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.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Ames, I think I love you. You make my work days giggle. :)

meredith said...

The Songs of Solomon are a little sexy in a lustfully stilted Ye Olde English kinda way. Not really superhot reading, though, Vince.

I'm so glad I'm not the only kid who was apparently obsessed with dying kid books. Really explains the rampant hypochondria which still plagues me.

ames said...

Yeah, maebetonight, I got a bruise on my arm the other night (I think from lifting at the gym) and of course my first thought was all "OMG LEUKEMIA I HAS IT". Stupid books! And I still love disease books now, GOOD disease books. Oh, fine, I sort of love bad disease books too. How else to explain this blog?

Kathryn, I am glad to contribute to a good work day!

Anonymous said...

"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"

Me too!!! The more death the better.

I bet the CF books you're talking about are "Alex: The Life of a Child", and "Give Me One Wish". Am I right?

Fear Street said...

"I guess the time to die is autumn!"


The chick on the cover of the older book looks a lot like Heidi Montag from 'The Hills'.

ames said...

Athenasmom, I don't think those are the books! This is gonna drive me nuts.

Anonymous said...

Didn't some of the One Last Wish characters survive? And then meet up at Jenny House, in Season for Goodbye? Or maybe a little earlier in the series? When they have the sick kid camp thing. Where someone else gets seriously sick, or dies, or something?

ames said...

Anonymous, I think you're right, though I haven't read those books yet. They're up soon!

Anonymous said...

The Bantam-Starfire covers suck. Oh, and yes. Songs of Solomon is about "tasting your fruits" and your hair is like a honeycomb or something, and your breasts...well, I won't go there. The Bible is perved.

Chris said...

Was it Robyn's Book or Robyn's Diary or something with Robyn? I'm thinking it was a true story by an actual teenager in the late 70's.

ames said...

Chris, that seems right. I'm going to look into it.

ames said...

Yes! Chris, that is TOTALLY IT. Thanks!

stephanie said...

Oh my god, what was the name of that other book with CF? I remember that the guy had CF and had to get pounded on the chest all the time. And he was a race car driver and the chick got him this special fireproof driving outfit and then his car crashed and the outfit saved his life. But he totally died later one...damn CF....

And I hope that you have any idea what I'm talking about with that one!

ames said...

Oh my god, I have NO idea what you're talking about, but that book sounds AMAZING.

stephanie said...

Well, it is a bit embarrassing that you didn't know what I was talking about. Its a Lurlene book (duo, actually) -- Till Death Do Us Part and For Better, For Worse, Forever. They're later ones, from the late 90s I think.

Oh, and did I mention that the chick has a brain tumor? You should totally read them :)

MissRoyalTurkey said...

I just discovered this blog, and it is amazing and hilarious! I too, read bunches of Lurlene McDaniel in middle school. Anyway, the one thing I remember about this book was how the descriptions emphasized how thin and fragile she was (I think she weighed 80 lbs?), and how the boy thought that was wonderful. Looking back it is so disturbing that the reason she was attractive to boys was because she was sick and dying.