Published: January 2012 from HMH Children’s Books
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate his Leukemia is progressing the doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment. So he’s decided it’s time to let go.
But before he goes, Austin wants to fix things that have broken in his life. So with the help of his best friend and secret crush, Kaylee, Austin embarks on a journey. He travels to the places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. He visits the people he feels aren’t living life, wanting to make them understand what they’re taking for granted. And what starts as a way to say good-bye and mend fences turns into a passage of love, acceptance, and meaning.
Ok. So Never Eighteen is the story of one weekend when Austin, with the help of his best friend Kaylee, visits people he feels need a crying shoulder, an apology or just someone to talk to, places he loves and wants to see, experiences a kegger and tries to get over his fear of heights. All as a final farewell before his Leukemia progresses too far.
The best part of Never Eighteen, for me, is the way that the story just wakes up with Austin on the weekend and follows his journey. We know from the back of the book what he is doing, and why, but it is not told to us until much later. The book doesn’t start with Austin explaining everything – not even Kaylee knows why she’s driving him around all weekend (though you know she has to be figuring it out), and I love that. The story is a wonderful snapshot into Austin’s life. You journey with him to the people and places he needs to see, and because of the way in which he reveals the purpose of his journey and the extent of his cancer, I was in crazy tears by the end of the book even though I knew what was coming. And that, is a sign of a good book right there. I mean, I’m tearing up again just writing this review!
Austin’s and Kaylee’s weekend is an amazing tribute to life and love. The people that Austin speaks with during the weekend all need someone, and Austin has the urge to try and help, to do what he can to reaffirm that life is worth living to the best of their ability. Austin has so much strength in him, and you know what? So does Kaylee. I don’t know that I’d hold up half as well when faced with the idea that my best friend in the world is dieing from cancer. Never Eighteen is not a long book, but it is packed with more emotion than I would have thought possible. The delivery of the plot is wonderful, and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting Austin and Kaylee anytime soon.
ARC provided by Thomas Allen & Son Ltd. in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!
Never Eighteen is part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.