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The Decoding of Lana Morris [Hardcover]

Laura McNeal , Tom McNeal
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 8, 2007 12 and up 7 and up920L (What's this?)
A Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

Sixteen-year-old Lana Morris wishes her life were different: her Ice Queen of a foster mother won't leave her alone, and she has no friends but the other foster kids she takes care of.

Then she stumbles into a mysterious antique shop and trades her most valued possession for a single box of drawing paper: thirteen thick, blank pages, like thirteen wishes waiting to be made. Suddenly, impossibly, it seems Lana might actually have the power to change things. But wishing isn't always as harmless as it seems...

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Lana Morris, 16, is the only non-"Snick" in a Nebraska foster home. "Snicks" are her neglectful foster mother's term for special-needs kids (SNKs). Lana is enormously lonely; kids in town are downright cruel to her, her foster mother is jealous and inattentive, and her foster father is too attentive (he and Lana share an attraction and, at one point, a kiss). Her only support comes from the mildly kind boy next door. Lana is often left in charge of the other children and has to cope as best she can with rough, complicated situations. She buys a drawing kit in an antique store and finds that anything she sketches comes to be. This is powerful stuff, and Lana learns quickly that you have to be careful what you wish for. She tries to do right, and things point to a happy ending, but the road there is very twisty. The McNeals have interesting turns of phrase and their language can be very evocative, but sometimes their characters have wisdom well beyond their years. The novel has too many issues piled on top of one another—the lives of foster children, coming of age, forbidden love, magic, self-reliance, first love, trusting others. Still, the writing is lovely and the characters are real people who elicit genuine feelings from readers. Give this story to your more mature readers who want some heft to their magical realism stories.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this suburban Cinderella story, a wicked foster mother named Veronica rules 16-year-old Lana Morris' life. Lana spends her time carrying out Veronica's endless orders, basking in her handsome stepfather Whit's inappropriate yet flattering attention, or caring for four special needs kids, or "Snicks," as Veronica callously calls them. Lana's salvation arrives in the form of a thrift store drawing kit. Whatever she draws on the old paper seems to materialize; likewise, whatever she erases disappears. But Lana can't always control the drawings' outcomes, and soon she is in a terrible bind as she tries to save herself and the Snicks from the results of wishes gone awry. The authors of Crooked (1999), Zipped(2002), and Crushed (2005) offer up yet another complex and richly characterized story. What is different here is the shining thread of magical realism woven throughout, illuminating the authors' familiar yet well-wrought themes of betrayal, disillusionment, and hope. Jennifer Hubert
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375831061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375831065
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,014,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lana morris May 23, 2007
Anyone who has read any one of Tom and Laura McNeal's earlier young adult books does not need to be persuaded of their literary skill. The authors have a voice that speaks directly, clearly, and apparently efortlessly, to the hearts, minds, and souls of this age group. Their dilogue is bright and clever without being cute, and their stories move briskly.

The leading character of this latest book is a 16-year-old girl, Lana, who lives in a foster home along with four younger, disabled, special needs children, referred to as the Snicks. Lana's close association with them is enough to cause serious social problems for her, but sher has other more confusing concerns as well. Although she quickly shows herself to be strong-minded and determined, her life during this one Nebraska summer is challenging in many ways. Her travails, disappointments, discoveries, dreams and hopes make up the engaging plot. For me, however, the book's greatest appeal is in its treatment of the seldom-addressed subject of living with special needs children.

The authors describe the Snicks in a clear-eyed, realistic, matter-of-fact way that is invariably respectful. Each child's individual idiosyncracies are distinct; they're sometimes funny, sometimes aggravating, sometimes mystifying. But there is not the slightest hint of mockery in the descriptions of the comic moments, nor any sentimentality in the sad ones. Lana's, and the reader's, feelings toward these four characters grow from tolerance to affection to loving concern.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better than you thought December 11, 2008
The Decoding of Lana Morris is an entertaining book that shows Lana's fantasy side of life and reality. While you're reading the book, you'll wonder who to trust and the end is satisying, though a little too-good-to-be-true. As you turn every page, you realize Lana is growing up, little by little and by the end she becomes a mature teenager who knows what her heart wants.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Intense Teen Novel September 20, 2008
This is a wonderfully crafted teen novel, but sometimes I felt a little uncomfortable with sixteen-year-old Lana having to deal with so many problems: her treatment by her jealous and unsympathetic foster mother, the inappropriate advances (ambivalently encouraged by Lana) by her foster father, the cruelty of the kids in town, and her eventually becoming the major caretaker for the four special-needs kids in the foster home. I loved the magical drawing kit and all its dramatic ramifications, but what I loved most about this novel were the relationships: especially Lana's developing relationships with the four special-needs kids and with Chet, the boy next door. The relationships were very real and depicted with great sensitivity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another hit by the McNeal's August 2, 2007
I have read some other books of the McNeal's and loved each of them. All their books are fast reads and have characters that anyone can connect to. The Decoding Of Lana Morris was no exception.

Lana Morris is just your average 16 year old girl who happens to live with a not so average family. Her foster mother is snoopy and self-centered who can't wait to get rid of Lana. On the other hand, her foster father shares a special, almost inappropriate relationship with Lana. She's stuck in a house with a bunch of kids who have special needs, referred to as the Snicks. You learn throughout the book along with Lana how to love all the "special" kids and realize very quickly that the kids are special way beyond their mental disabilities.

My favorite part of the book was how creative and imaginative it was. It almost reminded me of a fairy tale when Lana meets a strange old lady in a unique little shop. She buys a book from the old women and discovers that inside she can draw herself 13 wishes. Over time Lana learns what is really important to her and more importantly what is important to the people around her. I loved the sense of humor in the book mixed in with all the lessons you learn along with Lana. If your like me you'll be surprised how attached you get to all the Snicks and how much you root for Lana in the end. You'll be impressed how Laura and Tom McNeal are able to nail the exact feelings of any average teenage girl.
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Laura and Tom McNeal's THE DECODING OF LANA MORRIS tells of teen Lana, who lives with a frosty foster mother and has to deal with a close-knit clique by the only other teens around. When she enters an antique shop and trades for a set of blank paper, Lana finds mysterious events began to occur.
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