Release Date: January 17th 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Buy It: Book Depository
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.For a subject filled with such big emotion, this tiny book left an even smaller impact. Going into Never Eighteen I already knew that seventeen-year-old Austin was facing death, hence the title, and although I won't share the reason it had already been explained everywhere and so the "mystery" of why he was dying was not a mystery at all. And I think even without having known it in advance, the reader would pick it up pretty quickly. It definitely wasn't some kind of twist ending, so I didn't understand why it was played off as a mystery at all. The rest of the plot was fairly predictable and in combination with the weak character development left me wanting more from Never Eighteen.
Even though Austin was dying, as a character I just didn't care that much about him– harsh, but true. He was a nice guy, but he didn't have a lot of dimension or complexity to him. Bostic did a good job with having a mixture of troubles for the people that Austin tries to help, each one was unique and different. The problem was, Never Eighteen ending up reading a bit too much like an after school special. As a reader, I spent so little time with each of these characters that Austin tries to help, it was impossible to really connect with them, and in many cases I didn't really feel like they, or their struggles, were genuine. Austin's best friend Kaylee didn't have much more personality than he did, all I really learned about her was that she has a car and she doesn't realize how pretty she is... not exactly profound.
Part of me thinks that this book would be better for younger readers, but it does tackles quite a few issues that might not be appropriate. Still, I'm sure that there will be readers that Austin's story resonates for, even if it didn't for me. Ultimately, Never Eighteen is really easy to read, the prose is simple and the book itself is quite short but unfortunately, being easy to read doesn't necessarily make it exciting to read and Bostic's debut just didn't connect with me in the emotional way that I had hoped.