If It Doesn't Kill You, by Margaret Bechard

If It Doesn’t Kill You

For Ben Gearhart, high school is way better than he expected. Lots of people know who he is because he plays football, and he’s good at it. He’s definitely a jock, and at his school, that’s way better than being a preppy or a nerd or a stoner.

Things at home are way worse. Ben’s dad has moved out of the house and moved in with a guy named Keith. Not exactly something you mention in the cafeteria over the bean burritos. Not exactly something you even want to think about yourself.

Nothing is turning out the way Ben expected. Not school. Not his dad. Certainly not the girl who has moved in across the street. If only life were as easy as football.

Reviews

“Realistic descriptions of the stratified society of high school, of a varsity football party, and of a trip downtown to escort Chynna to a belly-button piercing establish a definite setting and will place readers in a familiar territory … Bechard does a fine job illuminating the day-to-day struggles that make us all stronger.” —The Horn Book

Author’s Notes

This book really grew out of writing Really No Big Deal. When I was working on that book, for many, many months, I was convinced that Jonah’s father was gay. Don’t ask me why. I think it grew out of my desire to somehow insert a serious subtext into the story. In the back of mind, there was that nagging voice that kept saying, “This book is just funny.” As if “just funny” wasn’t enough.

I finally realized that there was no way I could insert that particular subplot into Jonah’s story. It simply didn’t fit; it wasn’t a part of Jonah’s back story. I finally accepted that the serious subplot simply weighed everything down too much. I finally accepted that “just funny” was indeed enough.

But I couldn’t quite let go of that idea of an adolescent boy dealing with his father’s recently announced homosexuality. The idea in fact came from an article in Newsweek that I had read years before. It was on homosexuality, and there was sidebar story about a middle-aged man who had realized that he could no longer hide his true sexual orientation. The story included interviews with the man and with his wife—they had since divorced—and there was a mention of a thirteen-year old son who was not interviewed. And I thought, “There’s the real story. What is it like to be struggling with your own sexual awareness and to have this happen? How does it feel to realize that the adults around you may still be struggling with these questions?”

Clearly this idea was too big to just be a subplot. This idea needed to be the center of the story.

I also have to mention that I love the cover of this book. But when I got it, I thought, “Gee. I didn’t realize that Ben was so good looking.” If I had had the cover from the very beginning … well … it might have been a different story.