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Sometimes You Can’t Make Jokes About Lurlene McDaniel Books

Alix reviews Lurlene McDaniel's latest book, Red Heart Tattoo, but couldn't bring herself to use the usual format for a book about a school bombing.

Sometimes You Can’t Make Jokes About Lurlene McDaniel Books

Before we begin, I want to explain why I’m using the regular book report format rather than our patented Lurlene McDaniel Drinking Game format. You see, even though this book is both written by Lurlene McDaniel and scored a fairly respectable 19 drinks taken, at the end of the day, it’s still a book about a school bombing. I just couldn’t find it in me to make jokes about illnesses like PTSD and psychopathy. Don’t worry, though, I have like six more vintage Lurlene books sitting on my shelf right now, so you’ll get some more inappropriate jokes about cancer soon.

BOOK REPORT for Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel

Cover Story: Yikes
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: The Very Best of Lurlene McDaniel
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude
Anti-bonus Factors: Teenage Tattoos
Trigger Warning: Miscarriage
Relationship Status: Well This Was Awkward

Cover Story: Yikes

Oh, Lurlene. Your covers are just so wonderfully heinous, which is why we dedicated an entire calendar month to you.

The Deal:

Morgan is a popular cheerleader and Student Body President at Edison High School with good grades, a promise ring from her athletic boyfriend Trent, and a bright future ahead of her. Stuart Rothman is a C-average student with a light criminal history, and is also hopelessly in love with Morgan, who doesn’t know he exists. One day, their paths cross when the school is ripped apart in a bombing that leaves Morgan blind, dozens injured, and nine of their classmates and teachers dead.

BFF Charm: Meh

Morgan and Roth are both fine, I guess, but I wouldn’t be friends with either of them. Roth is like a tatted up version of Ethan Embry’s character in Can’t Hardly Wait; his all-consuming love of Jennifer Love Hewitt was endearing when I was 16, but as an adult, it’s kind of creepy and sad. And Morgan is surprisingly likeable for a cheerleader and class-president type, but then she goes and says things like,

Someone had wanted to ruin the pep rally-her pep rally, the one she’d arranged, fought for and endorsed. She felt a burning in her chest and stomach as her fear morphed into anger. “I’m going to find out who did this.”

And I just can’t. First of all, homegirl needs to step back and get some perspective on life. Second, I hated pep rallies in high school. The worst day of my high school life was when I was really sick and upset about something, so I was hiding in the bathroom and crying during a pep rally. And one of the evil vice principals found me and forced me to go back to the pep rally, instead of, I don’t know, taking me to a counselor like she should have, because she is the worst educator in the world. For me, pep rallies are the symbol of absolutely everything I hated about high school. I don’t think I could be friends with someone who is such an enthusiastic supporter of school spirit.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Swoon of 6 in a Lurlene McDaniel book? I AM AS SURPRISED AS YOU ARE! Maybe it’s just my confusion from the jetlag, but I think this book was actually kind of hot? Roth and Morgan get snowed in when her parents aren’t home at one point, and wow! For a house with no heat or electricity, it sure is hot in there.

Talky Talk: The Very Best of Lurlene McDaniel

This book reads like other Lurlene McDaniel books, but slightly better. Which is to say, still not very good. Her characters still seem kind of flat and say things I don’t think any teenager would actually say, but on the whole, it’s shockingly readable. We get several different character’s perspectives, which is a nice change from listen to the same, whiny, cancer-ridden cheerleader about how sad she is about her hair falling out for 200 pages.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Roth is a classic MLD. He was orphaned at a young age when his parent’s house exploded. Furthermore, he was forced to watch from the car parked outside, where his mom used to lock him while cooking meth. He bounced around the foster system for a few years until his tattoo artist uncle was able to get custody of him. All of which is to say that he is a very damaged, troubled hunk of man-meat. Hot.

Anti-bonus Factor: Teenage Tattoos

Can we start lobbying to raise the age required to get tattoos to like, 25? Because people in their late teens and early twenties make TERRIBLE tattoo decisions. For instance, Roth, among his many tattoos, has one that says “Wicked” across his chest. That is the stupidest tattoo! Or to cite some real life examples, I once met a guy at a party who had a Minor Threat quote across his chest... while he was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Because back when he got that tattoo, he was super straight edge. Or the absolute worst - I am tangentially related to someone who got “I <3 PBR” tatted inside her lip when she was 20. WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY???

Look y’all, I have nothing against tattoos. I secretly want one, except that I can’t think of anything I will definitely like for the next 70 years. If you want a tattoo, fine! But do you really want that tattoo there? Why don’t you think on it for the next five years, and maybe discover if you like some other alcoholic beverages more than PBR, or if people are going to think you’re REALLY into Idina Menzel because of something you thought would look cool on your chest when you were 18? Maybe wait a little while to see where things start to droop and maybe get the tattoo somewhere else. Somewhere firm like your ankle or your shoulder that’s not going to stretch out in weird ways when you get pregnant. And just say no to Chinese characters and tramp stamps!

Casting Call:

Jane Levy as Morgan

(Insert default MLD casting here) Ethan Peck as Roth

Relationship Status: Well This Was Awkward

Uh, so to be honest, I only went out with this book so I could make fun of it on the internet. And then it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, so now I just feel like an asshole. Unfortunately, I still don’t want to actually date it. So I’ll just sneak out the back of the restaurant and see y’all later...

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Random House Children’s Books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Red Heart Tattoo is available now.

Alix West's photo About the Author: Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.
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