Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why was death so awesome?

Obviously none of us are here thinking there is quality lit in the Lurleneverse. That said, once upon a time, many of us would have said there was, or at least that we couldn't get enough of dying heroines and their dreams of white dresses.

So what is the appeal? Obviously there's quite a market for death-and-disease books in the YA genre, right? Lurlene's kind of got this market cornered, but it's not just her, and clearly kids want to read these. I would have read each and every one of these as a kid if I could have gotten my hands on them.

And let's see:
  • I myself never suffered from a serious illness.
  • No one in my immediate family suffered from a serious illness*.
  • None of my friends or romantic prospects suffered from a serious illness.
So clearly it's not about that. Also, while I wasn't a heathen or anything back then, I wasn't scoping out "inspirational" fiction, so it wasn't that either.

The always-fantastic Tiny Pants sent me some information about the book Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-produced Fantasies for Women by Tanya Modleski, who said the following about gothic novels for women:
On the other hand, [death] endows the woman with something like 'tragic hero' status: "What can a heroine do?" asks Joanna Russ in pointing out that men have taken all the active plots. She can die. And in dying, she does not have to depart from the passive feminine role, but only logically extend it. On the other hand, death can be a very powerful means of wreaking vengeance on others who do not properly 'appreciate' us, and it is in this form that the fantasy of death can be found in Harlequin Romances, which, with their happy endings, seem on the surface to have nothing in common with the tragic Clarissa plot.
Considering that in many ways, Lurlene's books follow the trajectory of a simple teen romance novel (and many are in addition to being disease books), is this what's going on? Girls can land a big plotline, but only by doing something super passive like DYING.

Anyway, I am really curious to hear why you guys think you used to be so fascinated with these books, or - if you weren't - why others were... AND STILL ARE.

*at the time of my reading these books

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The only thing that can hold back football is a bunch of tulips, or Don't Die, My Love

One of my friends and a surprise (to me) fan of this blog just had a baby! Well, his wife did, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Anyways, since I know he is reading this, congrats to the happy family! Special note to new baby Alexander: please avoid the Lurleneverse at all costs.


Ever since I started this blog, you guys have been all OH MY GOD WHEN ARE YOU DOING DON'T DIE, MY LOVE (published 1995) IT IS THE MOST AMAZING BOOK EVERRRRR. I hadn't read it before, so I figured I'd get to it when I got to it. You guys kept coming back though and talking about tulips and love and death, and, okay, you had me. Then I discovered that, unlike ninety-eight percent of Lurlene books, it had its own Wikipedia entry. By now someone has made it a bit more normal, but thanks to the revision history, you guys, I reconstructed the entry as it once stood.

Please bear in mind I DID NOT REWRITE ANY OF THIS.
Don't Die, My Love is a 3rd person romance novel authored by Lurlene McDaniel.

Julie Ellis and Luke Muldenhower are deeply in love. From the sixth grade through high school, Luke and Julie had always been "mad in love" for one another. When Luke can't exorcise what he thinks is a minor virus, Julie persuades him to see a doctor. Luke's test results are alarming, but Julie believes the strength of their love will see them through anything. When Luke finds his way in heaven, he left Julie with a love that is being represented through tulips. With that, Julie knows that luke is waitng untill the end of her tommorows. Find out how Julie makes it through the rest of her life.


  • Julie Ellis, a romantic female teen who is very persevering.
  • Luke Muldenhower, an avid football player, courter of Julie and a physically unstable person. He has been madly in love with Julie since 13th grade.

Okay, obviously I couldn't just SIT WITH THIS and NOT SHARE. I sent the link to my beloved friend Stacey, who sent comments on the cover (I'll include those below) and a recap of the wiki entry! Stacey, your words were so beautiful I had to share them with the world.
I love how the synopsis is crazy but kind of normally written until then suddenly it just is not normally written at all.
  • Sixth graders in mad love!
  • If you asked me "Two characters are named Luke and Julie. Which one of them is going to die, Luke or Julie?" It would SO CLEARLY be Luke. I am not sure why. Names, again, Lurlene!
  • "exorcise." I get a feeling there is more going on with Luke than meets the eye.
  • I love how it sounds like they're married. Julie persuades him to see a doctor not, you know, his mom who still washes his underpants.
  • "When Luke finds his way in heaven, he left Julie with a love that is being represented through tulips." I'm not sure, I swear, that anything I ever read will feel the way it felt when I read this sentence.
  • I'd like to think that "When Luke finds his way in heaven" indicates that the book actually takes place in some other dimension that may or may not be heaven and then there's a scene where he's like "I thought the 7/11 was around here? Can you direct me to the 7/11?" and then he finds his way.
  • A "physically unstable person"??? Oh shit this story just got way scarier. Run, Julie!!!!
  • 13TH GRADE 13TH GRADE WHAAAAAT COULD IT MEAN. I love that as the kicker to this synopsis SO MUCH.
Stacey, thank you so much for all of this.

Oh, you guys probably want to see the REAL synopsis, don't you?:
Julie Ellis and Luke Muldenhower have always been school sweethearts. Now both are in high school and deeply in love. Luke, a talented football player, is almost certain to receive an athletic scholarship to a top college. And no matter what her parents say, wherever Luke goes, Julie intends to follow. When Luke can't shake what he thinks is a virus, Julie persuades him to see a doctor. Luke's test results are alarming, but Julie believes their love is stronger than anything. Can love survive, now and forever?
I don't know; CAN IT?

That forementioned cover?

There's nothing I can say that Stacey didn't already say better, so:
I remember this cover from stores! Also, the SUNKEN EYES. I am confused by this cover because, is he SUPPOSED to look sickly? Like the cap and everything? Only there's clearly hair up there and stuff so maybe he is just a wimpy looking dude? Sorry dude that's mean cuz you're gonna die. Also in the inset: are they on the moon??
Thank you again, Stacey. Please feel free to precap any books you'd like!

The book opens with Julie letting Luke into her house. They get all expositiony to let us know they haven't seen each other much because Luke is all busy on the football team, of which Julie's dad is the coach. The kids are all snuggly:
He pressed his forehead against hers and kissed the tip of her turned-up nose.
Um I have thought about this scene a lot, you guys, and I can't make it physically possible in my head, unless he has THE WORLD'S SHORTEST FACE and she has the world's LONGEST face.

The coach comes in because he's totes obsessed with his star player Luke. Oh noes, Luke thinks he has a flu that can't be shaked! Hey, let's sing!
Shake your flu!
Luke just can't shake his flu!
Shake your flu!
Luke just can't shake HIS FLU.
The coach is horrified that Luke and Julie are planning a romantic date:
Her father looked horrified. "Don't go spoiling my prize quarterback and making him soft, Julie-girl."
Uh, coach? Most girls aren't exactly out to make their guys soft IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Obviously I hate the coach already! He makes some snarky comment about Julie throwing like a girl. If he said that to me I'd whip out a fucking ninja star and slice open his face, but they don't let me in the Lurleneverse for MANY OBVIOUS REASONS.
She knew her dad was teasing, but still his remark stung. She was her parents' only child. And a daughter at that.
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS "A DAUGHTER AT THAT" OH MY GOD. Yes, that's right, females are the inferior sex. Holy shit I'm pissed off, and I'm on page five!

Finally they escape the coach:
Once outside in the crisp November night, Luke took her in his arms and kissed her long and hard.
See, coach, he isn't getting soft at all!

They hang out with their friends Solena and Frank (does anyone in high school have a friend named Frank?) when Julie discovers a lump on Luke's neck. Ruh roh! He says it's only a swollen gland. (That's what she said!) Luke's all annoyed she's inquiring so much about his health. Luke, I sort of would be too. But I wouldn't handle it by saying:
"Are you going to hang out your shingle?" He held up an imaginary sign. "'Julie Ellis: Medicine Woman.'"

When Julie gets home, her guidance counselor mother is harassing her about filling out applications for college SOON because MY GOD SHE'S ALREADY A JUNIOR. WHAT THE HELLLLLLLLLLL. I knew some goddamned overachievers, trust me, but I don't know ANYONE who sent off applications their Junior year. Also do schools even consider you so early on?

Anyways, Julie has a dumbass college plan already. She knows Luke will get a bunch of football scholarship offers, so when she finds out from where, she'll just apply to those schools. Man, it's no wonder Julie's mom is concerned about Julie's future, but let's be real, you and me, Julie's mom, let's talk like pals: any of those schools accepting kids for early admission are NOT going to take your dumbass daughter.

So later that weekend Julie goes over to Luke's place and feels his glands. I'm not even kidding. They're still swollen, and she urges him to go to the doctor. They get in a big fight over this, because Luke's mom doesn't have the extra cash for doctor's visits. Julie says the coach will pay, and Luke says "It's my flu, you know", like, dude, way to be possessive about the dumbest thing ever. I've got only one thing to say about this:
Luke just can't shake HIS FLU!
When Julie tells the coach there was a fight, of course he blames her:
"Don't be hard on my man, Julie-girl. Luke's had a rough season. He doesn't need hassle from his girl."
Wait, don't be hard? I thought she wasn't supposed to let him get soft? I AM SO CONFUSED.

To apologize, Luke brings her a ton of flowers. Apparently Julie is SUPER INTO FLOWERS. Now, me, boys, am not a lady wooed by flowers. Flowers die, ya know. I mean, so do people and animals, but not so quickly (uhhh except in the Lurleneverse, good point). If you're going to give me something perishable make it some enchiladas or a six-pack of Newcastle. Anyways, Julie promises a kiss for every flower he gives her. Ugh, that sounds boring. What kind of plantlife means sex? Give her that next time, Luke.

A few days later, Julie's hanging out with Luke's mother, who is super awesome.
Julie thought Luke's mother was attractive, even if she was on the heavy side.
Nice, Julie, NICE.

So FINALLY Julie takes Luke to the doctor, where she introduces herself as "his, uh... friend". Um, what the fuck, Julie? It's not shameful to be his girlfriend! Well, obviously, it IS but not for whatever reason you're thinking. God, I hate you both. The doctor sends them straight to the hospital sixty miles away in Chicago. RUH ROH! Sounds bad, losers!

Obviously we all know what's going on: Luke's got the cancer! It's Hodgkin's Lymphoma! Somehow I suspect that the ninety-three percent cure rate quoted on Wiki will hold no power in the Lurleneverse.

Since it's... Christmas break or something?... Julie's been off school, so she's been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago with Luke's mom. How the hell much time does she get off for Christmas? Like, it's not even Christmas yet! Whatever, I'll stop applying logic here. She does go home to celebrate Christmas with her family:
[Her dress from the school holiday dance] reminded her of a simpler time, a throwback to days of unhurried sweetness when nothing was more pressing in her life than studying for a test.
Uh, Julie, you haven't been gone THAT LONG you freak! Also I doubt you ever studied too hard for a test, Miss My Future Matters Only So Much In That I Want To Go To College Wherever My Boyfriend Does.

Julie talks to Luke's mom about any other family who could possibly help out:
"Luke's uncle Steve knows what's going on, doesn't he?" Steve was Luke's father's only brother.

"Yes, but he's all the way out in Los Angeles. Except for phone calls and cards, there's nothing he can do. We haven't seen him for years. He's a bachelor with a job connected to the movie industry."
SPOILER ALERT but I totes expected from "bachelor" and "movie industry" that Steve had Teh Gay but apparently that wasn't code for anything but how selfish us jerks out here in L.A. are. To be fair I recently left the industry and hoooo boy are people nicer! JUST SAYING.

Julie hangs out with Solena, which is a nice opportunity for Lurlene to let us know just how accurately she depicts teenage conversation:
"Frank says that the guys on the team want to do something for Luke, but they don't know what," Solena said after the crowd momentarily cleared away from the table. "Some of the guys are weirded out about it. They think Luke hung the moon and they can't imagine him being sick that way."

"Then fire up your imagination--he really is."

"But cancer! It--it's so unfair!"
Once Luke's home from the hospital, the coach urges him to start working out. His first weight-lifting attempt is pretty sad:
"Man, I'm weak as a kitten."
Kittenish or not, Luke returns to school AND finishes up with chemo. Go Luke! Unfortunately, buddy, I've got a lot of book left, so things are NOT looking good for you. Obviously, for me either, at least you get to die while I'm stuck reading this. JUST SAYING.

Well, that was fast. Almost immediately, Luke goes in for a checkup, and he's got a mass in his chest. This time he won't do chemo, just radiation. All righty then! The doctor lets Luke know he might have some fertility issues later because apparently he's also got a mass in his groin! (That's what she said!) For the radiation treatments, the doctors have to put small tattoos on Luke (just tiny dots) so the technicians can line up the machines.
"Personally, if I got a tattoo, I'd have picked something more exciting--like a mermaid, or a heart."
A MERMAID OR A HEART? GodDAMN you're a badass, Luke. I mean, I have lyrics to showtunes permanently etched on my body, so I don't know why I think I have room to talk, but, geez. Way to be a badass, Luke, way to fucking be.

Solena reports to Julie that Luke's sickness has gotten Frank all paranoid:
"Every time he feels a bump or lump, or even if he has a headache, he gets squirrelly."
OMG seriously?

Also, if Frank's getting lots of lumps and bumps, maybe he SHOULD see a doctor!

While Luke's finishing up his radiation treatments, he's also being a total asshole to Julie. Dude, the hell? Doesn't every guy love a clingy virgin?? Obviously Luke's just got some ISSUES with all of the DYING and the TUMORS and the OMG GROIN CANCER STUFF. They make up OF COURSE, our stupid young non-lovers. And Luke's next scans are clear! GO LUKE!

But, um, Luke? I've still got a big chunk 'o book in front of me. JUST SAYING.

So Luke and Julie travel to L.A. to visit with Steve and his "significant other" Diedra. I am not being a punk; it is literally scare-quoted like that in the book. I guess only relations like wives and girlfriends get to be acknowledged, significant others (and probably partners) get scare quotes. Steve and Diedra are actually pretty cool, though they are stupid enough to want to get married while Luke and Julie are there and have them as their witnesses. Also they have really exciting lives, traveling a lot and working on films, but all they REALLY want is to settle down and have kids. I actually thought we were going to get a refreshing look at a non-traditional life partnership, but PSYCH! I'm like Charlie Brown running to kick the football of progress, and Lurlene/Lucy keeps yanking it away at the last minute.

Out in L.A., Luke asks Julie to promise to marry him someday. I guess that's called gettin' promised in the kinds of communities where people, ya know, get promised to each other. It seems stupid to me! Isn't that just being engaged? Like, "I promise when you ask me to marry me I'll say yes"? I don't get it. I guess it's for people who aren't old enough to really get engaged. Here's an idea! If you're too young to get married, maybe you're too young to make decisions about getting married!

Oh my freaking god. At the chapel, before the wedding, LUKE FUCKING PROPOSES TO JULIE. He gives her a silver and turquoise ring as "a promise ring", which isn't like the thing I just discussed, but A PROMISE TO BUY HER A REAL DIAMOND RING. Right, because engagement isn't real without a rock.

ARGH. I just don't understand! They're in fucking HIGH SCHOOL. I get that they're in love and all, and I don't diss that, seriously. There have been studies done that the love you feel for your high school sweetheart or whatever is no less real than the love you feel later on in life. The big difference is, obviously, when you're seventeen you have SO MUCH ahead of you that it's generally not a smart time to be picking, I dunno, LIFE PARTNERS.

I mean, is it just that they're "good" kids and won't do it before they're married? ARGH. Sex isn't mentioned in this book at all, and I really wish it was (I know, shut upppp) because I genuinely want to know if it's some physical urge making the kids want to shack up THE SOONER THE BETTER or if we're just supposed to think marriage is the most romantic thing any people in love can do, so OF COURSE our hero and heroine should do so.

School starts, and Luke's back on the football team, and doin' fiiiiiiine. Of course he is. There's a big game coming up, and both Luke's mom and Julie are too busy to go with him to the doctor visit right before. But he reports things went fine, so happiness ensues. Or whatever.

The tide turns at the big game though! Luke collapses, and has to be taken to the hospital. His bloodwork's all funky so he's admitted. It's now when he admits that he totes skipped that doctor's appointment. C'MON LUKE ARE YOU SERIOUS. He skipped it because he's been feeling like shit, and he KNEW he was sick. Um, I am not sure I follow your logic there, Luke.

He needs a bone marrow transplant (don't they all!) but attends school as much as he can. The new stadium is named after him, which is a kind of creepy honor WHEN HE'S STILL ALIVE. I guess someone high up in administration is aware they're in the Lurleneverse.

Luke gets sicker and sicker, and ends up back in the hospital. There, he and Julie agree they need to get married RIGHT NOW. WHAT THE HELL. We're not even supposed to think it's a bad idea, like when Cyd Charisse was gonna tie the knot with Shrimp! (To be fair I sort of hate Cyd Charisse and Shrimp too, though.) ARGH. Please die soon, Luke, do not let this stupid dream come to fruition.

Luke has to have surgery to remove a tumor in his lung. It's very risky because, uh, he's really sick. Also because this is the Lurleneverse. I wouldn't get my fucking tonsils taken out in the Lurleneverse. Everyone's there to rally around Luke, including the coach, Steve, and his "wife" Diedra.

NONSHOCK! Luke does NOT survive the surgery. OH NOES. At least Julie's not a widow! Though she IS still a virgin.

Julie is all shellshocked and walking numb through life. Her parents and friends are worried, but since her Luke is dead NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. But one day her father runs into the house and is all THERE IS SOMETHING I MUST SHOW YOU OH JULIE YOU JUST WON'T BELIEVE IT I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT and for some reason Julie, she of the shellshockedness and the numbness, goes with him. I GUESS THIS IS IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT.

So at the football stadium, in the middle of the field, someone has planted fucking tulips to spell out "I [Heart] U". Julie remembers that Luke promised to send a message from heaven, and she knows this is it. Actually, uh, Julie, tulips take awhile, so he probably did this awhile ago. AND HER FATHER TELLS HER AS MUCH HA! For once, coach, you and I are on the same page.

The coach won't even let the field be leveled until tulip season is over. Well, now I know! Football can be cast aside for frigging TULIPS FROM HEAVEN!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I am still alive!

In case you guys were afraid I was off examining funny bruises or catching a case of the comas, I have just been really busy with in-town family, my book, and this newfangled idea where I have a social life. I'll have a new post up for you guys soon.

If you're really bored in the meantime, feel free to purchase this DVD and recap it for me. Kisses!