Anat Rosenberg
February 08, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

At nearly 17, Frédéric Langlois is almost your typical teen. Almost. Sure, he fronts a know-it-all attitude and writes deep poetry. But he’s also hospitalized with terminal bone cancer and must come to terms with its ripple effects. Among them: Frédéric will die a virgin, he will never have traveled outside Canada, he will pen goodbye letters to loved ones, and he will plan a last hurrah for his remains. Sylvain Trudel’s novel, Mercury Under My Tongue, is a candid rant against fate that, in its more gripping moments, pierces Frédéric’s tough-guy veneer with just enough childlike dread. B

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