After years of mocking the titles of Lurlene Please Don't Die; Too Young to Die; She Died too Young; Don't Die, My Love; A Time to Die; Sixteen and Dying; Six Months to Live; Mother, Help me Live; Let Him Live; Someone Lives, Someone Dies; Baby Alicia is Dying and When Happily Ever After Ends McDaniel's dead teenager novels, I finally broke down and read one. I picked it up for a quarter at the Jewish Women's Thrift Shop, where I had gone to hunt for more Time Life "Food of the World" books. (I obtained America, America: The Great West, Latin America, Italy, and Wines and Spirits. Also Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Atonement.) Incidentally, I am writing this from a cafe computer. Yesterday a guy knocked over a cup of coffee on to this keyboard, and today the D key is sticky. This is causing me a great deal of difficulty while writing about Lurlene McDaniel's oevre.
Sixteen-year-old Carley is in the hospital for a bone infection after surgery on her broken leg. But her real problem is that four years ago, she got bone cancer of the head, and half her face was removed. Though her eye was saved, she's now disfigured. But lucky for her, who should appear in the hospital but a really cute blind boy! He seems a little lacking in the brain department, having been blinded when he mixed up a bunch of random chemicals in an attempt to make rocket fuel, and was shocked when it blew up in his face. He may or may not regain his vision-- no one will know till the bandages come off-- and he's not dealing too well. In the meantime, he can't see Carley's face, and so can be charmed by her personality and witty banter. (A problem with the book is that Carley is supposed to be very funny and to use humor as a defense mechanism, but her jokes are all so totally unfunny that I frequently couldn't even tell that she'd made one until the other characters reacted by rolling about the floor.) Naturally, Carley does not tell him that she's disfigured, and so they have a lovely little romance.
Carley is tormented by the thought that he will be repulsed by her if he regains his sight, and feels guilty that she kind of hopes he won't. But even if he doesn't, she can never carry on a romance with him, because eventually she'd have to meet his friends and family, and they'd tell him what she looks like. This comes up early on, in fact, and Carley gets her sister to impersonate her to meet his friends. Oh, the angst!
As a teen angst-fest, this is not bad. It's a bit bland and it could probably use even more agony, misery, and woe than it contains, since that's why people read stuff like this, but the medical bits are fairly realistic and the ending, though predictable, is sweet. I can't say that this makes me want to read more McDaniels books, but it's certainly not the over-the-top shriek of teen anguish that I expected. (Actually, I would probably be more likely to read more if it had been, but that's because I'm evil.)