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.


Anonymous said...

"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!"

I think you're referring to the end-papers :) As always, thank you for making Monday morning at work a little more bearable.

ames said...

Oooh, end-papers. Good to know!

BadKat said...

Wow! What a contemporary gal, that Lurlene, bringing AIDS into the mix! I guess it was the early

Anonymous said...

I have a few books with the "Especially for Girls" markings on them. I think they were a part of some book club for tweens back in the early 90s.

Halvorsen said...

I assume it is "especially for girls", since all girls need to know about how to act medically irresponsible and fall in love (BUT NOT HAVE SEX) with douchey cowpokes.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I remember Especially For Girls! I wanted to join, but my mom said no because it was a ripoff.

Yeah, I hate the purity fixation. Way to make girls more confused about sex than they already are. Plus, I'm sure it leads to major daddy issues (have you read about those father-daughter purity dances? EW).

And Ames, I totes hear ya on Benjamin Coffin III as portrayed by Taye Diggs. Mmm-mmm good.

I also hear ya on preferring city over country/Hey Dude ranch. As I've told my country-dwelling relatives, I feel a hell of a lot safer living with neighbors within screaming distance and a police station in my neighborhood, as opposed to in the middle of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Heeeeyyy Duuuude

Someone should do a Nickelodeon Lurleneverse crossover fic.

Anonymous said...

Ooooooooooooooh Lordy I remember this one. Even in my misled youth it seemed a little bit weird, though it did spawn an Emily Dickinson obsession. But that Father-Daughter purity stuff weirds me out in seventeen different ways.

Anonymous said...

awesome...I totally forgot the whole Huntington's subplot! What a great twofer. Thanks for recapping--it was all I hoped it would be.

meredith said...

Oooh maybeimamazed, there was one of those huge father-daughter purity balls here recently. The girls all wear white and promise their dads not to have sex with anyone. And the dads give the daughters chastity rings. While wearing the white dresses. There was a write-up in the paper with huge pictures and OMG. SO CREEPY.

I don't even really like the "giving my daughter away to another man as if she were chattel" wedding concept, and obvs many people find that totally normal.

Haha, Ames, thank you for all your direct passage quotes. "She'd toyed with him." It's just such an abrupt thought! Plus is it possible Morgan asked Stacey from SF to stay the night at his place after knowing her for a week and maaaaybe she thought that was too soon? Hmm? I don't love the overemphasis on female purity, but Stace's got just as much right to say no as she has to say yes. Or maybe she slept with him and moved home because it wasn't a big fucking deal. Oh, Lurlene, way to incapsulate the whole virgin/whore conundrum right along with dying teen girls! And weird genetic diseases! Hooray!

ames said...

I have heard of purity balls, and you guys are right, this totally reminds me of that! SO CREEPY. They've actually started to do mother/son ones too, but apparently the focus isn't keeping ONESELF pure, it's all "the girl you'd be sleeping with will be someone else's husband someday, and how would you feel about someone sleeping with YOUR WIFE?" Oh man ARGH. It's so gross. Yes, us womenfolk are to be pure and to hand all our sexual decisions to our fathers and husbands.

Maebetonight, yes x infinity. Most "traditional" wedding acts like giving a bride away skeeve me out to no end. People aren't property dammit!!

And, yes yes YES, even though I too hate the emphasis on female purity in this book (and the entire Lurleneverse), being pro-sex means I'm pro-people-having-sex-when-they-want-to-with-other-consenting-person(s). And Morgan has no friggin' right to get upset that a girl who hardly knows him AND IS SIXTEEN isn't ready to do him. Geez. I am ninety-percent sure I would have done the same thing at that age, i.e. get the fuck outta there.

ames said...

Meghan, I am so glad this lived up to your expectations! It was quite a good suggestion.

Anonymous said...

The early OLW novels always had the person die didn't they? Which was kind of the theory behind OLW... unless you're Katie O'Rourke I guess and then not only do you get a transplant right away, you get a boyfriend and 100,000 dollars out of it.

Lurlene does not believe in even distribution does she?

snappleaddict said...

Omg, I loved Hey Dude! Sadly, I still know all the words to the theme song. Even more sad, it's on my iPod.

This was one of the few OLW books I never read. If it didn't have my ho Lacey in it, I didn't want anything to do with it.

ames said...

Dude, there are LOTS of OLW books without Lacey in them! I was going to say that you're missing out, but, please, you were NOT.

Chocoholic said...

Oh, wow, I have way more respect for Lurlene now...she actually mentioned Huntington's? My grandma has that and when I tell people that, no one knows what it is. Way to go Lurlene for raising awareness of the disease.

snappleaddict said...

Well, I read a lot of the ones without Lacey, but most of the time I was just thinking about how cool it would be if she showed up. Except for the OLW book about Kara, the girl with CF (A Time To Die?). That one was so good it didn't really need Lacey, though it couldn't have hurt.

Anonymous said...

I found Sweet Valley High's 'Crash Landing' with the Especially for Girls imprint. Girls must be vapid, have tons of friends, give good advice, hide their feelings, and drape themselves over guys, yurr!

Wow, Lurlene really lost it this book.

Anonymous said...