The F- It List

Common Sense Media says

Girl takes on friend's bucket list; best for older teens.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Alex's behavior will inspire readers to think about the ways in which they react to trauma and stressful events. Readers will learn about cancer treatment, including the side effects. 

Positive messages

Even though Alex is a cynical person, she learns how to share her feelings and be kinder to those around her. She sheds some of her selfish teen behavior as the story progresses. Readers will learn about good and bad ways to deal with guilt and loss. The relationships in the book endure strong challenges, but, in dealing with those issues, the characters learn how to be better people and better friends.

Positive role models

Some of the characters do not always treat each other well. Alex and Becca are both hard to like at first: They betray each other and say terrible things to each other. Alex is haughty and dismissive of most of her peers. And yet, despite Alex's cynical nature and downer attitude, she does display some positive qualities: She's a good friend, she works hard, and she treats her family well. Leo is depicted as an honest, kind, caring boy. Becca is self-centered, but the events of her life make her start thinking beyond her own needs and desires. Alex's and Becca's ability to put their friendship ahead of any past problems is admirable.


There are violent deaths, but they happen offstage. One character goes through chemotherapy, and the effects -- vomiting, bruising, and debilitating pain -- are described in detail. Sibilings get into a mild physical fight. Two characters are horror-movie aficionados and discuss a few gruesome scenes in detail. 


All the main teen characters have sex. The sex scenes are described very graphically. Masturbation and oral sex are described in detail. One character flashes her breasts to a boy she's never met. The characters frankly discuss sex, orgasm, and genitalia frequently. 


The characters use profanity frequently througout the book ("f--k," "c--t," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "whore," "balls," "t-ts," "butthole," "a--hole," and "p---y"). The profanity is used casually ("no s--t") and directed at other characters (one character calls another a "p---y"). The characters frequently refer to the bucket list by their name for it, "The F- It List."


Coke, Mountain Dew, Strawberry Crush, Shasta, Brita, Hello Kitty, Polly Pocket, Jell-O, Converse Chuck Taylors, Trojan, Dots candy, Disneyland, Borders, and Battlestar Galactica.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character smokes cigarettes regularly; another character tries one. One character smokes marijuana twice.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The F- It List realistically portrays the way teens think and act. There are a lot of graphic sex scenes that include masturbation and oral sex. All the teen characters swear profusely. The bonds of friendship among characters are explored and tested. Alex, the protagonist, is forced to deal with the trauma of her father's death, infidelity, and her best friend's cancer. The book ultimately offers up a positive message of the value of friendship and the need to openly deal with life's tough issues.

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What's the story?

As THE F- IT LIST opens, Alex, a wisecracking, horror movie-loving teen girl, is grappling with the aftermath of her father's sudden death in a car accident -- and with her discovery that her best friend, Becca, slept with her boyfriend the night of the funeral. Alex debates whether she can ever forgive her lifelong friend for such a transgression. When she learns Becca has cancer, all past sins are forgiven. Not knowing when or whether she'll ever be well enough to tackle the bucket list she's been working on since she was 9 years old, Becca asks Alex to do many of the items on the list for her and report back in detail. Alex reluctantly takes on the list, and many of the tasks push her outside her comfort zone. Alex deals with the loss and trauma in her life by becoming tougher and more cynical but eventually learns that letting down her emotional barriers and sharing her feelings with others will help her cope and heal.

Is it any good?


In The F- It List, author Julie Halpern sets up the reader to expect a fun romp, but in reality it's a tale of teens dealing with death, serious illness, and infidelity while trying to find a way to be happy in spite of it all. The pace of the storytelling is good, the teen characters are witty, and their interactions feel authentic. They learn what true strength is in the face of trauma. It's compelling to watch protagonist Alex struggle with her desire to honor her friend's bucket-list wishes versus her desire not to step outside her comfort zone. Her character can be aggravating at times, especially when she's cynical and cruel.

The number of graphic sex scenes is off-putting, in that a good percentage of the book deals with characters having sex, talking about sex, or thinking about sex. Some of the sex scenes do serve to show how the characters deal with their grief, but the author could have accomplished this in a less gratuitous way. The concept of the bucket list stalls out a bit in the middle of the book, which is a shame because it's a good premise that deserves to be explored more.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about coping with traumatic events. How do you think you'd react if your best friend were diagnosed with cancer or if someone close to you died suddenly?

  • There seems to be a trend in young adult novels featuring teens who have cancer. Have you read any? How does this one compare?

  • Two of the characters in The F- It List love horror movies. Alex watches them to avoid thinking about the real trauma in her life. What are some ways you let off steam or forget about your troubles?

Book details

Author:Julie Halpern
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, High school
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Feiwel and Friends
Publication date:November 12, 2013
Number of pages:256
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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