I sort of want to start this review with like ten disclaimers. Or maybe five. Okay, one.
For some reason, despite the bizarre sexual nature combined with the anti-sex nature and the creepy brother stuff and the thought that saying yes to sex means saying no to success and the idea that rich people can't parent, I REALLY LOVE THESE TWO BOOKS.
I am so sorry, you guys. I'm not proud. I have no explanation. It's just a fact. Basically I just wish someone else had written these books so we'd keep the basic plot but lose, ya know, the "morality" lessons.
So what's it about? Let me fill you in:
Jory Delaney has always had lots of money. But there's one thing she knows she cannot buy--and that's her best friend Melissa's life. Although Melissa's leukemia is in remission, it's hard for both girls to hold on to the possibility of a very bright future. When Melissa's health begins to deteriorate, Jory watches her friend's courageous battle and is overwhelmed by a sense of loss. Distanced from her parents, Jory grows closer to Melissa's mother and older brother, Michael, as they give each other untold strength in the face of tragedy. As she grapples with the unfairness of Melissa's imminent death, can Jory find a way to turn her anger into the hope and inspiration that Melissa wanted to leave behind?Wow, thanks for spoiling about three-quarters of the book, marketing department!
Here is the book cover I grew up with:
Some observations: this book cover is sort of misleading. Secondly, Michael and Jory have some nice asses on them. Thirdly, Michael looks a bit like young Scott Baio. Jory sure wants Charles in charge of her, if you know what I'm sayin'.
The next edition of the book looks like this:
Uh, way to make everyone less attractive, marketing geniuses! Also I hate the creepy way the flowers are Photoshopped on top of them, especially on poor unattractive Jory. When was the last time she washed her hair? Gross.
The book opens with Jory and her mom fighting about the family vacation to Europe. Jory's mom, the bitch, wants her to go, while Jory wants to stay in town. Her mom's all I ALREADY LET YOU GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOL WITH "A BUNCH OF RIFFRAFF" THE LEAST YOU CAN DO IS THIS. God, I wish these were the kinds of fights I had with my mom when I was seventeen! Gee, Mom, please don't make me go tour those castles!
Jory's mom is mad because she hasn't filled out any of her college applications yet, and it's already the June before her Senior year. Wait, does anyone fill them out that early who isn't going for early admission? I mean, I started out at a really shitty community college, but I know when I went back to real school that I applied sometime in the spring to start in the fall. I know my grad school deadline this year was February to start in September. So way to panic over nothing, Jory's mom. She hates that Jory's so aimless, especially with so much money at her disposal. Okay, Jory isn't exactly the most driven person in the world... BUT SHE'S SEVENTEEN. I had tons of dreams at seventeen but they were all pretty ill-advised and I turned out okay! I mean, I get that there's all sorts of weird pressures on you when you're facing your Senior year, but, man, you've got all the time in the world (unless you have leukemia OBVS). Poor Jory. I mean, I wouldn't have turned down that castle-touring trip, but I've got your back on everything else.
This is probably just how Lurlene thinks rich families behave. Like, I'm not saying there aren't different stresses when one has to be concerned with the community and status and the future of your child who has never had to do anything on her own up until now, but, ugh. This prejudice against the wealthy/upper-class is so lame, Lurlene, so tired and old and lame. Did some rich people, like, beat you up at some point? What started this? You seriously could use some therapy to deal with this.
Jory goes over to Melissa's, where there's a bunch of exposition about Melissa being a genius and on the Brain Bowl and all that jazz. Also there's a dude on the Brain Bowl named Lyle who often asks about Jory. I don't care but I guess I'm supposed to. Melissa also wants Jory to get serious about her future. Man, none of us, even the so-called serious ones, wanted anyone serious about their future the summer before Senior year! Mostly we just wondered who'd be dating who and how heinous our classes would be, and if open lunch was as awesome as it seemed. (It was.)
Michael comes into the room, of course, shirtless and hottttttt, chugging milk and eating powdered-sugar donuts. Ever since Flowers in the Attic there is nothing appealing about those donuts to me. He's bitching about "female chatter" and "little girls" and I am so over you, Michael, yet again. Sexism isn't cute, nor are breakfast items found in books about incest.
Jory takes Melissa to the clinic, and afterwards Melissa wants to go to this secluded place which is where Ric was all UR HAI-MEN LET ME RID U OF IT. Melissa tells Jory about this but says it wouldn't have been right for her. Jory says she's been slapping boys' hands away forever. For a so-called party girl, that's a little surprising. I guess even the feisty BFF can't slut it up in the Lurleneverse. ARGH.
The next morning our ladies get up early to help Michael with his hot air ballooning. Melissa's got it planned to let Jory go up with him for the first time, but of course Michael brings along a girlfriend and Jory's devastated. I know I should probably make fun of Jory for being so hung up on such a pointless case, but I've been there. I get it!
Jory wants to throw a party, and her mom will only let her if she promises to attend important events with the family. She agrees, even to letting her mom select appropriate dates for each. That sounds terrible; I'm not sure any party is worth that. Still, the party goes on, but Melissa's all mopey there, and Jory follows her away from the crowd. As they often do, they talk about sex:
Melissa turned her face toward Jory. Her eyes were dark hollows and her skin looked pale, ethereal. "God decided that you're going to be rich and famous."Before they "try" making love? It's not really something you sample, Jory.
"No kidding? And I just thought I had to figure out what to do over the rest of the school year." She smiled nervously and pushed her hair behind her ear. "What did He decide for you?"
A wry smile hovered on Melissa's lips. She leaned sideways and whispered from the corner of her mouth. "That I'll go to my grave a virgin."
Jory laughed at Melissa's sudden turn to humor. "Not if Tony Perez has anything to say about it, you won't."
Melissa sobered and pulled the luxurious length of hair over her shoulder and stroked it. "Last spring, when Ric asked me to go to bed with him, it was the funniest feeling. [Like when you climbed the ropes in gym class?] I mean, I wanted to. I really did. I wanted to know what it felt like. To be with a guy that way." Jory squirmed in the sand. She'd seen enough movies and read enough books to have wondered the same thing. [Wait, "squirmed"? What, is she all hot and bothered and sex-curious? WTF!] "But in the end, I decided I wanted more than to just satisfy my curiosity. I wanted to be in love."
[Wait, Melissa, that is a total lie. Actually you didn't think you could have sex AND achieve your goals! If that had been the reason you'd given Ric, I would have been ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ON YOUR SIDE.]
Bewildered, Jory still couldn't figure out where the conversation was leading. "I guess we all want to be in love before we try making love. I know I do."
Unfortunately, Melissa is mopey for a reason: her leukemia has returned. Dammit! Not that we didn't all see that coming, not just from the synopsis, but from her best friend narrating.
Melissa is going to have a bone marrow transplant, since she's lucky to have a brother who is a good match. Finally, Michael is good for something!
Melissa goes into the hospital to prepare for the transplant, and Jory is totally falling apart, of course. Lyle calls her to see if she wants to go out, and she agrees because being home sucks. He reveals that his mother had cancer, and tries to give her some coping ideas. She isn't having any of it, and he's a bit pissed she agreed to go out with him when clearly she didn't want to. Well, you're the one who follows her around school and calls her, even though she's never expressed interest, Lyle, so maybe this is your fault too.
Jory waits at the hospital the day of the transplant, with Melissa and Michael's mom, who says she thinks of Jory as one of her own and is so grateful she's in Melissa's life. Aw! As much as I hate the tired clichés of Jory's rich parents, I do love that Jory has a real relationship within Melissa's family. Of course, the moment is ruined when Melissa's mom mentions she's glad Jory stopped wearing blue nail polish, and Jory chalks it up to one of her phases. ARGH. Why do you have to be so mature and grown-up at SEVENTEEN? Also blue is a completely acceptable nail polish color, one of only three colors I wear on my toes. And I am grown-up, dammit!
I know this is totally a tangent but egads this is another one of my pet peeves. There is not one acceptable grown-up way to dress, okay? Some of us might be thirty and still go to work in pigtails and sneakers and be totally completely one-hundred-percent respected, you know? Whatever, apparently in the Lurleneverse you have to be totes ambitious and in business-casual by seventeen, but the upside is that one can SAMPLE SEX. Man, that'd be good, right? People would have to try way more on technique if there was sampling involved, much like how once people started downloading albums from the internet artists had to make each track decent, not just the singles. It is EXACTLY THE SAME THING.
When the surgery's over, Ms. Austin goes to Melissa because Jory promises to look after Michael. While he's still passed out cold, SHE TOTALLY KISSES HIM OMG! Even I, queen of creepy, wouldn't do that. I swear. JORY OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU DID THAT EWWWW.
While Michael is recovering, Jory gives him a glossy photo book of hot air balloons. Of course Michael can't be grateful, noooo, he has to bitch that it must have cost "at least fifty dollars". SHUT UP MICHAEL OMG I HATE YOU. What a fucking asshole! You know what I say when people give me presents that maybe they spent too much on? "THANK YOU!"
Melissa has an infection, and needs blood, so Jory and Lyle organize a big-ass blood drive at the school. Of course it's a big success. Jory should totes get into event-planning or something, she'd rock at it. Not that I'm telling a seventeen-year-old to worry about her career, I'm just saying. As always, Lurlene is queen of capturing the way teenagers speak:
"You just want the chance to dunk the principal in the water tank at the baseball toss."Hey, now, don't it?
The boy grinned. "Hey, now that sounds like fun."
They collect a lot of money (and blood), thanks in no small part to a big-ass check signed by Jory's mother. Jory confronts her about this, since she generally acts as if she doesn't give a shit about Melissa, and she says she can't imagine what the family's going through, and she's so glad it isn't Jory. Jory says she's glad it isn't her too. Aw, man, this is sort of a nice scene, the kind that makes me still sort of like this book. Whatever, I said it.
Lyle invites Jory to a party, and she goes with him and probably would have had fun if he hadn't brought up the fact that Melissa is dying. Jory's all NO SHE'S NOT SHE'S JUST HAVING TROUBLE WITH THE CURE and, oh man, this is kind of tough reading. Of course they get in a fight and Jory storms off. You guys, guess who she runs into? DRUNKEN MICHAEL!
Okay, this book is really sort of awesome.
Drunken Michael's friend asks Jory to take his keys and take him home, so of course she does. For some reason, of all places, Jory takes Michael to the place where Ric asked to make Melissa's hymen a thing of the past. Lovely! They talk about Melissa, and start making out. Michael stops himself, because:
"If this had happened to Melissa and I found out about it, I would have gone after the guy with my bare hands."Oh SHUT UP MICHAEL! If your sister had wanted to do some guy, more power to her! You don't get to beat up people for having sex! God, I hate you. Jory, I still think you're awesome, though. Don't worry.
Melissa starts doing better! YAY! That's the good news. The bad news is Jory's mom gets her report card and is pissssssssssed. These are not college-gettin'-in grades, Jory, geez. I probably wouldn't do too well either if my best friend was dying. Jory's mom says that EVERYONE goes to college, which is funny, given that in the Lurleneverse generally kids don't think they have to! Weird! Some of the earlier books seem a bit more entrenched in reality, even if it's a reality I don't quite like.
Even worse, Melissa has another fever. Argh! It's meningitis. That royally blows! And even worse, right after getting the news, Jory is stuck at some event with a loser date picked out by her mother. She runs out early, and finds her mom waiting for her. She knows she's in for a punishment, but she begs her mom to yell at her later. Finally, her mom is able to get a word in edgewise, and what she says makes me choke up EACH AND EVERY TIME DAMMIT:
Mrs. Delaney stepped in front of Jory as she started to leave. "Mrs. Austin called here about ten tonight, and Mrs. Garcia called us at the club."Even on my adult reread, I cried. So sue me. Believe it or not my heart isn't made of stone!
Jory felt her heart pounding. "Tell me in the morning," she said, trying to step around her mother.
"Jory, you must listen to me."
"I don't want to listen." Jory fought a rising sense of panic. The walls seemed to be closing in. Why wouldn't her mother get out of her way? Childlike, Jory clamped her hands over her ears. "I can't hear you, Mother. I'm not going to listen."
Mrs. Delaney reached out, took Jory's wrists, and tugged. "Melissa died tonight, honey. Her heart gave out."
Jory finally reads the journal Melissa entrusted to her, and finds a letter from her. I actually don't hate on most of it, except for when Melissa says she's glad she didn't sleep with Ric so she can still be buried in virginal white. Holy CRAP are the Lurleneverse heroines into white. Guess what, ladies of the Lurleneverse, you can totes wear white once you've done the deed, and no one's the wiser! It's not a fucking law, and even if it was, I would march to repeal it. Whatever, apparently it's supposed to be A JOKE but I'm not laughing, Melissa. Sweet, dead Melissa. Aw!
Michael FINALLY takes Jory up in the hot air balloon! AT LAST! By now she has been accepted into college, as has her now-boyfriend, Lyle. Different schools too YES! All in all, I can't hate too much on this book. I hope Jory goes off to college, wears ridiculous shades of nail polish, has tons of mindblowing sex, and wears white all the time.