The F-It List by Julie Halpern ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Target audience: Mature young adult (language, sex)
Keywords: cancer, death of parents, dealing with grief, bucket list
Format read: Borrowed from Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books. (Thanks!)
Summary: A few weeks after her father unexpectedly dies in a car accident, Alex finds out her estranged best friend, Becca, has cancer. She doesn’t let the fact that they are not talking stop her from rushing to Becca’s side. As her friend preps for chemo, she gives Alex the bucket/f-it list she has been composing since they were kids to accomplish “just in case.” Because she’ll do anything to make her friend happy, Alex complies and life gets interesting…
I really thought The F-It List was going to be more of a friendship story. When we first meet Alex and Becca, readers find out they were torn apart by a pretty major betrayal. I totally see how something as surprising and heartbreaking as cancer can wipe out petty problems, but still. Alex and Becca have so much to say, never hold back, but that click I was so desperate for them to have in the beginning? It just never happened for me.
While Becca is dealing with chemo, radiation, and the boy next door, Alex is determined to knock off as much of Becca’s F-It List as she can. Since the list has been around since they were young, there are some super silly things on there, and then some super racy. (This book is actually a lot racier than I thought it would be. It’s super sex positive but at the same time, ah! I was not expecting some of it to be that intense.) Alex is one of those people who puts up a lot walls and says and acts the wrong away a lot of the time. She does it with her mom and brothers, and especially with Leo, the guy she has crushed on forever who is suddenly so on her side.
A lot of Alex’s reactions are due to her lack of dealing with her father’s death. (She never seemed to grieve over it.) She also didn’t like being in control of the bad things happening to everyone around her. I totally got that. She dealt with all these life changes in unhealthy ways — sex, watching a ton of horror movies (her passion), or making a ton of jokes. As soon as she felt a little vulnerable, she would bail in any way necessary and I kept wondering when she would see what she was doing, what she was giving up by acting this way.
So it was a little hard to connect with her. Though I did like how mega-horror movie obsessed she was. It’s a rare passion to see in a young adult character and it all seemed so true to life. (Loved the Trolls 2 documentary mention and also the convention scene!) Another highlight: Alex was a high school student who had a part-time job, who interacted with her mom and brothers and was there for them.
The F-It List had so many contemporary elements that I love to see in these stories, but they didn’t gel for me. Maybe it was the lack of balance between Becca and Alex’s stories or how I wanted Leo to talk a little bit more? Being overwhelmed by the current pop culture references? Too much happening at once? (Especially for it to wrap up the way it did.) So while the premise does have promise, it was the execution that left me wanting more.