits every person in his life who touched him in a special way. He journeys to places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. And what starts as a way to say goodbye turns into a personal journey that brings love, acceptance, and meaning to Austin’s life.

This debut has been on my radar for a bit through the Class 2k12 folks (@class2k12, http://classof2k12.com/), and I was looking forward to getting to it.  I picked it up right after Wherever You Go, which might have been a bit of a mistake since I might have needed a slightly more chipper book at that point (the hubby has said of that week of reading, which also included The Fault in Our Stars, "God! Are you crying again?! Read something else already!").

Although the blurb gives away Austin's issue right off the bat, the story actually comes at his issues in a backtrack style.  Megan doesn't reveal he's sick until quite a ways in and although it's hinted at he's not revealed to be terminal until very near to the end.  So I was a bit disappointed that this was spoiled for me going in.  But lets face it, the title would have blown that surprise if the blurb didn't.

I love the premise of this story.  The idea that Austin wants to fix everyone and everything as his mark on peoples lives before he dies.  And the idea that it happens in one epic weekend with his best friend in her ratty old car is very Go/Ferris Buellers Day off.  However, it's carried off a bit heavy handed to my liking.  It needed some lighter moments to balance the seriousness.  For instance he gets trashed at a party, because he never has before, and it's treated like this horrible/sad thing.  The guy is dying, let him have one silly drunk night, honestly!

My main issue was how many seriously screwed up people and situations are in Austin's life.  Estranged parents due to a very soap opera style drama, a friend who was raped and now has a drug problem, a friend who hasn't come out of the closet yet, a friend who's a raging alcoholic, a friends mother who's been devastated by the death of Austin's best friend.  It ended up feeling contrived, everyone was just too extremely screwed up.  And how was Austin ever supposed to fix these issues in a 15 minute visit while Kaylee waited outside in the car?  I feel like this would have been way more effective a story line if it dealt with more average issues, with one extreme one in there, maybe (because lets face it, Austin dying of Cancer is already pretty extreme). 

Also, Kaylee and Austin's big romantic reveal moment was a bit weird.  I'm just saying... school playgrounds with a blanket is not romantic, it's a bit creepy public (and lets face it, the grass stains and dirt in unamable places is never romantic).  At least in Kaylee's car there would have been less a chance of being stumbled upon?

In the end I just felt like this story had a lot of potential that wasn't lived up to.  Also, what a terrible release week for it! Agh, just a few days after The Fault in Our Stars? Poor Megan!  That's some hard competition to live up to, and since it's very similar subject matter it's inevitable they'll be compared. 

Not a terrible book (I cried so obviously I was invested to some degree), just a bit heavy handed.  Now that her debut is behind her, I look forward to seeing if Megan's next book is a little more polished.

Never Eighteen, By Megan Bostic
Published by Houghton Mifflin, January 17th, 2012\
My copy kindly provided by Houghton Mifflin
Buy Never Eighteen on Amazon

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