ARC Review – The F-it List, by Julie Halpern

ImageTitle: The F-it List
Author: Julie Halpern
Rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis: 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.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again–Becca has cancer.

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.

Sam’s Review – 5 Stars

This ARC was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review. Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley!

I feel like The F-it List is likely going to get some unfair comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Yes both books deal with cancer, love, and loss, but they couldn’t be more far a part in a lot of their core values. Cancer is always a heavy handed topic and there are so many books out there that use it as a means to get a rise in emotion instead of showing HOW people actually fight it.

The F-it List is that story. Let me preface by saying this story hit a bit too close to home for me at times. I lost my dad to gastro-stomach cancer back in February, but he contracted cancer after my mother had just survived melanoma of the brain. My father knew he didn’t stand a chance, and he created a bucket list for my mother and I to complete in his absence, something we’ve been slowly managing. The F-it List deals with a similar situation, only with best friends Alex and Becca at the helm of the narrative. Becca just slept with Alex’s boyfriend during her father’s funeral, and while Alex should be furious (despite the fact that she was going to break up with him), only she finds out her best friend has cancer and chooses to put differences aside.

What I loved about Julie Halpern’s story is her characters. Alex is a complete sass mouth, Becca’s a cancer-patient/perv, Caleb is a sweetly awkward boy in love with a young woman who flashed him and Leo… Leo is a guy trying to make amends. Each character is wonderfully fleshed out, exceptionally quirky, and downright funny. There’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, some interjections of fandom, and cancer is seen as something that can be fought against.

My biggest issues with cancer stories is that sometimes they tend to be a bit disingenuous in how they are approaching the message. In a lot of cases, it’s done for shock value, but not in this book. You get the sense that Alex genuinely cares about Becca, and in fact she spends a lot of the novel completing Becca’s list because she know she physically can’t. However, Alex, despite her crude and often sassy disposition, is very genuine and attuned to Becca’s wants, needs and desires. Even in selfish instances, she treats herself pretty tough and even unforgiving. I saw myself in both Alex and Becca, and for me, I totally could see both their points of view about life, how shitty and rotten it can be, and how sometimes you just have to fought back because it’s not worth taking its shit lying down.

That being said, this book is wonderfully crude. If you can’t handle a crude sense of humor, don’t read this book. It’ll only anger you because the tone itself is very angry, kick-ass, and Halpern doesn’t stop throwing the punches around. The novel has a great balance of being both humorous and serious, and it knows how to keep the reader’s emotions in check without beating over the head that this is a novel about cancer. In fact, I REALLY appreciated that Halpern didn’t beat the reader over the head because there’s so much that is so genuine in this novel that I never lost enjoyment.

I couldn’t get over how engrossed I was in this novel. Alex’s narrative voice is perfect, with just the right amount of sensitivity. This is a book about trying to kick ass in situations where they may seem hopeless, and I adored how important friendship was between all the characters. This novel is fearless in its discussion, but for those who have ever been in a situation like Becca or Alex’s, it hits even more close to home. I loved this novel, but I recognize it’s not going to be an easy one to recommend considering the crude humor. Regardless, I loved it, quirks and all, and it definitely deserves more recognition for how it approaches cancer. Alex and Becca are true to each other, and they show that even in rough situations, their friendship cannot be broken.

River’s Review – 5 Stars

I was really worried that this was going to be a tear-jerker and it was… but only a tiny bit, and only in HILARIOUS ways. I laughed SO MUCH while reading this book, omg. I was actually reading it at work (kinda in secret…) and was sitting there grinning and my boss came by and I had to quickly stop smiling but it was just SO HARD.

Warning: This book has ALL KINDS of “the f-word” (shhh, it’s fuck) in both f-bombs being dropped and people having sex. There’s A LOT of pervy talk and crude humor. So if you can’t handle that, then this isn’t the book for you. But honestly, it’s IN THE TITLE, so yeah.

Fuck is actually one of my favorite words in the English language (I even once wrote a poem about it in college and read it at a poetry reading) so I felt a certain affinity with this book just from reading the title alone. After I found out what it was about I was even more drawn in. I feel like everyone has lost someone to cancer, and that it’s very easy to relate to cancer stories where the patient goes through treatment and the different stages of having cancer to only die in the end and have the main character come out of the whole ordeal having learned something. I HATE these kinds of books (and movies, don’t even try to make me watch crap like A Walk to Remember, no thank you) because I’VE ALREADY LIVED IT ONCE DON’T NEED TO LIVE IT AGAIN. So Fuck Cancer.

This book is NOT about someone going through the different stages of cancer. And yet it is. Alex, our narrator, just lost her father, had a falling out with her BFF, and broke up with her boyfriend. Her life sucks, but she’s dealing with her hobbies (watching horror movies), taking care of her family, and working. So when school starts after a summer of shit, and she finds out that her estranged BFF has cancer, things get even worse.

Alex and Becca were amazing. I’ve always wanted a BFF relationship like this but I always had problems with the girls in my high school and I stuck to being BFF with boys, but that always ended up with someone falling in love with the wrong person, or someone becoming a fuck-buddy or someone just being too jealous when the other got into a relationship. So I’ve never experienced a relationship like Alex and Becca’s, and I wish I could have. The way that Alex helps Becca out and the way Becca still continues to be there for Alex despite having her own shit to deal with… it’s great.

i also loved their voices. Alex was such a bitchy sassy ‘I’m too hardcore for you’ chick and Becca was such a perv! I mean, we start out the day before her cancer treatments with her flashing the (totally ripped) homeschool boy next door. A lot of her ‘bucket list’ (which they dub the ‘fuck-it list’) centers around sex or doing sexual things (to others or themselves). That was another thing that I envied about Becca and Alex’s relationship; they were able to talk about sex so openly with each other… something I’ve never been able to do with any of my female friends.

The boys in this book were great too. The relationships were quite gritty and real and I loved them so much. Alex got what she deserved a lot of the time, but she did learn her lessons and came out on the other end a somewhat better person.

And that’s what I loved about this book. That it was just full of real, gritty, dirty life. Shit happens and you deal with it. And sometimes a lot of shit happens at once and you feel like you can’t deal with it and you just want to hide in a book closet and you do but then you realize you can’t so you get on with it and just face life and say ‘fuck it’.

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