Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for “What Happened To Lani Garver”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.


Have you ever seen strange parallels between a fictional story and your real life? Like, the story’s author somehow took parts of your life and put them in a book? This has happened to me before. The most recent time it happened was when I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. The first time I saw major parallels between my life and fiction was when I read What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci.




What Happened to Lani Garver – Carol Plum-Ucci


The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl? 
Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons—and the possibility that angels may exist on earth.


This book was first published in 2002. I was in high school when I read it. By today’s standards, it’s probably dated and problematic, but at the time, it made me think about the world in a slightly different way. I’d never read a book about a character who didn’t identify as male or female. I knew that transgender people existed, but at that point in my life, I’d never given much thought to gender. All the people I knew were either boys or girls. Reading this book forced teenage-me to think seriously about gender issues. What happens if someone isn’t a boy or a girl?

As a teen, I was sheltered. If I had to put a label on the town where I grew up, I’d probably label it “Guns and God.” People went to church on Sundays and spent weekends hunting or off-roading in their trucks. There's nothing wrong with those activities, but there wasn’t much diversity in the town. Almost everyone was white, conservative, semi-rural, Christian, and middle class.


The edge of a neighborhood in the town where I grew up.


Shortly after I finished the Lani Garver book, my best friend decided to tell everyone that he’s gay. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when he told me. We’d been friends for so long that I'd pretty much figured it out on my own. Like with gender issues, I hadn’t given much thought to sexuality issues. I was straight; my friend was gay. That’s just how life was. We could talk about dudes together. Our sexualities didn’t bother me, so I didn’t think about them.

Unfortunately, my friend’s sexuality bothered other people. Some of our mutual friends were surprised when he told them. Kids who’d always been nice suddenly turned vicious and said that being gay was “against their beliefs.” I don’t want to go into detail about the bullying my friend endured because I don’t talk about my friends’ personal lives on the Internet. (Also, this blog is all about me, remember?) I’ll just say that the bullying got scary. I was legitimately worried that someone would use Christianity as an excuse to physically harm my friend.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the Lani Garver book during this part of my life. In the book, the fictional bullies are annoying at first, but then their behavior slowly escalates until it becomes potentially deadly. I was watching the same thing happen in my real life. It was terrifying.

Luckily, no one hurt my friend like Lani was hurt in the book. We graduated, moved on to college, and everything was mostly fine. Our story had a much happier ending than the story in the novel.

Still, the parallels between What Happened to Lani Garver and my real life were unnerving. I guess fiction can be a little too real sometimes.


Have you ever read a story that was eerily similar to your real life?






17 comments:

  1. Yes, I have read several books that I thought I could have written... I haven't heard of this book, but the message sounds good and glad you found it helpful as you navigated situations with bullying your friend.

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/w-is-for-white-dwarf.html

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    1. It was a helpful book. It really reinforced that “be nice to others” thing that teenagers seem to struggle with.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. This sounds like an intriguing read, but I would hate to watch someone I know endure this kind of bullying. I haven't read entire books that mirrored my life, but there was this section in Jenny Lawson's book Let's Pretend This Never Happened which discussed methotrexate (in a funny way), a drug my daughter used for years for her arthritis, and the parallels between our reactions to the drug warnings made me laugh all the harder.

    W is for the Watergate Scandal

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    1. I love Jenny Lawson. I’ve read both her books and thought they were hilarious.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I find it really sad that coming out causes friends to turn against someone like that. It's just horrible. I'm a liberal laidback kind of person and it bugs me that others can be so judgemental. My life however, is so boring that no book would ever be written to match it!

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    1. My life is really boring nowadays. There was so much more drama when I was a teenager.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. I probably wouldn't have been allowed to read this book as a teenager, but this makes me wish I had known about it! I was also super sheltered and religious as a teen and I honestly didn't even know trans people existed. :/ I wonder how much quicker I would've grown had I had access to books like this back then. Thanks for sharing!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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    1. My family wasn’t religious, so they didn’t have problems with me reading books like this. My friends had problems with it, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I am glad your story had a happier ending. There have definitely been books that I have seen parts of my life in. If it something currently going on in my life it can hit harder.

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    1. Yeah, I actually avoid books that might be too similar to my real life. I want to escape when I’m reading.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. I seem to have been very sheltered growing up. I didn't know such a person lived as gay, transgender etc. It was a huge eye opener for me when I went nursing and one of my patients was a sex-change. Such a nice guy umm girl ... who became a guy. I was fortunate enough to follow him through several of his surgical procedures during my training, unusual for nurses. W is for Watch the Wordcount as you Build a Better Blog. #AtoZchallenge.

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    1. The world is interesting, isn’t it? There are so many people, cultures, and lifestyles that aren’t really discussed on TV or in literature.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. Roz Chast has a graphic novel/memoir called "Can We Please Talk About Something More Pleasant?" It deals mostly with her parents aging and dying. Our situations and family personalities are different, but I could still relate to SO MUCH of it. It's one of the rare books that made me both laugh out loud and cry real tears.

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    1. I’ve heard of that book. I don’t want to think about my parents dying. I prefer to live in denial that it will ever happen.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. That can be spooky, can't it! Stopping by from the A to Z Challenge. I'll continue to visit after the challenge. Have a good weekend. www.dianeweidenbenner.com

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  9. I don't remember ever reading anything that was so close to something I was dealing with. I am so sorry that your friend had to go through what he did. People are so cruel especially teens. I am glad he came through it ok.

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  10. As a Christian myself, it makes me sad when people use their Christianity as a reason to be hurtful to others. It sends such a horrible message about God. Cruelty is never justified.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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