The central theme in Chris Crutcher's Deadline is truth. The main character Ben Wolf's spiritual guide, Hey-soos, says that truth is the "only one thing that's universal." At a metaphysical level, he explains that "there's a lot in the universe that humans don't understand . . . but the truth doesn't need to be known, or believed, to be true." When he learns that he is dying, Ben embarks on a quest for truth. He begins to read voraciously, choosing books that challenge the accepted order of things, and he learns that many established tenets held as fact are in essence "uninformed beliefs." Ben is motivated by his observation that "a lot of things" like wars and bigotry occur because of "faulty information," and he sees education as a means "to cut down as much as possible" on these tainted but widely held convictions. Ben discovers that truth is often nebulous and elusive, defying categories of black and white. Hey-soos, Rudy, and Coach Banks, who counsel Ben at different points in his final journey, emphasize that truth is best sought through questioning and by heeding the noble instincts of the human heart.

Even as it explores the nature of universal truth, the narrative, as it unfolds, actually focuses heavily on the concept of truth in a more concrete sense. In his speech delivered at graduation by his brother Cody, Ben stresses, "If you don't learn anything else from my death, learn to tell the truth." When Ben decides not to tell anyone about his potentially terminal illness, he does not initially think about all the ramifications of his actions. Without really intending to, Ben puts himself in a position where he is living a lie because he is trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy in a situation that is anything but normal. Circumstances quickly demonstrate the pitfalls inherent in his choice; Ben, who is a good person who deeply values the people in his life, finds that he "can't be [his] brother's best friend while hiding something that big . . . can't expect to be loved by Dallas after [he's] gone if [he doesn't] let her know what's happening to [him] . . . can't look Rudy in the eye."...

(The entire section is 878 words.)