No, not that dude's wonky eye! The girl who's supposed to be Erin is actually the same girl from the cover to Somewhere Between Life and Death!:
Consistency in book covers to YA novels? PRACTICALLY UNHEARD OF SO GOOD WORK PUBLISHERS!
These days, the two books are packaged together for your book-carrying needs:
I think I actually prefer the soft pastel Erin of the first editions, even though she sort of looks like Beverley Mitchell from 7th Heaven...
...except SHE appears to have a wonky eye! WHAT! And, wait, 7th Heaven... poorly-written, unrealistic, convinced of its moral superiority? I'm suddenly reminded of something....
Okay, back to the book. Last we saw Erin, her sister Amy had just been taken off of life support and then died. Sadness! But Erin and her family were handling it totes well, yes?
Apparently not! We open with Erin IN THERAPY. It's one of her first appointment, and she does NOT want to be here!!! In an exposition-packed first chapter, we learn that Erin is having MONSTER HEADACHES and therapy is her last option because the doctors can't figure out what's wrong with her.
Uhhhh, I'm not a medical professional or anything, but right away I'm all "ooooh, pick me, pick me, I think I know the answer!", jumping up and down with my hand in the air. "Do you think maybe because of her sister's tragic and untimely death that Erin has a lot of stress and depression and guilt that leads to monster headaches?" But apparently they're just gonna gloss over all of that for awhile. Argh! I hate it when I know the answer to the main plot by the end of the first chapter.
Not that I was reading Lurlene to be SURPRISED or anything. Really, the beauty of Lurlene was generally you knew EXACTLY what you were getting into.
Actually, considering this is in the Lurleneverse, I thought maybe Erin was coming down with a case of the coma, or a bit of brain cancer. You know! In fact, I was a little disappointed she wasn't, because especially back when I read these VERY SERIOUSLY, I was coming in expecting disease and death. If I wanted a book where a girl needed to cope about death and family and life blah blah blah, I would have, I dunno, read a respectable author. Yeah? I came to Lurlene for medical fetishism, not all this real-life crap, so it was definitely a letdown back in the day, no matter how cuckoo I was for sequels (still am!), I expected more.
So let's check in on Erin's family? What's that, you say? Erin's mom is putting in too many hours at her boutique? OF COURSE SHE IS OH GEEZ HERE WE GO AGAIN! Also her parents yell at each other a lot; without Amy to hold them together they all just kind of flail hopelessly. Such is the power of Amys?
What's up with school? AUDITIONS! Aw yeah. Don't you guys wish this was more like Center Stage or something? I know I do. Anyways, there's going to be a big production of West Side Story in conjunction with the neighboring boys' school, and Erin is trying out for the DANCING ROLE OF MARIA. That's right, some kids will sing and act only, and some kids will dance only, and some will do it all. WHAT THE HELLLLLLL. This sounds AWFUL. If you can't sing and dance and act, you know what? You have no business being in a musical! Well, okay, you can be in a musical, but pick one where you can just be a chorus dancer or be a singer who doesn't have to dance. I mean, how messy must this look on stage???
So Erin is damn well convinced she's going to be Maria, and she hopes this total hottie named Seth will be Tony. Unfortunately some loudmouth clown (yeah, that's right, I said that on purpose) named David keeps running his mouth that HE is going to be the lead. That's right, arrogant fucker! Wait, Erin, aren't YOU convinced you're getting the lead? How is this any different at all?
Ohhh, and Erin and her therapist ACTUALLY HAVE THIS EXCHANGE:
Dr. Richardson leaned across the desk and added, "I hope whoever gets the role of Tony is gorgeous."DR. RICHARDSON WHAT THE HELL! Hell YEAH that'd be a problem, a problem WITH THE BOYFRIEND. Geez, don't encourage jackassery.
Erin hadn't thought about the male lead until then. "It doesn't matter to me. Just so long as he's good."
"Do you have a boyfriend? Maybe he won't want you to play opposite some other guy. Would that be a problem?"
Obviously David is totes like Amy: he's a loud-mouth bitch and a big talker. WE ALL SEE THIS, ERIN, EVERYONE EXCEPT YOU. So of course she gets headaches whenever David gets all Amy-y (Amy-esque?), but STILL she's not sure why she's getting them. Erin, get a freaking clue or a much better therapist, okay? Mine would have knocked this out of the park on my first appointment.
Erin also figures out that she met David once before: he was the clown she worked with when she stepped in for Amy. Clowns ALWAYS come back, don't they? For some reason, she doesn't tell him this. Maybe because she hates him now, or maybe because she doesn't want to talk about Amy. Or both.
Also, David is always all "OH ERIN YOU ACTUALLY LOVE ME" and Erin's all "NO I DON'T" but Erin's protests mean little, because her BFF Shara is all "I have a date for the big dance, so we should double and you can take David!!!!" Ugh, Shara, you're not a good friend at all. Last time someone I called a friend wanted me to date a guy I hated, it didn't go so well.
So Erin randomly runs into Beth (remember her?) and finds out things are not so shiny in the Clark household. Beth's mom's new kidney is faaaaaaaailing! OH NOES! Is this because she's a single mom? I am sure that's at the root of it. Also Beth is totes skipping school so she can help out with her younger siblings and such. Poor Beth! I'm, uh, actually not sure of your purpose in this book, Beth, but, man, sucks to be you!
Oh, right, so later Beth calls Erin and is all "OMG IF I DON'T GET OUT OF THE HOUSE I'M GONNA GO NUTSO!" so they meet up at the mall, and Erin is so desperate to give Beth something to be happy about that she tells her about the dance and lets Beth help her pick out a dress. So this is Beth's purpose? A lameass plot contrivance to get Erin and David at the dance together? Man, you can totally go to the dance without a date, Erin! Also I bet you can cheer up Beth via shopping for, you know, tons of other clothing options that aren't a freaking formal gown. Whatever, plot contrivance Beth helps Erin pick out the perfect dress, and now it looks like Erin and David are totally goin' to the dance together.
Okay, so this is the thing, and I apologize because I'm bringing up Sarah freaking Dessen yet again, but this book reminds me a lot of several of hers. In fact, this scenario happens so often in her writing that I'm dubbing it Sarah Dessen Syndrome. In SDS, our girl protag has some issues (I mean, don't we all?), and the ONLY PERSON WHO KNOWS THE ANSWERS IS A BOY.
Listen, I do believe people come into our lives to get us through stuff, to help us discover who we are, to show us that thing right in front of us that we can't see. But in that list of people, I wouldn't just include boyfriends, I'd include friends and teachers and coworkers. But, nope, not here, these poor girls would just be helllllllllllpless if not for the all-knowing boy. Why the hell are boys the same age so much more knowledgeable? Why do they hold life's answers? I mean, seriously, if this was really how it worked, it'd be pretty awesome to either be a boy or to have a boy, but, uh, hello, it's a really sexist notion.
Also I think YA authors should be a bit more vigilant and not produce lit that tells girls their bossy-ass boyfriend is TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. Hello, gateway to emotional abuse!
Yet here we have David, who is never too goofy or too overconfident, who always knows what's best for Erin, who IS ALWAYS RIGHT. Erin just needs to, ya know, bow to his will and she'd be a lot happier. Luckily, David is a good guy and doesn't take advantage of this. But godDAMN I hate the implications of a boy who knows your life better than you do.
Another situation that appears a bit less often in Sarah's books and happens here (SDS2?) a boy comes along who is not at ALL what our girl protag wants (or THINKS she wants). He's wilder or he's calmer, he's hotter or he's less conventionally-attractive, he's louder or he's quieter. In short, he's nothing like the hypothetical dude on her hypothetical list, and she is sooooo not interested. He keeps pursuing her. He tells her she DOES like him. He basically stalks her.
And you know what happens? No, she doesn't call the cops on his ass, SHE FALLS FOR IT AND BECOMES HIS GIRLFRIEND. Hello, terrible life lesson #2! Man, this makes me angry. All y'alls, promise me the next time you get stalked you won't date him? Okay? Okay. Whew. You are so lucky you aren't a character in one of Sarah's or Lurlene's books. Oh, crap, wait, what if we are, and we just don't know it? What if Lurlene or Sarah is like Tommy Westphall? SHIT.
Okay, back to the story, sorry for taking you along with me through the tangled paths of my brainskull. So Erin goes to the dance with David, and he totally embarrasses her for many reasons. One is because of this:
In the hall her mother said, "If you weren't going with Shara, I'd never let you go out with this boy, Erin."Man, I hate Erin's mom here. I mean, there are plenty of reasons not to let Erin go out with David, like that he stalked her until she gave up and said "OH FINE" but, geez, let the boy dress like a weirdo. It doesn't make him a bad person.
"What's the matter?"
"See for yourself."
Erin hurried into the living room. David stood facing her father but turned and flashed his high-voltage grin. He was wearing a tuxedo jacket, ruffled white shirt, paisley blue cummerbund and bow tie, and faded jeans. Down the side seams he'd sewn a blue satin ribbon. He wore red high-top sneakers and a black top hat, and a vivid red scarf poked from the upper outside pocket of his jacket. His bright red clown nose covered his real one.
Perspiration stood out on Seth's forehead, and David reached in his outside top pocket for the red hanky and pulled. Seth took it, but it didn't stop coming. The four of them stood transfixed as the material kept sliding out of David's pocket. Around them other couples stopped dancing and closed ranks. Giggles started, then swelled into laughter, as the "hanky" looped and draped to the floor in an endless stream of multicolored cloth.I mean, honestly, David seems way desperate for attention, but I'd find that more annoying than embarrassing. Then again, I don't date my stalkers, so, seriously, Erin, you got yourself into this one.
After the dance, they take a walk on the beach, and Erin totally breaks down, and David makes her tell him anything, and she does, and she feels all emotionally naked, but it's a good thing, right? David's a good guy. Whatever, I guess. I'm so sick of boys having all the answers (though I do like David a hell of a lot better than that pompous ass Owen). Do you guys want to read my imaginary line of YA novels where stalkers never get dates and boyfriends don't know all the answers and working moms have awesome relationships with their kids and spouses/partners and all the roles in the school musical are played by one person only? Awwwesome.
I guess Erin has soooo seen the light that she gets in touch with former lust-object Travis! Oh, Erin, just when I want to hate on you, you do something like apologize for freaking out, and forgiving him for his shit behaviour:
"What do you want, Erin?"So everything turns out okay for everyone! David and Erin totes like each other, Erin's parents stop retreating from each other, Beth's mom makes her stop cutting classes and sign up for community college in the fall, and Erin's headaches GO AWAY HUZZAH. Oh man, you guys, this was a boring book. When your main plots are headaches, a musical, and a stalker-turned-boyfriend, you'd think you could wring a bit more of excitement, yeah? Lurlene, stick with disease and current-not-former death, and things'll go a lot easier for you.
What did she want? "I think I want to tell you that I'm sorry."
"Sorry about what?"
"Sorry about... the way I treated you, you know, last year when Amy was... was...."
"It was a hard time for all of us," Travis said quickly. "It's all right, I understand."