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  • Briana's Gift
  • Written by Lurlene McDaniel
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  • Briana's Gift
  • Written by Lurlene McDaniel
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375846588
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Written by Lurlene McDanielAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lurlene McDaniel


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: March 11, 2008
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-84658-8
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
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Thirteen-year-old Casey's mother always said that Casey's sixteen-year-old sister marched to the beat of a different drummer. But it isn't until Briana runs away with an older boy that Casey begins to understand what her mother meant. When Briana returns home alone and pregnant, Casey and her mother try to help Briana come to terms with her options.

It was already complicated to think about Briana's choices and then things change suddenly again. When Briana is in a serious accident, Casey's mother sees things one way. Although Casey understands her mother's reaction, she feels she must try to convince her mother to make a different decision. Casey needs to grow up fast and do what she can to maintain Briana's legacy. Will she be able to make her mother understand that there is only one way to accept Briana's gift?

From the Hardcover edition.



I'm probably the only girl in the world who hates the month of December. I know Christmas comes in December, but so what? Every bad, awful thing that's ever happened in my family has happened in December. Like when I was five and Daddy died in an accident at the steel mill just two weeks before Christmas and we had to move to Tennessee and live with Grandma. And when I was eight and Mom was told in the first week of December she had rheumatoid arthritis and so she couldn't work and had to set up her own at-home business. And when I was almost fourteen, my sister, Briana, ran away from home on a cold December Saturday, just after school let out for the holiday break.

Mom said later, "I should have seen it coming."

But neither of us had.

Our mother always said that Briana marched to the beat of a different drummer, which I totally got because I'm in the marching band at school and staying in step is a must. When she was just sixteen, Bree took off with Jerry Stevens, a nineteen-year-old guy Mom called "worthless, hateful and without a lick of sense," but that Bree swore she loved more than anything. Bree and Mom had lots of fights about Bree dating Jerry, and then on a Saturday morning when Mom had driven into town to Pruitt's Food Mart for groceries, Bree comes down the stairs with two suitcases and a duffel bag and drops them at the front door.

"Where you going?" I ask. I'm sprawled on the sofa watching a cartoon and eating Cheetos. I like the old cartoons; plus, it's a good way to spend a Saturday until Mom makes me do my chores, which wasn't going to happen until she came home from the store. My fingers are covered with orange Cheetos dust and I lick them.

Bree scowls. "That's disgusting." She looks out the high glass window of the door. "I'm leaving."

"For where?"

"Los Angeles."


"Me and Jerry are going to find jobs."

"You don't know anyone in Los Angeles," I remind her. We live in farm country, in Duncanville, a small town in middle Tennessee, three hours from Nashville, only forty minutes from Chattanooga, which I guess Bree figures are both too close to home.

"We're going clear across country, seeing everything there is to see on the way. When we get to Hollywood, we'll get a place of our own and be happy forever." Her green eyes sparkle.

"Mom's not going to let you go." Bree had taken off twice before and Mom had gotten the sheriff to fetch her home.

"It's different this time."

"How so?"

"I left a letter in my room. It explains everything."

"What about school?"

"I'm finished with school. I can quit if I want to. You finish school."


A horn honks outside and Bree throws open the door and grabs her bags. "I'm out of here."

I follow her onto the front porch, stop when I see Jerry's pickup in our dirt driveway. He jumps out, hugs Bree and tosses her bags into the open bed. "What did you pack, girl? The kitchen sink?" He never looks my way.

Bree laughs and kisses him. She says to me, "Go inside, Sissy."

I'm still wearing my sleep T-shirt and my legs and feet are bare. The cold has sliced right through me and frozen me to the porch.

Bree shoots Jerry an apologetic look, runs back and puts her arms around me. "It'll be all right, Sissy. I know what I'm doing."

I feel all hollow, scared too. I don't want my sister to leave.

"I'll send you postcards."

I stand still, my arms glued to my sides, fighting hard not to cry. I'm careful not to touch her with my disgusting orange fingers. "Why do you want to leave?"

"I don't want to be stuck in this place forever. This is my chance to go places with someone I love and who loves me."

The truck's horn beeps and I see Jerry scowling from behind the wheel. Bree breaks away. "I can't keep Jerry waiting." She bounds off the porch, runs to the truck, gets inside and rolls down the window. She calls out, "Tell Mom not to worry. I know what I want. I love you."

My voice is stuck in my throat and I can't say anything. I stand on the porch shivering and watch them drive away. And find another reason to hate December.

When Mom comes home, I tell her what's happened and we go up to Bree's room together. The usually messy bedroom is neat and clean. The bed's made up with the old quilt Grandma sewed before she died and the closet holds only old summer T's and empty hangers. Mom picks up the letter propped on Bree's pillow. As I watch her stiffened fingers rip open the envelope, I cry. "Shush," she says, her eyes darting over the page.

"Wh-what's it say?"

"She and Jerry are getting married."

"Call the sheriff, Mom. You can stop them."

"Why? Once they're married, I have no say in her life."

"But school--"

"She's sixteen, Susanna. You can't stop a river from flowing downstream, and I can't stop Bree from going her own way. I should have seen it coming."

Shock waves roll over me. Briana is gone. Really and truly gone.

Mom gets to her feet and her orthopedic shoes shuffle on the wood floor. "Come on now and help me bring in the groceries."

Bring in the groceries? How can she think about groceries when her daughter, my only sister, has just run off to get married to a guy Mom hates? I swipe at my eyes. Mom puts her arm around my shoulder. "She'll be back, Sissy."


"When he leaves her."

"But if they're married . . ."

"It's a lot easier to break promises than to keep them," Mom says. Her face looks sad. I still can't believe she isn't going to do anything to make Bree come back. "Come on now."

Mom shuts Bree's bedroom door behind us and we go downstairs.

From the Hardcover edition.
Lurlene McDaniel

About Lurlene McDaniel

Lurlene McDaniel - Briana's Gift

Photo © Meghan Green and Jon Lancaster

“I write the kind of books I write because I want to help kids understand that nobody gets to pick what life dishes out to them. What you do get to choose is how you respond to what life gives you. No matter what happens, life is a gift. And always worth living.”—Lurlene McDaniel

Lurlene McDaniel is a recipient of the RITA Award and several of her works have received the IRA–CBC Children’s Choice Award.


Everyone loves a good cry, and no one delivers heartwrenching stories better than Lurlene McDaniel.

But there’s more to her books than that. McDaniel has written over 40 novels about kids who face life-threatening illnesses, who sometimes do not survive. These are powerful, inspirational stories about courage, love, and strength in the face of overwhelming trauma. McDaniel’s books touch the hearts and spirits of the teenagers and adults who read them. Her following is a devoted group of appreciative fans. McDaniel says: “These are books that challenge you and make you think.”

Some readers—and their parents—have wondered why McDaniel chooses to write about sad situations. “I tell them that sometimes tragedy hits people—kids, too. They want answers. They want to know ‘why.’ By using novels, I show ordinary kids confronting and overcoming great odds.” McDaniel’s books are ultimately optimistic and life-affirming. 

McDaniel began writing about young adults when her son Sean was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 3. His illness changed the lives of everyone in her family forever. “I saw what life was like for someone who was chronically ill, and I experienced how it affected the dynamics of the family,” says McDaniel. She says she found that writing about the trauma and its effects was therapeutic.

To make certain that her books are medically accurate, McDaniel conducts extensive research. She interviews health care professionals and works with appropriate medical groups and hospice organizations, as well as the Tennessee Organ Donor Services. “I study medicine and traditional grief therapy techniques to give the novels a sense of serious medical reality,” she says. “I also study the Bible to instill the human element—the values and ethics often overlooked by the coldness of technology.”

Growing up, McDaniel lived in different parts of the country because her father was in the Navy. Eventually her family settled in Florida. She attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she earned a B.A. in English. She now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In addition to her popular YA novels, McDaniel has written radio and television scripts, promotional and advertising copy, and a magazine column. She is a frequent speaker at schools, writers’ conferences, and conventions.

McDaniel’s books have been named to several bestseller lists, including Publishers Weekly. Three of her novels were
selected by children as IRA–CBC Children’s Choices: Somewhere Between Life and Death, Too Young to Die, and Goodbye Doesn’t Mean Forever. Six Months to Live has been placed in a literary time capsule at the Library of Congress, to be opened in the year 2089.

The One Last Wish books focus on the interconnected stories of the residents and counselors of Jenny House—a group home for critically and terminally ill young girls. Through the kindness of a secret benefactor, each girl receives a cashier’s check for $100,000, to be used to make her last wish come true. Every One Last Wish novel is a compassionate story of triumph and inspiration that makes McDaniel’s dedicated fans come back for more.

McDaniel’s works include To Live Again, one of the Dawn Rochelle books; Angel of Mercy, the companion to Angel of Hope; and How Do I Love Thee, three stories about young couples who are inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beautiful sonnet. In her novel, Telling Christina Goodbye, McDaniel shows that everything can change in the blink of an eye.


“An interesting blend of romance, mystery, and problem novel. The characters are captivating and sensitively drawn and the plot is fast paced.”—School Library Journal

“Touching scenes abound in this crisis novel. . . . Fans of tear-jerker teen romances will enjoy this offering.”—Booklist

“A satisfying story for those who like to take their romance with tears and gutsy characters who know what it means to live beyond the pale of ‘normal.’ ”—School Library Journal

“Readers of McDaniel will enjoy; it’s good to read positive stories about teens.”—VOYA

“McDaniel has a way of getting you to look at the complicated emotions experienced by YAs with major medical problems. . . . Another winner in her One Last Wish series.”—KLIATT

“[The stories] are absorbing, the characters are well developed, and the author does not resolve the girls’ dilemmas with pat solutions. . . . This has solid YA appeal.”—School Library Journal

“These companion novels . . . cast the events of high school into a meaningful perspective and allow for convincing character development. McDaniel’s writing is light and well suited to this refreshing and involving story.”—Publishers Weekly

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