First things first, I need to say a massive thank you to Simon and Schuster UK Children’s publishing, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
‘People have known that tomorrow is the day I will die since I was born.’
‘Denton Little’s Deathdate’ is one of those unique books that make you think “why didn’t I think of this idea?”. The premise is quite simple, really. A company have managed to create the perfect equation to be able to work out your deathdate: the day that you will die. By gathering blood and hair samples on the day that you are born, they can predict the exact day by which you will die, and there’s no avoiding the fate that they prescribe to you. You can’t die before your deathdate, but you can be paralyzed, or become brain damaged, meaning that a far off deathdate isn’t necessarily the best news, but Denton has a much bigger problem than those potential issues:
Denton’s deathdate is tomorrow.
We join Denton on the morning of his funeral. Because people know exactly when they’re going to die, funerals are now held the day before their deathdate, meaning that they can be celebrated, hear all the nice things that everyone has to say about them, and give their own eulogy to the world. Knowing that he has less than forty eight hours to live, Denton decides to use his self-eulogy to tell some truths to the world: he lets his girlfriend Taryn’s ex, Phil, know how much of a tool he is, which is something that he’s always wanted to do.
But on his deathdate, all hell breaks loose.
I’m going to try not to give too many spoilers away about the progression of this novel, because it is a heck of a journey, and I really want you to undertake it on your own. But this is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Denton’s sarcastic voice is utterly hilarious, making me laugh out loud on my bus journey multiple times, which is something that I’ve never experienced from a book before – but as well as Denton’s voice, his antics with his friends are equally as funny. For a book about death, this thing really is a riot, definitely putting the ‘fun’ into funeral.
There are some negative aspects, as I’m sure you can imagine – it’s pretty difficult to write a flawless book, especially when it’s your debut novel. However, this one is damn close. Yes, at times Denton does get rather annoying – he has less than twenty four hours to live and he’s more worried about arguing with his girlfriend, and the possibility of having sex, than about the potential cause of his untimely demise. But then he’ll pick up on it, stating ‘It suddenly seems overdramatic. I mean, come on, I’m the one dying’ which means I can almost forgive him for it; we all have times when we do something that we know is ridiculous but we just can’t help ourselves. His attitude is the perfect blend of self-deprecating and sarcastic asshole, meaning that, at times, Denton can be on the verge of offensive with his blasé attitude, but on the whole it just comes across as more humorous. This could be because I have the sense of humour of a five year old, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Additionally, the ending of the book seems a little bit rushed: the progression up to that point is utterly brilliant, well-timed and with a good pace, but the ending seems to shove everything together so quickly that the events blur behind your eyes, making you feel as though you’ve missed something when you eventually do get to the end. I’ll suggest this to you: no matter how fast the events are going, just take your own time with it and don’t be afraid to re-read sections, because some of the goings on are not very clearly described the first time you experience them.
Other than those aspects, I did really enjoy this book. The events unravel quite slowly to start with, giving you time to have seeds of doubt and niggling ideas growing in the back of your mind, and it’s a credit to Lance Rubin’s writing style that I didn’t see a few of the things that happened coming, because I’m normally great at predicting everything that goes on. The relationship between Paolo and Denton is heart-warming – the fact that they’re both scheduled to die pretty soon, but they stick together, really makes you believe in the strength of friendship in times of adversity. Denton can be a dick at times (see: cheating on your girlfriend the day before you die) but it makes him more realistic as a character, so it’s something that I can appreciate even if I don’t exactly love it.
But more than anything, this book is thought-provoking. If you could find out the day that you were going to die, would you do it? My first thought was that it would be absolutely amazing, because you’d be able to live every day as though it was your last, and you’d be able to make sure that you made time to do everything you wanted to do and see everyone you wanted to see. Then it occurred to me… None of us know when we’re going to die. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be in fifty years time. So we should live every day to the fullest, no matter how many of them we have left, because why should we take life for granted? I wouldn’t want to find out the day I could die, because then you’d probably be left with regrets about the things that you couldn’t squeeze in, but if you try to do as much as you can before your time ends you’ll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment either way.
It absolutely amazes me that one of the funniest YA novels I’ve ever read is also one of the most inspiring and invigorating novels. I really just feel like grabbing the bull by the horns and throwing myself headlong into every challenge that life throws at me. If you want to have a laugh, read this book, but if you want to read a book that really hits home how meaningful life is, this is the book for you as well. It’s the first book in a duology, so I’m not quite sure how the second one will pan out, but the first three quarters of this book are definitely superb, even if the ending gives us more questions than it answers.
What about you: would you want to find out your deathdate? And if you did, what would you want to do with your life before your inevitable end?