Chris Crutcher


Chris Crutcher

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Deadline Summary

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Deadline is a young adult novel by Chris Crutcher. Crutcher is an American novelist as well as a family therapist. For his body of work for teenage readers he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for lifetime achievement in 2000. Thematically, his plots often place adolescents in conditions in which they must deal with difficult situations. Not surprisingly, his background as a therapist brings themes such as racism, domestic violence, and economic hardships into his plots. Some of his best known titles include Running Loose, Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes, and the short story collection, Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories.

Deadline is the story of Ben Wolf. Ben is an eighteen-year-old high school senior suffering from a rare blood disease. He knows that the disease is terminal and makes the decision to refuse the traditional treatment regimen and spend his last year living life to its fullest extent. Ben lives in Idaho in a very small town. As is typical of most towns of its size, everyone knows everyone else and everyone has known Ben since his birth. Ben is of small build and has a very close bond with Cody, his younger brother. Ben finds out that he has the blood disease when he visits his doctor for a sports physical. This is when he is informed that he has only a year to live. In addition to refusing treatment, Ben also decides not to tell anyone about his condition. His doctor is not at all happy with the path Ben has chosen to take but since his patient is eighteen years old, he has the right to make such decisions. Ben has such strong feelings about his decision that he threatens legal action against his doctor if he tells anyone.

Now that he knows and has accepted that the time he has left is limited, Ben resolves to make the most of every bit of his time. Not letting his small size deter him, Ben decides to switch from the school cross-country team to the school football team. Further, he tries to woo Dallas Suzuki, a girl whom he considers to be among the smartest and most attractive in the school. Ben’s main academic interest is literature and he especially likes to read nonfiction. He is of the belief that his teachers, notably Mr. Lambeer in history, use literature that is biased . The base of knowledge that Ben has acquired through his own reading has left him prepared to challenge Mr. Lambeer in class.

For an upcoming history class project, Ben decides to try to get the almost all white town in which he lives to name a street after Malcolm X. Mr. Lambeer tells Ben that he will fail him if he goes through with this idea. Since Ben knows he will never have the opportunity to attend college, the teacher’s threat has no effect on him. Meanwhile, Ben finds, most unexpectedly, that he has been able to build a close relationship with Dallas. In addition, he has forged a friendship with the town drunk. During the same time period, Ben’s doctor suggests that he meet with a counselor. Ben agrees, more to make the doctor happy than for anything he expects to get out of it himself. The counselor, however, finds Ben’s case too emotionally haunting to deal with.

Ben continues to keep his illness a secret, but it becomes more and more difficult for him to do so as he begins to feel that he is betraying the people he is the most close to. Since he learned of his condition, Ben has been visited in his dreams by a figure named Hey-soos. With a name that sounds Christ-like, Hey-soos does not give Ben answers, but rather leads him to being able to find his own solutions to difficult situations. As time goes on, the football season turns out very well with Ben and Cody enjoying success together. Ben has not felt any bad effects from his disease to this point and grows to discover that life is more complicated that he had once thought. Eventually he realizes that keeping his inevitable death from the people closest to him is wrong and he tells them what is happening and accepts their support.

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