Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci

Title: What Happened to Lani Garver
Author: Carol Plum-Ucci
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought

Goodreads Description:
The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl? Popular Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she decides to befriend the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes, and Claire is left questioning herself, her friendships, and, most interesting of all, the possibility that angels may exist on earth.

My Review:
Another peculiar book picked out for me by my professor. I am seriously hoping my pop culture class is better next semester(and it damn well should be...two of the books on the reading list are Night Circus and Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children). I am sick of all this depressing, angsty,bull-crap in my Young Adult Literature class. I mean, I know that teens are all meat sacks filled with hormones that are screwing them up mentally, while their bodies are screwing them up physically, and everyone else is screwing them over in every other way possible...but come on. Throw in a vampire book or two...that's what teens are reading these days... Not that this wasn't a great, meaningful, thought-provoking piece of bull-crap...but still...there's only so much sadness, death, and discrimination I can take before I want to curl up with a Stephanie Perkins book or some chick-lit romance novel and chase away the tears and sorrow for a bit...know what I mean??? Regardless, this was probably one of my favorite books that I've read for this class. Once again it dives into the issues surrounding Homosexuality/androgyny...I think I've read more LGBT books in this semester than I ever have in my life...but it's definitely broadened my horizons. 

I thought this book dealt with the gay issue in a REALLY realistic way. For one, it takes place in a small town.  I'm not saying that all small town's are racist, but from my own personal experiences, they are much more likely to hold a less than favorable impression of other lifestyles and races than either big cities or suburbs. My best friend dated a black guy over the summer between her junior and senior year of high school, when she went back to school and her classmates found out that she let a black guy sleep with her, no one would talk to her for weeks. So, putting my intense rage that things like this still happen, you can see that small towns tend to not be very accepting. Enter Lani Garver. He doesn't try to hide what he is, and he deliberately leaves doubts in everyone's minds as to what sex and sexual orientation he is. That is very dangerous, especially when one of the most popular guys in town is a closet homosexual with violent tendencies. 

The main characters were both really interesting and strong. Claire has a crap ton of problems. She had cancer when she was in middle school and she;s terrified of it coming out of remission. She's also obsessed with being normal, and normal at her school is being a cheerleader. She's been starving herself in order to feel normal, to feel in control of at least one thing about her body. It is really amazing to see her grow from this broken little girl into someone who is strong and knows who she is. She makes some odd decisions that I don't agree with, but at the same time she stays in character with her personality and I really like that about her. Lani himself is mysterious, captivating, and totally befuddling. You honestly can't tell if he's a guy or a girl...he says he's not a girl...but he giggles...and when you add in the thought that he might just be an definitely makes that plot a very interesting one. There are some very intense and confusing sections that you really don't know whats wrong with him. I actually thought he might have some kind of mental illness at one point, but that doesn't seem to be the case. He is a really likable character and you feel really badly when he gets mistreated. He tries so hard to be unobtrusive and nice to everyone, yet he gets the worst treatment I've ever seen...I was really offended by it. If he was my friend in high school I literally would have beat the shit out of the kids who tormented him. 

This book isn't paranormal exactly. The only think that even hints at being supernatural is the idea of angels living among us. You don't know for certain if they exist or if Lani is one, but there are a lot of coincidences and happenings that make you wonder. Lani certainly presents a strong case for being an angel.  There are situations that just can't be human, and there is the whole issue of a picture of him appearing as an angel in a book that was written 500ish years ago. It isn't quite paranormal and it definitely isn't religious. The story just is what it is. I really enjoyed myself as I was reading. I found myself caught up in both the plot and the characters. The only thing that I didn't like was that you know the ending from the very first page. It made me anxious the whole time because I was getting to know and love a character that is for all intents and purposes dead. It really upset me and almost prevented me from connecting with the MC's. It's a good thing they were so powerful and awesome and I connected to them anyways. 
I give this book a 4 out of 5 Keys. I am actually very tempted to give it 5 keys. I really want to, but something is holding me back. I really don't even think of this book as an educational tool even though it definitely is one. Lani Garver deals with cancer, cliques, homosexuality, finding yourself, divorce, and so much more. It is an amazing book for teens who are going through a hard time with anything in their lives or even someone who is just empathetic. Everything from the plot to the characters to the setting was really cool and well defined. There is a ton of angst and difficulty in this book...but then again, would it be a good teen book without all of that? lol Thanks for checking in my lovelies! If you're a blogger make sure to check out the Science Fiction Challenge for 2012 (it's over on my side bar). 


  1. Huh - This sounds odd yet intriguing. I think the additional angel element is what is confusing me.
    I hope you get to read some light & happy books soon!

  2. "Not that this wasn't a great, meaningful, thought-provoking piece of bull-crap."

    Blahahaha! Oh, hun. I had the same frustrations when I signed up for a YA lit class. Either the require readings were too MG or they were extremely boring with nothing supernatural going on.

    I can't say I'd ever heard of this book. But it always makes me curious to seek out these type of books because I sometimes feel I don't have a distinct impression of what is literature and what is fiction.

  3. An Eagle-Eyed ProfessorNovember 11, 2011 at 10:54 PM


    Student signs up for a Young Adult Literature class, and she bemoans the literature that defines young adults. ...There is a reason we have classes in pop culture, ya know. :)

    --And you certainly should have a change up with a mid-century cowboy epic!

    PS: Wind-Up Girl was angsty? :)
    PPS: You should have taken the class last semester: THREE vampire books. The entire Hunger Games set. And I even taught Zombies vs. Unicorns... because that's how I roll. (It's difficult keeping everyone happy when you change the books every semester!)

  4. bahah! Oh professor, I'm so sorry to offend :) Sorry if I sound anything less than pleased with your class because it's one of the most interesting ones I've taken :P Even if it is full of angst...If it makes you feel better, I've signed up for your pop-culture class and cult-pluralism...I'm assuming they are kind of the same, but whatever...that's what I like to talk about right??

    P.S. Wind Up girl wasn't angsty true...more...we all die anyway so boo you all suck...yes that's the message I got from that...

    PPS. Zombies vs. Unicorns= AWESOME...though I am definitely team zombie
    PPPS. If you continue to criticize Harry Potter in class, I WILL hunt you down and do unspeakable things to YOUR favorite series of all time...saying Harry Potter is a meaningless charachter...BLASPHEMY

  5. Ultimo Dragon; Mighty ProfessorNovember 12, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    He is! least, in his own books! Your title character should not hafta fight for six books to get decent purpose and page time! Dude got shafted in his own series.

    I'd actually like to see one more book that is TRULY Harry's book. Something that let him breathe and not brood as an adult. But no leaning on everyone else. A true Harry's book.

    You signed up for both? Hah! I'm honored. They don't overlap at all (unless I'm tailoring the class for a few people.)... It's just one helluva good bunch of reading with nary an angsty book to be found.

    --And you'll get vampires, zombies, wolf dudes and other ghastly things in spades!

  6. Naw dude! Don't overlap! Then I have more of an excuse to charge awesome books to my student account and make my parents pay for it... (They're going to regret paying for my books next semester :P)

    I'm pretty psyched