[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/68056]
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2003)
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Own Your Own Freak, 2005)
"You need to go out in the waiting room and find yourself a floating angel."
"They come with you on visits like these. They hold your hand and they tell you good stuff and make sense of this world so you realize it's not so bad--"
"Oh, I came with a friend. He's out there." I jerked my thumb toward the waiting room. "Thinks he's at a family reunion. Not much help."
"That's cuz he's a friend. Floating angels aren't friends; they're real angels. They're real. Didn't you see any of 'em out there?" His beaming smile flashed, and I gathered he was pulling my leg, the other option being that he was nuts. I decided to be polite and not hate myself more.
"Uh, no. What do they look like?"
"Like faggots. ... Angels don't have a gender. So what they gonna look like?"
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.'"
Book source: Philly Free Library