Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review

April 8, 2015 2015, 3 star books, contemporary, Layla, sci fi or futuristic 16 ★★★

Denton Little’s Deathdate: ReviewDenton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin
on April 14, 2015
Genres: contemporary, science fiction
Pages: 345 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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 on which they will die. For Denton, that’s in just two days—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.

The premise for Denton Little’s Deathdate: Denton Little lives in a world where everyone knows the day they will die. When you’re born, your guardians send in some hair and blood, and bam! Deathdate revealed. Denton is an Early – a person whose deathdate falls before their 21st birthday – and he just wants to be a normal teenager who *isn’t* fated to die during his senior year of high school. Denton’s deathdate also happens to fall on the same day of his senior prom.

So the book takes us through Denton’s final days on this earth: a brutal hangover, his own funeral, sex with his girlfriend, sex he can’t remember with his best friend’s sister, a strange cop who keeps following him around, a strange man who promises he knows mysterious things about his dead mother – all culminating in prom night, the day Denton is supposed to die. (Whether this was intentional or not, I appreciated that – as in any comedy about teens – the significant action goes down on prom night.)

The first half or so of Denton Little’s Deathdate was great. If the entire book had been about a teenage boy coming to terms with the day of his death, I’d have been perfectly happy. The novel does look at how AstroThanatoGenetics’s technology changes the ways in which people live their lives. Your funeral is the day before you die: all of your loved ones deliver speeches; so do you. “Sittings” (like wakes) are held on the day you die; you spend the day hanging out with your family or whatever. Children are forced to confront the inevitability of their own mortality in a very particular way (to know you will die and to know *when* you will die are two very different things).

It’s a really interesting topic – the tiny details of the world-building were the best parts of the novel to me: Denton tells us, for example, that people aren’t allowed to fly on their deathdates (though they are, to my mind, inexplicably allowed to operate motor vehicles); that being deathdated doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be injured in other horrible ways before your deathdate shows up; that being deathdated isn’t mandatory in any country except Germany.

In terms of the actual story, though, I found the surprise twists and turns to be both somewhat predictable and also distracting. The book has a madcap, frantic energy that worked sometimes, but overall? I wanted more emotional depth to the story. Despite the fact that Denton believes he’s facing his last day on earth (and he does – as far as he or anyone else knows, no one has ever managed to live past their deathdate), much of the book focuses on the crazy, quirky adventures of Denton and his pals rather than exploring what the emotional reality of this situation is like for Denton. (And maybe that’s an unfair criticism, but I do feel like humor and emotional depth can work together; it just wasn’t there in this book for me. The focus is definitely on the action – who’s this mysterious dude? to whom did Denton lose his virginity? who’s driving that yellow car? oh no, a man with a gun!! – rather than the development of Denton or any of his family and friends as characters.)

I also wasn’t wholly satisfied by the ending. Here’s why: View Spoiler »

Additionally, most of the humor kind of missed its mark with me. (I know that I’m not this book’s intended audience, so hey, your mileage may vary.) It’s a quirkier and more flippant read than I wanted, I think. This may have also been in part because some of the humor is of the “isn’t it funny when two boys joke about sleeping together but are actually not at all gay for each other” variety. If this had happened once or twice, I might have been able to deal with, but they’re joking *constantly* about how Denton and his best friend are so gay for each other, but it’s very clearly always a super hilarious joke. (And that gets old for me because I feel like the humor in that situation is derived from the impossibility of such a relationship ever happening. And this is particularly painful to me because, you know, as a queer teen, you sometimes do think that same-sex relationships are an impossibility. It’s not a hilarious joke! And yes, I know there’s a gay adult in the story, but that doesn’t change the dynamics of Denton’s relationship with his best friend.)

So: this didn’t work as well as it could have for me, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. I think the humor was on-point for a lot of folks, and I’m bummed that I wasn’t one of them. Pick it up if you’re interested in a super light-hearted, action-packed read about what it’s like to live with a different relationship to mortality.

Has anyone else read this one yet? If so, what’d you think?

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An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.


16 Responses to “Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review”

  1. J. Oh

    Thank you for the thoughtful review! Hmm–can’t decide if I want to try it or not. I do have a ton of books on my to-read list, and some of the flaws you mentioned will probably grate on me a little, too. But I did find that main premise fascinating. I guess we’ll see :)

  2. Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

    Hmmm. Hmmm. I know when you got this at NCTE I was intrigued, but then I forgot about it until this month when it’s popping up around the release date. Your review does make me want to read it because the world building sounds fascinating! But I’m sad that the humor misses the mark a bit. I think I’ll follow your advice and get it from the library so I can quietly slip it in the return slot if it doesn’t work for me.
    Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! recently posted…The Remedy | Promotion + GIVEAWAY

    • Layla

      Yes, it’s certainly an intriguing premise for a story. I maybe wanted more premise, less story! (But that’s me.)

      And I know. It is really unsettling. Also the idea of holding a funeral where everyone you love (as well as people you don’t love) speaks about you? And then there’s a party? And then you still have to sit in a room with your family and wait to die? Ahhhhhh, that is only the worst, ever.
      Layla recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review

  3. Brenda

    Sounded like a promising premise, but the spoiler does seem to cheat out on the main point of the story. I think I would need some of the “emotional reality” as well to make the story work for me. Lovely review, may put this on the list to check for at the library. Thanks for the lovely review.

    • Layla

      Yeah. I just don’t understand the logic behind the spoiler. I think we’re supposed to feel like, “Woo! Taking fate into our own hands! No more shall I be your pawn, destiny!!” But … this changes nothing! You’re still governed by forces beyond your control! Le sigh.

      Maybe there are things in the second book – which I’m sure this is setting up to some extent – which will make this make more sense to me, but I just don’t get it. Additionally, I like the premise, but it’s a kind of odd one to some extent – for it to work, you need to (to some extent) get behind the idea that biology is destiny – that whatever it is that will lead to your eventual death is encoded in your genetic material from Day 1, regardless of what choices you make or what environment you’re born into. You know?

      If you read this, let me know how you felt about it. I could absolutely see this being one that a lot of folks loooooove. (But I have a hard time with flippant humor if there aren’t enough feels, so I was not among their ranks!)
      Layla recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review

  4. Angela @ Angela's Library

    I was really looking forward to Denton Little’s Death Date, but based on your review I’m not so sure it’s for me. Your experience with the book sounds a lot like my experience with Steven Arntson’s The Wrap-up List, which is also about a teen who knows the exact day she’s going to die and has a strange mix of humor and seriousness that doesn’t quite work. :-(
    Angela @ Angela’s Library recently posted…Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Praefatio by Georgia McBride

    • Layla

      Hmm. Maybe give it a try anyway? Although I will say that it does sound a bit like The Wrap-Up List in terms of tone, in which case … look for a copy at the library, maybe? It is a strange mix of humor and seriousness, which can totally work sometimes, but just felt off to me here. I think the flippancy of the humor combined with the sense that none of the action in the book really *mattered* (especially given the ending) made it an odd read for me. Also, I love banter, but I am an all-feels-all-the-time kind of girl. I’ll forgive a lot in a book if it moves me.
      Layla recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review

  5. Nikki

    I’m thinking I’ll pick this one up to have a good-natured fun read when I need some down time.

  6. Carina Olsen

    Awesome review Layla :D I’m glad you mostly liked this book, despite some issues ;p Ack. I think that cover looks so awful :p but the plot seems kind of exciting :) But ugh. SPOILERS. It ends with main character cheating his death date? That is just.. ugh. Annoying. What was then the point of the plot? Sigh. How mean. Not a book for me :D But your review is gorgeous. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: Joyride by Anna Banks

    • Layla

      Thanks Carina! Totally with you on the cover; I think it could be better, too. I didn’t want to pick it up until I learned a bit more about the premise, which *is* really exciting. And yeaahhhhhh, not that I wish death upon this main character, but his escaping death seemed pointless to me. (I don’t get why this was a victory or something that people were willing to risk their lives over! He escapes death for a day, but his death is still going to be … not within his control? I don’t know, maybe it’s just supposed to be great that he gets another day, and I get that, but like the larger implications of that didn’t make much sense to me.) Anyway. I felt let-down by the novel – like none of the action I’d been following really actually mattered. Blah.

      Thanks <3! :)
      Layla recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review

  7. kindlemom1

    Someone else just recently read and reviewed this the other day and felt very similar to it as you did. I don’t think this would be the read for me but I do appreciate that it is something different than the norm.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week!

    • Layla

      Oh good, so I’m not alone. Yay! (I felt like a black sheep, but now I know that I am not the only sheep in that pen.) I also like that it’s a different book with an interesting premise – and since I suspect it’ll be part of a series, it’s certainly possible that the rest of the series will be better developed? (This is a debut novel, I think, so I mean, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of his books progress.)
      Layla recently posted…Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review