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.


meredith said...

okay, I've been reading your blog for awhile now without every commenting but after this one, I want to thank you for your bravery. Not that any Lurlene is fantastic or anything, but the sort-of-epic Dawn Rochelle miniseries sounds particularly awful. I'm kind of glad I missed these as a kid.

I'm also glad I didn't have to read that Brent kissing scene because "soft petals on her lips" is exactly NOT the kind of unreasonable expectation I needed. Not that I didn't already have a ton....... do you remember that Lurlene book where the dying boy planted tulips in a football field to spell "I LOVE YOU" to his non-dying girlfriend? I mean, jesus, who does that??

snappleaddict said...

Can someone please send Dawn some conditioner? Please?

Ooh, maebetonight, that book was Don't Die, My Love. I'm not ashamed to say it still makes me cry. They even made a Lifetime movie out of it, but called something different. I agree with you that it's highly unlikely that a dying teenage boy would be able to plant all those tulips.

snappleaddict said...

Can we make a movie out of this book and have a makeover montage? I live for that shit. I'll even brush my curly hair with a dry and static-y brush so I can be Dawn, haha.

Anonymous said...

I totally rolled my jeans in middle school. 'cept the last year when grunge was in.

Also, if anyone looks at you askance for reading Lurlene in public, tell them that you are blogging about reading Lurlene. All manner of behavior is acceptable as long as it is blogged about. (returns to tending massive Carebear collection)

ames said...

Athena's mom, you're making me feel old. Grunge in middle school? Oh man!

I haven't read Don't Die, My Love yet. I'm sure I'll happen upon it before long, but it's yet to reach my growing Lurlene collection. I'm excited about the tulips scene though. How ridic is that? MY DYING ACTION WILL BE AN ACTIVITY THAT INVOLVES MANUAL LABOR SUCH AS GARDENING. I hope he paid someone to do that for him!

For those of whom weren't quite bored enough by the book: Dawn Rochelle: the Movie: One girl's fight against cancer and improper hair-conditioning.

Dee said...

I thought it had to be Amber. I have other YA books with her modeling on the covers, which what triggered the memory.

And I totally remember Hang Time as well! I watched that show all the time. That and Saved by the Bell: The New Class/The College Years, California Dreams, and City Guys.

Oh, the TV of my youth.

Lauren said...

Dawn Rochelle was right up there with Elizabeth Wakefield as my least favorite YA character ever.

My ex-boyfriend was totally a Lurlene character come to life - he went to cancer camp to be a counselor while we were dating, to fulfill some scholarship thing (seeing as how he didn't have cancer), and when he came back he told me he'd fallen in love with a camper who had cancer. It's quite difficult to hate The New Whore when she has cancer. She even dropped her cancer treatments and moved three states away to live in his dorm room with him. Sadly, she wouldn't have been a good Lurlene character, because she was kind of psycho and used to fake relapses whenever he considered breaking up with her. They deserved each other, seriously. If she had just been a fragile nymph and he'd planted a few tulips, they totally could have been a Lurlene book.

ames said...

God, Lauren, I read "nymph" as "nympho" and wondered what kind of crack you were smoking to think Lurlene would approve of such activity!

Also that is an awesome story, and should be turned into a counterpoint novel.

Lisa said...

I googled " was anyone else obsessed with 'six months to live' as a kid?" and this blog came up.