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What happened to Lani Garver
Book
2002
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 8^-12. Plum-Ucci follows her debut novel, The Body of Christopher Creed, a 2000 Printz Honor Book, with another offering about an enigmatic high-schooler who engenders the wrath of his fellow students--but this one might be an angel. Popular 16-year-old Claire can't immediately tell whether Lani Garver is a boy or a girl. Lani turns out to be a guy, and most people think he's gay. His friendship empowers Claire, who has her own problems: a possible cancer relapse, an eating disorder, and an alcoholic mother. Lani's wisdom and kindness make Claire wonder if he's one of those floating angels she's heard about, but members of the macho set consider how far they can push him. They do drown him, but is he really dead? A misplaced opening chapter gives away the ending, and the sometimes-stereotypical characters laugh incessantly; they giggle, crack up, and snort, usually stopping the narrative flow. Plum-Ucci has the core of a good story here. Lani's androgyny and his angelic possibilities are intriguingly played out, but readers must wade through a lot of extraneous scenes and situations to get the good stuff. For larger collections. --Ilene Cooper

  Kirkus Review

Plum-Ucci seems to be establishing a pattern: disaffected teen with a mysterious past moves into a cliquish, closed community and shows them the errors of their superficial ways. What saves this from being formulaic and sappy are the strong characterizations and vivid settings. Lani Garver moves into a small, insular fishing island called Hackett, populated by the hunky sons of fisherman and the spoiled cheerleaders they date. At first it is unclear how old Lani is, where Lani is from, or even if Lani is a boy or a girl. Claire is drawn to him, having grown increasingly dissatisfied with the shallowness of her life and friends. She's coping with her mother's increasing descent into alcoholism, the possible recurrence of her childhood leukemia, and an eating disorder. Lani and Claire establish a relationship that is based on honesty, something sorely lacking on Hackett Island. Her "in crowd" will not tolerate any dissension in the ranks and decides to show Lani how things work on their island. Their ridicule escalates into much more and their actions have tragic consequences. Ucci is a pro at teen dialogue, worries, and thought processes. The characterizations are superb, from Claire's troubles to her over-the-top friends' shallow concerns to Lani's fierce individualism and his artsy, eclectic city friends. The hint of supernatural only adds to the appeal. Successfully raising many valid issues, this should appeal to teens from the popular to the marginalized. (Fiction. YA)
Summary
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?Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite.Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast.But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons--and the possibility that angels may exist on earth.
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