Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review: The F- It List by Julie Halpern

Published by: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan Children's)
Release date: 12th November 2013
Series: n/a
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

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.

My review:
I knew as soon as I saw it that this book was going to be full of brilliance. Browsing through NetGalley, there are always a couple of books that make me think 'hmm, that might be interesting', but then every now and again, I see a book that makes me really, really want it. I don't always get the books - I'm just a small blogger based in the UK, not exactly a dream reader, but when I got that email telling me The F-it List was available to read, I whooped a little bit. 

Alex is brilliant. I love her. She's straight-talking and honest and tragic and amazing. She gets called a cold-hearted bitch, and you can see why straight away but that's not her - she cares, she just doesn't like admitting it to anyone, herself included. Her dad has just died, and now her best friend has cancer. That's a lot to cope with by any standards, and it takes Alex a while to work it out. 

Becca's bucket list is something of a vehicle for the book, but actually it ends up taking a back seat. It's more about Alex and how she finds a way to cope with grief, and then learns to let herself be happy again. Along the way there's tragedy and woe, bittersweet moments, and quite a lot of sex and swearing. Halpern writes in a way that feels very real, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this book in some way or another. The relationship between Alex and Becca is wonderful. There's a lot of humour in there, a lot of honesty and quirkiness. Alex is obsessed by horror movies and Becca loves her sci-fi series and computer games. These are girls who embrace their inner geek and are proud of it. Becca is quite a perv, Alex talks before she thinks way too often, and they just make such a perfect pair in so many ways. They're both completely believable and lovable as characters. 

The female characters are so amazing, it's a shame that I don't feel quite the same about the male characters in the book. Leo, Alex's love interest, seems like a great guy but a little flat. This is understandable to start with - Alex is really just using him, rather than actually getting to know him, so as we're reading Alex's point of view the fleeting impression of niceness we're left with feels right. Later on though things change but we never really get much of an impression of that boy. Then there's homeschool hottie Caleb, who is more of a peripheral character when I feel he should be a bit of a star. 

One-dimensional boys aside though, I loved the hell out of this book. It just felt incredibly real. A tiny bit of a tear-jerker (though not as much as you'd think with the big C involved), funny and honest and a wonderfully entertaining read. I'll definitely be looking up Halpern's back-catalogue. NB It's classed as YA but it borders on NA as the sex and swears might offend some.

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