Ben Wolf is a normal young man who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Given only a year to live, he decides to forgo treatment that may or may not extend his time a little bit, choosing instead to maintain the quality of his life for as long as he is able and to live to the fullest extent within that time frame. Although he is admittedly scared, he makes his decision with amazing presence of mind and philosophical acceptance; he "always knew at some core level he would be moving on early." "Hardwired" to want to "save the unsavable," beginning with his bipolar mother and ending with the "town drunk" Rudy McCoy, Ben is unusually sensitive to the needs of others, and, in the beginning, part of his reason for keeping his condition a secret is because he does not want to burden them. As events unfold, however, Ben realizes that by being a "control freak" and denying others the opportunity "to deal with the truth in a straightforward manner," he is being disrespectful, unfair, and, in the final analysis, selfish. Ben is an immature character at first in that his understanding of the effects of his actions on others is severely limited. Although he can be quite abrasive in challenging the established world view, as he demonstrates in his dealings with Mr. Lambeer, Ben is sincere in his quest for truth. Because he is aware of his own fallibility, he is able to change as his understanding grows. Because of his determination to risk everything in the time he has left, Ben is able to experience things that "people live their whole lives without feeling." He achieves a delirious level of stardom on the football field, and, with Dallas Suzuki, discovers a love so precious that the thought of losing it fills him with "such deep longing that [he] thinks [he] might disappear." Without ever intending to, he hurts Dallas deeply by remaining silent about his illness even as they fall in love, but he accepts the consequences of his mistake without rancor when, unable to get over her feelings of betrayal, she breaks off their relationship upon learning the truth. In the end, Ben dies, secure in the knowledge that although "it took [him] awhile to understand," he did his best, risked it all, and made his peace with himself and the universe.

Dallas Suzuki is the classy, alluring, Japanese and Caucasian "monster on the volleyball court" who is the object of Ben's desire. Ben admits up front that she is "way out of [his] league." Because he...

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