Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: The F-it List by Julie Halpern

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):   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. 

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.

And here's what I thought:  I thought this was an okay book.  Not great, not bad, but okay.  I liked the idea of the book, but I never really found that I liked Alex, or found her completely believable.  She seems too confident and cool about things to come off as realistic, and even if I put this all into the context that she's just lost her father, it still didn't always ring true.   She never delves into her father's death very much, even though it has definitely affected her.  And, while the story is supposed to be about Alex and Becca, it felt more slanted towards Alex reacting to Becca (what she feels like, how she looks).  Alex sometimes came across to me as being very self-absorbed, which I got a little tired of.

Alex is an interesting character, and I think that's mostly what kept me reading.  However, at times, I felt like she was a little contrived.  For example, her interest in horror movies seems like it's attached to her character as a means to convey pop culture references, instead of being a compelling part of her.  Her one explanation to another character towards the end of the book about why she likes horror movies didn't quite feel completely true to me.  

The other thing that I was a little surprised by in this book wasn't the graphic sex, but rather, how cool, casual and matter-of-fact Alex is about it.  There's no self-doubt at all, and I guess when I think about how I was with sex when I was a teen, and how my friends were, things were more a mix of trying to be casual, but feeling some self-doubt.  Alex doesn't seem to have any of that -- and maybe it's just her bravado coming through, but again, it made her just seem not as a real to me.

When I think about Alex, I think about Juno MacGuff (from the movie Juno).  There's that whole breezy, confident, kind of quirky girl thing going on.   Juno had the punk rock side to her, and Alex has horror movies (and frankly, to me, for both characters, it felt like a "I like it because I'm not supposed to like it and it makes me cool" thing going on).  A lot of the dialogue in this book also felt like it was influenced by Juno, and by Joss Whedon's Scoobie gang in Buffy -- and it sometimes felt contrived.

I think I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.  Other readers might read it and totally love it, but for me, by the time I finished it, I was more than happy to move on to another book.

First lines:   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.


Annette Mills said...

Interesting review. I've read a couple of reviews of this book and I think I'm interested in reading it. Thanks!

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Love the honest review. I hate it when a character doesn't ring true and your examples lead me to agree with you.

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