The Decoding of Lana Morris
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The Decoding of Lana Morris

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3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Sixteen-year-old Lana Morris wishes her life were different, that she were somewhere else, someone else. Her foster mother wants her gone, she's stuck taking care of the other kids in the house, she longs to become closer to her foster father, and the only cool people around refuse to acknowledge her. Then Lana stumbles into Miss Hekkity's mysterious shop, and she begins t...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Ember (first published May 8th 2007)
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The Rusty Key
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Ages 16 and up for frank sexual discussion and general maturity level of themes and tone. The story features a female protagonist and romantic elements, but the overall strength of writing and complexity of the characters should make this book appealing to boys as well as girls.

One Word Summary: Esoteric.

Magical realism comes to the Midwest in this pleasingly offbeat story about a foster child who’s suddenly given the power to see...more
Sandra McLeod
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...more
Heidi
This starts out a little too gritty--neglected kids with mean drug-using "friends" and a spiteful foster mom. Add in a 16-yr-old girl falling in love with her 31-year-old lecherous foster dad, and I almost stopped reading.

But it got better. The narrator develops a real friendship with the neighbor boy and actually starts liking the four "special needs kids" she lives with.

I like happy endings, but this ending is a little too "super-happy-happy" for my tastes--everything turns out perfectly in a...more
Liz Ballif
I liked this book, but I wish I knew more about the characters. For the most part, I couldn't really understand why some of the characters were doing what they were doing (Lana, in the end?) but I thought it was a cute story. I loved Lana's voice as the narrator, and Chet was pretty much the most hilarious part of the whole thing. Something that bothered me about this story was that I could never really tell how Lana felt about the SNKs. Maybe that's super dumb that I didn't pick up on her real...more
Hollow May
I flip-flopped with how I felt about this book, and what rating I should give it. The beginning was slow going and at times disturbed me. It was somewhat creepy and... icky? And it had nothing to do with the snicks. The snicks are what kept me reading because I was really interested in them. It was Lana, the MC, that I couldn't understand. I didn't understand her interaction with the "normal" "cool" kids she wants to hang out with. Except for one, Chet, they don't directly talk to her and have h...more
Rachel
Very realistic teenage voice. But the emotional portrayal is all over the map and it is hard to see any real change in the main character or to even understand why she changed. Ending leaves you wanting. Note some very mild content may not be suitable for all readers.
Cristina
i really did like this book, especially lana's realtionship with chet, who was my favourite character. but i was made uncomfortable during parts with lana and her foster father.
Emily
This was a good yet confusing book about a girl growing up in a foster home.
Julie
Lana, a 16-year-old foster child placed in a home with 4 Snicks (special needs kids), grows and changes in this story from a defiant teen to a caring friend and family member. Written in 3 parts, we first meet Lana as an unhappy foster child who happens upon a drawing kit that seems to make what she draws come true. After her foster mother loses an arm in an accident, Lana must care for the other 4 children in the house. In so doing, she comes to better understand them and herself.

I appreciated...more
Emily Cassady
Oct 30, 2007 Emily Cassady rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA
Tom and Laura McNeal are the writing team who have also produced “Crooked”, “Crushed”, and “Zipped”, so they have experience in the teen drama field.
Their latest novel, “The Decoding of Lana Morris” is hard to read. The truths within are definite and our heroine has non-stop struggles, but it produces a bittersweet outcome that makes the “suffering” worthwhile for the reader.
Lana Morris is a ward of the state. She has been shuffled around and has finally landed in a household of special needs ki...more
Elizabeth
This is the story of 16-year-old Lana Morris, a girl in a foster home. Lana lives in a home with several other children, all of whom have special-needs. There's drama between the foster mother, who clearly is in it for all the wrong reasons. After Lana buys a drawing kit in an antique store, she realizes the set holds power and can make wishes come true. Lana also learns that sometimes your wishes don't turn out as you had hoped.

This was a sweet book, but nothing special.
Serli
I was shopping for books one day and I came across “The Decoding of Lana Morris.” Foster child, Veronica Winters, wishes everything about her life was different. She stumbles into Miss Hekkity’s mysterious antique shop and trades one of her most valued possessions for a box of thirteen thick sheets of paper in a black leather case. As soon as Lana’s pencil meets these sheets, everything begins to change. My favorite quote from the book was, “She wanted the light-headed happiness to go on and on,...more
Jill
Lana Morris is a sixteen-year-old foster child who lives with four other foster children in the home of Veronica and “Whit” Winters. Lana's four foster siblings, Tilly, Carlito, Alfred, and Garth are “snicks;” i.e., SNKS or Special Needs Kids. While at first, Lana is appalled to be living with "snicks," she comes to love them, and finds that she assesses the goodness of others - including the “semi-handsome” boy next store - by how they treat her foster-siblings. Lana wants to make all of their...more
Sydney J
The Decoding Of Lana Morris
This book is very heartwarming in an indirect way. The main character is Lana Morris who is a foster child in the SNICK house where all of the foster children have a mental issue. She can’t stand her foster mom, has a crush on her foster dad, and takes care of her foster siblings. She buys this paper and finds out that it has magical powers when you draw. When you draw it the thing really happens. She finds this out and tries to use it wisely but is not completely sur...more
Kyla
ah my beloved YA books, I have a whole new stack. I wasn't the hugest fan of the previous books by this author team but they seem to be refining their skillz. This book doesn't break new ground - it has echoes of The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Pinballs by Betsy Byars (does anyone remember that one?) and Pictures of Hollis Woods with a little fairy tale thrown in - evil stepmother and magical wishes and all. But it balances a social realism with a sort of whimsy in an interesting way and takes the...more
Joant
I ended up liking this story of Lana , the "Foster" , mainly because Lana is so likable. Actually all the main characters are well drawn ( a pun there which you will get after you read the book). And Lana's brave defense of the "Snicks" is a pleasure to read. But this book was confusing to me. Was it a fairy tale - with the dust devil bringing magic? Was it a fable with the wishes coming true, but in unpleasant ways? Lana couldn't decide what was happening, and neither could I. I do not know if...more
Maggie Fisher
I thought this book was really clever because it put you at a viewpoint of such a hopeful girl, that living in a special needs foster home didnt seem that bad. There was also a supersticious sense to this book but it was integrated really well making it seem almost like reality instead of some tacky magic book. I would reccomend this book, but maybe to a younger audience for it seemed like middle school literature. In the end I must say The Decoding of Lana Morris was a little cheesy because it...more
Havilah
I really enjoyed this book. The only reason it got 3 stars instead of 4 is because I didn't like that it is found in the Young Adult section. There are some things that happen in the book that I would have had no problem with if they had been approached differently. But maybe that's just me.

I recommend this book for sure. Just be sure to read it first before you let your teenage daughter read it.

I don't want to give anything away so if you want to know exactly what things I'm talking about just...more
TheSaint
The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal will change your mind about who counts as a misfit in society, and what constitutes a family.
Lana is a foster teen in a house with four special needs kids -- "snicks" to their worthless foster mom. Although she finds it difficult to find her place at first, eventually Lana comes to regard the snicks as really special, and people worth knowing. A strange trip to a strange antique store provides some creepiness, as well as hope for Lana, and the...more
Rose
Interesting POV choice—third person present, with quite a bit of psychic distance. I sort of wanted to shake the main character for her relationship sense (or lack thereof), and there was a bit of a squick factor with the foster father. The concept was nice, though, with a girl who at first looks down on the special needs kids she lives with, but then decides they are her family, and then she discovers a pad of paper that grants wishes when you draw on it, and has to decide how to use her wishes...more
WCPL Teens
Lana has been bumped from foster home to foster home most of her life. In her current situation, she lives with several special needs kids, a domineering foster mother, and a foster father that she begins to have feelings for. She loves to draw, so when she discovers a kit filled with fancy drawing paper, she's ecstatic. What she doesn't know is that everything she draws ends up happening in real life. Once this is discovered, she looks for a way to make all of the foster kids happy.
Annabella
This book is about a girl in an orphanage with people for special needs, even though she doesn't have any special needs herself. When she goes into town one day, she buys a mysterious "Ladies Drawing Kit" and discovers that whatever she draws happens, and whatever she erases disappers. This book was really interesting!
Amanda
To be completely honest, I didn't like this book that much. I loved the character, but felt like the authors included too many of them. I also didn't like it because you know when you see a person and you get a feeling that you don't like them? Well, it was the same feeling with me after I finished reading it.
Deb
Lana Morris is in foster care with a bunch of developmentally disabled teens. Her foster mother is mean and she has a crush on her foster father. She grows from someone willing to do anything (ride in the trunk of a car) to be accepted to accepting herself and the other foster teens for who they are. Good book.
Diane Mueller
Lana Morris is a foster child who finds herself stuck in a home with special need foster children. Her foster mother uses her to take care of the other children. I love this story. It has a happily ever after ending with a bit of magic in it. Great Young adult for middle school on up.
Ann
Ages 13+ (awww, warm feelings) 16 year old Lana lives in a foster home with the Snicks - four "special needs kids" who are mentally disabled in various ways. When she buys a box of paper from an antiques shop, she discovers that the drawings she makes on the paper come true, in a way.
Brittany
Lana gets stuck in a foster home for kids with "special needs". On a trip to a small town she finds a magic paper that grants her desires, then finds a secret about a neighbor boy. With his help, she tries to save her home from falling apart.
Mary
16 year old foster child Lana Morris discovers a magical drawing set that could change her life and the lives of the special needs kids she lives with in a the foster home that is run by the "Ice Queen" and her flirtatious husband.
Jessie
I do love young adult books. The fact that it included foster kids and kids with special needs lured me in! It was an ok read...maybe I didn't give it a fair chance since I had a lot going on and it took me a long time to finish.
Karin
girl living in a foster home with several "snicks" (special needs kids) buys drawing paper that makes things happen. touches of magical realism combine with young-teen-coming-of-age story. pretty good.
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Laura McNeal is married to the author Tom McNeal, with whom she has written four young adult novels and one picture book. Her solo debut, Dark Water, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature in 2010.
More about Laura McNeal...
Crooked Dark Water Zipped Crushed The Death of Judy Huscher

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