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.
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
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.
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)
"Crackles with suspense."Publishers Weekly