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What Happened to Lani Garver

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Overview

Sixteen-year-old Claire is unable to face her fears about a recurrence of her leukemia, her eating disorder, her need to fit in with the popular crowd on Hackett Island, and her mother's alcoholism until the enigmatic Lani Garver helps her get control of her life at the risk of his own.

Sixteen-year-old Claire is unable to face her fears about a recurrence of her leukemia, her eating disorder, her need to fit in with the popular crowd on Hackett Island, and her ...

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Overview

Sixteen-year-old Claire is unable to face her fears about a recurrence of her leukemia, her eating disorder, her need to fit in with the popular crowd on Hackett Island, and her mother's alcoholism until the enigmatic Lani Garver helps her get control of her life at the risk of his own.

Sixteen-year-old Claire is unable to face her fears about a recurrence of her leukemia, her eating disorder, her need to fit in with the popular crowd on Hackett Island, and her mother's alcoholism until the enigmatic Lani Garver helps her get control of her life at the risk of his own.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Crackles with suspense."—Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
When a new student shows up, no one can tell if Lani is male or female. And then the question arises about whether Lani is human at all, or rather a "floating angel." According to PW, "the plotting exerts a sure grip." Ages 14-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Is Lani a he or a she? Or perhaps an angel? Claire isn't sure, though Lani is her new classmate and close friend, a kind, caring, streetwise person who helps her out. And Claire certainly needs help. She has fallen in with a shallow group of hard-partying cheerleaders and "fish frat" boys on small Hackett Island, hoping to forget her recent bout of leukemia, her emotionally distant father who lives in nearby Philadelphia, and her alcoholic mother. Claire has developed an eating disorder, and blunt but insightful Lani gets help for her. Claire is a talented guitarist, and through the therapist Lani introduces her to she starts to play with a band of HIV-positive musicians, who understand what it's like to have a life-threatening illness. Through Lani, she meets talented though suffering people and starts to ponder new ideas. Just as her life seems to be getting back on track, though, Lani starts getting harassed by the in crowd on Hackett Island. A macho guy tries to molest him, and then turns on him, along with Claire's former friends. Lani is against intolerance and stereotyping; he hates putting people in "boxes," but, when pushed, says that he isn't a girl, though he looks effeminate. Homophobia and Claire's tendency to lash out quickly build up to a violent climax. Plum-Ucci, the author of the excellent YA mystery The Body of Christopher Creed, offers here another emotionally intense tale of teen relationships with a bit of a supernatural flavor. This is an involving, dramatic tale that will quickly draw readers in, with a message about tolerance and characters that intrigue—especially the enigmatic Lani. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high schoolstudents, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Harcourt, 308p.,
— Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Claire McKenzie, 16, is a cheerleader, musician, and leukemia survivor. She's haunted by dreams, day and night, that her cancer is back. She secretly writes music with lyrics inspired by dark visions of girls who cut themselves with razors and watch themselves bleed. Her friend Macy is controlling, but she helps Claire feel "normal." Lani Garver enters the picture as a new student at their high school. With his porcelain skin, high cheekbones, longish bob, and seductive walk, it is hard to be sure if he's a guy or a girl. Claire's friends decide that he is gay. He is intelligent and worldly wise and is the one person to whom Claire can talk about her darkest dreams and fears. He seems incapable of not speaking the truth even when his life depends on it. Plum-Ucci also introduces magical elements into the story through Lani's philosophical reflections on Andovenes' Angels, and Claire's growing speculation that her new friend may indeed be a floating angel. She discovers who she is, in the face of unbelievably strong peer pressure, and the determination to decide what is real and what is not. Prejudice, homophobia, friendship, tolerance, individuality, and the possibility that something spiritually bigger than all of us rules this universe are wonderfully woven into this powerfully told story. Outstanding writing, strong characterization, and riveting plot development make this title rise above many recent coming-of-age stories.-Lynn Bryant, Great Bridge Middle School, Chesapeake, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Plum-Ucci seems to be establishing a pattern: disaffected teen with a mysterious past moves into a cliquish, closed community and shows them the errors of their superficial ways. What saves this from being formulaic and sappy are the strong characterizations and vivid settings. Lani Garver moves into a small, insular fishing island called Hackett, populated by the hunky sons of fisherman and the spoiled cheerleaders they date. At first it is unclear how old Lani is, where Lani is from, or even if Lani is a boy or a girl. Claire is drawn to him, having grown increasingly dissatisfied with the shallowness of her life and friends. She's coping with her mother's increasing descent into alcoholism, the possible recurrence of her childhood leukemia, and an eating disorder. Lani and Claire establish a relationship that is based on honesty, something sorely lacking on Hackett Island. Her "in crowd" will not tolerate any dissension in the ranks and decides to show Lani how things work on their island. Their ridicule escalates into much more and their actions have tragic consequences. Ucci is a pro at teen dialogue, worries, and thought processes. The characterizations are superb, from Claire's troubles to her over-the-top friends' shallow concerns to Lani's fierce individualism and his artsy, eclectic city friends. The hint of supernatural only adds to the appeal. Successfully raising many valid issues, this should appeal to teens from the popular to the marginalized. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152050887
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Edition description: 1st Harcourt Paperback Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 256,921
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

CAROL PLUM-UCCI is the author of the acclaimed Body of Christopher Creed, which was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. She lives in southern New Jersey.

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Read an Excerpt

How can some people's lives look so good when they're so foul underneath? That's the question I ask when I leaf through this photo album Macy gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I got it at my surprise party in October of sophomore year, three weeks to the day before Lani Garver showed up on Hackett.

It's full of pictures of me and Macy and our other friends, and we've got some wild and happy parade of the teeth going on. And it's not like we were faking happiness for pictures. That's what terrifies me most. If anyone had asked, my friends and I would have said in a heartbeat, "We rule the cule," and would have believed ourselves.

Macy scrawled titles by each picture in her pretty handwriting that slants backwards. The one most likely to rip our sides was "Uh-Oh, The Umbrella Ride," because of the disgusting story behind it, but like all "true brew stories," you find a place for it in your heart.

The summer after freshman year, Macy's big sister, Mary Beth, decided it was time to introduce us to Oleander's whiskey, better known by Hackett's fishermen as Old Sweat Sock. She felt we were getting too cocky about our alcohol imbibement tales. Mary Beth was eighteen but had a fake ID. She bought a good-sized bottle of Old Sweat Sock at the Rod 'N' Reel. The six of us passed this bottle around in her car as she gunned it down Mariner Road to Fisherman's Wharf for some general goofing around.

Myra Whitehall, who sat in the passenger seat, announced that she suddenly wasn't feeling so great. Mary Beth didn't want to slow down, because this Jeep full of Hackett's finest studs was bumper smooching her Mustang, and she didn't want them to see hurl flying out of her passenger window. She kept saying, "Deal with it, Myra!"

Myra couldn't help rolling down the window, and to our disgust from the backseat, the ocean breeze was blowing in-way hard. Macy rooted through Mary Beth's stuff and came up with an umbrella. She snapped it open and shoved it up in front of the four of us in back. When Myra's stomach said, "No more," we screamed some combo victory chant/barnyard noises, completely protected from impending doom. The Jeep passed us with all-too-embarrassing curses and loud requests for car wash reimbursement. Geneva Graham snapped this picture on the wharf right after we got there.

I was smiling so completely. Except for Myra-who had just been ruined socially for at least a week-we all were.

Right next to that photo there's "Lesbian Hayride," which happened around Halloween of freshman year. I don't even remember how we lucked out so well, but Macy and I ended up in a hay wagon with about a dozen guys from the fish frat-that's the sons of Hackett's commercial fishermen, who are sometimes lifeguards and usually very hunky. We were trying not to act stupid, but also to act like we could care less about these breathtaking studs. As Mary Beth had lectured us, the only way to catch a guy in the fish frat is to pretend you don't care.

Macy and I were standing in the middle of this cart, baying at the moon, or something acceptably retarded, when the wagon jerked and I fell on my back. Macy fell on top of me-with my spider legs all sprawled and her in the middle of them. I tried to tell her to get off, but I was like a jellyfish-major embarrassment laughing fit in process. And I could hear her laughing just as hard in my ear. I didn't know this at the time, but supposedly watching lesbians is some hot thing for upper-classmen. And these hunks were joking, all "Go, ladies! Be ladies!" Macy loved the attention. I was paralyzed with shock, like I was every time my naiveness caught up with me.

It wasn't exactly a big secret-just something we rarely talked about-but I had missed a year and a half of junior high school. My knowledge of sex was full of holes-everything you'd learn in seventh grade and the first half of eighth.

In this bonfire picture, we're surrounded by upperclassmen fish frat, and my smile is plastered on due to information overload about lesbians. Two of these guys actually asked for our phone numbers, and I wasn't even upset when they never called. The fact that they even asked was, like, too amazing. I figured they probably heard we were a couple of freshmen convent queens in disguise. The picture was good enough for me.

"March," "April," "June," "September" are four pictures on the same page. The first three were taken by my mom, of Macy teaching me a back handspring, each getting a little more graceful. "September" is my junior varsity cheerleading photo.

Great stuff. "Not a cloud on the horizon," an outsider might say. I can see a few clouds in some pictures, but only because I know my own life.

My mom, the former Coast Regional Homecoming Queen who never grew out of it, took a picture of me after my first day at Coast, all excited. She thought I was on my way to becoming her-I only had to add the cheerleading pom-poms and studly boyfriends. Macy called this picture "Claire Still Has No Friends But She's Getting There."

I was sprawled out in a chair in our living room, with my head on my hand. My hair, miraculously, had grown past my shoulders in the six months since I went back to eighth grade. I no longer had "chemotherapy cheeks," as my dad called them, which are the color of half-dried rubber cement. I see my hair, my complexion, and I can read some sort of magic determination in them: Get rid of the past. And my eyes caught the flash so they seemed to shine with hope.

Coast Regional High School was a huge place, where girls with problems could remake their lives. New faces poured in from four other barrier islands, which meant that to four-fifths of these kids, you did not have a past. There was a kind of hope whizzing around the corridors. Joe Hunk could ask you out tomorrow, even if you had been a dork-breath yesterday. You could work your way into a seat in the cafeteria at that fourth table from the door-which around here is known as the Queen's Table-even if you were shoveled off to the corner with the invisible unknowns during the first week. Some eighth-grade science nerd could save up for a foil job, come into school a raving blond, and totally believe her life would change.

I tried to tell myself just to forget about anything like becoming outrageously popular. I felt at a serious disadvantage even to a science nerd, having heard my last dirty joke at a sixth-grade pajama party, and then dropping into Homeschool Hell for the Sick for a year and a half. If you start eighth grade in January, completely naive, looking like something the cat dragged in, you can only hope for a huge high school like Coast to help you disappear a little better.

But even my brain couldn't help figuring out which crowds were going to have all the fun. A group of girls sat at the fourth lunch table from the door in the cafeteria, and they were so cute, and so not shy, and just mean enough that nobody would dare pick on them. Despite that cheerleading tryouts had not been held yet, they were starting to be called the Freshmen Cheerleaders, and their table was nicknamed-in mumbles from girls who didn't sit there-the Queen's Table.

I didn't doubt that these girls would be cool around here. In fact, they were all from Hackett, so I knew them from grade school, and they had been popular since about fifth grade, or whenever it is you start to think about stuff like that. Most had swapped jokes with me at a bunch of sixth-grade slumber parties.

The second week of high school, I was going past them into the girls' bathroom, and Eli Spellings didn't keep her voice low enough.

"Look, there goes that leukemia girl. Her hair grew back way nice, at least. Remember her from January? She looked like she'd been nuked in a microwave. Was that sickening, or what?"

I went into a stall and leaned against the side, with my hand over my mouth. I totally forgot to sit down and go to the bathroom. I had been suspicious that these kinds of remarks flew. It's just that people were polite enough not to say them where I could hear.

Macy Matlock was standing in the middle of them, as usual, and happened to take a different view of the thing. I heard her mouth go off, because you can't miss that.

"You pig, Eli. What the hell is wrong with you?" I heard something like a slap, like she smacked a book to the floor, or cracked a notebook on the sink ledge. "That girl is one of the sweetest people you'd ever want to meet, and not only that, but she just heard you."

Footsteps clomped my way, and I prayed to wake up from this nightmare. But there she was, gazing in the stall door, because I'd been too stupid to lock it. I glanced back, thinking the veins in my face would crack open.

She grabbed my wrist, and before I knew it, we were moving back toward this bathroom meeting of the Queen's Table, which amounted to about seven glares, all mowing me down to nothing.

"I know you heard that, Claire. Eli has something to say."

Macy folded her arms across her chest, giving Eli the death look, and I waited for them to jerk past me and run, or get meaner. What I didn't understand had a lot more to do with Macy than anyone else.

She has a big mouth, but her heart is bigger over certain matters of principle. Second, if she believes something and glares into your eyes, you believe it, too, no questions asked. For whatever reason, she totally believed Eli owed me an apology. Eli spit out what would have made the Pope happy.

"Claire. Oh my god. I didn't know you could hear me, I mean...not that I should be saying shit like that, anyway. I just...last year? I didn't know what to say to you, that's all. I'm just really stupid...Okay?"

I glanced at Macy in stunned awe, then at the floor, realizing some response was expected. Nurses forever warned me that people wouldn't know what to say. It was completely forgivable.

But it came out something like, "Forget it...please...I don't think...anyone should have to know...what to say...," and my voice box pizzled out because I couldn't smile and think of words at the same time.

Macy kicked her in the ankle. "See! Did I tell you she was sweet?"

Her loudness made me jump, and for whatever reason, they thought that was funny. Myra Whitehall grabbed my arm and pulled me along with them. "Come on, hang with us? I was at Kim Norris's sixth-grade slumber party with you. Remember?"

I felt sure they were just feeling sorry for Claire with the Novelty Sickness in Her Past, and I didn't want that. We were going into fourth period, which meant the cafeteria, which meant they were thinking I would sit at the so-called Queen's Table. I only got swept along with it because I was in shock.

There's a photo of all of us at the Queen's Table, taken three days later by Myra. My arms are crossed, and I'm biting my lip over my smile. I don't belong at this table, or in this picture with Eli Spellings, Geneva Graham, and Macy Matlock. And if I smiled too big, they would see the evidence in the photo later. Macy called that one "Claire the Humble, Macy the Horrible. Every Bitch Needs a Claire."

She was referring to her darker side, which everyone knew she had, because of her big mouth. For Macy's good part, she would never tolerate evil treatment toward somebody who had done nothing to deserve it. For example, I had not done anything to deserve Eli's bathroom ignorance, because you can't help having been sick. Macy would shove people for remarks on girls with huge chests, kids with bad skin, people with disabilities.

But those people were few and far between compared to people who could help what was wrong with them. Other people were obnoxious, dorky, phony, smelly, fat-yet-overeating, whiny, wimpy, stingy, clumsy, overly horny, or butt smooches. She had managed to perfect herself and could not see why it was so hard for anybody else. And she would rip on these people and not care who heard.

"Lyda Barone Bombs Out Macy" is a funny photo in a sick way, because I have this look of horror on my face as a glowing Lyda Barone clings to my arm. Lyda had all but wrapped herself around me for about a week, probably because I was the only person who had ever been nice to her. Everyone said she smelled. She looked like she would because she didn't wash her hair a whole lot, but I never actually smelled anything.

My look of horror came because of a trick Macy had started to pull in pictures. She would plan out ways she could "enhance" the picture, all the way back to when she was posing. She knew she wanted to pen in "air stink" squiggles going from Lyda's armpits to her own nose, so she posed all wide-eyed with her eyes going in that direction. I knew what she was up to, because she'd done it before, but it was hard to lecture her when you're cracking up.

When I say a foulness lay under the surface of these pictures, I can't say exactly what breed of garbage was ready to squirt from behind each person's eyeballs. But I can talk about myself, and it would only be fair to do that. Other people's foulness had to be there, and it had to be as big, or bigger, than my own. I say that because of what happened when Lani Garver showed up. A new kid walks into school, and you can't tell by staring whether it's a girl or a guy. A stink the size of Kansas doesn't get raised out of people's sweetness and kindness. I ended up being a victim, and everyone else wound up on the let's-obliterate-the-gay-kid squad. What does that say about whose garbage is bigger? And here's some dirt on me:

While all my daytime fun was going on, I had started having nightmares that were gory and disgusting. I would wake up all Claire, you are nuthouse material. In these dreams, girls I had never seen before would cut swirly designs in their legs with knives, or swallow forks, or part their hair with razor blades, stuff like that. I hadn't had a single nightmare I could remember while on chemo, and yet here I was in the greatest time period of my life having these dreams like something out of a horror flick.

And what's worse is I was not entirely scared of them. Some totally sick part of me was obsessed with them. I would make them into songs that I would play on my electric guitar, down in the basement. I had a notebook full of lyrics that would have choked the devil. Sometimes I was all ashamed of this thing, and yet these lyrics rhymed and rhythmed out so well that I couldn't bring myself to burn them. Nobody knew about this. Who could I tell? Macy was tone-deaf. My mom would tell the whole island, and my dad had just gotten remarried.

Copyright © 2002 by Carol Plum-Ucci

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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First Chapter

1
How can some people's lives look so good when they're so foul underneath? That's the question I ask when I leaf through this photo album Macy gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I got it at my surprise party in October of sophomore year, three weeks to the day before Lani Garver showed up on Hackett.
It's full of pictures of me and Macy and our other friends, and we've got some wild and happy parade of the teeth going on. And it's not like we were faking happiness for pictures. That's what terrifies me most. If anyone had asked, my friends and I would have said in a heartbeat, "We rule the cule," and would have believed ourselves.
Macy scrawled titles by each picture in her pretty handwriting that slants backwards. The one most likely to rip our sides was "Uh-Oh, The Umbrella Ride," because of the disgusting story behind it, but like all "true brew stories," you find a place for it in your heart.
The summer after freshman year, Macy's big sister, Mary Beth, decided it was time to introduce us to Oleander's whiskey, better known by Hackett's fishermen as Old Sweat Sock. She felt we were getting too cocky about our alcohol imbibement tales. Mary Beth was eighteen but had a fake ID. She bought a good-sized bottle of Old Sweat Sock at the Rod 'N' Reel. The six of us passed this bottle around in her car as she gunned it down Mariner Road to Fisherman's Wharf for some general goofing around.
Myra Whitehall, who sat in the passenger seat, announced that she suddenly wasn't feeling so great. Mary Beth didn't want to slow down, because this Jeep full of Hackett's finest studs was bumper smooching her Mustang, and she didn't want them to see hurl flying out of her passenger window. She kept saying, "Deal with it, Myra!"
Myra couldn't help rolling down the window, and to our disgust from the backseat, the ocean breeze was blowing in-way hard. Macy rooted through Mary Beth's stuff and came up with an umbrella. She snapped it open and shoved it up in front of the four of us in back. When Myra's stomach said, "No more," we screamed some combo victory chant/barnyard noises, completely protected from impending doom. The Jeep passed us with all-too-embarrassing curses and loud requests for car wash reimbursement. Geneva Graham snapped this picture on the wharf right after we got there.
I was smiling so completely. Except for Myra-who had just been ruined socially for at least a week-we all were.
Right next to that photo there's "Lesbian Hayride," which happened around Halloween of freshman year. I don't even remember how we lucked out so well, but Macy and I ended up in a hay wagon with about a dozen guys from the fish frat-that's the sons of Hackett's commercial fishermen, who are sometimes lifeguards and usually very hunky. We were trying not to act stupid, but also to act like we could care less about these breathtaking studs. As Mary Beth had lectured us, the only way to catch a guy in the fish frat is to pretend you don't care.
Macy and I were standing in the middle of this cart, baying at the moon, or something acceptably retarded, when the wagon jerked and I fell on my back. Macy fell on top of me-with my spider legs all sprawled and her in the middle of them. I tried to tell her to get off, but I was like a jellyfish-major embarrassment laughing fit in process. And I could hear her laughing just as hard in my ear. I didn't know this at the time, but supposedly watching lesbians is some hot thing for upper-classmen. And these hunks were joking, all "Go, ladies! Be ladies!" Macy loved the attention. I was paralyzed with shock, like I was every time my naiveness caught up with me.
It wasn't exactly a big secret-just something we rarely talked about-but I had missed a year and a half of junior high school. My knowledge of sex was full of holes-everything you'd learn in seventh grade and the first half of eighth.
In this bonfire picture, we're surrounded by upperclassmen fish frat, and my smile is plastered on due to information overload about lesbians. Two of these guys actually asked for our phone numbers, and I wasn't even upset when they never called. The fact that they even asked was, like, too amazing. I figured they probably heard we were a couple of freshmen convent queens in disguise. The picture was good enough for me.
"March," "April," "June," "September" are four pictures on the same page. The first three were taken by my mom, of Macy teaching me a back handspring, each getting a little more graceful. "September" is my junior varsity cheerleading photo.
Great stuff. "Not a cloud on the horizon," an outsider might say. I can see a few clouds in some pictures, but only because I know my own life.
My mom, the former Coast Regional Homecoming Queen who never grew out of it, took a picture of me after my first day at Coast, all excited. She thought I was on my way to becoming her-I only had to add the cheerleading pom-poms and studly boyfriends. Macy called this picture "Claire Still Has No Friends But She's Getting There."
I was sprawled out in a chair in our living room, with my head on my hand. My hair, miraculously, had grown past my shoulders in the six months since I went back to eighth grade. I no longer had "chemotherapy cheeks," as my dad called them, which are the color of half-dried rubber cement. I see my hair, my complexion, and I can read some sort of magic determination in them: Get rid of the past. And my eyes caught the flash so they seemed to shine with hope.
Coast Regional High School was a huge place, where girls with problems could remake their lives. New faces poured in from four other barrier islands, which meant that to four-fifths of these kids, you did not have a past. There was a kind of hope whizzing around the corridors. Joe Hunk could ask you out tomorrow, even if you had been a dork-breath yesterday. You could work your way into a seat in the cafeteria at that fourth table from the door-which around here is known as the Queen's Table-even if you were shoveled off to the corner with the invisible unknowns during the first week. Some eighth-grade science nerd could save up for a foil job, come into school a raving blond, and totally believe her life would change.
I tried to tell myself just to forget about anything like becoming outrageously popular. I felt at a serious disadvantage even to a science nerd, having heard my last dirty joke at a sixth-grade pajama party, and then dropping into Homeschool Hell for the Sick for a year and a half. If you start eighth grade in January, completely naive, looking like something the cat dragged in, you can only hope for a huge high school like Coast to help you disappear a little better.
But even my brain couldn't help figuring out which crowds were going to have all the fun. A group of girls sat at the fourth lunch table from the door in the cafeteria, and they were so cute, and so not shy, and just mean enough that nobody would dare pick on them. Despite that cheerleading tryouts had not been held yet, they were starting to be called the Freshmen Cheerleaders, and their table was nicknamed-in mumbles from girls who didn't sit there-the Queen's Table.
I didn't doubt that these girls would be cool around here. In fact, they were all from Hackett, so I knew them from grade school, and they had been popular since about fifth grade, or whenever it is you start to think about stuff like that. Most had swapped jokes with me at a bunch of sixth-grade slumber parties.
The second week of high school, I was going past them into the girls' bathroom, and Eli Spellings didn't keep her voice low enough.
"Look, there goes that leukemia girl. Her hair grew back way nice, at least. Remember her from January? She looked like she'd been nuked in a microwave. Was that sickening, or what?"
I went into a stall and leaned against the side, with my hand over my mouth. I totally forgot to sit down and go to the bathroom. I had been suspicious that these kinds of remarks flew. It's just that people were polite enough not to say them where I could hear.
Macy Matlock was standing in the middle of them, as usual, and happened to take a different view of the thing. I heard her mouth go off, because you can't miss that.
"You pig, Eli. What the hell is wrong with you?" I heard something like a slap, like she smacked a book to the floor, or cracked a notebook on the sink ledge. "That girl is one of the sweetest people you'd ever want to meet, and not only that, but she just heard you."
Footsteps clomped my way, and I prayed to wake up from this nightmare. But there she was, gazing in the stall door, because I'd been too stupid to lock it. I glanced back, thinking the veins in my face would crack open.
She grabbed my wrist, and before I knew it, we were moving back toward this bathroom meeting of the Queen's Table, which amounted to about seven glares, all mowing me down to nothing.
"I know you heard that, Claire. Eli has something to say."
Macy folded her arms across her chest, giving Eli the death look, and I waited for them to jerk past me and run, or get meaner. What I didn't understand had a lot more to do with Macy than anyone else.
She has a big mouth, but her heart is bigger over certain matters of principle. Second, if she believes something and glares into your eyes, you believe it, too, no questions asked. For whatever reason, she totally believed Eli owed me an apology. Eli spit out what would have made the Pope happy.
"Claire. Oh my god. I didn't know you could hear me, I mean...not that I should be saying shit like that, anyway. I just...last year? I didn't know what to say to you, that's all. I'm just really stupid...Okay?"
I glanced at Macy in stunned awe, then at the floor, realizing some response was expected. Nurses forever warned me that people wouldn't know what to say. It was completely forgivable.
But it came out something like, "Forget it...please...I don't think...anyone should have to know...what to say...," and my voice box pizzled out because I couldn't smile and think of words at the same time.
Macy kicked her in the ankle. "See! Did I tell you she was sweet?"
Her loudness made me jump, and for whatever reason, they thought that was funny. Myra Whitehall grabbed my arm and pulled me along with them. "Come on, hang with us? I was at Kim Norris's sixth-grade slumber party with you. Remember?"
I felt sure they were just feeling sorry for Claire with the Novelty Sickness in Her Past, and I didn't want that. We were going into fourth period, which meant the cafeteria, which meant they were thinking I would sit at the so-called Queen's Table. I only got swept along with it because I was in shock.
There's a photo of all of us at the Queen's Table, taken three days later by Myra. My arms are crossed, and I'm biting my lip over my smile. I don't belong at this table, or in this picture with Eli Spellings, Geneva Graham, and Macy Matlock. And if I smiled too big, they would see the evidence in the photo later. Macy called that one "Claire the Humble, Macy the Horrible. Every Bitch Needs a Claire."
She was referring to her darker side, which everyone knew she had, because of her big mouth. For Macy's good part, she would never tolerate evil treatment toward somebody who had done nothing to deserve it. For example, I had not done anything to deserve Eli's bathroom ignorance, because you can't help having been sick. Macy would shove people for remarks on girls with huge chests, kids with bad skin, people with disabilities.
But those people were few and far between compared to people who could help what was wrong with them. Other people were obnoxious, dorky, phony, smelly, fat-yet-overeating, whiny, wimpy, stingy, clumsy, overly horny, or butt smooches. She had managed to perfect herself and could not see why it was so hard for anybody else. And she would rip on these people and not care who heard.
"Lyda Barone Bombs Out Macy" is a funny photo in a sick way, because I have this look of horror on my face as a glowing Lyda Barone clings to my arm. Lyda had all but wrapped herself around me for about a week, probably because I was the only person who had ever been nice to her. Everyone said she smelled. She looked like she would because she didn't wash her hair a whole lot, but I never actually smelled anything.
My look of horror came because of a trick Macy had started to pull in pictures. She would plan out ways she could "enhance" the picture, all the way back to when she was posing. She knew she wanted to pen in "air stink" squiggles going from Lyda's armpits to her own nose, so she posed all wide-eyed with her eyes going in that direction. I knew what she was up to, because she'd done it before, but it was hard to lecture her when you're cracking up.
When I say a foulness lay under the surface of these pictures, I can't say exactly what breed of garbage was ready to squirt from behind each person's eyeballs. But I can talk about myself, and it would only be fair to do that. Other people's foulness had to be there, and it had to be as big, or bigger, than my own. I say that because of what happened when Lani Garver showed up. A new kid walks into school, and you can't tell by staring whether it's a girl or a guy. A stink the size of Kansas doesn't get raised out of people's sweetness and kindness. I ended up being a victim, and everyone else wound up on the let's-obliterate-the-gay-kid squad. What does that say about whose garbage is bigger? And here's some dirt on me:
While all my daytime fun was going on, I had started having nightmares that were gory and disgusting. I would wake up all Claire, you are nuthouse material. In these dreams, girls I had never seen before would cut swirly designs in their legs with knives, or swallow forks, or part their hair with razor blades, stuff like that. I hadn't had a single nightmare I could remember while on chemo, and yet here I was in the greatest time period of my life having these dreams like something out of a horror flick.
And what's worse is I was not entirely scared of them. Some totally sick part of me was obsessed with them. I would make them into songs that I would play on my electric guitar, down in the basement. I had a notebook full of lyrics that would have choked the devil. Sometimes I was all ashamed of this thing, and yet these lyrics rhymed and rhythmed out so well that I couldn't bring myself to burn them. Nobody knew about this. Who could I tell? Macy was tone-deaf. My mom would tell the whole island, and my dad had just gotten remarried.
When I started my job at Sydney's Café, at the beginning of sophomore year, Macy took a picture and called it "Claire Decides to Ruin Every Saturday Night for Two Hours Over 25 Bucks." It's me with my acoustic guitar, singing cheery old folk songs into the mike. You would think my brain was a flower shop.
We actually had that photo album in the cafeteria during lunch on the day Lani Garver first showed up. Macy was cursing a blue streak because none of the pictures from my surprise party had turned out.
"We finally get you a boyfriend in the fish frat, and there's no evidence of 'Macy Performs a Miracle.' Shit..." A photo landed in front of me that was supposed to be me and Scott, but above our noses was only white and flash.
"Smiles are good." I handed it back, and she glared at my usual calm like a cat in the dark.
"That was a miracle"-she started smacking overexposures down on the table, and I couldn't argue-"being that you couldn't seduce a tree trunk."
I laced my fingers across my stomach, stretching out in the chair and pondering on that. "Seduce somebody. Like, how do you seduce somebody? Like, why should I have to seduce somebody? Can't we just be chilling and some guy likes me for that?"
Eli raised her head from copying Geneva Graham's Spanish homework, and they both giggled.
Macy threw her head down on the table in a shock fest. "Help this woman before she loses what I just helped her catch. She's deeply disturbed."
"Watch this, Claire." Eli nudged Geneva, who could catch just about anybody, at least for a night or two. "Do your peanut-butter thing."
I watched, mildly amused, as Geneva upset half the cafeteria, sucking peanut-butter glops off her pinky, her eyes burning a hole into one dying bastard after another.
"You try." She pushed her mutilated PB&J at me.
I blinked at it long enough to make them think I might. "I don't eat peanut butter."
"Claire, Little Miss Chronic Diet," Geneva groaned. "Use your salad dressing!"
"It's watery, low-fat Italian. I'll end up feeding my shirt." My grin slid a little wider, because they knew there was no chance of this thing happening.
"Hey, she already caught herself a hottie, without any peanut butter, cigarette lighter, Vaseline lip, dangly earring, tongue piercing, pedicure wiggling, sassy butt, helpless routine." Myra stopped for air and her collie-dog eyes glowed. She was sweet. Always on my side. "You know, maybe you should be asking her for lessons. Claire, how'd you catch Scott Dern?"
I looked down at my laced fingers, sniffing to break the silence. "I don't know. I don't think he likes me very much. He's not exactly...talkative."
"He's fish frat! They're too cool to be motormouths." Eli waved me down. "You have to get him alone."
"She's had him alone. At least, she had him alone with me and Phil," Macy snapped, and started tossing ruined photos over her back into the aisle in frustration. "I don't have any evidence of that night at Phil's house, or the party night. Four rolls down the toilet! What gives with this goddamn camera-"
Eli, Myra, and Geneva were still stuck on the alone business, boring holes through me like three Cheshire cats. I just let my grin wander higher, so they could think what they wanted, because this conversation was moving dangerously close to some garbage I didn't want to spew about Scott.
Albert Fein saved me by picking up one of the overexposed pictures as he came past with his tray. "Somebody's pictures are on the floor."
"It's a picture of Claire McKenzie in her underwear. If you want, she'll autograph it." Macy glared dead into his eyes, and Albert Fein was just dorky enough to try to stare through the overexposure.
The girls cracked up until Albert's ears turned red, and I held out my hand for it. "I'm not in my underwear, Albert. Give it here."
"You can still autograph it." He pulled it away, and I flopped my arm back down in frustration because I knew what was coming, and I knew it would start a fight with my friends.
Macy said it for him in this nasty, screechy twang. "Aren't you that famous guitar player from Sydney's? Don't you know anything, Albert? 'Famous' and 'Sydney's' do not go in the same sentence. This is an island. The only famous people are tourists."
I nodded hard in agreement, hoping that would end it, but it didn't.
"She's breaking up our Saturday nights! For what, Albert?"
He grinned from ear to ear just because she was talking to him; the fact that she was telling him off didn't seem to matter. "Well, I think it's cool-"
"Good, then you can go chuck money at her with all the fishwives while we're waiting to go party. Now, give me that picture and get out of here..." She trailed off from her dork attack, staring over my shoulder, down the aisle. Her hawk eye was working itself big-time on somebody, which was not unusual. But I was facing Myra, Geneva, and Eli, and their eyebrows were lowering, too.
I tilted my head backward over my chair, and that was how I recognized Lani Garver from homeroom. Upside down. He had just stood up from a table over in the corner and was putting trash on a lunch tray. I brought my head back up and yawned. I probably could have ignored this whole thing nicely, if it wasn't for Albert.
"Is that thing a boy or a girl?"
My head snapped up to his braces smile, and thank god I was yawning, because I might have actually hollered at him. I could never forget what eighth grade felt like. And I didn't get how some overweight, underbuilt bucktoothed kid finds room to goof on somebody else who looks funny. Is it because we're talking to you? Get your power somewhere else, hypocrite...
"It's a boy." I kept yawning to keep from snapping the news. "The teacher asked how to spell his name. It's L-A-N-I, but he said you pronounce it Lonny."
"Looks like a damn girl." Albert kept up. "Except that would be one very tall girl. Jesus, maybe it's one of those...those...hermaphrodisiacs-"
I rubbed my eyes in annoyance, knowing Macy would handle it, which she did. "Who asked you! The only thing I remember anyone asking you is to leave, mean face. Can the kid help it if he has long eyelashes and pink cheeks? What are you-jealous? Roll on out of here before somebody starts in on your looks."
I gave her the time-out sign because Albert was moving away from us, grinning to hide the redness on his ear tips.
She turned her gaze to Myra and Eli and Geneva. "Cut it out! No stare fests. Claire said it was a boy."
I sat there blinking as she kept rolling her neck to get the kinks out. Every roll gave her another opportunity to check out Lani Garver over my shoulder.
And she didn't lecture again when Geneva piped up. "Claire, I think that guy is wearing blush and eyeliner. The teacher actually asked, 'Are you a guy?'"
Eli and Myra turned to watch me suspiciously. I had noticed only two things in homeroom-his height and the drumsticks shoved into his jeans' back pocket. I'm five ten but would have only come up to this kid's cheekbones. I had seen the sticks and thought, Hmm, a drummer. Way cool.
"You know what? I don't think the teacher ever did ask-"
"Claire, you are so dense." Macy surrendered and stared. This boy-girl was now coming up the aisle, which gave me a chance to look without being too obvious.
The first challenge was the combination of shoulders and face. I wouldn't say there were muscles, just larger bones that made the shoulders broad. And yet, you would look at this face and think, Girl. No question. Geneva had a point, because the face looked to be done over with really subtle makeup-until it got within about six feet of you. Then you realize, That's not makeup. It's just really peachy skin, overly thick eyelashes, natural pipeline lips. The dark hair was to Lani Garver's shoulders-with the top layers kind of bobbed under and going behind the ears. Guys don't plan their hair. Girl, I thought.
Lani passed by us, and I looked at the back view. Most girls had hips. Guy?
I tried to look at this person as a butch girl, which would have worked, except for the big shoulder bones. I decided it looked slightly more like a gay guy. I waited as this Lani Garver turned left at the front and gave us a profile. Macy could always see into my head along with everybody else's.
"You're waiting to see if there are bumps in the front. Nope, no triangles." Her tone was curious and not mean, because if this turned out to be a girl, the haircut was cute, and no one can fault a girl for being over six foot and flat-chested. "God almighty. I hope it's a girl."
Without her head moving, her eyes wandered sideways until they caught the table where the fish frat were sitting. I let my own eyes wander past the cluster of big muscles, anchor tattoos, and sunburnt noses even in chilly November. Fortunately, they were just talking among themselves and eating. The fish frat didn't notice people easily. They waited for everyone to notice them.
Lani Garver's dark-chocolate brown eyes caught on this and that thing on the tray, like there was no real thought, and all the staring didn't register.
My eyes couldn't help falling to you-know-where. I'm not saying it was a huge bump. But girls' jeans zippers tend to lean almost backward, when they're skinny and their jeans are tight. This zipper came out-at least more than it went in. Guy.
Lani placed a tray in the holder above the trash can, then the hands smacked together in a dainty way, like to get the garbage-can dirt off them. Girl? Then the eyes met mine. With a couple hundred kids in the cafeteria, there were a lot of different directions those eyes could have gone. It felt a little eerie. I met the gaze as evenly as I could, feeling weirdly challenged by it, like I had to prove I wasn't intimidated.
I ended up breaking this brief looking-match because Macy nudged me hard in the arm. A picture landed in front of me.
"The only one. In four rolls. What is up with that?"
Lani Garver's stare was forgotten for the moment. I gazed at the picture and tried not to move at all. That was my trick when I became completely nervous. If I don't move, nobody will notice me; nobody will see me freaking on the inside. I'll be invisible.
My internal freaking had to do with two things in this picture: the great smile on my face and the horrible thoughts that had been running through my brain at that time.
"Must have something to do with your flash," I managed to mutter, because Macy was six inches away, looking right at my face.
"If you'd get rid of your Barbie camera and buy something decent-" Geneva giggled.
Macy turned to her. "It's just pink; it's not Barbie. Shut up."
I could not get over my smile in the picture. Macy snapped it about fifteen seconds after I came out of my house yesterday morning. I had not seen her at first. I was counting the number of days I had been extremely tired, and the number of times I'd gotten dizzy. I was trying to decide whether I was having a cancer relapse. I remember deciding that it had surely returned. Then I looked up and saw Macy with the camera to her face. Without even thinking, I made peace signs with both hands and smiled.
In this picture I was smiling the most peaceful smile I had ever seen in my life.
"Claire, Jesus Christ!" Macy snatched a plastic salad fork from my hand. I realized I had picked it up and raked my thumb over it. It had snapped. I glanced at the few drops of blood on the blank page of the photo album and stuck my thumb in my mouth and sucked.
"You got blood all over the page!"
I mumbled around my thumb, "Three drops. Chill out."
"Are you all right?"
"Fine."
"You're a klutz!"
"Part of my charm."
"You stuck your thumb right down on that! What is wrong with you? Let me see." I let her pull my thumb out of my mouth, before she raised a loud enough stink that everyone would be looking. It was a deep cut, but small.
She sighed in relief, casting a final look at the three drops on the page. "Don't be giving me heart attacks. I hate blood."
I sat stock-still after putting my thumb back up to my teeth. I didn't know which thought was making me freeze worse-that I might have a blood disease, or that my Lisa-cuts-herself-with-razor-blades nightmares might be invading my real life.
Macy hawkeyed my face, and I knew I hadn't managed to completely wipe off my horrified look. She followed my eyes, which happened to be laying into Lani Garver, who had retreated to the semidarkness of the alcove between the cafeteria and the B corridor. Macy never misses a trick, but her imagination was only as big as her world.
"Are we about to have another Lyda Barone adventure? Are you going to have ants in your pants until you can be nice to that new kid? I guess...you remember what it felt like to be the new, huh?"
I let out an absent laugh. Talking about my return to eighth grade was the closest we usually came to talking about my leukemia. It's not that I didn't trust my friends to be nice and sympathetic. It's just that fun-loving kids don't hear that sort of stuff very well. I never wanted to think about junior high, let alone talk about it, and it's probably one of the reasons I adored my friends so much. I loved their carefree outlooks on life more than anything under the sun.
Macy groaned. "Fine. If you really must go say hello and sing, like, 'The Happy Welcome Song,' I'll come along for the ride. Just...please don't bring any more strange people over to our table. I end up being the one doing the that-seat's-taken routine after a week of dork overload, and I've got a heart, too, Claire."
I laughed, removing my thumb. "Don't make me out to be some saint. That's so not true-"
"Girl Scout, then."
"Fuck you."
"Don't curse. It makes you blush. Look. Perfect chance. See where he-perhaps-she is?" She sized up Lani. A paperback book was open in the long, graceful fingers. "It's a girl. Guys don't read books. At least, not in public."
"I swear, Macy. I have less than zero interest in going over there."
"Don't ruin my image of you, Claire. Maybe I admire your heart. Now's your chance to be nice. I know you're feeling sorry for that new kid."
She was telling the truth. She just wasn't telling all of it.
"Yeah? And I'll bet right now, Macy, your biggest problem is, you won't be able to stand yourself until you find out if that's a girl or a boy."
She raised her eyebrows shamelessly. "Hey, I'm not the one blowing my hair under while putting a tight shirt over zero tits. That person is just begging for someone to come up and hint around for some answers. I'm just a victim here."
"You're a victim, and I'm a white whale."
She laid the peace-sign-and-smile photo into the album and scrawled beside it, "Claire as Usual." I flinched but didn't have a whole lot of time for backlash thoughts.
"Come on. Let's go find out." She pulled me to my feet, and I let myself be dragged along by the wrist.

Copyright © 2002 by Carol Plum-Ucci

All rights reserved.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 81 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    A book everyone should read

    This book is a must read. Its griping, dramatic, sad, and can be funny. Its one of those real life stories that you wish you could be apart of, wish that you could be there to change the things that happens in the book. It makes you think, and it also gives you a look on the ordeal of gay bashing, illnesses, shows you that anyone can be an angel, and giving. In short, a must read book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2014

    Just amazing. 

    Just amazing. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2013

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013

    Lani

    Oh nvermind *kisses you feircley and rips off ur pants*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Leilani

    Leilani bridles Napaka and straps his saddle on. When it was done she swings herself up and brings both of the outside the small stable

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2012

    Carol Plum-uccie know her stuff

    This is a fascinating hertbreaking and just generally amazing boo. Worth your time!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    This book is amazing!!!!

    I love this book so much i read it 6 times this summer and its great for teens! Read it you wont regreat it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    I loved it

    Fantastic read, read it in one day!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2012

    Fav book ever

    Buy it.best book ever.i loved it so much i stole this book from my friend.lol.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    A must read

    This is a truly touching book that will with questions and keep you wondering. One of the few books I will ever recommend to people.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 6, 2011

    MUST READ !

    Amazing book. I read it out of my school library and i definetly recommend it to others. I agree it has a bit of a slow beginning but after that i couldnt stop reading. I fell in love with the character of Lani Garver and i truly think that there should be more people like Lani Garver in this world, in more ways than one. It is a MUST read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 29, 2011

    Loved it!

    This story captures you and it's so orginal you cant put it down! Loved it very much!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 3, 2010

    Most touching book out there...

    I read this book in a day, it was so amazing. i couldn't put it down. if you like sad coming of age books, this is a must read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2010

    A MUST READ!!

    I read this book when I was 11 years old and loved it then; I couldn't put it down. Now at 24, I have read and reread the book a dozen times. I am a very heavy reader. I go through about 2 books a week and What Happened to Lani Garver is still my all time favorite book. I have introduced it to all of the younger generations in my family and will continue to do so. Thanks for making such a wonderful book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2010

    :)

    I am reading this book right now... it is completely amazing. I got to the part where claire is completely flippin on the psycologist.... im in highschool, and i checked this book out of my library, not knowing what to think of it... but i LOVE IT

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2009

    BUY THIS BOOK

    I read this book when I was 15... I'm now 20 and I've read it 3 times. All I can say is that it was the first book I have ever read that made me cry and also the first book I felt a love and attachment to. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I LOVE IT. READ IT.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

    What Happened

    "What Happened to Lani garver seemed like a real slow read and the character Claire seemed like a sob story all the time. If this book didn't have Claire and had a little more action but still with Lani in it, it may have interested me a little more. Maybe because I'm a guy or I couldn't get into it but, i believe the author has much more potential on writing than this.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2009

    What Happened to Lani Garver

    What happened to lani garver was overall a great read. I loved how it always kept me at the edge of my seat. I dont usually read very often, but i hardly ever wanted to put this book down. I loved how it allowed me to make up my own ending to the book. I also loved the great messages that it sent to the reader. I definitely recommend this book to many readers.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Thrilling

    This book was good if you have nothing else to read, but it definately wasn't the greatest. I didn't like the characters and thought the dialoue and situations too unrealistic. Some parts were thrilling, even though I found the narrator highly annoying. It will also test your beliefs and question your look upon reality. The end will leave you with the ultimate question: what happened to Lani Garver?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 23, 2008

    What happned to lani garver

    What happned to lani garver is an amazing phenomenal book<BR/>it is exciting and makes you want to turn the page.<BR/>I'ts filled with excitement and emotion<BR/><BR/> Ilovethisbook(:

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews

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