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April 2, 2008

10 Things To Do Before I Die

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10 Things To Do Before I Die

Author: Daniel Ehrenhaft

Pages: 219

Reading Level: 6


PLOT SUMMARY: Mark, Ted, and Nikki are beginning their Spring Break in the diner where they often hang out. Ted Burger, the main character, is a quiet non-confrontational kind of guy with a love of music, a talent for guitar playing, and huge fan of the band, Shakes the Clown. Nikki and Mark are his some eclectic friends with the perfect relationship. Ted’s girlfriend, Rachel, works tirelessly for causes like Amnesty International and is the kind of girl who demands Ted ask permission before he kisses her. Ted’s parents are always engrossed in their advertising agency work and pay more attention to flashy commercials than they do their own son.


Mark decides that Ted needs an exciting spring break and comes up with a list of the 10 things he must do before he dies – a list which he can start on over spring break. Suddenly, a former employee of the diner enters with a long trench coat on. He pulls out a weapon and Mark springs into action. He disarms him if his water gun and all is well again. Or so it seems. Ted isn’t feeling well and barely manages to stumble outside before throwing up all over the sidewalk. He stumbles home after a brief stop at the hospital where the idea of some “examination procedures” freaks him out. He takes off and runs into Rachel not far from home. They fight and the downward spiral of events continues. Ted stumbles in his house and researched his symptoms. Ted matches 2 of the 4 and diagnoses himself with Meniere’s disease. Before long, Ted and Nikki arrive; they urgently tell Ted that the disgruntled employee returned and was arrested all the while saying that he had poisoned the fried. Whoever consumed them only had 24 hours to live. The list of things to do before I die takes on urgent status. Ted, Nikki, and Mark embark adventures that include: a rock band, a prostitute, alcohol, airports, limos, revenge, a hospital and more. Will Ted survive the poisoning and will he really complete the list of things to do before his 24 hours are up?


REVIEW: I believe that this book would appeal more boys than girls; however, it does have an element of universal appeal – death certainly doesn’t discriminate by sex. Kids into bands and guitars would likely connect with the book. The message that discovering who is we are is a process and learning to be ourselves is critical to our well being is an important one. This book also teaches the reader that coping mechanisms and learning to express our feelings rather than repressing this is also important.


TOUCHY AREAS: The cautions are that the when Ted doesn’t want to go to the hospital Mark decides they will all get drunk. They break into Ted’s parents’ liquor cabinet and consume copious amounts of alcohol – after which Ted goes running around in public. When he returns, Mark has a prostitute waiting to help Ted reach his goal to lose his virginity (the good news is that Ted has values and want his first time to be with someone he cares about not a prostitute).  Having sex with Rachel when she is ready is also discussed. The book concludes with some details of a panic attack.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: A great extension for this book might be to have student create their own 10 things to do before I die list and in doing so consider what defines who they are and what they want most out of life.




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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