TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
While not written or marketed as a young adult novel, I'm sure teens will find Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" a poignant and valuable book. It's, flat-out, a great read. Maybe you remember hearing about Randy, either on Oprah or just generally in the news media? He was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a guy in his late 40s with a beautiful family, a great job, and, stunningly, a diagnosis in August of 2007 that his pancreatic cancer had returned and spread, giving Randy only months to live. Randy returned to Carnegie Mellon that fall to give a lecture on "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," which covered everything from his being allowed to paint on his bedroom walls as a teenager to becoming a Disney Imagineer. The video of this lecture became an Internet sensation (you can still view it on You Tube here), leading Randy to publish a book version of the lecture's advice in April of 2008, shortly before he died.
This book is just about the definition of a quick read — I knocked it out in under two hours — but it's so meaningful and bittersweet, especially reading it with the knowledge that Randy, this vibrant, unfailingly optimistic guy, is no longer with us. His death lends a sense of urgency to his advice. Randy basically covers his childhood dreams and discusses how he achieved them (he met Captain Kirk!), or, as the case may be, what not achieving them (NFL stardom!) taught him. Randy comes across as brilliant but relatable, honest, and, in the best sense of the word, earnest. While his life advice may seem obvious at times — I think we all sort of know that we should, say, face down brick walls and tell the truth — he presents these life lessons in a way that makes them feel new, fresh, and unquestionably important.
I was very moved by reading this book (I suspect you'd have to be made of stone not to be!). Above all, I just so enjoyed Randy's plainspoken manner, his tons of real-life examples to support his advice, and the uplifting quality of the entire book. I know that some of the high school kids in this area are required to read "Tuesdays with Morrie" or "It's Not About the Bike" as their "inspirational" summer reading choices. I hope these same teens will check out "The Last Lecture," a book they'll both learn from and enjoy.