With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.
Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.
But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again—Becca has cancer.
So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend—you do it.
(Description from Goodreads)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The description for this book doesn’t actually do the story justice, as there are far more plot lines going on. Despite that, I found this to be a wonderful read; if I managed to read this book in one sitting, I must have been invested. Many people are comparing this book to The Fault in Our Stars, but since I’ve never read that book (YET!), I can’t exactly do that. And even if had read it, I still would do my best not to compare books to one another. Each book published is its own entity and should be treated as such.
First of all, this book deals with the big C word: Cancer. There are many subjects that are difficult to write about and cancer is one of them (or truly any disease/sickness for that matter). Honestly, I think Halpern did a remarkable job at not only successfully writing about a cancer patient, but also about those close to the person with cancer. Cancer touches everyone, not just the person with it. Halpern did a great job at creating a story that was realistic and relatable; cancer is not just for older people, but teenagers and young children as well. I was blown away at how much research was obviously done by Halpern for her to have gotten so much correct. Kudos to her.
There were only three (minor) things I didn’t like about this book. The constant use of curse words, the sexually explicit content, and the main character’s disposition. I know teenagers curse…heck, everyone curses. But I really don’t like reading curse words in books. I know it makes it that much more realistic, but to see the word f*** (you can guess the word) and even the word C U Next Tuesday (get it?) spelled out makes it a little much. Believe me, I know it makes it more realistic to have teenagers curse in every day conversation (I hear it all the time at work), but perhaps to have it toned down a notch would help with the cringe factor I kept feeling. There were also several sexually explicit scenes and when I say explicit, I mean it. Honestly, I have absolutely NO desire to know what teenagers do these days, but if they do anything like the scenes that happened in this book, holy cow, I’m glad I’m stuck in my library all day and don’t have a hall duty! On top of that, I’m glad I’m not a parent yet and having to deal with a teenage kid. I think this book has kinda frightened me on the aspect of sex and teenagers (wow I sound like a prude).
As for the main character’s disposition, perhaps that’s just a personal feeling for me. Alex is thought of as being dark/emo/depressing/etc. because of how she dresses and her interests (she’s obsessed with horror movies…ick!) While that is all perfectly fine for a character to be like, I think what put me off from truly feeling for her was how…selfish…she was throughout the whole thing. Of course, like I mentioned, cancer does touch everyone, not just those who have it…and yes, Alex had a massive emotional storm come spiraling through all at the same time, but there were some moments that she could have seriously handled better. I won’t say too much, since the description doesn’t even mention the other plot that takes place in the book, but there were some times when I could see why she was called a b**** (let’s just lay out all the curse words in this review, shall we?)
Aside from those negative aspects, I found so much to be awesome with this book. I loved many of the characters (especially Leo…sigh) and I loved how this book dealt with so many topics (death, cancer, love, guilt, family, friendships, etc.) that are sometimes or always difficult to get right. I also loved the concept of a bucket list, or in this case a f*** it list. The list helped not only Becca do things she put down on a list over the years to eventually do, but it helped Alex deal with the situation as well. While the list ended up not exactly being the main part of the story like the title or description imply, it still played a pivotal role in helping Becca and Alex develop as characters; it also strengthened their friendship, especially after trust and loyalty were tested early on.
Halpern did a fantastic job at keeping this book light-hearted when faced with something as terrible as cancer. There were many moments in the book that had me smiling and even laughing, making me momentarily forget that Becca had cancer, something that is quite realistic (which leads into the guilt aspect). There were many questions that were asked by Alex throughout that I’m pretty sure everyone has asked themselves or others at some point…why do people die young? Why do the “good” ones die? Why do people get cancer? Why is there no cure for such a horrible disease? The list continues and truly makes you stop and think about life in general.
The F- It List was one of the best reads I read during 2013. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.