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The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Twenty

Because your holiday season needed a little more drunk leukemia.

The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Twenty

Hey y’all, sorry I’m so late with the advent post. You see, I just got to Ireland for my Christmas holidays, and today I went on a family outing to the mall, because I live in the 1990s now. But I didn’t realize a) it was all the way in Dublin and b) just how long trips to the mall take. After all was said and done, I didn’t get home till after nine, and all I had to show for my day was some new fluffy slippers and a pack of chocolate buttons.

Anyway, speaking of people who hang out at the mall, HAPPY ADVENT! Today, I got you the gift of Lurlene McDaniel! I’m too good to you, I know. All three of today’s stories come from the Christmas Cancer Classic, Starry, Starry Night. Which, I have to say, I was a little disappointed in Lurlene this time around. In this entire book, there was only one instance of cancer and two deaths. I don’t know what went wrong. I may have to institute some new drinking game rules if this trend continues.

Cover Story:

Tragically, this is the cover that I had to work with. Again, you disappoint me, Lurlene. You are the woman who inspired this HIDEOUS FYA calendar! You can do so much better.

But then, when I was googling for the cover, I found an alternate version that is a vast improvement:

This one is far more insane. I would, of course, prefer it if they were wearing some choice clothing from the early 90s, but I guess my Christmas letter to Santa has been waylaid by the post office this year.

Book One: Christmas Child
Trigger Warning: Infant Mortality
Drinks Taken: 17

Featured Ailments:

Anencephaly. I just can’t, y’all. Just like in Baby Alicia is Dying, I can’t make fun of dying babies. It would be all kinds of wrong, even in the context laughably bad fiction.

The So-Called Plot:

Fifteen year-old Melanie is totes excited to be getting a younger sibling for Christmas. She’s wanted a little sister to play Barbie on regretted being an only child her whole life. So when her parents found out they were having a baby, she started wishing on a star that she might get a sister for Christmas. And a sister she gets, but only for a few days, because baby Jennifer is born without a cerebral cortex. Her family tries to donate her organs to other dying babies for transplants, but because Baby Jennifer isn’t technically brain-dead, they can’t. So absolutely nothing positive comes out of this situation. Melanie feels all the emotions that holiday season, from happiness to sadness, revulsion to love. And then she realizes that Christmas was going to be the least wonderful time of the year forever and ever after that. The End.

Notes from the Margin:

In the spring, when her mother had first told Melanie about her pregnancy, Melanie had been shocked, then embarrassed. Weren’t her parents too old? Forty-two and forty-five seemed pretty old to be having a baby. And then she wondered what her friends would think.

Uh, I know teenagers are judgmental assholes, but they seem to be usually problematic in Lurlene McDaniel books. What would her friends think? What exactly is the scenario Melanie is envisioning here? That they are going to gossip behind her back about how incredibly old her parents are and then shun Melanie accordingly? These fictional teenagers need some hobbies.

Melanie reached over and her father took her hand and squeezed. “You’re right,” she said. “I mean, after all, it’s almost Christmas. Nothing bad can happen at Christmas.”

You poor, naïve little moron.

Now the tree looked garish and fake, the heaps of presents gaudy. She saw the pile marked for Baby Mortimer/Morticia and cringed. How stupid of her to have wrapped and tagged them until she knew for certain there would even be a baby.”

This would never have happened in a Jewish family.

Book Two: Last Dance
Drinks Taken: 9

Featured Ailments:

Our old friend leukemia is back! Leukemia is like the star quarterback of Lurlene McDaniel books. Accordingly, you get a lot of perks, like everyone you know guilting the girl you’ve been stalking into dating you because you’re dying. An unfortunate side effect of this is, of course, early death, but you can’t have everything, you greedy bastard. Do you want the girl of your teenage fantasies or survival past high school? I mean, she does look REALLY good in that formal dress, and she would have totally not given you the time of day if it weren’t for that whole cancer thing.

The So-Called Plot:

Brenda has been playing wing-woman to her friend Julie’s recent attempts to seduce an older man at the local hospital where Julie’s uncle works. Then one day, Uncle Paul calls Brenda into his office and shows her a newspaper article about a kid named Doug who is dying of Leukemia. Then he tells her that Doug is a patient in the hospital, has seen her about the ward and thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, and would Brenda please do Uncle Paul a solid and flirt it up with Doug a bit so the kid can masturbate more happily before he dies. Brenda is like, “uh I’ll think about it but first I have to go away now forever byyyyyeeee!” And then Doug’s parents look her up in the phone book and try to bribe her to go out with their dying son. Instead of getting a restraining order, Brenda’s parents also think this idea is absolutely spiffing, so Brenda pity-dates Doug for a while even though she is not remotely attracted to the guy. Nobody sees anything wrong with this scenario, including Doug, who apparently lost his self-respect somewhere in the chemo process.

Doug asks her to take him to her winter formal, but then he gets pneumonia and can’t go, so they have a two-person winter formal in his basement. The end. Really. We don’t even get to see Doug die.

Notes from the Margin:

Brenda felt hot and cold at the same time. She thought it almost creepy that someone – Doug, whom she’d never SEEN – had been looking at her, thinking about her, adoring her, without her knowledge.

Fair enough, Brenda. Nobody likes a stalker. But then, not two pages later when you see your crush, Matt, at the mall:

Brenda often cut out photos of him from the newspaper and stashed them in a drawer at home.

When I read this, I thought this high level of hypocrisy would come back to bite Brenda in the ass later, or at the very least be acknowledged, but of course it never is. She just has a really stupid subplot with Matt that is not even worth detailing.

“I hope Doug isn’t disappointed,” Brenda said, running a brush through her long, shiny blond hair. “I’m not some superstar or anything.”

This juxtaposition of dialogue and description makes me want to punch through walls. There are few things worse in fiction than what I like to call the “One Direction Trope.” STOP PRETENDING LIKE YOU DON’T KNOW YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, MARY SUES OF THE WORLD.

The neck was high and trimmed with a choker-style collar of white seed pearls. Her shoulders were bared, and the dress fell in one long, body-hugging, fluidlike drape of soft velvet. A slit in the back allowed her to walk freely.

I love it when authors try to document fleeting fashion trends in literature. There’s so much going on here! The velvet! The choker collar! The slit! Also, this is the second time Lurlene has used the phrase “seed pearl” in this story. That is at least one time too many, Lurlene!

He reached for her hand. “When my spirit’s set free, I’ll ask God to let me visit the stars and learn all their secrets.” His voice sounded muffled and full of longing. “Then I’ll know all there is to know about the universe. Yes…  the stars will be my consolation prize for having to die so young.”

Has Lurlene McDaniel ever actually MET a teenage boy? Please show me a teenage boy that would say that. Or a teenage girl, for that matter. Or anyone.

Book Three: Kathy’s Life
Drinks Taken:
9, and that was bending the rules a little.

Featured Ailments:

Y’all, there was NO ACTUAL DISEASE IN THIS STORY! What IS this shit?! I had to treat normal teenage problems like diseases to even make the drinking game work. For instance:

Divorce! Sometimes, teenagers’ parents get divorced, leading to many severe complications including, but not limited to: deadbeat fathers not paying child support, formerly nice mothers becoming cranky bitches, and having to use FOOD STAMPS AT WALMART. THE HORROR.

But the much, much more serious affliction in this book is AAHD, or Acute Asshattery Disorder. This Y-Chromosone-linked disease, when combined with the pituitary-related condition known as “puberty,” is severe indeed. Side effects range from cheating on your girlfriend, pathologically lying, expressing sexist double-standards, and the most critical, being a fucking date-rapist asshole. If you think your child might be suffering from AAHD, you might also be a terrible parent, so probably just ship him off to boarding school or something.

The So-Called Plot:

Ellie’s life has been better. Her parents recently got divorced, her deadbeat dad stopped paying child support, and her wannabe date-rapist boyfriend, Chad, is really miffed that she won’t let him put his penis in her vagina, so they’re on the outs. Plus, she has to do an English project with awful Kathy, the newish girl in school who is too standoffish for everyone because she’s “so over high school.” What’s more, Kathy has this awesome life where she lives with this filthy rich lawyer couple and has a convertible and stuff, and all she has to do in exchange is take care of their one-year-old son, Christian! Because it’s totally not weird or suspicious that some rich lawyers would basically slave-hire a teenager currently enrolled in high school to take care of their son. Anyway, Ellie is jealous of Kathy’s glamorous lifestyle, especially now that her own mom has signed up for food stamps. What if someone SEES HER?!

Ellie attends a drunken party with her on-again boyfriend Chad, who tries to date rape her in an upstairs bedroom. She calls Kathy to come rescue her, because everyone else she knows is already drunk downstairs at the party. Kathy is really supportive and tells Ellie that she shouldn’t have to deal with gross teenage jerk’s douchebaggery like that, which is exactly why she is “so over high school.” Kathy and Ellie start spending a lot more time together, especially as Ellie is slut-shamed by all her former friends for the almost date rape.

Then one day at Kathy’s house, Ellie accidentally discovers a box of photos of Kathy and baby Christian and realizes, omg, baby Christian is KATHY’S BABY. Because she is dumber than a box of rocks, this possibility has never even occurred to Ellie. Apparently, Kathy was supposed to give the baby up for adoption to the rich lawyers, but after she gave birth, she couldn’t do it. So the rich lawyers proposed a trial open adoption, where Kathy and Christian would come live with them for a while, and then, if Kathy feels like it, she can sign the adoption papers. I’m no legal expert, but this sounds like a TERRIBLE IDEA, especially coming from lawyers. Kathy doesn’t know what to do! She hasn’t finished school, and these parents could give Christian a much better life. Ellie realizes that her own life is not so bad, and she feels guilty for ever being jealous of Kathy. For Christmas, she wishes for Kathy to be able to make the hard decision of whether to keep Christian or not. In the end, Kathy signs the adoption papers, writes Christian a goodbye letter, and moves to Kuwait. The End.

Notes from the Margin:

“You’re tying me in knots, baby. Don’t you know how hard it is for a guy to stop real sudden? It’s painful, Ellie. And you keep doing it to me.”

GO TO HELL, DATE RAPIST.

“There’s nothing wrong with virginity, Ellie. It’s not a disease. You shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting to save yourself for the right guy.”

But… can I make it a disease? For drinking purposes?

For a girl who had everything, Kathy didn’t seem any happier than Ellie, who had almost nothing. No… it made no sense to Ellie at all.

Oh Ellie, you adorable idiot. Money does not buy happiness.

And, because it’s so revolting, I must copy some of the epilogue to send you on your merry way this holiday season. I would recommend reading it in radio personality Delilah’s soothing voice, because that’s how I imagine Lurlene sounds:

Select your own star. There’s a wishing star for everyone. Take time this very night to look up with an open heart and make your own wish, dream your own dream.
Just repeat these words:

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

For wishes and dreams can come true. We all – strangers, loved ones, the lost, the lonely, the hopeful – can be one family, on one planet, in one galaxy, in one universe. We belong to one another. And to the stars.

Merry Christmas, Y'all.

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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