Monday, March 3, 2008

Check your email, or a Rose for Melinda

This was basically the most boring and pointless book I have ever read, which is saying a bit considering:

  1. I collect Babysitters Club books
  2. I take trips down memory lane all the time only to generally discover I had crap taste as a kid
  3. I run this blog and therefore read a ton of Lurlene McDaniel novels on a regular basis
Yet with all that in mind, a Rose for Melinda (published 2002) is the epitome of lame. It is the example for unpublished writers to hold aloft while they take swigs from their bottles of Makers and curse the heavens their quality works aren't published while dreck like this found a publisher as well as shelf-space at Barnes & Noble.

Okay, fine, let's get into it:

Ooh, the titular rose!

Hey, you guys want to know what this is about? Too bad, the publisher was too lazy to write a synopsis. This is all they gave us:

From: Melinda Skye
To: Readers
Subject: Jesse

Hi! I can’t believe it. What a surprise from Jesse. When he got my e-mail about being accepted by the Washington School of Classical Dance’s summer program, he called to congratulate me! I loved hearing his voice. We’ve been friends forever–could it turn into something more?

From: Jesse Rose
To: Readers
Subject: Melinda

I couldn’t believe the news. Melinda is so young! How could she be sick? How did she get leukemia? She’s got to get better. She’s got to.
Oh, fuck. Did this strike fear in the heart of Ames? Damn straight. I have always hated books told in, you know, any other way but dialogue/narrative. Isn't that NORMAL? Argh. I still remember being a kid and wanting to read every single Beverly Cleary book in existence, but never getting more than a few pages into Dear Mr. Henshaw. Seriously, you guys, if I'd been reading this for ANY OTHER REASON than to recap here, I would have given up, like, one page in. Such is my devotion.

So we open with a bunch of little kid notes back and forth between Jesse and Melinda. So boring. Then it gets kind of creepy! There's A TRANSCRIPT of a VIDEOTAPE backstage at one of Melinda's dance recitals. It seriously felt so Case Designate "Cloverfield" found in US-447.

So basically there are letters from Melinda, who wants to be a ballet dancer, her BFF Jesse, and their parents. The parent stuff is just all "HEY CAN JESSE COME TO MELINDA'S HOUSE TODAY" and "OH THANK YOU FOR LETTING JESSE COME TO MELINDA'S HOUSE TODAY". Also a bunch of the letters are in different "handwritings" and fonts, so it's very Babysitters Club, though no one has the brilliance to dot their i's with hearts.

So Jesse's parents get divorced, so he has to move away to California! Oh noes! Jesse and Melinda keep writing though. Melinda gets a new neighbor, Bailey, who is her age but totes BOY-CRAZY. Also Bailey writes notes that are nothing but realistic:

When we walk home today, let's stop off at the Jiffy Store and buy some teen magazines so we can figure out what's hot this fall.
I freaking hate Bailey. The ONLY good thing about Bailey is that she has a cat who has kittens, and Melinda gets to keep one of the kittens. The kitten is white with a black mask on its face, so they call it Zorita. Whenever Zorita is mentioned, especially in the context of purring, I totally fall apart, because if there's anything I love it's a purring kitten. Aw, Zorita! I'm sorry you got stuck in this book, sweet fictional kitty.

So even IM conversations are preserved in this book. I'm really dirty-minded because this scene where, via IM, Melinda introduces Bailey and Jesse, made me laugh and laugh:

Bailey> Hi, Jesse. This is Bailey. I'm over at Melinda's house and we're IMing you together.
Jesse> Hi, Bailey. Melinda says you play the flute.
Yeeeeahhh, the skin flute, maybe. Shut up, Jesse, that's the weirdest way to say hello EVER.

So Melinda is, of course, a superfantastical dancer who gets to study at special summer programs and such. I wish I hadn't just read those recaps of Petals on the Wind because I need to be reprogrammed from thinking ballet is all about rape and getting punched in the face and car accidents and suicide. I promise you guys that none of those things are found in this book, which is maybe too bad because at least then this book wouldn't be so friggin' boring.

So Melinda writes herself a pep talk in her own diary, which is basically fantastic:

Stop it, Melinda!!! (Sometimes I have to be strict with myself.) Just go and dance and learn!
I am soooo writing that to myself anytime I get down, you guys.

Anyways, while Melinda is off at the special dance program, she writes all about the bruises on her legs. Since this is taking place in the Lurleneverse (and because I read the back cover copy), we all know what that means! (I have Lurlene to thank for my freaking out as a kid whenever I got a nasty bruise on my leg. And considering I'm extremely uncoordinated as well as pale as a friggin' vampire, this happened fairly often.)

Bailey writes a letter to Melinda in the meantime, chock full of her boy exploits:

Inside [the movie theater] it was practically empty and the theater was totally dark, and then Pete slid his arm around me and the next thing I knew he was KISSING me! Wow, I thought my nail polish would melt. It was SO hot! (And I don't mean the temperature.)
I think my I.Q. just dropped a few points.

So, yeah, bad news is to come: Melinda has leukemia! We find this out from the freaking LAB RESULTS printed here. This book is so friggin' bizarre, seriously. WHYYYY can't it just be a normal book?

It's a Lurlene book, so normal drill: chemo with lots and lots of details. Melinda shares this with her journal:

It looks like I won't be shaving my legs for a long, long time. "Chemo hair loss" means more than saying goodbye to the hair on top of my head. My eyebrows are gone and so are my eyelashes (not to mention body hair in very private places!).
A) Armpits are "very private"? B) I really could have gone my whole life without pubic hair being brought up in the Lurleneverse.

The chemo doesn't do the trick at first, so doctors try out some super high-dose fantastical chemo on Melinda. It clears that cancer right up, woo hooooo!! What the doctors don't tell her parents is that she can never have this high dose again since it is so effin' potent. But, I mean, c'mon, you guys, she won't get sick again, will she? Oh, crap, this isn't the real world, this is the LURLENEVERSE. Melinda, there is an awful lot of book left; I am quite concerned about your fate.

For Melinda's birthday, she asks for Jesse to fly out and see her. So he does, and she spends his whole trip feelin' all butterfly-y for him. She hates that she's all post-chemo and ugly, but at the end of the trip he still kisses her. Aw, Jesse! You're a good kid. Too bad you're stuck in this craptastic book.

Melinda goes back to school, and works at getting back to the same level of proficiency in ballet she'd achieved before her cancer. Jesse visits again, and this time Melinda's looking cute, and Bailey helps the two kids get some time alone together. Whatever, they're cute, but I keep checking how many pages are ahead of us, and I feel this is doooooomed.

I'm right! The cancer is back! (Yeah, of course we find out via lab reports again. Also, seriously, kids are expected to read friggin' lab reports? Weeeeeird.) And it's way worse than ever, especially with that high-dose chemo off-limits this time. The only possibility is a bone marrow transplant. Luckily, Melinda's mom is a good match! Everyone rallies around Melinda, and Jesse flies out again to see her.

Melinda gets sick right away with viral meningitis! Suuuuuck! After reading accounts by both Melinda's mom and Jesse about how very sick Melinda is, we get the AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION BY DR. LEIGH NEELY, ONCOLOGIST, FOR INSERTION INTO MEDICAL FILE OF MELINDA SKYE who, ya know, gives all the death details. Sorry, Melinda, but I kind of figured. Also, seriously, please explain this book to me! Is it a morbid scrapbook? How were all these things gathered? AGH.

There were a few random occasions where they'd just have a page or two of normal narrative/dialogue, but they were few and far between. Also, midway through the book, Jesse is referred to for several pages as "Jessie". Luckily I figured it out and didn't think a new character had been introduced.

The book ends with letters Melinda wrote to her parents and to Jesse that she had Bailey leave for them in the case of her death. Hmmm, Melinda must have known about her place in the Lurleneverse! Then Jesse emails Bailey to get help putting a letter in Melinda's hand at the wake, and Bailey promises to help him.

You guys want the letter? Sure, I can do that!:

It may be a lifetime before I see you again on the far side of time. Wait for me. Look for me. Please don't forget me, Melinda Skye, because one day I will come to you. I will come.

Jesse Rose
WHAAAAAT! That is the weirdest letter to give your dead girlfriend EVER. CONSTANT VIGILANCE, MELINDA-IN-HEAVEN, CONSTANT VIGILANCE!


Anonymous said...

i love your blog, i totally grew up scaring myself with the Lurlene McDaniel books! please tell me you are going to do my fav "Don't Die My Love" soon! i remember i thought it was like the most romantic book ever, LOL.

ames said...

I am basically doing the books in the order I A)can find them at my cheap-ass used paperback store or B)my friend in the book biz sends them to me. Eventually I hope to recap everything Lurlene has written!!

snappleaddict said...

Haha, there's another ballet dancer in V.C. Andrews universe who also has molestation and stuff tied into it. VCA has tied every single type of art, performing or visual, into rape and incest! That's talent!

I hate all dialogue type books, too. I always skip over the BSC notebook entries, and the letters at the beginning and end of the Super Specials. It took me awhile to get into the California Diaries, but I pressed on because I knew there would be an eating disorder story coming up, and my Lifetime-loving self is a sucker for eating disorders.

Did Lurlene ever do an eating disorder story? That would be a great OLW novel, "Here's $100,000 to buy yourself some cheeseburgers!"

ames said...

Oooh, which is the other VCA book? Egads, I don't know why I'm asking; I am pleading with myself not to jump back into that scary world again. I think the Lurleneverse is enough for me. I'm basically just curious if I read it once upon a time or not!

I definitely haven't READ a book by Lurlene involving an eating disorder, but of course that doesn't mean she hasn't written one! Knowing her judgment of anyone not perfect, she probably wouldn't tackle that kind of illness, just the poor helpless kids who couldn't help that cancer they were stricken with!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. "Let's go buy some teen magazines." LEAST LIKELY TEEN STATEMENT EVER.

I am so glad those V.C. Andrews recaps exist. Finally, a compromise!

ames said...

How else can they see what's going to be hot this fall?