Review: Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance RubinDenton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin
Published by Knopf BFYR on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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four-stars

Fans of John Green and Matthew Quick: Get ready to die laughing.

Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. Though he's not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager's life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on.

Credit for this find goes to Lenore (Author of The Memory of After and Chasing Before). I’d requested Denton Little’s Deathdate months back because Random House doesn’t put all that much up on NetGalley, and it sounded like it might maybe be interesting. By the time I was getting close to reading it, though, I just wasn’t really feeling it, so I was going to skip it. Then Lenore encouraged me to read it, telling me how wonderful it was and saying that she thought I would like it too. She was right. Denton Little’s Deathdate is a quirky, hilarious, character-driven imagining of a world only slightly different from our own.

The concept of Denton Little’s Deathdate might be hard for some to swallow, but I personally loved it. There’s this movie called TiMER that imagines if science could predict exactly when each person would meet their true love. It’s not a great movie, but the concept alone fascinated me enough that I still enjoyed it. The idea behind Denton Little’s Deathdate is similar but much more macabre: updates in science have made it possible to accurately predict almost everyone’s deathdate.

Obviously, there are some holes inherent in this idea. Science is, for example, able to accurately predict the date of death, but not the time of day. That’s a bit tough to swallow certainly. It’s also curious that this science can predict not just deaths due to health problems but those completely unrelated: suicide, murder, car accidents, etc. That’s not what the book’s really about though. Accept the premise, if you can, and move on. It’s much more about the character development and a consideration of what this would change in society.

Rubin does such a wonderful job imagining how knowing the time of one’s death would affect society. The focus is on America’s reaction, but the knowledge does drop that only a few countries have made the discovery of the deathdate mandatory for everyone. The logic is that things will be safer for everyone else if they know when the deathdates are. This is really where things get amazingly creative.

In this version of America, funerals are held the day before a person’s death, allowing them to hear the eulogies by their loved ones and to deliver one themselves. It’s a chance to say goodbyes or to let everyone know how you really felt about them, as Denton does so amusingly. After the funeral service is a party. On the actually day of death, from midnight on, many people choose to have a Sitting, where they wait for death to come surrounded by close friends and family.

Denton Little has known when he would die from the age of five, and he thought that he was ready for his death. His plans take a turn when he wakes up the morning of his funeral in his best friend’s sister’s bed, having gotten blackout drunk the night before. Denton’s trying to piece together those events and make peace with his death. He’s also trying to figure out why he’s turning purple.

Of course, much as I loved the concept, it wouldn’t have mattered had it not been so character-centric. Denton’s a real person, with flaws, heart, and humor. Denton Little’s Deathdate is a really funny book, both in a silly way and a more black comedy sort of way. I adore the interactions between Denton and his best friend Paolo, who make pop culture references constantly and are willing to shamelessly embarrass themselves in front of others. The voice is strong, and the dialogue is immensely bantery. The romantic elements fit with the story really well, but I wouldn’t recommend coming to this book hoping for great ships. What you can expect is an awkward and realistic, give or take Denton turning purple, portrayal of high school relationships.

The one aspect of Denton Little’s Deathdate that didn’t really impress me was the ending. The book tries to make things really suspenseful and intense, but I don’t think any of that was necessary. Denton Little’s Deathdate would have been even more powerful for me with a bit less drama. View Spoiler » It was a real head scratcher.

Rubin’s debut is full of heart, and I adore his comedy and writing. I expect great things from Rubin’s future fiction too.

Favorite Quote:

“And to the guy who yelled out ‘GAY!’ earlier, you know, during my funeral, I’m sorry your penis is so small. I really am.” Laughter. Applause. “I’m sorry for everyone in this high school who’s derisively said anything like that to me or to anyone. Unlike me, you will live, but your lives will be much sadder than mine.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif mason dead like me sweet

3 responses to “Review: Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin”

  1. I think I would have accepted the science of it if it would have been like you mentioned- just the disease deaths. How can DNA predict accidents? And KNOWING you’re going to die wouldn’t be able to change anything? Like you said you just need to accept and move on, but I have problems doing that. I need sense. I loved Paolo though… he was a favorite for me 🙂
    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance RubinMy Profile

  2. Rebecca says:

    This sounds fantastic. It’s one of my most anticipated debuts of this year and I’m looking forward to reading it. Also, love the quote you included. If there’s more of that, I think this is going to be such a fun book.
    Rebecca recently posted…Amongst the Shelves Interview – Dive Into DiversityMy Profile

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