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Denton Little’s Deathdate Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin.
Denton Little’s Deathdate (2015), is the first novel in Lance Rubin’s series about the eponymous main character, a teenager who lives in a world where the date of each person’s death is known in advance. Rubin’s prose is full of dark gallows humor, as the novel follows the last few days in the life of a young man who wants to cram as many first experiences into his remaining forty-eight hours as possible.
In a near future world that is almost identical to our own, a research company called AstroThanatoGenetics has figured out how to use DNA markers to determine exactly when each person will die. Although the cause of death and exact time of death remain unpredictable, the date is always right, and so, society has adjusted to this new information in a variety of ways. Funerals are now held the day before the person’s death, culminating in a big party. Then, instead of holding wakes for the deceased, the family of the about-to-die person has a “sitting” – basically, spending the day of death hanging around the person who is going to die and waiting for the end.
Our protagonist is Denton Little, who has known that he will die at the age of seventeen most of his life. Nevertheless, he has opted to have a normal life until that point – going to school, spending time with his family and friends. When the novel opens, Denton is two days away from his death day, which will happen on the day of his senior prom. He wakes up from his pre-death funeral party with a horrible hangover – and finds himself in bed with Veronica, his best friend’s hot older sister. He doesn’t fully remember what happened the night before, but clearly not only did he lose his virginity, but he has ended up cheating on his girlfriend, Taryn.
The first part of the novel follows Denton as he tries to reconstruct the events of the previous day. Gradually, he remembers hanging out at his funeral party but then, feeling overwhelmed by the good wishes and well-meaning pity of his guests. When he escaped to the bathroom to have a moment to himself, he found that Veronica was already there doing the same thing. Denton’s original plan had been to get drunk at the party and to have sex for the first time with Taryn, but one thing led to another – and that’s why he and Veronica were in his bed the next morning.
However, that’s not the only thing Denton remembers. Even stranger than Paolo’s usually hostile older sister suddenly finding him attractive was the stranger who came to his funeral. The man said he was a friend of Denton’s mother, which is odd because as far as Denton knows, his mother has been dead since he was a small boy. The man gave him several confusing warnings about avoiding government agents and then disappeared.
Denton wants to spend his last day on earth doing the small things he enjoys – a pleasant last meal, some time with Paolo and Taryn, that kind of thing. Instead, he realizes after dealing with his hangover that he has developed some kind of insane-looking purple rash that is slowly spreading its way up his body. Assuming this is the disease that will kill him by the end of the day, Denton doesn’t get himself checked out by a doctor. Instead, he tries to puzzle out his feelings for both Taryn and Veronica by talking to the goofy, pot-smoking Paolo, whose advice is to follow what the heart wants.
Still, he can’t help but notice that he is being followed. Everywhere he goes, he sees a grizzled, creepy cop watching him. In Denton’s last few hours on earth, he stumbles onto an explanation for his rash, his mother’s friend, and his stalker that seems too crazy to be believed – a government conspiracy to make sure that Denton’s death really does take place on the day that it’s been scheduled. Unlike almost every other person on earth, Denton has been infected with a virus that will protect him from his scheduled death – a virus he inherited from his mother.
At the end of the novel, the mysterious stranger from his funeral returns with an amazing offer: he can take Denton to meet his mother for the first time. She is not dead, but in hiding in New York City, where, together, they can unravel the secrets behind the world they live in once and for all. The thread is picked up in the second Denton Little novel, Denton Little’s Still Not Dead.