Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who needs sex when you've got horses, or One Last Wish: Sixteen and Dying

The lovely Meghan posted a request on the master list for One Last Wish: Sixteen and Dying (published 1992), so here we go! At first I thought "Yay, a OLW book I haven't yet read!" but at a certain point in the story I totes pulled a Celine as it all came back to me. Oh, man, was I still reading crappy Lurlene books in all seriousness in 1992? What a terrifying thought.

You guys want to know what this one's about? Well, I am happy to tell you!
You don't know me, but I know about you....

I can't make you live longer. I can't stop you from hurting. But I can give you one wish, as someone did for me.

It's hard for Anne Wingate and her father to accept the doctors' diagnosis: Anne is HIV positive. Seven years earlier, before blood screening was required, Anne received a transfusion to save her life, and the blood was tainted. Now Anne must deal with the inevitable progression of her condition. When an anonymous benefactor promises to grant a single wish with no strings attached, Anne decides to spend the summer on a ranch out west and live as normally as she possibly can. The summer seems even better than she dreamed, especially after she meets Morgan. But Anne hasn't confided in Morgan about her condition, and when her health begins to deteriorate, she suddenly leaves the ranch.

Is there time for Anne and Morgan to meet again?
This is kind of a weird book to write about, because HIV and AIDS diagnoses are SO DIFFERENT nowadays, you know? If a healthy New York girl with money tested positive for HIV these days, it'd be sad, obviously, but she wouldn't be looking at an automatic death sentence, just some life changes. Right? It's sort of like listening to Rent. Well, without the OH MY GOD WHY DID I EVER THINK BENNY WAS WRONG? feeling.

Anyways, I will try my best to keep all that in mind as I traverse the rocky shores of Sixteen and Dying. Especially warm thoughts about Benjamin Coffin the Third.

After looking at that, I hate to bring you guys down with bad graphic design, so just remember you can always scroll back up to feel better. I know that's what I'll be doing.

This is the newest cover:

You guys, is it just me, or is the position of that horse's head a little... dirty? Who the hell Photoshopped this, someone who just got fired from some horse fetish magazine? Also follow the guy's line of vision! OH MY GOD DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY. I mean, not that boobs are inherently dirty, I'm JUST SAYING.

My version has this cover:

Sorry, that is literally the largest picture I could find. It's not as great of a cover, I guess, though it isn't perverse, so there's THAT. The guy totally isn't as hot as he's supposed to be, but, whatever. He's dressed like a bunch of jackasses I went to high school with who apparently just couldn't get enough denim, whereas the other edition at least has the whole hot cowboy thing going on. Whatever, I can't believe I'm giving a fictional cowboy this much thought.

The particular copy I'm lucky enough to have (i.e. purchase for dirt cheap in a giant lot off of eBay) is hardcover, but not like with a slipcover or anything, nope, it's just printed on a hardcover. Also on the back there's this little seal that says ESPECIALLY FOR GIRLS which, just, WHAT? I mean, we've been over this a million times, how I hate uber-gendered stuff for kids, like, shouldn't we be offering unlimited reading possibilities (keeping in mind maturity/reading level) and not starting them out with this idea that boys are allowed some things while girls should be reading about dead girls and horses and shit? ARGH. I mean, not that I didn't do a lot of reading about dying gentle heroines and horses and yet STILL turn out, well, me. I'm JUST SAYING.

Oh man, and I OPENED the book and the inner binding (listen, people, I used Wikipedia, I can't figure out the term) is printed with an ESPECIALLY FOR GIRLS pattern. I am not kidding!

So the book opens with Anne and her dad at a dude ranch in Montana. Hey, does anyone else automatically have the same thought process whenever you hear about a dude ranch?:

There's all that really crappy exposition, no, not the kind where it's all "REMEMBER WE ARE HERE FOR THIS REASON AND THAT REASON" but the kind where it's all "it is amazing we are able to be here because of THAT THING and we are very depressed because of THAT OTHER THING" and I guess it's supposed to build suspense, but really I'm all JUST FUCKING SAY WHAT'S GOING ON PEOPLE.

I mean, good books use that technique all the time, to differing results, but, you know, seriously, this is just annoying.

Anne's dad is a professor at NYU. Awesome! What a nice change of pace to give a dude that kind of job and not, you know, some sort of manly-man occupation. Anne's dad isn't thrilled about being here, for a couple reasons. One, he's a New Yorker, the kind who fucking hates nature and all of that. Anne's dad, I feel your pain! I myself am not a New Yorker, but whenever people suggest I get in touch with nature I'm all LISTEN I LIVE NEAR A PARK ISN'T THAT ENOUGH SOME OF US HAPPEN TO LIKE LIVING WITHIN CIVILIZATION ALL RIGHT YOU KNOW WHAT I FIND RELAXING IS KNOWING SOMEONE WILL DELIVER THAI FOOD TO ME NIGHT AND DAY. Ahem. I've got his back here.

I've got his back about the other thing too. See, Anne has HIV. The doctors urged her to begin AZT treatment IMMEDIATELY but because of potential side effects she took her OLW letter and check to get a summer at a ranch. I seriously can't believe her dad let her make this decision. I mean, this is where I can't tell if we're talking about a seriously stupid life plan or datedness. If you know you're gonna die soon, no matter what, you probably want to make that wish of a lifetime happen before you're too sick to enjoy it. OR DEAD. That said, I feel like had she started the AZT before it progressed to full-blown AIDS (sorry to be such a spoiler queen this time around, kids, this book is just structured strangely to recap normally) she could have lived a lot longer. Yeah? Are AZT side effects bad enough to pick death instead?

Time, once again, to turn to Wikipedia:
Common side effects of AZT include nausea, headache, changes in body fat, and discoloration of fingernails and toenails. More severe side effects include anemia and bone marrow suppression, which can be overcome using erythropoietin or darbepoetin treatments. These unwanted side effects might be caused by the sensitivity of the γ-DNA polymerase in the cell mitochondria. AZT has been shown to work additively or synergistically with many anti-HIV agents; however, acyclovir and ribavirin decrease the antiviral effect of AZT. Drugs that inhibit hepatic glucuronidation, such as indomethacin, acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and trimethoprim, decrease the elimination rate and increase the toxicity. The side effects from AZT and its toxicity have been serious enough to warrant a black box warning from the FDA.
That black box warning part does sound pretty scary. That said, death sounds way worse.

When the book talks about the research Anne's dad did, they tell about this AMAZING COMPUTER LIBRARY he can access using "a modem, a special phone". Considering this book is from 1992, that's totally okay to write, but, ha! Remember those days, kids, back BEFORE WE ALL USED THE INTERNETS? What a sad, dark time.

While Anne's dad stresses out, Anne calms him by placing her hands on his chest. Kind of ewwww.

So Anne goes to check out the horses, and accidentally checks out the WILD HORSES instead of the TAME HORSES, and this dude Morgan totally reams her for being a STUPID TOURIST. Uh, Morgan, whether or not you hate tourists, since you work on a fucking tourist dude ranch, maybe you should try being a little nicer to them.

Then of course we get stuck with Morgan's POV. He hates Anne because obviously if she can afford the whole summer there she must be rich. I love that what we're supposed to take away from this isn't "wow, what a fucking awful way to judge someone" but "oh, no worries, Morgan, Anne isn't rich, she just got this bigass check BECAUSE SHE'S DYING!" What is with the Lurleneverse and the evilness of rich people? While, listen, I guess it's better than this current trend with, like, the Gossip Girl series and spinoffs where everyone's loaded and anyone lesser is seen as, like, morally-flawed, I'm not much into this outlook either.
The only thing that got to him about her was her large, expressive brown eyes, which appeared somehow sad. What could a rich girl from the East have to be sad about?
I liked that her location was thrown in there too. Man, those richies from NY, they are NEVER sad.

Anne's thinking about her sad predicament, how thanks to HIV even if she lived long enough, can't have kids, or even have sex. Then she says this beautiful line:
No sex didn't mean no love.
Meghan actually quoted this line to me to convince me to do this recap next. (Totes worked, obviously!) I mean, I agree? But I also think these books are really way too into sex being bad and eeeeevil. Plus lots of people with HIV enjoy full sex lives by practicing safe sex.

Anne runs into a girl who works there who's boohooing, named Marta Rodriguez. As you can tell from Marta's name, she likes to throw in Spanish words and she's from "the barrio" in L.A. Folks, I've never heard anyone around here refer to a part of town as the barrio, so I did a quick Google search to see if Lurlene was being racist. Right away I found out that Edward James Olmos grew up in the barrio here, so I guess I'll give Lurlene a pass here. Thank you, Edward James Olmos.

Anyway, Marta, who's known as Marti, is there because her parents made her. Her brother worked at the ranch two summers in a row and it saved him from his gang life. Okay then! Marti's boyfriend Peter Manterra is in a gang, so Marti's parents think she could stand to learn valuable dude ranch life lessons. Oh, fine. Marti says she misses her boyfriend like crazy but it is nice to be on the ranch because it's hot and mean in the barrio. East L.A. can get pretty brutal, so, again, FINE.

Marti also expositions that Morgan is the ranch owners' nephew, and that he's reckless.

Back in Morgan's brainskull, he thinks about Stacy Donner from SF who was a "rich debutante":
She'd toyed with him. He learned from the experience. Rich girls were fickle and not to be trusted.
Aw yeah, classism and sexism in one foul swoop. I hate you, Morgan.

So Morgan's trying to break in the wild horse Anne was checking out when she first got there. This is because Anne has an eye for horses! This makes Morgan think PERHAPS she's different than all the dumbass tourists. I hope I never have to work hard to impress someone like Morgan; the task seems frigging impossible. Have I mentioned? I HATE MORGAN.

One of the ranch workers named Skip has a thing for Marti and asks her on a picnic. Since her heart is with Peter Manterra, she asks Anne and Morgan to go along so it'll be less awkward. I never understand in books how making something a double date makes anything LESS awkward. Marti claims it'll be a real fiesta because this is TOTALLY how people who speak Spanish speak English.

Chapter Eight starts in maybe the creepiest ever, by the way:
Morgan began to watch Anne.
He stalks her to a church, and tells her about his Native American great-great-great grandmother, who converted to Christianity. I guess that means she's a good person then. Then Anne recites some Emily Dickenson to him. If you guys think this sounds hot, you need help.

So the kids finally have the picnic of awkward. Skip is, like, the most awkward person ever:
"I wasn't sure what everybody'd want to eat. I brought fried chicken, tortillas, burritos--do you like these things?" he asked.
DO YOU LIKE THESE THINGS? If someone ever asked me that I'd totally punch them in the face. Well, after making sure to get a burrito. Also, what are they doing with the tortillas? Did he just think, "well, I really wanna nail Marti, and she's from the barrio, so... I'll get some... tortillas? To impress her"? I hate it when people who don't understand food write about it. Also godDAMN am I hungry and would seriously like a burrito. If I didn't have work tomorrow, you guys, I would totally drive down to the taco stand. Also if I thought it was open at eleven on a Sunday night.

Marti gets all flirty with Skip, believe it or not:
"Everything Spanish is hot," Marti said with a flirtatious, sidelong glance toward Skip.
Um, Marti, actually, I think you're Mexican, not Spanish. To distract me from my head wanting to explode between Lurlene's cultural insensitivity and my deep longing for some Mexican eats, here's a little something the Spanish/Mexican snafu made me think of:

(While you guys were watching that, I totally just microwaved some enchiladas. Success!)

Anne and Morgan talk about their families. Anne's mother was British; she met Anne's dad when he was studying at Oxford. She died in an accident when Anne was little. (It was the same accident that required Anne to get a blood transfusion that ended up giving her HIV, by the way.) Morgan's dad is dead and his mom left. And he's not sayin' any more! Then Morgan tries to end the night early. Skip's all, dude, for serious? I'm totally screwing this girl who's either Spanish or Mexican! But Anne overhears Morgan say Anne's dad told him to leave Anne alone. Ruh roh! Anne's pissed. I would be too! I get where Anne's dad is coming from, but, geez, let your daughter make her own decisions. Or if you're that terrified about the possibilities of your daughter making ill-informed decisions about sex OR ANYTHING ELSE, maybe you should, I don't know, TALK TO HER. But I'm sorry, we're in the Lurleneverse. Like THAT would happen.

Anne confronts her dad (go Anne!) and he's all... weird:
"Anne, this type of attraction is a first for you. [How does he know that?] It's been a long time coming, but the time has arrived. [Hello, weird sentence, dude.] I've never seen you interested in a boy before, and it's... difficult for me."

. . .

"As your father," he said, "I've been both anticipating and dreading this day for years. The day when you'd meet a guy who saw you for the wonderful person you are. And wanted you in every way."

. . .

"I never wanted to think of you growing up and getting involved with any man... not even the one you marry and now...."
Um, fucking creepy, Anne's dad. I'm really glad I didn't go to NYU and therefore avoided you. And if that wasn't bad enough...:
First he lost her mother; now, he was losing her. Not in a normal way of giving her away in marriage. But to premature death.
Okay, "giving her away" in marriage is icky and gross, I'm sorry. If you actually think of your daughter as, like, your property to hand over to her husband, just, ugh. Also, considering that LOSING HER is ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. Seriously, I started out liking you, Anne's dad, and now I feel my feelings have changed. You, sir, are creepy with a capital creep.

Morgan and Anne are hanging out when she cuts her hand and begins to bleed. Understandably, she freaks and flees the scene. He's all, TF? Luckily she's fine. Soon after she goes shopping in town and finds this amaaaaaazing saddle, which she buys for Morgan with some of her OLW money.

There's a town rodeo, where Morgan gets thrown off a horse and is injured. But he's okay. Yay? Anne goes back with him to his cabin, where he asks her to spend the night. Whoa! Obviously she says no and leaves, which hurts his feelings. Dude, I know you don't realize she has HIV, but even so, girls are allowed to NOT WANT TO FUCK YOU. Argh.

The saddle shows up the next day, which is bad timing because Morgan's all YOU RICH GIRLS THINK YOU CAN BUY YOUR WAY OUT OF HURTING MY FEELINGS which, just, no, Morgan, NO. Shutttt uppppp.

Things get worse. Of course. Morgan's wild horse hurts its leg, and Morgan has to shoot it. Oh man, I'd fall apart. I hate sad stuff with animals, so I vote NO to this part of the book. Dying kids, sure, but please don't shoot hurt animals! Sniff.

Anyways, on top of that, Anne is worse, and has to go back to NYC to start on AZT. Bad timing, T-cells. She lets Marti know she's sick (though she doesn't say how badly and due to what) and asks her to tell Morgan.

Back in NYC, Anne has full-blown AIDS and is quite ill. Poor Anne! They have a volunteer nurse who helps out a lot; she does so because her own son died of AIDS. I like you, volunteer nurse. You deserve to be somewhere nicer than the Lurleneverse.

Morgan shows up! OMG! Anne is kind of freaked about her shitty appearance, but he doesn't seem to mind. Finally she is upfront with him; also he is upfront with her. His dad isn't dead, but in a hospital in St. Louis (shoutout to my hometown represent!) dying from Huntington's Chorea. By the way, this was when I realized I'd already read this book. Huntington's is seriously THE WORST UGH. For those of you who don't know of it, Huntington's is a neurological disorder that first displays as jerky movements, but eventually renders a person pretty much unable to function and their brain totally gone to mush. Sad, sad, sad. It's always fatal.

Morgan hangs around NYC on a long-term basis, and he and Anne spend lots of time together. He asks her if she hadn't had HIV if she would have spent the night with him, and she says no, because she wants wearing white on her wedding dress to MEAN SOMETHING. Ugh! I hate all this virgin worship. I'd hate it a lot less if the focus wasn't so much on purity of young ladies alone. Guess guys are free to screw whatever whores they want! Also, seriously, no one looks good in white. It is NOT slimming. PRIORITIES!

Anne does research on her dad's computer about Huntington's, and learns there's a test. Aw, man, you guys, do you remember on Everwood where Hannah had to decide whether or not to take the test since her dad had Huntington's? Broke my goddamn heart, oh, Hannah! If only you were in this book and not frigging Morgan.

Anyways, Morgan says he knows of the test, and isn't interested in taking it. Even though Morgan is being sort of stupid about this, it is way more complicated than Anne's acting. Listen, I paid attention during Everwood! You have to go through all this psychological testing to prove you can handle getting the results if they're bad. I mean, finding out you're going to get a terrible fatal disease at some point in your life is not something you can just tell everyone. You know? Though I guess when you're sixteen and dying of AIDS, you're pretty much like JUST GET OVER IT YOU IDIOT.

So Anne dies, of course, and is buried in this Native American wedding dress Morgan had given her for Christmas. Uh, inappropriate? She left Morgan a check to cover the cost of testing. The thought's nice, Anne, but I have a very hard time believing Morgan's gonna even make it through the psychological portion of that process.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Money Can't Bring Back Your Dead Friend but it'll Make Your Life Way Better, or One Last Wish: a Time to Die

The One Last Wish series came in second in the poll of what you guys wanted me to recap, and I was grateful for some time away from Dawn friggin' Rochelle. So off we go! By the way, whenever I hear "one last wish" I think of that song "One Last Kiss" from Bye Bye Birdie, which, really, subconscious? That's where you go?

I don't really think the series needs an introduction; the first few books didn't need to be read in any sort of order, and I'm pretty sure this was the first or one of the first anyways, so we'll be set. Let us, gentle readers, embark on a journey together, a journey to discover a Time to Die (published 1992).

What wonders await us?:
Sixteen-year-old Kara Fischer has cystic fibrosis and only months to live. But the close-knit bond she develops with Vince, who also has the disease, helps her come to terms with her own illness. Given one last wish, Kara wonders if miracles could really happen.
Wow, really, marketing team? That is all you could come up with? I see my work's cut out for me.

Amazon features some leafy new cover I've never seen before:

I guess the time to die is autumn!

Luckily a sweet reader sent their own image to Amazon of the cover I remember:

The weird thing about the One Last Wish books is, basically, going into them you know the person's going to die. There's no mystery there! It's a weird premise for YA books, yeah? Rows and rows of dying kids, whee! Oh, Lurlene, your ways do fascinate me.

(Then again, I probably spend as much time writing ABOUT these books as she does writing them, so maybe I'm the one whose ways should be examined.)

So Kara has cystic fibrosis, a disease we have not yet encountered in the Lurleneverse! There was some book I read a bunch growing up about a girl with CF, because I was totally that child who loved reading endlessly about kids with diseases, but if you weren't a devoted reader of afflictions, let me tell you what Wikipedia has to tell us about it:
Cystic fibrosis (also known as CF, mucoviscoidosis, or mucoviscidosis) is a hereditary disease that affects mainly the exocrine (mucus) glands of the lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines, causing progressive disability due to multisystem failure.

Thick mucus production, as well as a less competent immune system, results in frequent lung infections. Diminished secretion of pancreatic enzymes is the main cause of poor growth, fatty diarrhea and deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins. Males can be infertile due to the condition congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens. Often, symptoms of CF appear in infancy and childhood. Meconium ileus is a typical finding in newborn babies with CF.

Individuals with cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed prior to birth by genetic testing. Newborn screening tests are increasingly common and effective. The diagnosis of CF may be confirmed if high levels of salt are found during a sweat test, although some false positives may occur.

There is no cure for CF, and most individuals with cystic fibrosis die young: many in their 20s and 30s from lung failure. However, with the continuous introduction of many new treatments, the life expectancy of a person with CF is increasing to ages as high as 40 or 50. Lung transplantation is often necessary as CF worsens.

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common life-shortening, childhood-onset inherited diseases. In the United States, 1 in 3900 children are born with CF.
That sounds craptastic, doesn't it? Sorry, Kara, if I didn't already feel bad for you knowing you're in a book within the ONE LAST WISH series, this would put me over the edge.

By the way, when I was thirteen, I totally wrote a book about a girl named Kara (or Cara), though she didn't have CF, but her boyfriend sort of RANDOMLY DIED. His name was Johnny because I was really into Cry-Baby at the time. Of all the crap books I wrote back then, I think it topped out as the worst, though - believe it or not - it was my ongoing project for G&T. I KNOW! Anyways, the name Kara never fails to remind me of that terrible, terrible story. Also Johnny Depp.

So Kara is just getting out of the hospital after recovering from an infection. She has a supercool therapist, Christy, who administers some of the painful treatments that have to be done several times a day to keep her lungs clear. I totally remember that from that other CF book!! I wonder what that book was. If any of you have any ideas, feel free to tell me.

Kara's got this dude friend named Vince, who's her age and goes to her school and also has CF. Vince is supposed to be really great, always being sweet to her and visiting her and blah blah blah, but I just think Vince is vaguely creepy. I mean, this could just be me; a lot of the so-called romantic stuff in books and rom-coms wigs me out, though I know I totes ate it up as a kid.

Kara's thinking about all the treatments and mucus, and says to herself CF was so gross which, seriously, is one of the most realistic reactions to one's disease within the Lurleneverse I've ever heard. Don't worry, guys, it won't stay realistic and hurt your brain TOO much. Promise.

Christy's brother's moving to town because he had trouble getting along with their parents. His name's Eric and he'll be going to the same high school as Kara, so she asks Kara to show him around. Kara wants to know how she'll recognize him, so Christy shows her a picture. Of course he's a total hottie. I'll be straight with you guys, this is totally the kind of situation the mind of young Ames dreamed of. Instant hottie boyfriend!

Of course Kara tracks Eric down. And does Eric like moving from Houston to Nashville?:
"I've only been here four days. I haven't seen too much of the city. There are more hills than in Texas, and it's a lot greener, too." His gaze skimmed over her body. "Girls here are pretty, and so far, I like what I see."

So Eric offers to give Kara a ride home, and she asks:
"You have a horse, or a car?"
Kara, that is the worst flirting I've ever, ever heard.

So unfortunately we get some of Eric's POV. He is super into Kara:
She was such a beautiful girl--blond with large brown eyes that totally dominated her elfin face She was petite, like a little doll, even if she was a bit thin.
For the first time all afternoon, he wondered why Christy worked with Kara. The pretty blond girl looked perfectly fine to him. More than fine.

"I'm glad the two of you met. She liked you."

The information pleased him. "She's one sweet babe," Eric said candidly. "A very sweet babe."

Christy had started for the kitchen, but turned on him the moment the comment was out of his mouth. "You be nice to her, Eric. She's not one of your silly bimbos."

Taken aback, Eric stared. "What are you talking about? 'My bimbos'?"

"Mom and Dad told me you were running with some pretty wild kids back home. They said some of your girlfriends weren't exactly high-quality. Kara's not that type."
Okay, so now I hate Eric, Christy, AND their parents.

Christy explains to Eric that Kara has CF. He's a bit grossed out:
Already, Eric disliked the description. Who wanted to think about body fluids?
I thought teenage guys were alllll about body fluids actually!

So apparently Kara's mom used to be super overprotective, but a therapist helped her get all straightened out, and she even convinced her to take a full-time job, so Kara's mom is actually a big ad agency wiz! Wow! A working mom who did the right thing by BECOMING a working mom! I'm impressed, Lurlene. And Kara's mom! Go you!
Kara casually mentioned Eric. "Any brother of Christy's must be a fine young man. I'd like to meet him."

Kara couldn't think of anything she'd rather not have happen. Both her parents would probably sit Eric down and grill him like a cheese sandwich.

So now that Eric knows about Kara's CF, he totes blows her off. Way to go, dumbass! I mean, okay, I guess if I was a teenager it might be sort of scary to find that out about a person you were interested in, but, man, Eric, way to be a jerk.

Luckily Vince is well enough to also be back at school, so at least Kara has him and her BFF Elyse to hang out with. There's some sort of Fall Festival thing the school does, where Vince is going to run the haunted house. He offers to let Kara help:
"The count must leave you now, my dear." He mimicked the accent of Hollywood's best vampires.
The phrase "Hollywood's best vampires" hurts my brain so much I have to stop thinking about it.

Eric notices Vince at school:
When [Vince] smiled, Eric saw white, straight teeth, and decided that some girls might think the guy good-looking.
Wow, Eric, what a bizarro way to phrase that. Listen, buddy, there's nothing wrong with one man noticing how good-looking another man is.

Kara, who's an artist, actually ends up doing face-painting at the Fall thing, and Eric finally approaches her, and he wants a dragon painted on his face, like it's some badass move. Dude, I don't care if you get the devil in a fistfight with Shaft painted on your face, it's fucking FACE-PAINTING and there's nothing badass about it. Hate to break it to you!

Of course Kara falls for it, though, and they end up dancing at the... dance portion of the evening. Eric questions what's going on between her and Vince, and she tries to explain they're just friends. Considering Vince is always hanging on her and telling her how hot she is, I don't exactly blame Eric for asking. That said, Eric, you've been hiding away and getting your fucking face painted, so I don't know why you're suddenly all deserving of answers.

Vince appears to take Kara home, which is a bit HEY JEALOUSY but he also knows Kara doesn't have the strength for a big night out, so he takes her home. Unfortunately, it's not just that she's tired, it's that an infection has flared up. Oh noes! Back in the hospital she goes. Man, CF is a friggin' pain.

While in the hospital, Kara gets a letter. THE letter, you guys. Since it's the first OLW book I'm covering, I will go ahead and type the whole damn thing:
Dear Kara,

You don't know me, but I know about you and because I do I want to give you a special gift. Accompanying this letter is a certified check, my gift to you with no strings attached to spend on anything you want. No one knows about this gift except you, and you are free to tell anyone you want.

Who I am isn't really important, only that you and I have much in common. Through no fault of our own we have endured pain and isolation and have spent many days in a hospital feeling lonely and scared. I hoped for a miracle, but most of all I hoped for someone to truly understand what I was going through.

I can't make you live longer. I can't stop you from hurting, but I can give you one wish as someone did for me. My wish helped me find purpose, faith, and courage.

Friendship reaches beyond time and the true miracle is in giving, not receiving. Use my gift to fulfill your wish.

Your forever friend,
Enclosed with the letter is a check for $100,000. Holy shit! You guys, how friggin' crazy would that be? CRAZY! I have no idea what I'd do if I ever got a letter like that. I mean, obviously unless I bend the wibbly-wobbly rules of time and space I will never be a dying teenager, but I'm just saying! It's so nutso and random!

Kara doesn't tell everyone in the world about the check, like I probably would. By then my Facebook status would totes read Ames is in possession of a check for $100k OMG YOU GUYS!

Eric sees Vince working out at the gym:
Eric could see how Vince's upper body was developing through the course of his workouts.
Man, Eric is so friggin' in love with Vince!

Vince actually confronts Eric about his never being around Kara since she went in the hospital, so Eric pushes himself to do so. Good boy, Eric. Of course you'd do anything Vince asked you to!

Kara gets to go home for Thanksgiving, with the order that she has to return to the hospital after the weekend. On Friday night Eric comes over, and they go out, where they smooch a little, which, well, fine, it's nice. At least Kara's getting in some kissing before the big death.

Vince comes by too, of course:
Vince came every day after school, sat by her bed and read to her, passages from the Bible, poetry, magazine articles, novels. If he came to an especially sexy passage, he'd stop and joke, "Now, turn your thumb down if you think your modesty can't take this."
I have to admit I seriously was all "SEXY PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE??" Man, I would have paid more attention during those seven grueling years of Catholic school, if only I'd known! Seriously, though, what the hell is Vince reading?!

So Kara goes back into the hospital and dies, big shocker. Eric can't bring himself to go to her funeral, of course, and of course Vince has to ream him for this when he runs into him visiting Kara's tombstone.

Oh, and I bet you're wanting to know about that last wish, right? Kara's parents invite over Christy, Eric, Elyse, and Vince. Kara has plans for all of them. Christy is to take her share of the money and start medical school. Eric is to get his beat up old car restored. Elyse should go on a shopping spree. Vince should buy a home gym (probably to shield him from the lustful eyes of Eric). Wow, was that anticlimactic for anyone else?

Then Eric and Vince decide to be friends. I bet Eric's gonna be using Vince's home gym, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

RSS = Really Sucky Syndication?

My lovable friends Kristy and Stacey have informed me that the RSS feed Stacey set up for LiveJournal is completely borked. Argh! It turns out my recaps are too long for the delicate nature of the feed.

I don't really know how to handle this; unfortunately Blogger doesn't offer a way to "cut" the entries at present, so it's either write less (all those who know me have got to be having a hearty chuckle over that) or move to another blogging provider, which I am seriously just not up to doing anytime soon.

So for now, I suggest if you read this blog via an RSS feed, check in occasionally here so, like Kristy, you don't miss a month's worth of entries.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Camp is just another word for impending death, or So Much to Live For

Are you guys crazy? I put up a poll, offering you a way out of the boring-ass Dawn Rochelle series we're stuck in the midst of, and YOU VOTE FOR MORE DAWN ROCHELLE? All right, I like to give the people what the people want, so here we are, you fools, in for another snorefest, with So Much to Live For (1991). Man, even the titles get more and more boring!

I want you guys to know I'm camped out in a coffeeshop working on this (among other things), which means I have this volume of the first four Dawn Rochelle books OUT IN PUBLIC. Which means I'm probably going to run into an old coworker or the future love of my life or whatever. All for the sake of this blog, people. I hope you see that this is the extent of my devotion: INFINITY.

Do you want to know what it's about? Oh, fine!:
Dawn Rochelle is fifteen, and the leukemia she's been fighting for the past two years is in remission again, after a successful bone marrow transplant from her brother. This summer Dawn has agreed to work as a camp counselor for younger kids with cancer. It's the same camp that she attended with her best friend, Sandy, just before Sandy died. Dawn knows that the kids need her, but being at the camp brings back painful memories. Since Dawn has so much to live for now, wouldn't it be better to just forget about everything connected with cancer?
Man, don't turn your back on cancer, Dawn Rochelle! It's sort of the only thing that's interesting about you.

Walk with me, if you will, through cover history:

Not to SPOIL YOU GUYS or anything, but Dawn Rochelle's the one takin' care this time, not the sick kid in bed with a teddy bear. As you can see, Dawn Rochelle has still yet to discover the joys of conditioner.

Commenter chaos_butterfly thinks the cover model for these editions of the Dawn Rochelle books is Amber Valleto:

Chaos_butterfly, I think you're right! Aw, Amber, you're cute. Remember when teen actors had actual, you know, body fat and stuff? I miss those days.

Here's the next edition:

Is it just me, or does Dawn Rochelle's right shoulder just fade right off into the distance? Was that a side effect of the cancer, or the chemo? THE HELL?

Lastly we arrive at this:

I guess this one's classy too. Man, why does Dawn Rochelle warrant such classy-ass design? Dawn Rochelle, both as a character and a book franchise, sort of reminds me of those boring-ass girls you meet who for some reason land, like, a hot and talented and nice guy and a killer job and all these amazing friends, and yet you have never glimpsed much of a personality within her. Sorry, D.R., I'm just calling it like I see it.

So the book opens all heavy exposition with Rob taking our not-so-intrepid heroine Dawn Rochelle to cancer camp, except this time she's a counselor! Well, a counselor in TRAINING. Also Dawn Rochelle is now fifteen, and she's still in remission! WOO HOO! Wonder how long THAT'll last. Two more books, Dawn Rochelle, two more books.

Oh, also Rob is dating Dawn Rochelle's old nurse Katie. Whatever, she can't be worse than Darcy, whose problems all stemmed from her amassed wealth. I hope Katie likes sexist jackholes! At least she isn't rich, though, so we know SHE's okay.

Rob's all stupid, not knowing why Dawn Rochelle's stressed, and she says it's because she never knows who'll be back at camp. Rob is so fucking dense, all WELL SOMETIMES PEOPLE MOVE OR DON'T WANT TO GO TO CAMP AGAIN and poor Dawn Rochelle has to actually GO THERE and be all THIS IS A CANCER CAMP DUMBASS. How I wish that was an actual quote. At least the fuckwit has the sense to apologize.

Oh also, apparently now Dawn Rochelle's hair has grown past her shoulders. Seriously IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? You guys who see me on a regular basis know how much friggin' time it's taken for my hair to grow past my shoulders, and, seriously, I did NOT start off bald! I don't know why I've gotten something in my craw over this one fucking detail, but it makes me insane!

By the way, I know I haven't mentioned this yet, but since it's now happened IN EACH BOOK I should also mention that the camp reenacts something with "indians" where kids dress up in Native American garb, and I know this book was published in the early 1990s, and as far as I know my high school's mascot is STILL the Indians so I guess expecting this brand of cultural sensitivity is just too much.

Dawn Rochelle notices a hot blond guy who's all FAMILIAR, and it turns out he's her dead best friend Sandy's brother! His name's Brent! Brent and Dawn Rochelle discuss the sadness and tragedy that is Sandy's untimely death, and Dawn Rochelle also mentions her concerns her leukemia could come back. Brent isn't worried, and uses this opportunity for a line:
"Well, you sure look healthy right now."
!!! Dude, Brent, now THAT is a line.

So Dawn Rochelle gets her cabin all ready for her campers, and goes off to find them. She collects them all except for a girl named Marlee, so they head back to the cabin. When they get there, Dawn Rochelle's bed's all demolished with her crap thrown everywhere, while a partially-bald girl lies in the bed all YEAH I TOOK YOUR SPOT. Of course this is Marlee, and she's TROUBLE. Also SHE HAS A GLASS EYE!! This is because cancer got her old eye. Ew, creepy. I used to be this huge hypochondriac actually, and whenever my vision would be sort of weird I'd be convinced I had cancer of the eyeball (or a brain tumor). Turned out I just needed glasses, thank you eye doctor! Way better outcome for me. Oh, sorry, this isn't about me, it's about Marlee. Marlee's a beotch! Also she's sort of ugly. You guys ever notice that in bad Y.A. from yesteryear, being ugly (or fat) is about the only thing worse than being rich? I guess nowadays you can substitute "poor" for "rich" but otherwise reach the same conclusion.

Oh, also, you guys, Marlee's last name is HODGES. When I read that I was laughing aloud and making jokes to myself like "with a name like Hodges it has to be Hodgkin's lymphoma" which, I know, bad joke, but OH MY GOD MARLEE TOTALLY HAS NON-HODGKIN'S LYMPHOMA. SHE HAS THE DISEASE OF HER LAST NAME! Do you think Lurlene even realized that? Also it sort of reminds me that my dad used to make jokes about getting donation money from the charity organizations for the disease that shared his initials, and then he got diagnosed with it years later! He was all I WAS TOTALLY ASKING FOR THAT WASN'T I!

Other Marlee details: her parents are dead, and she lives with her elderly sickly grandma in Columbus, Ohio, which is coincidentally the same place Dawn Rochelle lives. Of course it is. Anyways, the head of camp, Dr. Ben, tells Dawn Rochelle to be extra understanding to Marlee, with the dead parents and the cancer and all. I'll take his side on the dead parents, but don't all these kids have cancer? Whatever, it's a shit deal, and I think a lot of NORMAL kids would rightfully be pretty pissed about it; not everyone is full of virtue and acceptance like the Lurleneverse's heroines.

So Dawn is trying to be nice to Marlee, but Marlee's totally a wench, and the other campers are over her already:
"Forget it," Paige said. "She tripped me when we were coming down the trail."

Dawn stared at the one-armed girl. "Are you sure? Maybe it was an accident."
Step #1 in being sensitive to your cancer camp campers: thinking of them in terms such as "the one-armed girl". Way to go, Dawn Rochelle! Also "the one-armed girl" totally makes me think of, like, a teen remake of the Fugitive. While that's a terrible idea, it's probably not a worse one than this book! OH SNAP.

So the camp session goes on, with Marlee being heinous, and Brent bein' all flirrrrty, and, seriously, I used to LOVE books about camp. Like one of my favorite Babysitters Club super specials was totally number two where they went away to summer camp and were counselors in training JUST LIKE DAWN ROCHELLE (or, the case of Mallory and Jessi, JUNIOR counselors in training because there was nothing in the world Mallory and Jessi couldn't figure out a way to junior themselves into, like, if Mallory and Jessi ever got to tour Washington, DC, you guys, we'd be looking at two junior presidents). I went to sleepaway camp three times when I was really little, three summers in a row, and then when I got older I logged in countless hours at gifted camp. So if I find a camp book boring, I'm just saying, you've got to know how much I must mean that.

Dawn Rochelle and Brent go to the camp's Fifties dance together, which, hey! Why don't we ever have Fifties dances? I have a pretty fantastic dress OR FIVE for a Fifties dance. Anyways, Dawn Rochelle and Brent ALMOST kiss, but they get interrupted by the campers. Ruh roh! Wacky camp hijinks! I WISH.

Dawn Rochelle and the other campers teach Marlee to put on makeup and cute clothes, which makes her slightly nicer, which... ARGH! As much as I love a good makeover scene, this one is just a little tough for me to swallow. It's, like, couldn't Marlee become a more trusting person due to forces beyond mascara and whatever the kids were wearing back in 1991? (Consulting my eighth and ninth grade memories, I am guessing there was some tightrolling involved.)

So the girls all go home... AT THE END OF THE WEEK. What? Seriously? One friggin' week? From the way these books are written, I figured camp was at least a month-long affair. I mean, I know when you're a kid and you're off at camp planning pranks and crushing on boys and taking crappy short showers, a week is a bizarrely long time, but the books just seem kind of confused on the length of time. Whatever, it's not like I wanted them to be there any longer. I am confused why at the beginning of the book Dawn Rochelle was all I COULD SKIP CAMP AND JUST WORK AT MY FRIEND RHONDA'S DAD'S ICE CREAM PARLOR when, uh, didn't it just delay it A WEEK? WTF! Also she gets to work there when she gets home anyways! So what did it friggin' matter, D.R.?

Oh, and right before they part ways, Dawn Rochelle and Brent FINALLY get their kiss:
His arms slipped around her waist, and her arms entwined around his neck. Dawn felt herself rise onto her toes and her chin lift. [That is a terribly constructed sentence.] They stood on the porch wrapped in the sound of summer rain, his kiss resting like soft petals on her lips.
Oh, man, you guys, so Dawn Rochelle and Rhonda are hanging out once Dawn Rochelle's home, and THIS happens:
Dawn squealed and threw a pillow at her friend. Together, laughing and tickling, they tumbled to the floor like playful kittens.
PLAYFUL KITTENS OH MY GOD! This is the gayest scene EVER.

Also, if you guys have seen Shortbus, there's this amazing scene involving a remote control vibrator, and all the settings were made up specifically for the movie, and one, I SWEAR, was "playful kitten".

But Dawn Rochelle's ice cream fun and sexual orientation experimentation doesn't last long: Marlee's in the hospital and she needs Dawn Rochelle! Even though it's tough for her, Dawn Rochelle braves the cancer ward to see Marlee and be around for her.

So Marlee's all YAY EVEN THOUGH I HAVE A TUMOR I DON'T HAVE TO HAVE SURGERY OR CHEMO, ONLY RADIATION, ALSO I HAVE MY OWN MORPHINE PUMP like, dude, Marlee, clearly YOU ARE GOING TO DIE but Marlee's grandmother doesn't want her to know. ARGH.

Dawn Rochelle quits her ice cream job to spend as much time as she can with Marlee. Rhonda isn't happy about that:
"Well, I think it's weird and creepy to hang around someone who's dying."
That's big of you, Rhonda, really big. Shut uppppp. Oh, no, actually Rhonda is just reminded of Dawn Rochelle's own precarious health, and it makes her sad to think about the possibility of losing Dawn Rochelle. Aw, Rhonda, that's sweet, and totally the sort of misplaced passive-aggression I myself have employed. I'm back on your side, just as long as I don't have to wrestle you like a playful kitten.

Marlee slips into a coma and dies. Dawn Rochelle is sad, but knows at least she can go on with life, and knows to appreciate it. LIFE IS A GIFT! she tells herself.

AND THAT IS THE BOOK. Seriously, you guys, that was the whole fucking plot. How is that even possible? Picture all the unpublished writers you know, slaving over their manuscripts, crying tears of frustration as they slap their words into cohesive plots. And know that those delightful writers waste away in poverty while Lurlene somehow passes these D.R. tomes off as COMPLETE BOOKS.

Two more books to go, Dawn Rochelle, sadly we're not done with each other yet. You playful kitten, you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thanks, subconscious.

Last night I actually had a dream I was in a bookstore and there was an impromptu Lurlene autograph session/new book release. The book was in this fancy display box and cost me way too much of my [hypothetical dream] money. Also it was for adults or something? All the other people in line were like old business dudes. If that's ever Lurlene's core audience I will look around for flying pigs. Also Lurlene wasn't friendly, so I guess she had an inkling I was the one behind this blog?

Man, you guys, I was happy to wake up, because it sort of made me sad she wasn't nice to me in a kooky aunt sort of way. I hope none of the rest of you have had the Lurleneverse invade your unconscious.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I want a plot, or I Want to Live

Today we arrive at the sequel to Six Months to Live, I Want to Live (published 1987). While this title isn't one that's gonna grab you and hold on, at least it's NOT A LIE.

You know, normally with companion novels, EVEN LURLENE'S, I'm sort of anxious to find out what's up with our trusty gang. Honestly, this time? I'm really not. How did Dawn Rochelle get five freaking books? She is the most boring protag we've met so far.

So what's book two about? Hold onto your wigs and keys, folks, you won't be shocked at all!:
Dawn Rochelle has just turned fourteen, and her cancer has been in remission for almost a year.

This summer, as she helps prepare for her brother's wedding and goes to camp, her life seems almost normal again.

But when Dawn returns home from camp, she's suddenly tired all the time. Her latest test results show that the worst has happened: Her leukemia is no longer in remission. Dawn must receive a bone marrow transplant from her brother. Even with the transplant, she only has a fifty-percent chance of survival. Will Dawn live to celebrate her fifteenth birthday?
Considering we've got three more books to go, I bet she will!

Shall we take a stroll through cover history?

I'm with snappleaddict, who in the comments wished she could have just handed Dawn Rochelle a bottle of conditioner. Geez, Dawn Rochelle, take care of your hair and it'll take care of you. I mean, oops, besides all that chemo stuff. Also, really, your hair grew out this much yet? That seems unlikely.

Next up we got this one, and I'm sorry that this was literally the largest photo I could find:

This Dawn Rochelle looks pretty cute; I think it's actually the same girl as on the first version of this printing. Hurrah for consistency!

Also, seriously, this book has gotten more reprintings than any Lurlene's written. I'm guessing because it was where her leukemia legacy began that it became this HUGE THING but it's weird looking back now. I mean, as riddled with creepiness as it is, give me Too Young to Die any day. But I guess this book being about a younger girl makes it hotter with the young ones? I seriously have no idea.

Boring, but uber tasteful! I guess that's... something.

And lastly:

Weirdly enough, take out the teddy bear, and I'm all "aw, where's the teddy bear?" And, again with the LURLENE McDANIEL PRESENTS A VERY SPECIAL DAWN ROCHELLE BOOK. Um, or something.

This book also has an amazing opening:
The one thing that Dawn Rochelle remembered most about her fourteenth birthday was that she was still alive.
Dawn Rochelle writes in her diary because:
She'd learned about keeping a diary from Sandy. She often felt that if she died, the diary was something special and personal her parents could keep.
WAIT WHAT? That's the weirdest reason EVER to keep a diary. I mean, I can see writing down things if one had battled a terminal illness, but, really, the crap about wanting to kiss boys and such? That's just weird, Dawn Rochelle.

Dawn Rochelle's sort-of friend Rhonda comes over and gives her a birthday gift, but clearly it's just to scope out Dawn Rochelle's hottie brother Rob Rochelle. At least Rhonda is sort of nice. I guess. They commiserate about not having any interested boys:
"I'm too young for all the neat guys," Rhonda complained.

Dawn understood Rhonda's complaint. "Tell me about it. Who's interested in a fourteen-year-old with..." she stopped, feeling her cheeks burn. "...with no curves and bumps [BUMPS??] in the right places." [WHAT ARE THE RIGHT PLACES FOR BUMPS?] With cancer, her brain said.
I know she means boobs but WTF!!! "Bumps" just make me think of tumors. Thanks, Dawn Rochelle. I think you just have cancer on the brain. This, of course, is different than cancer OF the brain.

Rob DOES come home, though, and is mighty creepy:
"You're turning into a very pretty young lady."

She blushed and pushed away from him. "Oh, come on."

"You doubt the word of a man who's personally surveyed hundreds of girls?"
WTF "personally surveyed"??? I hope he's served hundreds of restraining orders!

Rob takes Dawn to her clinic check-up, because he wants to be a part of that side of her life. I guess that's pretty nice, for a surveyor. A few days later, Rob's ladyfriend Darcy Collins comes over, and she's all perfectly-looking and rich, so of course we should all worry right away. I think Jory Delaney is the only nice rich person who's lived in the Lurleneverse. Oh! There's Neil! Okay. That's TWO.

Darcy studies journalism, and wants to work on-camera. Rob thinks that's a great idea:
"Don't you think she'd make a great sportscaster? All the men would tune in just to watch her read the scores."

Darcy punched Rob [yay!] playfully [boo!]. "I'd like to think they'd tune in because of my ability, not my looks."

"With your looks, who needs ability?"
OH MY GOD SHUT UP ROB ROCHELLE! I'm sentencing you to get your ass kicked by a bunch of tough-ass feminists.

So of course Rob and Darcy are getting married, because that's what twenty year olds do! Dawn Rochelle's reaction makes me worry about the effects of chemo on her brain:
"That means I'll be an aunt."
Dawn Rochelle's parents are worried that Rob won't be able to support Darcy, but he assures them with his PART-TIME JOB at a menswear store they'll be fine. WHAT! When I was in college I worked a full-time job and STILL had to live with my parents, how on earth can someone support themselves and a spouse ENTIRELY off of a freaking PART-TIME income? And retail at that! What the hell kind of tips is Rob picking up?

So Darcy asks Dawn Rochelle to be in the wedding, but Dawn Rochelle doesn't feel like Darcy actually wants her in it, since she's all cancerous and whatever. I feel sort of bad for Dawn Rochelle, but Darcy's not doing anything wrong except existing in perfection. Sadly, I've hated people for less.

It's the last day of school! Okay! I can't keep track of time in these books! Dawn Rochelle runs into hottie crush Jake Macka, who is unfortunately moving to Cincinnati. Jake's all happy her hair's growing long again. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? I've been growing my hair out for, like, a year now, and it's just STARTING to be long, and I started with, ya know, a short bob, NOT BALDNESS. Creepily enough, looks like Jake's a future hair-fucker:
Jake's voice dropped, and she had to lean forward to catch his next words. "I sometimes wanted to touch it to see if it was as soft as it looked."

Dawn thought her heart would hammer through her chest. Her mouth went dry. "You can touch it now. I mean, since you're moving and all, and I'll never see you again. I don't mind if you touch it."

Jake's hand rose and he caught the ends of her hair in the tips of his fingers. ["IN" the tips of his fingers?? HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? EW.] "I was right. It is soft."
Girls of Cincinnati: be warned!

Dawn Rochelle heads off to cancer camp. Rock and roll! She runs into Mike, the one who'd been all into Sandy the year before. Greg, the one who'd been AS YOU MIGHT REMEMBER both BEAU AND BROTHER to Dawn Rochelle, got a swimming scholarship to UCLA and is already in training. D.R. and Mike totes have fun, though this is no love connection. I am always so happy in YA books when it's not all LOVE THIS LOVE THAT so, um, good going, Lurlene?

When Dawn Rochelle gets home from camp, she's not feeling great. Oh noes! She's totes in denial, but a doctor hands over the bad news: NO MORE REMISSION. Agh! Poor Dawn Rochelle! She needs to have a bone marrow transplant, and luckily Rob is a suitable donor. Dawn Rochelle isn't sure she wants to go through all of it, so she thinks it over, finally declaring the titular I WANT TO LIVE! Remember, Dawn, you've got three more books, I bet you will!

Darcy's being a major wench, all WILL YOUR OPERATION AFFECT THE WEDDING? which, uh, PRIORITIES, Darcy! I hate you! It's a good thing you're engaged to a total jackhole; what a match made in Lurleneverse Heaven.

Dawn Rochelle gets better and worse, lather, rinse, repeat. Rob is totes frustrated!:
"I hate it! First, hope. Then, no hope. Then, hope again. And now...."
Man, don't you guys see what Darcy sees in him? He's soooo eloquent.

Actually, Rob confides in Dawn Rochelle's nurse that HE AND DARCY TOTALLY BROKE UP. Whoa! I mean, I would have said I saw it coming because Darcy's such a wench, but considering all his sexist joking, I figured it was meant to be. I guess only RICH awful people get punished in the Lurleneverse.

Rob goes back in to talk to Dawn Rochelle, who is sort of fading in and out AND SHE TOTALLY FLATLINES. We're in Rob's POV now and he's totally flashing back to all his SIGNIFICANT DAWN ROCHELLE MOMENTS. Luckily, they're able to bring Dawn Rochelle back, whew. Wouldn't it have sucked if the next three books were from Rob's POV? She's all WHERE WAS I WHERE DID YOU BRING ME BACK FROM and they're all DEATH which, um, okay, sort of! Hello, people, I've watched plenty of medical dramas in my day, flatlining isn't THAT big of a deal anymore. Whatever, I know this is an eighties book; things were definitely different then. For one thing, we hadn't logged hours of House MD!

And... that's it! That was literally THE ENTIRE PLOT. If you feel a bit ripped off, you are not alone, my friend. And this is as good a time as any to ponder why Lurlene's heroines almost always leave remission. All I hear about childhood leukemia is that the survival rate over five years is something like eighty-five percent, right? Sorry, why am I trying to introduce reality? I just never, ever learn!

Seriously, how did Dawn Rochelle, OF ALL PROTAGS, score FIVE FRIGGIN' BOOKS? Let's hope her next tome has one of those things I like to call a plot.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Site Business

Thanks to one of my very favorite sites, the Dairi Burger, for linking here, and welcome to all the new readers. Seriously, to get through the Lurleneverse, it's good for all of us to hold one another and make our way together!

And in good news for me, bad news for you guys, I did receive a job offer, which means I will have a bit less time than during this beautiful month of March where it was always okay staying up into the wee hours of the night blogging my way through book after offensive book. But no worries, I'm dedicated! I will get you guys through the entire Lurleneverse IF IT KILLS ME*.

*Not really. But I'm gonna keep blogging!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sex is the worst thing you can do, just beyond showing your stomach, or Prey

Ever since I heard about Prey (published 2008), Lurlene's newest book, I have been dying/terrified to read it. The other day I met up with my book biz friend Kristy, who presented me with a copy, an act I'm assuming was the first time Kristy saw anyone accept such a gift with so much gleeful enthusiasm. Thanks again, Kristy!

I have so much to say here, so let's just jump right into the synopsis so you guys know why I was so ready/not prepared in the least:
A teacher is supposed to impart a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge. It’s a bit different with Ms. Lori Settles. All the kids are talking about how hot she is–and she is especially interested in Ryan Piccoli. When she starts giving Ryan extra attention, he’s feeling more than happy–at first. He’s used to being the class clown, but really he’s a loner. One day after school, the friendship with Lori Settles goes farther than he ever expected. She’s his teacher. She’s at least twice his age. Intimacy with a teacher is wrong, yet it feels so good in every way. Soon, Lori is making demands and Ryan begins to feel overwhelmed, but Ryan refuses to even admit anything is going on. Something immoral is going on and before too long the choices made will change lives forever.
Um YEAH. This isn't a joke; this is totally what this book is about, you guys. YOU GUYS.

Would you like to see the cover? Oh, please, I know you would. Let's do it!

I was looking over this cover with my friend Mallory who's a graphic designer, and she's all "IS THIS A SCI-FI BOOK WHERE SOMEONE GETS EATEN?" which, seriously, between the title and that creepy red silhoette, I'm not surprised Mallory came to this conclusion. We were also incredibly blown away by the typeface chosen for the title; it's a child's handwriting. A CHILD'S HANDWRITING OMG. It's not like the kid is six! He's fifteen going on sixteen. Way to make this even MORE inappropriate and gross, graphic designers. Mallory and I are ashamed of you.

So, seriously, I have no idea why this is a direction Lurlene decided to move in. Do you? Does this have anything at all to do with kids with cancer? I'm not saying once you pick an interest as a writer that you can't branch outside, but Lurlene's been writing about dying kids for over twenty years now, with little seeming desire to talk about anything else (except maybe a dying boyfriend or parent or sibling, yeah?), so this is weird.

One interesting thing I really thought about a decent amount while reading the (surprisingly tolerable) Briana's Gift was that had I not known Lurlene's history, I might have enjoyed it even more. Hey, I'm not saying it was fantastic or out to win any awards, but it didn't offend me as most of her books have, I thought the characters made believable choices, and its prose was decent. And I wondered if Lurlene was becoming a stronger writer, or had gotten a new editor, or perhaps was just feeling pressure by this wave of really popular Y.A. writers who are churning out damn fine books (you can check the sidebar for links to some of their sites, if you are curious).

So if I was forced to guess, I would gander that ol' Lurlene is feeling a bit threatened by the direction the Y.A. world seems to be heading in, and wanted to feel relevant too. I don't necessarily think that's a good idea; it makes me think of a bunch of recent McDonald's ad campaigns. Listen, you can try to tell us you're all about health now with a bunch of salad options and apples in Happy Meals or whatever, but why are you even trying to sell yourself that way? People run to McDonald's when they're in a rush or are broke or just are really friggin' craving one of the crappiest hamburgers known to man (no judgment, if I'm out and about before 10:30 a.m. I have no ability to keep my car from veering into a drivethrough and forcing me to order a McGriddle).

Lurlene, don't feel threatened! The kids who read you really love those dead kids; the audience who's getting caught up with kids who deal with adult stuff like sex and relationships and the terribly difficult task of finding young adulthood, whatever that means, has likely already left you behind.

This all said, Lurlene has an intro to Prey letting us gentle readers known her intentions. Or something:
A Note from the Author: Part 1

Many of you who are familiar with my book will know that Prey is not my typical book. In fact, as it's turned out, it isn't even the book I intended to write about the subject of a female teacher involved with a male high school student. [I assume the original had a bunch of cancer too.] The book I planned was different from this one [Didn't you just say that?], but once I got into the research and actual writing of Prey, the story took on a life of its own. I hope it makes you come to conclusions, as I did. [No worries, there, Lurlene, I certainly came to conclusions.]

This is a novel I felt compelled to write and one that supports my philosophy; no one gets to choose what life gives to him or her; one can only choose how one responds to these happenings. [Um WHAT? Deciding to fuck your teacher/student is not exactly like catching the leukemia. I mean, I get what she's getting at, the whole MY LIFE SUCKS SO NOW I WILL MAKE BAD DECISIONS, but, oh man, Lurlene, this is sort of crazy shit already. Also, is it legal to use TWO semi-colons in ONE sentence? Also all this talk about "my philosophy" has totes put "Hakuna Matata" in my head. Imagine if THAT was Lurlene's philosophy, you guys! What the heck would she write about then?] This book is a study of characters who make bad choices [what a terrific idea for a book for young adults!] choices that will follow them, even haunt them [spooky!], for the rest of their lives. [Oooh, is this gonna be one of them LESSON BOOKS?]
She goes on a bit about male students/female teachers and the fact that there are ALL THESE CASES, which, okay, let me say something IN SUPPORT OF LURLENE. (Don't faint from shock, guys.) So the other week I was home on a Friday night (because I live the glamorous life) watching 20/20 (because apparently I am also eighty), and John Stossel did this whole special about the age of sexual consent. Basically the entire special was really offensive, as it relied a lot on gender stereotypes and the assumption girls can't ever really consent to sex (story after story about sixteen-year-olds needing to be protected from their boyfriends, etc.), but there was a whole section on this very topic of female teachers having affairs with their male students. It was pretty irresponsible reporting; basically at the end of it, Stossel sort of shrugged like, "there are no real damages due to this, it's not like when girls have sex with older men, maybe it's fine!" and never once delved into the gender/power issues present in our society, and why girls who have sex with older men might have a lot of emotional issues later and why boys who do the same don't (even though Stossel was upfront about these boys gettin' lots of "atta boy!" from not just their families/acquaintances but society too). Like, way to report on a sexual double-standard without ever mentioning there's a sexual double-standard!

That was a really long-winded and tangential way to tell you guys I'm happy at least the almost-always-misogynistic Lurlene recognizes that it's no more okay for a female teacher to seduce a student than a male one to do the same. Thank you, Lurlene, for that. Abuse of power is abuse of power, period, even if society grins at one and is disgusted by another.

Wow, you guys, that got really serious. You know what we need to get back to our happy place?

That's right:

All righty. The book opens from Ryan's POV. (By the way, considering Lurlene was all "I WISH I'D WRITTEN MY SISTER'S KEEPER", I bet that's where she stole the idea of ten zillion POVs (three, okay, to be fair). Jodi Picoult, you should totes sue; it was definitely your idea first to not worry about conveying how other characters were feeling and just let every single one TELL US.) Ryan is cocky with a capital cock:
"Hey, watch where you're going, turd." [You guys, if you think "turd" is Lurlene's attempt to be, like, potty-mouthed and edgy, you are so right. But just wait. This is just the tip of the turdberg.]

I've bumped into a senior, a joke, and he's snarling [Seriously, snarling? Is he, like, part wildcat or something?] at me. I bow slightly and get out of his way. He'd stopped without warning in the middle of the hall. I say, "Sorry, my bad. I didn't see the traffic light over your head giving you the right of way." [Wow, that's like the worst OH SNAP! moment ever.] His pretty girlfriend looks me over, giggles. [I love that Ryan thinks the giggling is related to the comment; I like to think the giggling is related to what a turd he is. Sorry, guys, now I want to keep saying "turd". It doesn't help that my roommates were literally just watching this episode of South Park which totes included a whole turd song.]

The guy puffs up. "Take off, creep."

He turns and I take a chance and wink at his girlfriend. She's pretty, but off-limits.

She blows me a kiss when her boyfriend isn't looking and I watch them take off down the crowded hallway. Wait for it, I think, and am rewarded when she glances over her shoulder to make sure I'm still watching. Gotcha! ["Gotcha"? Wha-what?]
So basically I already hate Ryan because he's played for serious and not for laughs. In another book written by a more skilled author, a guy who talks like this and claims to have worked out all summer on top of working on his tan, and who lives the life of luxury because his dad's in sales and he gets the place allllllllll to himself allllllllllll the time, well, please! I'd love this guy! But he's FOR SERIOUS. Stupid turd.

What does Ryan think about his amazing life with his amazingly on-the-road dad?:
"I got the new Grand Slam Poker game on Saturday."

Joel's eyes light up. "I'm in."

"It's tricky."

"Bring it on. You're lucky your dad gets you stuff like that. I have to save every cent and buy stuff I want myself." [Oh BOO HOO Joel.]

Lucky? I think. It's a bribe, Joel, my man. Dad buys me stuff because he sheds guilt over leaving me alone so much like a shaggy dog sheds hair.

Oh man, I hate this book so much already. Where's a good cancer symptom when you need one? Only one thing can help me now:

Whew, better.

Ryan's first class is World History, which would totes suck except it's taught by Ms. Settles. Why is Ms. Settles so awesome?:
Ms. Settles is gorgeous. Straight jet-black hair to her shoulders, skin the color of cream and big blue eyes so clear you could swim in them. Her body is as sexy as any movie star's, with curves and boobs and a sweaterdress that shows off her assets.
That is a weird description. First of all, aren't "boobs" part of "curves"? Also, is a sweaterdress part of your body? Also, let's be fair, a lot of movie stars these days aren't exactly resplendent in the boobs/curves department.

I totes picture Ms. Settles as Bernie Dexter:

Sorry, Bernie, that's totes not fair to you. I'm just saying, if I were casting the TOTALLY HYPOTHETICAL PEOPLE IN HOLLYWOOD DON'T GET ANY IDEAS film version of this, I'd totes ask for a Bernie Dexter type.

Of course Ms. Settles isn't just hot, she makes them all laugh and enjoy history! Also, she's wearing stilettos. For some reason, this is a big friggin' deal. I haven't been in high school for, uh, awhile, but are teachers never in high high heels? I get that I'm in a different line of work, but I wear ridiculously-high heels all the time and no one bats an eyelash. That said, I'm not around teenage boys, but, uh, don't teenagers get turned on by, like, everything? Whatever. Ms. Settles wears stilettos, therefore she is a sexual predator.

The next chapter is from the POV of Ryan's BFF... Honey. No, I'm not kidding. Her name is Honey. WTF! She hates her name, blames it on her scriptwriters of the eighties, because apparently she is named after a character in "some police drama on TV". You guys, I just spent a long, long time on Wikipedia trying to figure this one out, and I've no idea. The closest I came was some show from the 1960s called Honey West. If Lurlene is referring to something REAL, let me know. I would probably judge Honey's parents more harshly if I hadn't, more than once, thought it would be cool to name my future hypothetical daughter Murphy.

Honey's totes in love with Ryan, but she's tall and horsey so of course he doesn't share these feelings. Honey also totes hates Ms. Settles:
Then I add, "I think she looks like a hooker." It's mean, but teachers should wear cute baggy sweaters and not flaunt their bodies.
Shut up, Honey, I hate you already.

Now we get Lori Settles's POV. If you liked Ryan's description of her, you'll loooove her description of him:
Then one speaks out. A wise-guy answer that makes the room laugh. He's beautiful. Dark hair, blue eyes, dimples--not yet a man, yet more than a child. [Who else is singing this song? Yeah, just me then? All right.] Yes, I know that too in an instant. It's a gift, being able to see inside them. I stare at him and the room seems to recede. A halo of light encircles him and suddenly, I know... he'll be the One.
Holy fuck that's terrifying!

So Ryan's dad's home, for the moment, and we learn he sells hospital equipment! HA! Of course he does. He probably runs into dying kids all the time. Whatever. Ryan's dad is a terrible father; who has a fifteen-year-old he thinks he can just LEAVE COMPLETELY ALONE for days and weeks at a time?

Ryan's all "MY DAD DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MY LIFE LIKE ALL THE TIME I SPEND LOOKING AT AND THINKING ABOUT LORI SETTLES" and says something so gross I want to share it with you guys:
Sometimes when I see her unexpectedly, like in the halls or in the lunchroom, my heart races and the crotch of my pants gets tight.
Ew ew ew! I don't want any erection talk in the Lurleneverse! I didn't even know there WERE erections in the Lurleneverse. I thought babies came from magic, god, and angels. And, seriously, if you want to say he's got a hard-on, say it! This weird phrasing just made me imagine the crotch of pants magically shrinking.

Man, after that, you guys, let's go to our happy place:

Also, Ryan starts doing that expositiony vague hinty thing about how he doesn't have a mother, how she's gone, how she left them, and how he knows all this psychological bullshit about how obviously he needs a mother figure in his life. Man, I hate Ryan so much. It's like Lurlene watched one episode of the O.C. and thinks she's got this self-aware snarky teen thing down.

So Ms. Settles makes her move: she asks Ryan if he and some of his friends can help her move some furniture. Yeah, I think Ryan knows a way to get some furniture moving, if you know what I mean. Ryan's down with that, of course, but shows up to her place sans friends. Believe it or not, this isn't because he doesn't have any! I expected the sexing to start with this visit, but it doesn't. She just asks him if he "like[s] cappuccino". Then she makes him a cappuccino. Man, now I'm jealous of her wardrobe AND her cappuccino machine.

Back to Lori's POV. She senses that Ryan's starved for approval, so she wonders "especially" about his mother. Just another lady hatin' on ladies! I love that clearly we're supposed to be "aw poor Ryan, his mother left him!" when, uh, shouldn't we also be blaming his craptastic dad?

So Ryan's all crazed, and Joel tells him he needs to get laid, that there's only so much a dude can do for himself in the shower. OH MY GOD! Here's yet another topic I wasn't really prepared for the Lurleneverse to bring up! Man, this book reeks of trying way too hard. I think it's time for another happy moment, don't you?:

So Lori asks Ryan on what's basically a date, to "another part of town" where they go to a coffee shop. I hope it's not the one I write some of these recaps from! Lori, of course, orders a drink called the Italian Stallion! They have all sorts of typical first-date talk, I mean, if you're a teacher on your first date with your student. Lori's perfume, again, makes Ryan's jeans grow tighter in the crotch. JUST SAY IT. Also, I hate the word "crotch". Not unrelated, I also hate the word "crouch". It's just too close to "crotch".

So Ryan and Lori keep, um, dating, which is rough on Ryan:
I've taken so many cold showers that my skin's started to wrinkle and my balls have shriveled.
OH MY GOD JUST STOP IT LURLENE. Do you fucking get that you can be, you know, edgy and relevant and honest in dealing with sexuality without just being lewd? Oh, man, I can't believe I said "lewd". That's what this book has driven me to.

It's definitely time for some of MY philosophy:

Ryan's friends are starting to get pissed that he's never around anymore and is all SECRETIVE. You guys, seriously, be relieved! Who'd want to hang around Ryan besides an emotionally-fucked up teacher? Even his dad stays the hell outta town!

Of course, it FINALLY happens:
"Oh, my dear, precious Ryan." She leans forward, lifts my face and kisses me lightly on the mouth.

I take her shoulders and kiss her back. Hard, I kiss her, and long. [Are we still talking about the kiss?] Her tongue slides between my teeth, igniting a fever I can't control. Outside, the rain drums on the glass, giving a rhythm to some primitive force in me that I don't want to control.

Her hand slips onto my crotch, cups the bulge pushing against my jeans and makes me groan. She rubs me and I think I'm going to burst. "Do you like that?" she asks.


"Yes." I kiss her again, driving my tongue into her wet, hot mouth.
It just gets worse from there, you guys. Afterwards Lori's all "oh, was that okay?" and of course it was, and he's all I'M GLAD YOU'RE MY FIRST and she's all I'M GLAD I WAS YOUR FIRST and, man, it's so terrible. SO TERRIBLE. This book is so gross. Who knew Lurlene could turn me into a prude?

Honey and her lady friends are out shopping, and decide to try on stilettos, to see if they can walk in them like Ms. Settles does. Man, what is with this stilettos fascination? It's like these kids have never seen a four-inch heel before. Anyways, Honey's all, "boldly", asking for a size ten, and explains that basketball makes a girl's feet bigger. WTF! Anyways, that's my size too, and I have never played basketball in my life, and I never feel the need to make excuses when I want sexy shoes.

Speaking of the shoes, the school has a talk with Lori about her attire. They want her to dress in ACCEPTABLE attire. I'm not sure where I stand here. I have a feeling we're supposed to think Lori always looks totes inappropriate, and I do know from my friends who teach that it's best not to draw attention to yourself in any way if you want kids to pay attention to the lesson and not you, but this just reeks of women needing to cover themselves up. I mean, not that I'm defending Lori, she's clearly doing this just to make the boys want her. I just wish it was presented a bit more that way, and not "GOOD WOMEN COVER THEMSELVES UP".

Ryan and Lori are on the phone, and he actually tells her he has a hard-on just hearing her voice! I'm so proud that for once it wasn't just jeans-crotch shrinkage. Still, now I have to digest this, and again, I go to a happy, happy place:

Better now. Phew.

Ryan gets Lori a Celtic love knot necklace for Christmas, and Honey's snooping around in his room and sees it. OH NOES! Lori goes crazy and buys Ryan a bunch of designer clothes, an iPod, just a ton of shit. Hey, teacher friends of mine, you should go be teachers in the Lurleneverse, where it's apparently an amazingly-paid profession! Ryan's dad sees the gifts and is all "WTF" but Ryan just says his friends gave him this stuff. Ryan's dad jumps on the fact that Ryan says Honey gave him a bunch of it, and he's all "so do you like her?" and when Ryan says no, he's all "Well, you do like girls, right?" and Ryan's all pissed that he thinks he's gay, and also that he acts like everything's cool if he IS gay because his dad's a homophobic jerk. Wait, in the Lurleneverse it's bad to be homophobic? I guess there can be something good here after all! What a freaking shock!

Lori starts getting "cold and possessive" but of course Ryan's still under her spell. They have A LOT of sex. This book is pretty smutty. If I'd read this in junior high it totes would have gotten passed around for the juicy bits, I mean, before we discovered V.C. Andrews. Also at gifted camp we passed around those Earth's Children books. But, yeah, Prey would have gotten some mileage for sure. Seriously, what was Lurlene thinking? I can't believe her usual fanbase would be all "OH YAY FOR THE SEXING". In fact, I noticed on Amazon that, whereas as most of her books have ten gajillion glowing reviews, Prey only has one.

So of course Ryan's not hanging out with his friends much, and his grades are slipping. He lies to Lori and says his dad's around more, just so he can get his grades up and spend just enough time with his friends for them to hopefully stop being suspicious. Ryan's at Honey's, and she gets all embarrassed because she sees HIS STOMACH, which, um, Honey is the biggest prude I have ever met. It's amazing to hate someone in this book who isn't Ryan or Lori, but I hate Honey and Ryan's dad so much. What a cast of heinous people, for such varied reasons.

Anyways, Ryan and Honey are wrestling (right?) and Ryan kisses Honey. She gets that it doesn't mean anything, but it still pisses her off that he ignores her afterwards. Uh, Honey, that's how lots of people handle making embarrassing choices like that kiss. And after you were all OMG YOUR STOMACH I doubt he thinks he can talk to you maturely. Anyway, Honey confronts Ryan, so he doesn't know what else to do but ask her to the school dance. WTF! Bad idea, Ryan. Though I guess this is the kind of jackassery "I'll make you forget what an asshole I am" move a guy like Ryan would likely make. Plus it's not like he could take his actual girlfriend!

Speaking of our happy couple, they take a day trip to Savannah where they can be open about their relationship. In case you guys think Savannah is some mecca to teacher/student relationships, it's just that no one knows them there. Lori spends tons of money on Italian suits for Ryan, which, again, how does she afford them, and what the fuck does a kid need with a bunch of Italian suits? Does he join the mob in the sequel?

At the dance everyone's having a good time until Honey notices that chaperon Lori is wearing that Celtic love knot necklace she saw in Ryan's room. OH NOES! Also Lori is a crazy psycho jealous type so she doesn't like Ryan there with the "big, horsey girl". Horsey is only a few letters off from Honey, I'm just saying! Anyway, in all of Lori's crazy rambling, she exposits that her father molested her and her mother never did anything to stop it. OH SO IS THAT WHY YOU CAN'T HAVE A NORMAL RELATIONSHIP WITH MEN YOUR OWN AGE LORI? Ugh. I'm not saying that abuse doesn't lead to abuse, but this is totally painted like once that kind of shit happens, you're doomed. I know several abuse victims within my life who didn't start screwing students.

So Honey goes back to Ryan's room to snoop some more, hoping against hope that necklace is still there, but of course it's not. So she hacks into his computer, finds all the emails between him and Lori, and copies them all to disc. HONEY! This is sort of nuts, but, than again, none of my guy friends from high school AS FAR AS I KNOW YOU GUYS were sleeping with any of our teachers. So I can't say what I'd do.

Soon they have a substitute teacher in Lori's class, and Ryan gets called out by the principal. Whoa! Detectives are waiting for him! They have his emails! They tell him that he isn't in trouble, but that Lori is a sexual predator, and this isn't the first time she's struck.

Ryan's all BOO HOO I THOUGHT I WAS SPECIAL AND HER FIRST, which, dude, you're the one who was going on and on about the amazing sex and how she knew things no high schooler did. Did you think that was just what happens when one waits until age thirty-three to do it for the first time? Yes, I'm sorry, you're absolutely right, that's totes the work of a pent-up virgin-no-more. Shut up, Ryan.

Ryan goes to Lori and CONFRONTS HER about the other guys, and she's all "BUT YOU WERE SO SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT" which, just, SHUT UP BOTH OF YOU.

Of course the police show up, but Lori freaks out and STABS HERSELF WITH A KNIFE!!!! Of course Ryan's all "DON'T DO THIS TO ME NOT THE WAY MY MOTHER DID IT" so, yeah, Ryan's mom killed herself. And that's why Ryan fucked his teacher. Good to know, guys.

Actually, Lori is fine, though. I mean, not dying from her self-inflicted stab wound. There's nothing "fine" otherwise about Lori except that she's hot.

Ryan's dad is PISSED, and I am actually thrilled and relieved. I honestly expected him to be all "atta boy, she was HOT" and he's not like that at all. First good parenting I've seen from you yet, Ryan's dad. Way to show up at the end and win me over.

In all the fallout, it becomes apparent that it wasn't exactly a secret Lori had done this before, the parents had just kept it quiet to spare their kid media embarrassment. Um, wouldn't this have come out then when Lori was transferring to a new school? Way to cover all the research, Lurlene.

Ryan realizes Honey's the only one who could have found those emails, so he goes over to confront her. She's all EW SEX and he's all, "what if it was with a girl my age, would that have been cool?" and our lovely anti-sex Honey says that he shouldn't be having any sex at all. WTF is with Honey? If there's anyone who CLEARLY has something fucked-up in her past, it's her.

The last chapter, from Ryan's POV, is three years later. By now he's slept with giant gobs of high school girls, and admits Lori wasn't his first either. WTF! So he thinks it was cool he wasn't a virgin at fifteen when he met her, but it was that SHE WASN'T AT THIRTY-THREE. I hate you, Ryan. I have a feeling you should read Jessica Valenti's new book when it comes out.

Ryan's waiting for Lori because she's gettin' out of jail! WOO HOO! And then it ends. I guess they're gonna live happily ever after. Clearly we're supposed to see how fucked up Ryan is, and how messed up this whole situation is, but, um, I still don't get the point to this book.

"Don't worry!" you tell me. "There's another note from the author! She'll explain EVERYTHING!"

Oh, okay then!
A Note from the Author: Part 2

Now you know Ryan and Lori's story. It is fiction, but there are many real relationships like it. The more research I did, the more cases I discovered.

Years can pass before the psychological damage surfaces in a young man's life. One primary long-term effect is the inability of such men to establish lasting relationships with women of a more appropriate age. These men are hesitant to commit, and many suffer from serious depression.

The female teachers who engage in such seductions often have serious emotional problems of their own--histories of physical and sexual abuse, and bipolar or other psychological disorders that contribute to their dysfunctional behaviour.

Having studied this growing problem, I have concluded that nothing can justify this kind of relationship. These relationships cause legal, psychological and emotional harm to both parties, as well as to their families and their communities. [Was there some possibility up until this, Lurlene, that it was OKAY to fuck your teacher?]

. . .

I hope this novel will make you, my readers, think, and help you understand that today you make choices that you will have to live with forever.
WHAT? WHAT? Like, okay, yeah, first of all, while of course Ryan had a say in this, he was clearly targeted and abused, at least emotionally, by Lori, so I hate this whole "KIDS IF YOU DO SOMETHING BAD NOW YOU'LL BE SCREWED UP FOREVER" screed of hers. That coupled with Honey's whole sex-is-terrible attitude, I have a feeling that's actually what Lurlene is getting at. No matter how hot it is, sex will ruin your whole life, so don't have it!

I mean, I think that's the lesson. I love how in the synopsis Honey's grouped in with them, when the only thing she has to live with is Ryan no longer speaking to her because she turned him and Lori in. That seems like something manageable v. a life-long sexual/relationship problem! Plus who would even WANT to talk to Ryan anymore. He might do something unseemly like show you his stomach!

People, I am at a loss for words. If the lesson is how fucked-up you'll be if you engage in this sort of behaviour, why was the sex so hot (uh, to them, not me), and why did they end up together after all? Because that's like real life? I have no idea what that means, as far as these life-long consequences.

So instead I'll leave you with this: