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What Happened to Lani Garver Paperback – May 1, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The folks on Hackett Island, near Philadelphia, are not too friendly to newcomers. Anyone the slightest bit different is eyed with suspicion, as Claire found out when she missed a year of junior high due to leukemia. Now she works hard at fitting in, following treacherous but popular Macy's lead, hiding her passion for the guitar, and never talking about her fear that her illness will return. Or her nightmares. Or her eating disorder. The boys of Hackett Island's "in" crowd are members of the "fish frat"--hunky sons of the local fishermen--and their horseplay even among themselves is brutal and edge-of-danger.

And then Lani Garver shows up at school, a tall, thin, strangely androgynous person. "No. Not a girl. Sorry," he says pleasantly when Macy questions him about his gender with vicious curiosity. But Claire, much to Macy's disgust, is drawn to Lani, and his wisdom and kindness begins to heal her. He takes her to Philadelphia to meet his artistic friends, talks sense to her about her eating disorder and her blind devotion to Macy, finds her a therapist. Who is this Lani Garver? He resists "boxes" like "gay." Even his age is a mystery to Claire. Strangest of all, could he be a "floating angel," as his friends at the hospital seem to believe? Meanwhile, the fish frat are closing in for the kill, and when their harassment turns lethal, Lani shows a terrible side of himself Claire has never seen.

Carol Plum-Ucci raises tantalizing questions around a fascinating character in this gut-clenching story that transcends the clichés of the gay-bashing novel. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Claire McKenzie, narrator of this taut, provocative novel, wonders not only "what happened to Lani Garver" but about who and what Lani is. When Lani shows up on Hackett Island, neither Claire nor her cheerleader friends can tell if Lani is male or female (Asked if he's a girl, he says, "Oh! No. Not a girl. Sorry"). Claire has been hiding much of her identity, too: she conceals her electric guitar and the bloody lyrics she writes, and she doesn't tell her friends or her alcoholic mother that she suspects her leukemia has returned. When Lani finds her fainting, he pries her secrets out of her, then takes her to a hospital where she can get tested without parental consent. They bond, a bit quickly, as he helps her face her "hidden garbage," (among other things, her recent ill health is due to an eating disorder). When an orderly tells her about androgynous "floating angels," spiritual beings that help people in need, the discussion plants a question in Claire's mind, and as odd events continue, she skates close to asking if Lani might be one of those angels. Plum-Ucci's talent is such that readers will share rather than dismiss Claire's curiosity. The climactic scene, in which the boys kidnap Lani and Claire and take them to the docks, crackles with suspense. Even if not always convincing, the plotting exerts a sure grip, commanding the imagination well past the final page. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152050884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152050887
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carol Plum-Ucci received one of the nation's top literary honors for her first novel, THE BODY OF CHRISTOPHER CREED, a suspense story set in the historic woods of Southern New Jersey. The novel received one of four Michael J. Printz Honor Book Awards, sponsored by the American Library Association, recognizing the best literature published for young adults. The novel also was a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Awards and was named to the Reader's International Children's Choice Awards List.

She is happy to report that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has purchased a SEQUEL TO THE BODY OF CHRISTOPHER CREED. It will be released in the spring of 2011. "For years, people asked if I would write a sequel. In fact, I don't think I've ever spoken for an audience where someone hasn't asked that," Plum-Ucci said. "I always said no because I couldn't think of anything good that would happen next. Well, one stormy Saturday night in the dead of winter, I got this totally hot idea and just went with it. It's a lot of years later, but I held out for artistic integrity--a story line that I knew would keep readers turning pages--and didn't try it just to piggy-back a book selling well. As the saying goes for me and HMH: 'We will sell no idea before its time.'"

The CREED SEQUEL focuses on Chris Creed's brother Justin, who, after four years have passed, is now 16. "The theme of bullying didn't carry over to this book--I'll be honest," Plum-Ucci said. "But that theme was always, to me, secondary to a relentless pursuit of truth theme, which engaged Torey Adams throughout. And that theme is still very present. I'm asking kids to look beyond what they can touch, see, smell--something they're not often asked to do by school districts, and I think it's both fun and important."

FIRE WILL FALL, a sequel to STREAMS OF BABEL was released by HMH in the spring of 2010. In STREAMS OF BABEL, terrorists poison the water supply in New Jersey (released in the spring of 2008), and in FIRE WILL FALL, the teenagers who drank the most WMD are fighting for their lives. "I think of FIRE as more of a character piece, so it surprised me pleasantly to see all the reviews coming in, calling it a page turner," Plum-Ucci said. Both books were immediately named Premiere Selections the Junior Library Guild upon release.

WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER, Plum-Ucci's second novel, is story of prejudice, friendship, popularity, tolerance, and individuality. The story raises a most important question: Might angels exist on earth? The novel has been selected as a featured book both in Seventeen Magazine and YM Magazine. It is named to the 2003 Best Books for Young Adults List, sponsored by the American Library Association, and is a 2004 Teen Top Ten nominee. It was nominated for the Michael L. Printz Awards for excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Plum-Ucci's third novel of THE SHE, was was nominated for BBYA (Best Books for Young Adults, The American Library Association) and received a starred review in Booklist. Her fourth novel, THE NIGHT MY SISTER WENT MISSING, was named a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

Plum-Ucci spent her childhood growing up on the barrier island of Brigantine, New Jersey, where her father was a funeral director. She lived overtop of the funeral home.

'My bedroom was such that if the floor were made of glass, I would have been gazing down into the face of a casket dweller,' she frequently tells audiences. 'When people ask me how I became a writer, I say it was in the middle of nights while growing up there.'

Plum-Ucci loves to tell her childhood funeral home antics, which have captivated teenage audiences across America.

She attended the Brigantine Public Schools, Atlantic City Friends School, and Holy Spirit High School, graduating in 1975. She earned her bachelor's degree in Communication from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1979. She attended Rutgers University and received her Master of Arts degree 2004.

Plum-Ucci worked as Staff Writer and Director of Publications for the Miss America Organization in Atlantic City from 1984 through 1999. She is the third generation of women in her family to contribute to Atlantic City's well-known fanfare. Her mother, Ellen Plum, was the first woman President, and her paternal grandmother, Ads Plum, was a member of the Hostess Committee.
She retired from corporate employ in June of 1999, 'about two days after my advance arrived for The Body of Christopher Creed,' she says. 'I loved being part of something historical like Miss America, and I have many great memories of working there. But I'd spent many years trying to become a published novelist, and I wanted to started enjoying that lifestyle as quickly as possible."

Her husband Rick owns the Ucci Piano Service. Together, they love gardening, going to the Margate Beach in the summers, watching Academy Award winning movies, and raising their daughter, Abbey.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
... Claire, who tells us the story of WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER. It is a horror story about a person--well, let's say, a being--who arrives with his mother on Hackett Island, where Claire is a native. Sporting an unusual hairstyle and graced with delicate features, it is unclear whether LANI (pronounced "Lonny") is a boy or a girl. ...
Claire is a native. Her boyfriend is a member of the fish frat--"that's the sons of Hackett's commercial fishermen, who are sometimes lifeguards and usually very hunky." Her friends think she should be happy, set in her position among the high school elite, healthy after missing most of junior high due to treatments for acute juvenile leukemia.
But Claire, who still has her share of problems, sees the neatly folded boxes of her life crumble when she becomes friends with Lani. And what happens as a result is a tense tale that won't let you go.
"We don't talk about the drowning around the island. We don't really talk about what led up to it, either. If I hear Lani's name, it's usually in mentions of him having gone to our high school for only two days, and isn't that weird, as if the greater mysteries never existed. Maybe that's the way people need to remember it."
While reading WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER, my stomach all knotted up, I kept asking myself, "Could a whole group of kids really be this horrible?" ...
Richie ...
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Format: Paperback
Carol Plum-Ucci's novel, WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER, is so unbelievably remarkable that words cannot fully express its greatness. It takes place in locations I know and the story's protagonist, Claire, is nothing short of amazing. This novel is thought-provoking. It compelled me to ask questions I'd never asked myself. And, to my surprise, it even made me cry. Usually, books do not move me all that much - this book was an exception.
You will come to know and love Claire, a member of her high school elite on Hackett Island, close to Philadelphia. As I mentioned, this novel talks of many places I know, such as South Street, a whimsical place where, in real life, you can find "preps," people with countless piercings, tattoos, and hair hues, goths, rockers, etc. But WHAT HAPPENED TO... strays from labels.
Enter Lani Garver. Is Lani a he or a she? Well, although it never really is determined, we suspect Lani to be a boy. It's a difficult thing to confirm because he has the long lashes and red lips of a girl. He's tall and broad-shouldered like a boy. His hair is longer than the average boy's but his hands are a bit more on the masculine side. And he hates labels. Here, he refers to them as "boxes." "Gay" is a box. "Straight" and "bi" are boxes. As are "boy" and "girl." Upon first seeing him in the cafeteria, Claire is intrigued and says she'll be his friend, much to her best friend Macy's dismay.
Claire is a leukemia survivor who missed out on the junior high experience. Macy, kind and less judgemental than the other girls of her group, befriended Claire when she returned to school after being taught at home. Since their time spent together, they've collected many fond memories, many of them frozen in photographs.
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Format: Hardcover
Cancer, homosexuality, family problems, reality, eating disorders, stress, angels, a little bit of everything is covered in this book. It deals with the harsh truth of the life of a teenage girl, but has a twist when her little reality "bubble" comes toppling down. Claire thinks that her life is good, even though she does have some problems, but they're not anything she wants to talk about with her fun-loving friends. She ends up learning numerous valuable lessons, that you too are sure to pick up on.
Everything had started to go right for Claire, she was a cheerleader, was back in school, and seemed to be pretty healthy. But her whole world turned upside down when Lani Garver comes to her small island. Nobody can seem to figure out exactly what Lani is. Claire can't seem to resist her interest in this kid, and ends up telling him a lot of things that she has chosen not to share with anyone. Lani listens and helps her. But can she befriend such a "controversial" person? Calire ends up in a really big pickle to say the least.
Does she befriend Lani? If she does talk to this kid, what is everybody going to think, and more importantly do? All these questions are answered and more. Claire has many more problems than she likes to tell people. They end up being told eventually, but of course there are consequences.
People like to hide who they really are inside because they're afraid of rejection, and then criticize others who know more so who they are. But who are these people to sit and judge anybody else when they themselves are so confused about who they are? Lani Garver has his opinions about life and everything, and knows who he is. But he gets criticized because of his beliefs and looks.
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By A Customer on November 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book uses issues like gay bashing, eating disorders and peer pressure to explore what is essentially a tale of sin and redemption. The teens in this book speak like they do in Hollywood movies, all self-consciously "hip" and snide. It seems like the author tries to shanghai an example of "teenspeak" such as "wild and happy parade of the teeth going" or "rule the cule" onto every page, and this makes it an awkward read. Most of the time, today's teens speak like everyone else, at least the ones I know, though of course they have their own catch-phrases.
The characters also seem strangely young at times. I doubt kids who are partying hard every week night insult people by remarking on their imaginary "boogers." That insult belongs in elementary school, at least when I was young. Adolescent girls are a little more sophisticated in their barbs by high school.
This was an original take on bullying, though, with several characters who were strikingly well-developed and did not fit into any "box" to quote one. I wish, however, the author hadn't tried to tie everything up in the final chapter. It reminded me of those movies where we get explanations of what happened to every character at the end, even the minor ones we could care less about (Like "Loser") I think a little come-uppance is great, but when cosmic justice is too neat (like this book) it erodes some of the believability that the author has worked so hard to create...
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