Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: The F-It List by Julie Halpern

The F-It List by Julie Halpern
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Page Count: 247
Genre: Contemporary YA
Goodreads & Amazon

It's always easy to forgive your best friend. It's even easier when you find out she has cancer. Or so Alex has learned. She wasn't sure if anything could be worse than having to attend a funeral for her father, but it does when she finds out her boyfriend slept with her best friend Becca on the same day. Ouch. Alex takes a summer apart from her best friend, and returns to school in the fall ready to forgive and forget. Only one thing is missing from making up with Becca: Becca. It's then she learns from the school gossip that her best friend has been diagnosed with cancer, and her survival is uncertain. Their drama over a boy now seems insignificant as Becca's health slowly declines, and Alex struggles to deal with the death her father, and the potential loss of her best friend. To raise their spirits, Becca introduces Alex to her Fuck-It List, kinda like a bucket list but less depressing. Alex then takes on the responsibility of completing tasks from this list that Becca has been creating since elementary school. With the help of a zombie-loving cutie, Alex discovers she's not just living a life for someone else, she's also living one for herself.
The only thing worse than having my best friend sleep with my boyfriend the night of my father's funeral would be if she killed my dad herself. Becca didn't, which was the one thing that redeemed her. Still, I allowed myself the entire summer after the trampful event to be mad at her.
Alex is one of my favorite characters that I have read in recent memory. I described her as being 'Winona-Ryder-character cool.' What I mean by this is she is sarcastic and witty, definitely not virginal, edgy, and seems to have her shit together all the way up until a moment when it all spirals out of control. Alex is a horror-flick obsessed teen with dreams of being a horror film director. She is well-versed in all things horror and gore, and has a clear vision of herself being one of the best in the business at scaring the pants off of anyone. I really enjoyed the banter between her and Becca. Even though we could see why Alex was disappointed that her boyfriend slept with her best friend, we can definitely see why she decided to forgive Becca and give their friendship another chance. It was refreshing for me to read a character who seemed comfortable with her sexuality and who she was as a person. Alex has a lot of stuff to deal with in the aftermath of her father's unexpected death, and now cancer with Becca, but that doesn't change her goals and feelings about herself. I also appreciated Julie Halpern for giving Alex an interest that wasn't just something on the surface to give her a quirk. Horror is how Alex relates to those around her, and it's how she ends up bonding with Leo, her maybe-boyfriend-maybe-not. Her passion is palpable when she attends a horror convention, too, and I thought it was cool to see a character's interest be such a huge part of their life.
"I better let you go. I'm going to see Bruce Campbell tonight with Leo Dietz. Wish it was you, though." Did I really, or did I feel obligated to add that? God she looked like shit.
After Becca didn't answer, I started to say, "Well, bye. I'll talk to you--"
"Alex. Alex." B came back to life and spoke urgently. "You gotta do something for me," she breathed.
"What? Anything." I meant it, too.
"Find out if he's circumcised." And then she definitely was asleep.
Even sick as fuck and pumped with meds, Becca was a complete pervert. She better not die on me.
 One thing I saw negatively mentioned in Goodread's reviews of The F-It List was how 'over sexualized' parts of this book were. As I mentioned above, Alex is definitely not virginal, and neither is Becca, who is actually quite sex-obsessed. It may be awkward to discuss on a book blog, but when it came down to it, this book contained two things that I have never, ever read in another young adult book and those were (cover your eyes if you're sensitive!): female masturbation, and cunnilingus. Yup, I said 'em. Female sexuality is an important thing that seems to be void from a lot of YA novels that I've read. I think it's also valid in the YA context, because these kinds of things happen and should be discussed in that upper-teen age bracket. It's not all about the dudes, so I thought it was awesome to see our female protagonist be on the receiving end. So, yes this book has quite a few more sexual aspects that one would expect in a book about a girl whose best friend is maybe dying of cancer, but it was written about in a healthy way so I could hardly fault it for that.
From downstairs, I heard the garage door close and my brothers' clumsy footsteps fill the house with life. I didn't want to be alone, a rarity, so I headed downstairs and spent two hours splayed across the couch watching AJ and CJ destroy zombies. It wasn't quite as good as a movie, but their aggressive banter helped me temporarily erase the vision of Becca puking that was on repeat in my head. I must have been pretty fucked up to watch horror movie after horror movie, not to mention my brothers ripping intestines out of realistic dead humans, and only be disturbed by a little puke. Forgetting about that day, and so many others, felt like a constant goal. I hoped there would come a day I would want to remember.
Then, there is Leo. Was there anyone who read this and didn't see his appeal? He is very much like Alex: also horror obsessed and a little sarcastic, but much more mysterious. He's also the kind of boy that proves that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Not only does he help Alex through her coping, but he's also an A+ gentleman to Becca when he meets her. The conflict within their relationship, though ('cause every relationship has to have one!) was very sudden though and didn't seem to make very much sense. When it happened, I actually had to read back a couple of paragraphs, reassess what was happening, and then feel frustrated about it, haha.

The F-It List by Julie Halpern is definitely one of those books that will make you laugh, swoon, and probably cry. This is a book about friendship, living life to the fullest, and having a lot of fun and intercourse along the way. The characters each had such a strong dynamic with each other that made this book so engaging and unputdownable, and the way female sexuality was handled in this book had me recommending it to several of my friends.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you interested?

1 comment:

  1. You are right female sexuality is not a topic that is regularly discussed in YA books. I'm happy to hear that this was dealt in a positive way in the book! :)