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WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER by Carol Plum-Ucci

WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER

By Carol Plum-Ucci

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-15-216813-3
Publisher: Harcourt

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)