This is the cover that I have now. And here’s the cover I grew up with:
Either way, Kara doesn’t look nearly as sickly as she should.
I must admit when I was around eleven through fifteen years old, I couldn’t get ENOUGH of Lurlene McDaniel’s books. If you’ve never read a L McD book, let me tell you what you’re missing. It’s death-porn for teens. No, not like Faces of Death death-porn. I mean they are overly dramatic, Lifetime movie-esque books about teenagers dying. If you liked the angst (and you all know I SO did!) then you liked L McD. So if I liked her so much, why is this the first book of hers that I’m reviewing? Well, it’s because I’ve finally given up on Ames ever updating her fabulous blog, Somewhere between YA Lit and Death. And if you all want to check out her blog and pester her for updates SO I DON’T KEEP HAVING TO BE THE ONE TO DO IT, I’d appreciate it. Also, Ames, if you’re reading. I’m sending you a message through Goodreads to update soon. Sorry.
Everything I’ve ever known about Cystic Fibrosis (CF) comes straight from this book. Seriously. So thanks to Kara Fischer, our lovely 16 year old protagonist for educating me. Kara has CF. It sucks, and when the book starts, Kara’s just being released from yet another hospital stay for a lung infection. Kara is uber-close with her respiratory therapist, Christy, who administers Kara’s daily regimen of ‘thumps’, which are basically poundings on the back so Kara can hock up thick mucus. Christy’s dream is to go to med school – a fact which might be important later on!
Kara’s best friend is Vince, a fellow CF sufferer. Vince is in the hospital, and doesn’t seem to be doing quite as well as Kara. Kara is getting released just in time to start her junior year of high school, but Vince won’t be going with her. Sadness. Also, it’s completely obvious that Vince loves Kara hardcore, but Kara is oblivious to it, insisting that they’re just good friends. Christy asks Kara to look out for her brother, Eric, who will just be starting at her high school. Eric is moving in with Christy due to some kind of problems with their parents.
School starts and Kara meets Eric right off. And guess what guys??? He’s a total hottie. Of course! Kara hides the fact that she has CF from Eric and he gives her a ride home. They are totally smitten with each other. Then back at home, Christy, in an unbelievable breaking of confidentiality (this was before HIPPA, you know) tells Eric that Kara has CF. And Eric, being a normal douchewad 16 year old boy, freaks out and starts avoiding Kara at school. He can’t believe she has a disease that she is certain to die from.
Vince finally gets out of the hospital and starts school. Eric and Vince do not hit it off. Eric starts to get over his issues with Kara’s illness. Eric, Vince and Kara go to a halloween carnival at their high school, where Kara is in charge of the face-painting booth. And because this is the Lurleneverse (thanks to Ames for that phrase) these good white suburban kids are bussing poor inner-city kids in to enjoy the festivities. White people are nice y’all! Anyway, Kara’s been feeling under the weather but doesn’t tell anyone because she totally wants to go to this carnival and be a normal girl and all that jazz. Will that come back to bite her in the ass later? Maybe so.
The carnival is fun. Eric dances with Kara at a party afterward, but her lungs are burning. And she knows she’s feverish. Vince rushes her home and sure enough, Kara is taken back to the hospital. And it’s bad – viral pneumonia, bronchitis and a staph infection. Kara is all kinds of lonely and in pain in the hospital. People send her letters (she’s not permitted non-family visitors). Guess who sends a letter every day? Vince. Guess who sends a big fat nothing? Eric. Guess who Kara is in luuuuurve with? Eric. Poor Vince, what’s a guy gotta do? Anyway, Vince calls Eric out on his douchebaggery and at the very least Eric is chagrined.
Kara finds the mysterious One Last Wish letter in her bedside drawer in the hospital. (Side Note: This book is part of a L McD series called One Last Wish, where dying kids get a big fat check from an anonymous benefactor.) Kara decides to hold on to the letter and think of what to do with the money. Which is $100,000!
Kara gets four hour pass on Saturday. She chooses to spend it with Vince and Eric. They take her to the mall and she asks them, none too slyly, what it is they’d really like if money was no object. A good time is had at the mall. And, what’s this? Could a friendship be building between Eric and Vince? This is the point in the book where we see that Vince, who’s started a weight lifting program, is doing fabulously, health-wise. While Kara is the one taking a turn for the worse.
Kara is well enough to go home. She thinks it’s for good, but really it turns out to be just for the Thanksgiving holiday. An X-ray just before she left indicated that her heart is now enlarged. Bummer, but not unexpected because all the protags die in the One Last Wish books. Kara has a fabulous Thanksgiving, which includes a hot and heavy makeout session with Eric.
What a letdown, then, to go back to the hospital. And this time, she just isn’t getting any better. It’s harder and harder to breathe. She’s tired and can barely move. Vince and Eric come and put up a Christmas tree. Kara tells her mom about the money and leaves her some instructions on what to do with it. A few days before Christmas, Kara starts bleeding severely from the lungs and her heartbeat is erratic. She doesn’t live another day. OK, that is pretty sad.
Eric can’t bring himself to go to the funeral. Vince calls him out on that, because in Vince-land you must grieve the way he wants you to grieve. Oh Vince, I kind of liked you up to this point too. But funerals just aren’t helpful to some people and we should respect how a person wants to grieve. A few weeks later, Kara’s parents invite Vince, Christy, Eric and Elyse (another friend who is basically a non-entity in this book) to the house. Kara left enough money for each of them with instructions on how to spend it. Vince gets a home gym because his weight lifting has obviously helped his CF. Elyse gets a shopping spree, because she’s poor and wears hand-me-downs. Eric needs to fix up his ‘baby’, the ’57 Chevy he first gave Kara a ride home in. And Christy needs to use the money for med-school. For her parents? Nada. Way to go Kara. They only gave you life.
- You’d think it’d be hard to snark a book with such a serious subject matter. But it’s not. L McD’s writing is so heavy handed and the drama is so overwrought that it’s really quite easy.
- L McD tried to write Eric as a bad-boy with a heart of gold (i.e. a Shawn Hunter-esque character). Instead he’s just fucking creepy. He didn’t have any actual problems with his parents. He just always felt like they were “hassling” him. You know, like parents do to all 16 year olds. Also, he’s really in to Kara at first because she reminds him of a doll. Ew, whatever. After Kara dies, Vince asks Eric if he and Kara had sex (although not in those words, because the word S-E-X is verboten in the Lurleneverse). Eric says no. But – not making love to her was one of the hardest things he’d ever done in his life. Really, Eric? NOT having sex with a dying girl is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Really? Oh, and ew. When they’re making out, Kara is embarrassed because of her scratchy breathing. Eric puts his ear to her chest, “to me it sounds like a kitten purring.” Way to make light of Kara’s fatal disease there, Eric.
- Also, I think Eric might really be in love with Vince. Because he’s all checking him out in the gym. Then after they leave Kara’s parent’s house at the end he asks Vince
on a dateto go out for a bite to eat. Eric is definitely more worried about Vince’s opinion of him than he is Kara’s opinion of him.
- Usually in the Lurleneverse, working moms are a no-no. A working mom = a bad mom. But the formula was switched up a little here, as Kara’s mom actually went back to work because she was so crazy overprotective of her sick daughter. And of course, years of staying home with a sick daughter qualifies her to be an ad-agency executive.
- Seriously Christy? You could lose your job telling people about Kara’s health problems. I hope that’s the first lesson you learn in med school.
- While these books aren’t overly-religious, there is always a little bit of praying. But, I want to remind you that this is the Lurleneverse, so it’s good WASP-y religion. Let’s just say an L McD protag never gets a visit from his or her Rabbi.
- Vince lifts weights and regains a ‘hardy’ appetite. Shouldn’t that be hearty?
An example of dialog. Kara and Vince talking about him lifting weights.
“Maybe I should try.”
He laughed, “you couldn’t even lift a dumbbell right now.”
“Could too,” she gave him a sidelong glance. “I lifted you up, didn’t I? In spirit, of course.”
His dark eyes twinkled, “Yes you did. I’m so high now, I feel like flying.”
- That’s pretty much how the dialog is throughout the WHOLE BOOK.
Eric cries at the end. Finally. Because, men. It’s all right to cry.