Deadline by Chris Crutcher
18-year-old Ben Wolf gets the news right before he starts his senior year in high school: he's dying of a rare and aggressive blood disease. Against the advice of his doctor, Ben decides to forego treatment entirely. He also decides to keep his illness secret from everyone, including his family, friends, teachers and coach.
Ben's last year is full of courage. Though scrawny, Ben makes the football team at his tiny Idaho high school and plays a successful season alongside his brother Cody. He gathers the courage to talk to his secret love, super-hottie-athlete-girl Dallas Suzuki, and she actually asks him to Homecoming! He is so affected by Alex Haley's biography of Malcolm X that he not only challenges the classmates and his town to overcome their prejudices, he seeks out late-night discussions with the only other person in town who admits to loving the book: the town drunk. And just when Ben is really enjoying life, his illness starts to intrude.
If you're seeking a light and fluffy tearjerker, avoid this book--in fact, avoid everything ever written by this author. Crutcher is well-known for award-winning stories of substance abuse, bigotry, child molestation and neglect, and this book is no exception.
However, despite the heavy subject matter, one message shines through: "Life is short. Whatever you really want to do, do it now."
Highly recommended for sports fans (Crutcher makes football sound soooo cool, even to a non-fan like me) and readers looking for a well-written, substantial book about one kid's attempt to leave the world a better place.
Ages 15 and up; contains cussing and some off-page sex and domestic violence.