It’s time, ladies and gentlemen (OK, probably just ladies), for another round of Death Porn for Teens. Otherwise known as the works of Lurlene McDaniel. I came across this book in the thrift store, and even though it was published while I was already well into adulthood (2003) I bought it because I wanted to see if L.McD. had managed to write books that sucked a little less since the late 80’s/early90’s. The answer is no.
Alexis and Adam are seventeen year old twins. They are getting ready to start their senior year in high school. But before they do, they go to a reunion of their first grade class, where their old first grade teacher opens up a time capsule the students had made when they were six. Each student had to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Adam wanted to be a fireman and Alexis wanted to help people.
For some reason that isn’t really ever explained, Alexis is fucking horrified by what an idiot she was. Not that she has anything against helping people, she just totally hates that her six year old self couldn’t have been a little more specific. Alexis has this boyfriend, Sawyer, who can’t understand why Alexis is so bummed by what she wrote. You and me both, Sawyer.
Also, Alexis is kind of bitchy about Sawyer. She thinks he’s nice enough, but you can totally tell she thinks she’s too good for him. Because she is a straight-A debate team captain, and he’s a jock-ish soccer player. But Sawyer likes her a whole lot, so I guess it’s OK in her mind or something.
We learn through some very awkward dialogue exposition that Adam had been sick as a young kid. He had leukemia at eleven, then a recurrence a couple years later. He’s now been cancer-free for several years….or has he???? This is the Lurlene-verse. I think you already know the answer.
Alexis and Adam’s parents are never home. And for some reason, seventeen year old Alexis is bothered by this lack of family togetherness rather than thinking it’s the greatest thing ever. Their dad is a lawyer (what Alexis wants to do when she grows up) and the mom used to be a stay at home mom, but she turned into a terrible person because after Adam got well, she decided to join the workforce. In the Lurleneverse, that makes her bad guy #1. She became a realtor then got involved in local politics, and as the book started was working as a campaign manager for a local race. So, tsk tsk, she wasn’t home that often to make dinner for her fully-capable (for now) seventeen year old children!
We also learn through awkward exposition-dialogue that the family used to be close, but when Adam first got sick, their parents drifted apart. So there are lots of arguments and whatnot in the household. Alexis is determined to fix this, so she tries to convince her parents to take them to Disney World as a last hurrah before she and Adam leave for college. The dad initially agrees, but that fucking whore mother won’t because it’s the week before the election. And that bitch won’t drop everything she’s worked for in the last year to take her teenage children to Disney World. I mean…have you ever? She is the worst.
So the dad gives Alexis his credit card and let’s her and Adam take a bunch of friends on a Disney trip. (They live near Orlando, so it’s not as extravagant as it seems). Six of them in total go. Alexis, Adam, Sawyer, Adam’s girlfriend Kelly, Alexis’ bestie Tessa, and Adam’s buddy Wade. Girls in one room, boys in another so there is no hanky-panky. And because this is the Lurleneverse, none of the kids sneak away from the group for a nooner at any time. Also, Kelly? She’s only a sophomore and a total ditz. Alexis saves up all her vitriol for Kelly. And Tessa is in love with Adam. This is important later.
They have a fun time in Disney, but Adam is acting kind of strange. He’s moving slowly. He will only wear jeans, he forgot his bathing suit and refuses to get in the pool for a water polo tournament. And if you’ve ever read a single L McD book, you know that means he’s covering up some bruises.
Guess what? He’s covering up a lot of bruises. Adam is hanging out at Kelly’s house one afternoon several weeks after the Disney trip when he faints. The paramedics take him to the hospital and we learn the obvious. Adam’s cancer is back with a vengeance. It’s been back for a while, and Adam knew it, but he chose to keep it a secret so that he could be a normal teenager. Also, he never told Kelly (or Wade for that matter) about his cancerous past. So Kelly is shocked.
And Alexis is furious that Kelly doesn’t visit Adam in the hospital as often as she should. Kelly is clearly uncomfortable the few times she does visit. Alexis has practically been living at the hospital, along with her parents. Their parents are, surprisingly, starting to get along better.
Adam has lots of chemo and gets really sick. He does befriend a whole bunch of the little kids in the pediatric ward and decides he wants to make them Christmas gifts (because god forbid a Jewish or Muslim person ever make their way into the Lurleneverse) in the form of personalized Teddy Bears. Alexis and Tessa get all the materials and work themselves stupid making the teddy bears.
The winter ball is coming up and Alexis is going with Sawyer, of course. Kelly decided to break up with Adam, which infuriates the shit out of Alexis, but Adam seems to be unsurprised. Then Kelly shows up to the ball with Wade and Alexis goes off on her in the ladies room. But Kelly is super shallow and admitted she was only really going out with Adam because he was a senior and popular. As Adam gets sicker, he of course realizes he should have been with Tessa all along. Because she is not-blond and therefore a good girl.
Alexis and Sawyer fight because Sawyer thinks Alexis isn’t spending enough time with him. And it totally reminds me of when Riley got all pissed because Buffy wasn’t spending all her time thinking about him because her mother had a fucking brain tumor, Riley. Get over it. Both Riley and Sawyer need to realize they are the center of the goddamn universe. Unlike Riley and Buffy though, Alexis and Sawyer make up.
Adam is released from the hospital a few weeks after Christmas. And all seems well. Then Adam lets slip to Alexis that he’s come home to die. And Alexis, rightly, freaks out. When she confronts her parents they’re like “oh, we didn’t want to disrupt your studies and we thought you’d figure it out on your own.” Christ.
It gets closer to graduation. Alexis skips State Debate Team Championships to stay home with Adam. It’s a good thing too, because he ends up dying on the second day of the debate tournament. And I cried, even though it’s sloppily written and heavy-handed. Mom and dad are getting along much better, and they decide to start a non-profit for the sick kids at the hospital, giving them teddy bears when they’re admitted. Alexis gets into the college of her choice (Stetson), Sawyer gets a full athletic scholarship to Duke and they decide to try for a long-distance romance.
- I think it’s actually impossible for L McD to write a brother/sister relationship that doesn’t border on creepy and incestuous. Alexis is way too jealous of Kelly.
- The mom was offered an appointed position in the local government, which she turned down to care for Adam. Fine. But, because this is the Lurleneverse, the family suddenly became a whole happy family again once the mom was in her correct place – taking care of the house and children and husband.
- At one point, Alexis spies her father out to dinner with another woman. When she later confronts him about it, he insists it was a co-worker. Alexis believes him, and I’m not quite sure how this was supposed to be read – if we were supposed to believe him also, or if we were supposed to think he was lying.
- I swear in the beginning of the book, Sawyer wanted to go to South Florida for college, but then at the end he’s all gung-ho about Duke. And I don’t really care enough to go back and try to figure out if that’s correct. But I’m about 90% sure that’s a big editor mistake right there.
- The doctors say that it didn’t make a difference that Adam waited months before telling anyone about his symptoms. I’m not doctor….but that doesn’t exactly seem correct to me.
- I’m not sure why this was called The Time Capsule. The actual time capsule had little to do with the story. I think all the other obvious titles (A Time to Die, A Season for Goodbyes, Too Young to Die, etc) had already been taken.
- I’ll admit. Part of the reason I bought this is because my mom is going on one year dealing with her own cancer. And I thought for just a moment that maybe I was being cruel and heartless by making so much fun of L McD’s books about people dying of cancer. But no. It turns out that even when you’re dealing with a family member fighting cancer, these books are still just as awful and heavy-handed as they were otherwise. So I’m not just a huge bitch. (not for this, anyway)
- Also, this book got amazing reviews on Goodreads. Books that were 1,000,000 times better which got worse reviews? Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary. So, yeah. That’s Goodreads for you!