Review: The Deathday Letter

Ollie can’t be bothered to care about anything but girls until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he’s going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.

Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn’t work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It’s now or never…–From Amazon (Excerpt can be read here.)

I think it’s entirely possible that I was meant to be a boy, because I find snarky, hormonal teenage male narrators to be absolutely hilarious. It might be wrong for a book about death to be this funny, so it’s a good thing Shaun David Hutchinson’s  The Deathday Letter is actually a book about life–Ollie’s last day of life. When Ollie receives a Deathday letter telling him he has only 24 hours to live, he takes the news pretty stoically. He plans to spend his last day doing normal things and biding his time, but his friends have other plans in store. Ollie and his best buds Shane and Ronnie take risks, deepen their relationships, and make the best of the time they have.

It would probably be off base to say that this book is full of mature content, because it’s more accurately full of immature content. I guess you could say that it is graphic, and if jokes about sex and penises make you uncomfortable, I recommend you stay far, far away. I’m not easily offended, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did reading this book. As funny as it is, though, it’s not purely humorous. Hutchinson’s writing is also philosophical and thought-provoking, exploring free-will, determinism, and death without fear or pretentiousness.

The Deathday Letter is a raw, honest, funny book that should get teens and adults alike buzzing. It’s like Going Bovine meets Paper Towns meets Before I Fall meets the sex-obsessed mind of every 14-year-old boy out there. I wish I could pass it around to every one of you because I really can’t speak highly enough about this novel. You should not plan on reading this unless you can devote a few hours to it. You will not be able to stop midway!

Note: Shaun David Hutchinson celebrated the release of his book by going skydiving and made it home unscathed. A few weeks later, he had to go to the hospital for a gallbladder operation. Oh irony of ironies. Hutchinson just got out of the hospital, and I’m sure he would appreciate your well wishes. Please go to his blog or Twitter page and wish him a speedy recovery! He’s an incredibly nice guy, and I hope he gets better quickly so that he can return to writing awesome books.

Note x 2: I have some extra Deathday Letter bookmarks. If you would like one, please let me know in the comments by sharing one thing you would do on your Deathday. I’ll send bookmarks to my favorite commenters. (You can also leave these comments just for the fun of it because it will keep me endlessly entertained.)

Quotable Quotes from The Deathday Letter

  • “Ollie, girls are like trees you have to climb. No. Wait. Girls are like vending machines that you have to keep stocked. And when you want something, you have to give them money. Wait, that’s not right. Ollie, forget what I just said. Girls are like Tetris. You have to line everything up just right to get them to go down…”
  • “Ever wonder why so many dudes sit in the back of class and act like they don’t know what’s going on? Because a teenage guy with a penis is like a twitchy marine with a live grenade.”
  • “’Screwing’ implies panty spelunking. It implies power ballads in the background and grunting in the foreground. It implies the front nine. Or the back nine, if you’re lucky.”
  • “I want to know whose awesomely idiotic idea it was to cram a whole bunch of teenagers into one giant, hermetically sealed bubble and expect us not to kill and devour each other. There’s a reason caterpillars go into cocoons to turn into butterflies. Because teenagers are monsters.”
  • “Shane stares at the letter. Having known the kid as long as I have, I like to think that I know every expression his face can possibly make, but it’s making one I’ve never seen before. It’s somewhere between the time he accidentally watched an entire program about tiny flies that burrow into people’s scalps and lay eggs, and the time we were playing T-ball and I whacked him in the Wiffle balls with my plastic bat.”
  • “The sun’s bright, the water’s warm, and I’m alive. Really alive. And I realize the truth: I was dead yesterday, and I’ll be dead tomorrow, but today I’m alive.”
  • “Sometimes you have to treat a best friend like a yellow jacket you’ve got cupped in your hands. Give them time to figure shit out on their own. Of course, time is the one thing I don’t have, so I know I’m pretty much begging to be stung.”
  • “What if tomorrow morning I die and that’s it? No more Ollie. Ever. Everything I was ever gonna be is wasted. Every class I took, every book I read. I may as well have spent the last fifteen and nine-tenths years doodling my noodle and playing Halo. In the end it’ll all amount to the same thing, right?”
  • “The whole emotional thing is making me uncomfortable. It’s like watching the end of The Notebook while reading the end of To Kill a Mockingbird while something punches me in the face.”
  • “I mean, how do you tell a girl she gives you more wood than a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could get wood, without sounding like a total tool?”

3 Responses to "Review: The Deathday Letter"

  • This one sounds really interesting and hilarious not to mention! But you’ve already stated that, so haha. What I’d do on my Deathday? I’d probably do a lot of things. Like;

    Go outside when the sprinklers are turned on, grab an umbrella, put on socks (I’m…not sure about the socks, why I have them on xD), and then pretend I’m in a musical, it’s a weird idea, but their might be bubbles involved too. Other than that, I’d tell people what I really feel about them, because I’m a closed off person. This is a long comment if you must know.

    1 fromawriter said this (July 17, 2010 at 10:07 PM)

  • Sprinklers and bubbles sound awesome! Seems like a pretty good day to me 🙂

    If you’d like a bookmark, shoot me an email with your mailing address. It might be a couple weeks before I get it out because I’m in the midst of a cross-country move, but I will get one to you!

    2 Melanie said this (July 20, 2010 at 6:25 AM)

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