Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Too Young to Die

By Lurlene McDaniel. Published August 1989.

Melissa Austin is sixteen-years-old. She is close with her mom and older brother, Michael. They may not have a lot of money like her best friend, Jory, but they have a much happier home. Melissa is a very smart girl, and is planning on going to Princeton. She also has a lot of bruises and cuts that won’t heal, and she’s tired all the time, but she ignores that.

She’s also trying to ignore boys, and concentrate solely on school. Especially now that she’s been asked to tryout for the Brain Bowl. Y’all, they take this shit seriously. Not only is there a knowledge test, there’s also a psychological test. But Melissa feels she did well on them. But she was too nervous to stay after and talk to her crush, Brad.

He finds her when she’s visiting Jory’s country club, though. They go for a walk in the gardens together, and he’s coming on really strong. Talking about how he always gets what he wants, and he asks to unbraid her hair. It’s creepy, and he shall henceforth be known as Creepy Brad.

After a few rounds of actually playing the game, Melissa and Creepy Brad both make the Brain Bowl team. Yay.

One day, Melissa gets called to the dean of women’s office, where her mother is accused of beating her because of all the bruises on her legs. Melissa runs home, and when her mother arrives, they agree she needs to go to the doctor. He says her red blood count is low, but her white blood count is high. She needs to go into the hospital for a few days for testing.

Of course, because this is a Lurlene McDaniel book, she has cancer. Lymphocytic leukemia to be exact. She gets a bit pissy about this, snaps at her doctors, and even blames her mom.

She meets another patient on her floor, Ricter –Ric- Davis. He has bone cancer, and has had his lower leg amputated. He gives her the deets on having cancer and chemo. As he leaves, he’s all “Too bad about your hair, the chemo’s going to take it all.” He’s a real charmer.

Melissa asks Jory to come in with a pair of scissors, and they cut all her hair off.

Melissa begins her medication and chemo, and it goes about as well as expected. Her mother, Michael, Jory, and Ric are all there for her, though. Until Ric gets discharged, but he says he’ll call her, cause he thinks she’s hot and wants to date her. She meets a little girl named Rachael, who is four and also had leukemia. She sounds adorable.

After two weeks, Melissa is stable enough to go home. She even goes to take the PSATs. After the test, Jory and Melissa go to Steak and Shake, and they see Creepy Brad there with another girl. Melissa’s a little sad, but I feel it’s for the best.

Jory suggests getting a wig, so they go buy one. They can’t get a real hair one as long as Melissa’s was, it would have to be special ordered and very expensive. They choose a short style, similar in color to her own. When they get home, Melissa’s PSAT scores have arrived, and she scored in the 98th percentile.

Melissa gets to go back to school after Christmas, and it’s weird. She has a very awkward encounter with Creepy Brad. She’s kind of bitchy with him since he never called or anything. But in good news, she kicks ass at her Brain Bowl practice.

Ric kind of stalks her, showing up and waiting for her after school, and checking out the competition. But Melissa doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, and starts going out with him. I think he’s too old for her. He’s nineteen and in college. He takes her to frat parties, and then asks her to go on spring break with him, and says he wants to make love to her. It’s all very rushed.

Of course, Rachael dies. Damn you, Lurlene.

Melissa breaks up with Ric, and I rejoice.

Melissa gets picked for the final panel for Brain Bowl, even though there was some doubt with some of the teachers being prejudiced against her and her cancer. They don’t want her to have to drop out. I told you it was srs bidness. But she stood up them, and gave a good little speech, and they let her on the panel.

On the day of her first match, Jory shows up with a surprise. She ordered a wig just like Melissa’s original hair. Jory is the shit.

o   I may still have Flowers in the Attic on my mind, but that series is all I can think of when I read the name Jory.

o   Remember when renting a bunch of movies for your VCR was a big, fun deal?

o   Jory’s a really good friend. She doesn’t freak out when Melissa throws up, and even washes out the bowl for her. She also guilt trips the teachers into holding Melissa’s Brain Bowl spot for her.

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