Featuring 1) the most eventful prom since Carrie, with less blood and more choreographed dancing to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony; 2) the use of “STD” as a verb (as in “Maybe Taryn did STD you”); 3) the most anxiety-fraught eulogy since Julius Caesar, delivered by the subject of the eulogy himself; and 4) hilariously inappropriate best friend boy banter, Denton Little’s Death Date by Lance Rubin is not the book I expected to be.
Denton Little’s death date is not what he expected it to be. Denton expected what nearly everyone in his America expects: to die on the day the government’s scientists have told him he will. He expects to engage in the new custom that has evolved in a society where nearly everyone knows their death dates: a funeral on his penultimate day, where friends and family can wish him goodbye, and where he can tell all of them how he feels. Then he expects to spend his final day at home with closest family and friends, waiting for moment to occur (the government knows when you will die, but not how, so you can see how the custom of staying at home on that day might evolve). And then, ultimately, he expects to die.
Denton Little does not expect to have sex for the first time with someone other than his girlfriend Taryn; he does not expect to be approached by someone from his dead mother’s past, making him question just who she really was; he does not expect to be under attack from Taryn’s ex-boyfriend Phil and quite possibly Phil’s menacing cop grandfather; he does not expect to be turning purple from a mysterious rash, a rash he seems to be spreading to those he comes into contact with; and he does not expect to start wondering whether his best friend Paolo’s mother is actually his own birth mother. Being about to die and all, Denton really doesn't have time for all of this drama.
What I expected from Denton Little’s Death Date was a mildly amusing story about a culture where we know when we are going to die, and how that knowledge changes us, especially when you know you are going to die before you even finish high school. What I did not expect was just how amusing Denton Little the character and Denton Little the book would be; what I really did not expect was that what began as laughs would morph into a twisty mystery and ultimately a deeper questioning of how we live, how we die, and whom we trust.
What I expect now is to read the upcoming sequel, Denton Little’s Birthdate, as soon as it is published in spring of 2016.