Review: A Place In This Life by Julie Rieman Duck

A Place in This Life by Julie Rieman Duck
268 pages
Published: April 17th, 2012 by Julie Rieman Duck
Source: Author

For Natalie Miller, it’s just another family vacation. For someone else, it’s the opportunity he’s been waiting for.

With only a single peck from a guy named Frank, Natalie’s anything but experienced with boys. But when Todd pops out of the water, says hi, and tells Natalie he has leukemia, all of that changes.

She’s never had attention like this from a boy, let alone one who’s a real charmer with sex on the brain and the experience to match. Drawn to Todd like a magnet, Natalie gives him her friendship, her love, and her body. Even when she’s tempted by gorgeous, healthy schoolmate Alex, Natalie’s desire to love and care for Todd pushes her to see how far love can go in spite of the potential for death of the relationship — and death of the one she loves.

This was one of the most emotional books I have read in a long time.  It deals with so much.  First love, cancer, growing up… It was all very well woven together and felt very realistic to me.  It brought me back to my teenage years and going through my first love(s).  And so much of what Natalie goes through with Todd is very similar to what I’ve gone through, except without the cancer.
First of all, Natalie is a pretty naive 17 year old.  Maybe naive isn’t the right word, just inexperienced.  She seems to know what’s going on in the world with other teens, she just hasn’t experienced much romantically herself.  When Todd pays attention to her she practically basks in it.  She’s desperate for something to change and to grow up a bit.  But Todd has cancer, and while this is a concern of course, it’s his cavalier attitude about sex and his somewhat obsession with it that has Natalie a bit worried.  She does surprisingly well on her own, holding back his advances, but he’s very persistent.  I have to say that I had a lot of mixed feelings with Todd and I actually think that’s a very good thing.  I think that’s what the author had in mind.  First of all, his persistent and constant sexual innuendo is grating and made me not care for him much, but as we saw that he really does care for Natalie I liked him a bit more.  And on top of that we see him suffer as Natalie brings him to treatments and stays by his side through some rough times.  I guess I could say that I pitied him.  He really had to go through a lot and he really only had Natalie.
Now at the same time Natalie has gotten to know Alex, who is her locker mate and a very cute guy.  She’s had some temptations and mixed feelings.  At first I was annoyed with her behavior to sort of string each guy along, but keep reading because you’ll see how this gets straightened out.  It’s something I didn’t love, but with how much I did love the book, that was minor. 
Family ends up being pretty important in the story.  It’s not that there’s anything big, but her parents are present.  They stand by Natalie as she goes through everything.  They offer encouraging words and advice but never push her too hard to do any certain thing.  They hold her hand when she’s down and really losing focus on life and they are the kind of parents that every child should have.  At the same time they weren’t perfect, which made them more realistic.
This book wasn’t perfect, but when I finished it I realized that this was one that really makes you think, makes you feel.  And all the little things here and there that I didn’t love were put on the back burner and were quite minor to me compared to how much I loved it.  

Also, I have to put out a warning that this is for mature YA readers.  There is sex and while it’s not romance book sex, it is somewhat descriptive. 

Disclosure: I received this book for review purposes.  All opinions are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.
Thanks for subscribing!


  1. I love a book that makes me think, and one that pushes me a bit emotionally. Todd sounds like a challenging character with his obsession with sex and constant advances, but I guess I could see how having something like cancer wreak havoc on my body might make me fixate on something that made me feel alive. I haven’t heard of this one before, thanks for the recommendation Candace!

    • Yeah, I think that was it. I mean Todd was kind of wild so when cancer knocked him down and kept him from his party’ing he had to fixate on something and for him it was sex. I think you might like this one Jenny!

  2. This is the first time I have heard of this one, after reading your review I am definitely adding it to my TBR pile. I love reads like this one!
    Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention!

  3. Thanks for the warning–I read a lot of these that aren’t really up my alley because I think my students might enjoy them. Sadly, because of the sex, it’s not something that can go on my classroom bookshelf. I do like that her parents are not only present but active in her life.

    • Yeah, it’s a bit too mature for your classroom, which stinks. But it’s nice that there are books out there for the older YA’s that they can really relate to and connect with.

  4. Great review! This sounds so emotional and really touching :) But I probably will have to pass on it because it’s really descriptive when it comes to sex. But overall, it sounds like you really liked this book and I’ll definitely have to be on the lookout in the future :)

  5. I read first love and cancer and inwardly groaned. I am tired of cancer books this year. I am interested though after reading your review. It sounds like quite the ride. I appreciated your thorough analysis, Candace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge