4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
Denton Little lives in a world where most people are able to find out the day they will die by having their DNA analyzed at birth. Denton Little will die when he is 17. That day has now arrived, and he is not sure how to handle it. Follow Denton through his last two days and watch his growing realization that not everything is as it should be.
First note: despite this really seeming like a science fiction novel, it reads a lot more like contemporary fiction. This is a style that will really work for teens who love books like John Green’s novels and maybe want to dip their toes into the science fiction pool. The premise is science fiction: using statistics and DNA analysis to figure out when someone is going to die, but the writing style and voice are very modern.
The world building is very subtle. Pretty much everything looks and feels identical, but people have different funeral rites, and different expectations of people, depending on when they will die (you can get away with a LOT if you are dying tomorrow). Denton has normal teen problems compounded by the fact that he is going to die. He really wants to sleep with his girlfriend, and has less than 2 days in which to accomplish that. He has a quirky best friend that he has to say goodbye to. He has a dead mother he knows nothing about. This book is not about Denton trying to save the world or topple a despotic government. It is a personal book about his reflections about his life and relationships, and how he is going to order his priorities knowing how much time he has left. There are glimpses of how weird it would get attending your own funeral and how scary it would be to count down to the end, but some convincing arguments are made that it would be nice to always have a chance to say goodbye and get your affairs in order. Some countries even made it illegal not to know, since being able to find out when large amounts of people are going to die may help the government get other people out of a potential blast radius.
Nobody knows how they are going to die, just the 24 hour period in which they will go, so it brings up some important predetermination questions. If you are meant to die by suicide, is it possible to stop yourself? If someone has to die by being murdered, is it fair to blame the murderer? Can you provide substandard medical care if you know someone is going to die the next day anyways?
Denton’s voice and personality come in very strongly, and you can definitely see this guy being someone you went to school with. His interactions with his best friend are goofy and touching. His relationship with his girlfriend is confusing, maddening and about what you would expect for a high-school relationship. These are teens doing teen things: being horny, goofy, confused and angry.
This story is private and personal. It gives a decent view of what modern, western society would be like given a little more information about life. The characters are interesting and personable. This is a very unique read that mixes genres. I would recommend keeping an eye on this book and this author. It mixes very normal teen writing with some surprisingly insightful questions and moments.