ARC Review: The F-It List by Julie Halpern

Pub. Date: November 12th, 2013
Publisher: Felwel & Friends
256 pages

Synopsis from Goodreads:

With her signature heart and humor, Julie Halpern explores a strained friendship strengthened by one girl’s battle with cancer.

Alex’s father recently died in a car accident. And on the night of his funeral, her best friend Becca slept with Alex’s boyfriend. So things aren’t great. Alex steps away from her friendship with Becca and focuses on her family.

But when Alex finally decides to forgive Becca, she finds out something that will change her world again--Becca has cancer.

So what do you do when your best friend has cancer? You help her shave her head. And then you take her bucket list and try to fulfill it on her behalf. Because if that’s all you can do to help your ailing friend--you do it.
I trudged my way through The F-It List. I strongly disliked both Alex and Becca from the beginning, and my dislike for the characters quickly turned into a dislike for the story. The opening was very off-putting. We’re given a lot of background and asked to care about two girls, and their friendship, when I can’t imagine ever staying friends with someone who treats you near as badly as Alex and Becca treat each other. Becca’s actions may be more outright brutal, but Alex’s decisions and lack of a filter or common sense, are just as immature.

The focus of the story confused me because the synopsis implies that the novel is about Alex completing Becca’s f-it/ bucket list, but by about halfway through the novel, the list, and even Becca, are basically forgotten in favor of focusing on Alex’s sex life. Even if I thought a lot of what was on the f-it list was immature (which Becca and Alex also fully acknowledge it is) and the friendship unappealing, Alex supporting Becca by completely the list has a really strong story purpose. It really saddened me that the one potentially emotional/ endearing/ positive part of the story was wiped away in favor of sensationalism that in no way added to the story.

The one shining star of the novel is Alex’s ‘boyfriend’ Leo. He calls her out on her bull, and demands to be treated with a level of respect that the female characters never have the decency to treat each other with. He added validity and strength to the story, which was desperately needed. Had those elements been more evident throughout, my opinion of the novel would have been entirely more positive. Leo makes Alex own up to her behavior, which does ultimately makes her grow as a character. Unfortunately there is little to no growth evident anywhere else.

Overall, I really didn’t appreciate the light, surface, and highly superficial treatment of a story that the synopsis clearly implies is about supporting a friend with a serious illness. It makes me feel like a bad person, but Becca’s entire cancer fight was so on the backburner, and the rest of the story was just so void of emotional attachment, that I became almost ambivalent about her survival. The amount of issue I took with the story and the characters, prevented any of the positives the novel has been praised for, like its humor, to work for me.

Rating 2/5 (It’s not a 1/5, because of how much I liked Leo)

** I received a copy of this novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated. 

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