My cousin Sara’s cat used to eat books. He would masticate away at the corners until they were rounded and indented with tiny tooth-holes. I was visiting that part of the family one summer (they lived in Wisconsin, about 8 hours away– so we only saw them once or twice a year), and Sara asked me if I’d like some of her old books that she had already read, and grown out of.

Since Sara was cool and older, I gleefully went through her bookcase looking for titles that sounded appealing. I left a stack of books on her floor for her to approve, and then, late that night– her cat gnawed on them. Most were still readable, so I took them home and read them. Sometimes, it was a struggle to make out the words in the upper corners, but I am nothing if not persistent. I tried to lend one of the books to a friend in the “ohmythisissogoodyouhavetoreaditsowecantalkaboutit!” way that pre-teen girls do. Then I was reminded that my better friends at the time didn’t much care for reading– even if the books had been intact.

One of my favorite of the bunch was Six months to Live by Lurlene McDaniel. It’s a story of a girl, a little older than me at the time, who gets juvenile leukemia. She suffers chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and her best friend dies. By the end, she’s in recovery and optimistic. She looks through her dead best friend’s things and hugs her teddy bear.

After reading that book, I assumed that I would get cancer. Anytime I cut myself and it took to long to clot– must be leukemia, if I felt fatigued– leukemia, if I lost more hair than usual while washing or brushing it– leukemia (which really doesn’t make sense because I certainly wasn’t going through the chemo that would make my hair fall out– but logic is not at play here). I was going to get cancer– Dawn Rochelle did, and she was a normal girl like me.

Until last week, that was the only Lurlene McDaniel book I was aware of. Actually, I couldn’t have told you who wrote that book because I read it the same summer I read A Summer to Die (oh pre-teen angst), and I tend to confuse the two. Last week I was at job #2 (public library) looking for missing books in the YA section. One of the books was by Lurlene McDaniel, and when I found it I saw on the cover it said “a companion to Six Months to Live.

It seems that there are four books in the series, and poor Dawn Rochelle has relapse after relapse, one bone-marrow transplant after another all while dealing with the grief of missing her dead best friend (who she met in the cancer ward), and the social stigma of being known as “the cancer girl”. Life is hard for Dawn Rochelle, and it makes one wonder why Lurlene created a character just to torture her through a series of increasingly slim and poorly-written volumes.

Then I found out that this is all Lurlene McDaniel does. She write books about kids who are dying from one malady or another, and depressed teenagers eat them up. It seems incredibly sick and wrong, and her explanation that she did the research initially when her youngest son was diagnosed with diabetes, really doesn’t make it ok.

I learned a lot of about juvenile leukemia reading six months to live, but it made me paranoid. I’m pretty level-headed– so what the hell is this writing doing to other kids? Well, what’s done is done. Lurlene actually seems like quite a nice lady; we’re now friends on Myspace and she thanked me for adding her.

Here is a list of some of the most ridiculous titles she’s ever written, courtesy of lurlenemcdaniel.com:

Mother, Help me live

Let Him Live

Mourning Song

Please Don’t Die

She Died too Young

Sixteen and Dying

Someone Dies, Someone Lives

Don’t Die, My Love

Baby Alicia is Dying– this one is my favorite

When Happily Ever After Ends

Letting Go of Lisa

Time to Let Go

Somewhere Between Life and Death

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