Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
Published by Graphia, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Austin Parker has been diagnosed with incurable cancer. He’s been through treatment after treatment, and at this point the doctors have told him he won’t make it to his next birthday. Instead of wasting the time he has left, Austin sets out on a journey to visit each person in his life who has meant something to him. Along with his best friend Kaylee, he spends a few days attempting to repair some of the brokenness he has witnessed in his seventeen years.
Never Eighteen is a slim novel with a very important message that definitely resonated with me. Austin has been dealt a death sentence, but instead of moping around about it he decides to do something valuable with the remainder of his time here on earth. And over the course of a few days, he definitely does some valuable things – he mends some broken relationships (his own and others’), gives helpful words of wisdom, and even falls in love.
Here’s the thing – I liked the book. I even cried at the end. But I have to say that the overall feeling of the novel felt a bit over the top and saccharine sweet, for my tastes. It also felt a bit unrealistic – I highly doubt that in real life, just because a kid who is dying of cancer tells you to stop doing something or acting a certain way, you will automatically listen. And it wasn’t like that in every case in the novel, but the overwhelming majority of the people Austin visited were very quick to accept his words and take his advice. And to me, that just wasn’t realistic.
But like I said, it affected me emotionally. The end is incredibly sad-making and I definitely shed a few tears. Although it’s sad in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect. The novel also got me thinking about what is really important in this life and if I only had a few months left, what would I want the people closest to me to know? Maybe we should think about that more often, and communicate those things before it’s too late.
So overall, I liked Never Eighteen although it is far from perfect, in my opinion. Although it felt a little contrived to me, the book did have me thinking long after I finished it. And that’s always a good thing, right?