This is one of my 13-yr-old daughter's favorite books and she wanted me to read itWhat Happened to Lani Garver
is a coming of age tale. Claire is 16, 5’10”, a cancer survivor who wants so much to fit in. Macy is Queen Bee of the local hive. The setting is Hackett, a vacation community on an island, a place where wealthy Philadelphians come to summer. The other local industry is fishing. Claire is just back from a long stint of health-care-induced home schooling when Lani Garver arrives in town. Lani is an androgynous teen of uncertain gender. However he (as we soon learn) has considerable personal power and wisdom. He is the only one in town able to see Claire for who she is, and the only one with the strength to help her on her personal journey.
Claire’s great fear is that her cancer will return. She has vivid, violent, disturbing dreams, and writes lyrics rich with images of razor blades and blood. She is a gifted guitarist as well.
The central mystery revolves around Lani. We know from the introduction that Lani comes to a very unfortunate end. The locals cannot tolerate any really different people. Tony, One of the guy-pack, the fishboys, comes on to Lani, then accuses Lani of coming on to him when he is discovered. Desperate to hide his orientation, this extreme risk-taking 18-year-old torments Lani to cover up his own secret. The end result is, maybe, Lani’s death. Claire attempts to intervene, and does a few times, but is unable ultimately to prevent the inevitable.
By the story's end Claire finds herself, with Lani’s help, and comes to see the locals for what they are, sees her parents more clearly as well, and finds true friendship with friends of Lani in Philadelphia.
One theme, stated several times, is that one must be able to throw away the past in order to move on to the future. There is nice imagery of fog in town, standing in for ignorance and bias.
It was a good book, not of particular note for those without a compelling interest. I would not have read it if not for my daughter. Still, it was a fast, enjoyable, interesting read.