Chris Crutcher is the king of YA novels. He mixes athletics with complicated human relationships for a winning literary recipe every time. His books have humor, heartache, and intellectual components. The scenarios and characters that populate his pages ring true, and (perhaps best of all) he always refrains from employing an over-explaining and patronizing voice that turns off teen readers.
Deadline's protagonist is a compelling smart alec. He's got his weaknesses, like being short of stature and lifeline, and being so stubborn that he's unable to let an argument drop, but these only serve to make him more endearing somehow. The supporting characters--Cody, Coach, Rudy, and Suzuki-- as well as a manageable palette of secondary characters, are a quite adequately fleshed-out and dynamic cast.
Deadline is no exception to Crutcher's familiar and forthright treatment of complex social issues. In this case matters of racism, child abuse, education, and predatory sexual behavior are given a full-color treatment, never limited to strict delegations of right and wrong. Those who read to escape the realities of life may squirm at such sub-plots in spite of the safety assured by vicarious experience, but I'm grateful for authors like Crutcher, who are neither shy nor shepherded away from the gritty substance of life.