Lawral's Reviews > What Happened to Lani Garver

What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
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's review
Feb 21, 10

bookshelves: ya, read-but-unowned
Read in January, 2010

This book was hauntingly good, in my opinion. You know right from the start that something horrible is going to happen to Lani, so everything in the book feels like foreshadowing. Watching Lani and Claire hurdle toward this inevitable end is heartbreaking, even as you cheer on Lani's continual "I don't care what they think" attitude. Claire is a bit more cautious than he is. As she grows and changes over the course of the novel she cares less and less what her friends and the fish frat think of her, but she knows what they are capable of doing to Lani and herself. However, her growing sense of the injustice of it all, in combination with her new-found temper, still trips her up. The way things end up happening in the end is not how you would expect, at least it wasn't the way that I had put it together in my head.

The best thing about What Happened to Lani Garver is its honesty. For example:

I shook my head, embarrassed by my curiosity but more embarrassed by how none of this made sense to me. "We're talking about a guy with a girl, who propositions you once, and then called you a faggot. What is a person like that?"
"Do you mean, is there a clinical name for someone like that?"
"Dunno. I think they call it 'hypocritical.'"

It's an honest question, one that I'm sure more people than fictional Claire would like an answer to. Small teaching moments like this are peppered throughout the book in a natural and conversational way. Also, the language, as I'm sure you noticed in both of the quotes, makes me cringe, but, as the girlfriend pointed out, this was how we all talked in high school, before we knew it wasn't PC. The dichotomy of the way words like "faggot" are used by the fish frat and the way they are used by the people Lani and his friends is very striking. And though the feeling that we can say it about our own but you can't say it about us is confusing (which is true of a lot of words about a lot of groups that are considered either derogatory or familiar depending on who is saying them to whom), it appears naturally here without forced explanations of why it is or isn't okay.

Warning: There are three chapters worth of the bad thing that happens to Claire and Lani. It's told from Claire's perspective and she goes in and out of consciousness for a lot of it, so it doesn't end up being graphic. It is still pretty upsetting and might be downright detrimental reading for someone who has gone through this type of experience themselves.

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