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Recap #15: The Diary by Sinclair Smith

The Diary by Sinclair Smith

The Diary by Sinclair Smith

Title: The Diary by Sinclair Smith

Summary: Was she going to die… again?

Delia can’t stop reading the old diary which mysteriously appears in her locker one day. Little by little, she starts to become more like the girl whose words she reads – even having her memories and seeing the world through her eyes. A dead girl’s eyes. Soon Delia is convinced that she was the girl who wrote the diary – in a past life.

But the terror is about to come alive once more. For the girl who wrote the diary was murdered. And the killer is after her again…

Tagline: A dead girl’s diary … in her own handwriting.

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. Also doesn’t mean it’s ever successful at killing/pranking/whatevering.

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t remember reading this at all when I was younger, so odds are I didn’t. Oh joy. I always have so much fun when I read one for the first time to recap it. /sarcasm

Recap:

Oh, yeah, ok. This starts well. Our main character, Delia, is dreaming, and she’s dreaming about reading a diary entry about someone’s death … written in her own handwriting. So exactly what we just read in the summary and in the tagline. She’s at a slumber party her friends threw for her for her eighteenth birthday (once she finally remembers that she just turned eighteen — I would give that a convenient amnesia point, but it’s not really convenient, just weird). She’s talking in her sleep and won’t wake up, and her friends freak out, but as soon as she does wake up and tell them she was just having a nightmare, they’re fine. Instead of, you know, having fun at this slumber party — which, I’m not really buying a slumber party is the way they’d choose to celebrate an eighteenth birthday, but whatever — Delia decides to write in her diary about the dream. Her friends give her grief about this, but they’re used to her taking the diary everywhere and writing in it at all times, no matter how stupid.

She does ask her friends what she was saying when she talked in her sleep, and they conveniently can’t remember (oh, yeah, it’s getting a point this time), but her “voice sounded like it was coming from the other side of the grave.”

Well ok then.

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1

(Means: “I didn’t see anything” or “I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything about the accident”, because either would lead us to the bad guy, and we’ve still got twelve chapters to go.)

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1

(Means: Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss us the hell off.)

THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS CLIFFHANGER. All she has done is have a bad dream (about something we have already been told, twice, on the cover of the fucking book) and started to write in her diary. NOTHING HAS FUCKING HAPPENED. NOTHING. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS DRAMATIC BY ADDING A CLIFFHANGER ENDING OF ANY SORT WTF.

Chapter two opens a few days later. Every night, Delia’s had the same nightmare, and she’s completely out of it during the day. As in, when she’s ordering a drink and the server asks what she wants, she can’t figure out what in the world that means until her best friend, Judy Diamond, asks her what she wants to drink. Delia, I’m pretty sure you are too stupid to live.

DED FROM STUPID: 1

(Means: Exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.)

Judy’s nickname is “Jewel” both because of her last name and because she wears bangle bracelets and rings, at least according to Delia. Great. They’re at Bonzo’s Drive-In Restaurant, and the speaker where they order their food is happy clown head. NOPE.

[Dove: Before re-reading, I thought her friend was called “Julie Diamond”, so Jules/Jewel, would be an appropriate nickname anyway. Wait, why would anyone care about this? I’m tired and being boring.]

They’re apparently on break from school for lunch, drinking island-themed drinks (non-alcoholic, I assume, since there’s no mention of alcohol) and eating fruit salad. The fruit salad sounds delicious, actually. I wish I knew of a drive-in restaurant that served a giant fruit salad, because I am far too lazy to cut up all that fruit for myself.

I am diverging from the topic, obviously, but that’s because the only thing happening while they eat is that Delia tells Judy about the nightmare she keeps having and the diary in it. So, to sum up, we’re told about this in the summary and the tagline on the cover of book; the nightmare and the diary in it is the only thing that happens in chapter one; and now it is the only thing happening in chapter two.

[Dove: We need a new counter, something like “Sponsored by Vince McMahon/WWE” to count how many times stuff is recapped unnecessarily.]

World of fail: 1

(Means: It’s meant to be scary or threatening or disturbing, and, in all honesty, it’s kinda boring.)

Oh, but what, we learn that Judy’s eyes are mirrors. Awesome.

I turned to look at Jewel and I saw my reflection in each of her eyes. Like two shiny pictures of myself, I thought. Jewel was waiting for me to continue. I took a deep breath.

Ok, we do get a little more information. Apparently, Delia is starting to have memories that aren’t her own. Her example: she had a memory of buying red shoes for prom, except she actually wore cream coloured shoes. Unsurprisingly, Judy dismisses this as stress and nerves and not enough sleep, but Delia is having none of that. It means something.

Also, apparently they live in Pleasantville. I. What. That’s. That’s the real name? When she used it earlier, I thought she was mocking where they lived, but. Delia also throws a bunch of store names at us, telling us many of them have just popped up over the last five years. While I’m sure that part is significant, considering the murdered once, murdered again nature of this story, I can’t bring myself to care which stores are which, considering she just lists the names for us.

And then we get this:

Now I not only couldn’t plan for college, I couldn’t imagine anything taking place in my life any farther in the future than this summer.

Every time I tried, I got scared. Really scared. And it was like my mind ran up against a brick wall and just… stopped.

I knew I couldn’t explain it to Jewel… it was something I didn’t understand myself. But lately I was beginning to think that I couldn’t plan for the future… because I wasn’t supposed to have one.

I have nothing to say to that except I wish it was the end of summer already, then, because Delia, you are annoying the hell out of me.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2

Cheer on the killer: 1

(Means: Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.)

Chapter three picks up immediately after, and they keep talking about how horrible it is to live in a perfect small town. Now, in some ways, I can empathise with this. Small towns can feel restrictive and claustrophobic and like you have to escape. But then they go on to describe it, and I lose all sympathy for them.

“I’m glad I’m going to be going to college, and getting out of Pleasantville,” Jewel said finally. “I mean – and don’t get me wrong – I’ve been happy growing up here in Small Town, U.S.A. – but how many places are like this picture-perfect little town? It’s like – it’s like being in a straightjacket.”

“A picture-perfect straightjacket,” I echoed. “That’s an interesting comparison, but I suppose it fits Pleasantville, all right.”

FUCK YOU AND FUCK SINCLAIR SMITH. That is not an “interesting comparison” it is an offensive comparison. I hate you so much.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1

(Means: Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)

Delia’s parents died when she was little, and she’s been living with her Aunt Gracie, who is strict and old-fashioned and annoying. Awesome.

Parents? What parents?: 1

(Means: They’re in fucking Europe. They’re always in fucking Europe. Wing: Or dead.)

Then we finally get a little bit of interesting information about Pleasantville (no, really, WTF is up with that name?):

“You know – Pleasantville is so small-town perfect it’s unreal. You never read about places like it in magazines. It’s eerie. There are all these social issues – and nothing’s going on in Pleasantville.” Jewel shook her head. “You know – it’s like a show I saw on TV once. A man is about to crack under the pressure of his job, and one night when he comes home on the train he passes through an old-fashioned town like Pleasantville. He decides to get off and stay there. Except the train doesn’t pass through any such town… only in his mind.” Jewel glanced over at me. “Are you listening, Delia?”

“Yeah, Jewel. I’m listening,” I said absently. I didn’t exactly agree with Jewel. We passed a billboard on the roadside. On it was a picture of a man in some kind of uniform. The caption said, I’m always here to help, but someone had written in another caption of their own in black spray paint. It said, I’M A REAL SICK-O. Right beside the billboard was a HOP ‘N STOP convenience store, spanking clean, except for graffiti on one wall that said YOU’RE ALL KILLED DEAD.

Well, I thought, open your eyes, and there’s plenty of evidence that there’s something brewing beneath the surface of pleasant little Pleasantville.

This could be done in an awesome way, like a quaint little seaside town that is called the Murder Capitol of the World

The-Lost-Boys-the-lost-boys-movie-448701_600_479

but I doubt anything awesome will be done with this. We’ll see, though.

The girls get back to school, Delia whirlwinds through the rest of her day, and then she finds a card in her locker. The note inside says maybe it will help her remember, and there’s also a red diary, the diary from her nightmares. Awesome. Chapter end.

Basically, Delia works herself up into a worried fit because of the diary, then decides it’s really a gift from her boyfriend for their six month anniversary. This took up the majority of the chapter, for no good reason. It also included about a billion mental health slurs, so I’m giving it some points. Ten points, to be exact. Because fuck you, Delia, that’s why.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 11

We also get an aside about a blonde cheerleader character who seems to have the perfect life, and who has a snarky competitive friendship with Jewel, because girls, AMIRITE?

Chapter five brings up Delia’s boyfriend, Brock, and his friend, Timmy. Brock is, as the name suggests, described as a typical meathead jock. He’s also the school prankster. His most recent prank was to hide a kitten in Timmy’s locker. It leapt out at Timmy when he was changing, and so naked, and though the narrative doesn’t describe it, kind of suggests that the kitten scratched up his dick. Well then.

Delia is unimpressed with this prank, because the kitten must have been scared. I don’t disagree. Also, there’s apparently a cat that lives outside the boy’s locker room that just had kittens. That seems like not the best place to have holed up to have kittens, cat. He charms Delia into forgiving him, though, and they’re just about to kiss when the principal breaks it up. That was pointlessly dramatic.

Speaking of pointlessly dramatic, the chapter ends on Delia thanking him for the diary, and Brock asking what in the world she’s talking about.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 3

Next chapter opens with Brock and Delia arriving in class and Jewel asking Delia what took them so long. That is so clearly a set-up to give the author a reason to have Delia explain what happened, because hello. Why wouldn’t Jewel assume they were making out and that’s what made them late? Besides, they can’t be that late, their teacher hasn’t arrived yet.

[Dove: VINCE MCMAHON LOVES THIS FORMAT!]

[Wing: Are we charging just $9.99 a month for this pleasure? BECAUSE I HEAR THAT IS THE MCMAHON THING TO DO.]

Whatever, Delia recaps what I just recapped, reminds us Jewel she has had nightmares about reading a diary, then explains that she thought Brock left it for their six month anniversary, but he says no. Jewel suggests he’s teasing her because she forgot about their anniversary. I want to accidentally spill candle wax all over the book so I can stop reading. [Dove: Sweetie, you’re reading it either on a laptop or a Kindle. No. Dove says a hard no.] [Wing: LET ME PRETEND IT IS A BOOK SO I CAN DESTROY IT.] Delia gets upset that Jewel defends Brock, and I don’t even know what’s going on now, why that’s important enough to tell us, but neither do I care.

[Dove: Is Brock’s surname Lesnar? Does he have a tattoo of a penis on his front? Because that’s what I’m imagining.]

[Wing: MOST PHALLIC OF SYMBOLS.]

Brenda Ann (who was listening in and was invited to join the conversation and who the hell is Brenda Ann? Is the the cheerleader from before? I don’t remember and really can’t be arsed to check) suggests that someone else is playing a prank on Delia in order to break up her and Brock, because lots of girls want Brock. HOW THE HELL IS GIVING DELIA A PRANK GIFT FROM BROCK GOING TO BREAK THEM UP?

DED FROM STUPID: 2

Finally, finally, the teacher, Mr Parrish, arrives, and Delia describes how she sometimes almost has a crush on him because he’s gorgeous, though too old for her. Do people really go around having crushes on their teachers? Really? This is not something I ever did. Dove? Any creepy teacher crushes?

[Dove: Story time! There was a girl at my school who was effing besotted with one of our science teachers. In an all girls school, a young teacher with long blonde hair and a massive grin was going to get a lot of fans. (Wing is now wondering why I wasn’t besotted also, since I’ve basically described Edge, who is beautiful. That will be explained.)

Anyway, she was “in love” with him. Absolutely. And then she told us that she was helping clean up the science lab one day after some experiments involving ice. She threw an ice cube at him and he threatened to drop one down her shirt. She said that if he did that, he’d have to fish it back out again. The stories vary on what happened next.

This is the same science teacher who started a celibacy club, with promise rings and the whole “true love waits” thing and took over all of our assemblies with Christian rock. And this girl honestly wasn’t to be trusted. So that’s the creepiest one I’ve ever heard.]

After a lot of mental agony over who might be playing a prank on her that really does nothing for the story, Delia realises hey, maybe there is writing in the diary. Because you didn’t think to check any time before this? And then she gets super excited over the chance to read someone else’s diary. I need a drink.

And then we get a really fast info dump about the diary’s author, which is the epitome of telling, not showing, and I really need a drink.

The girl who had written in the diary sounded as if she never had a worry in the world, or a single moment of self-doubt. She thought a lot about the way she looked, and boys, and clothes.

She didn’t have to be careful and polite, the way I did.

This girl was kind of wild. She really knew how to have fun, and she wasn’t afraid to break a few rules to do it. And she liked to play little jokes on her friends – sort of like the pranks Brock played. The only thing she seemed halfway serious about was art… especially painting.

Reading the diary made me feel like I was getting to know the girl who wrote it very well. It was as if she were speaking the words right inside my head, telling me all about herself.

And even though she was different from me, I felt that I understood her.

How does she have fun? What rules does she break? What pranks does she play? Why didn’t she have to be careful and polite? Why do you have to be careful and polite, Delia, in your own diary? Are you self-censoring? Why is this book so terrible?

Delia reads the entire class, and decides to call the author Laura, because Laura is her fave name. Though we have no concept of who this Laura person really is, we don’t get much of a feel for Delia, either, so it doesn’t really matter that Delia is jealous of Laura’s happiness. Delia decides not to tell Jewel that she’s reading the diary:

The writing was my secret, and I realized I wanted it to remain that way. There was something thrilling about being the only one to know. There was something a little scary, a little naughty, too.

After all… you were never, never supposed to read someone else’s diary.

First of all, diaries are published and you can read them, so the “never never” part is exaggeration. Second, didn’t you just talk about how you wanted to be more wild like Laura? Third — you know what, no. I don’t care enough to have a third point. Moving on.

[Dove: Wow, I have never seen Wing so pissed so early in a book. Oh, wait, Room 13.]

[Wing: … apt memory, considering my counters later.]

Delia spends the next few days reading the diary. She says it takes her a long time to read each page, and that Laura puts in all sorts of details, but we still don’t get much of a feel for her. Though we do learn that Laura leaves with her mean old grandmother (to echo Delia’s mean old aunt), and has a cousin she calls Goody Two Shoes. And then we get what is a slightly disturbing bit of insight into Laura, which I do enjoy:

There I was, bored to tears from raking leaves, while Grandma and Goody-Two-Shoes sat inside watching TV, and gabbing. Blah, blah, blah. That cousin of mine. As if there was nothing better to do than sit around with Grandma.

Besides, it’s too early to rake the yard anyway. A lot more leaves will fall. And there are some deep holes in this yard. Something tells me they’re going to get deeper. When the leaves fall, Grandma will never be able to see the holes. What if she steps in one and has an accident?

UH-OH!

It’s not much, but I’m going to take it as premeditation and run with it.

Even though Delia says reading things like that makes her feel bad, she still wants to be more carefree and wild like Laura, so she decides to do something totally daring. She cut class. You wild thing, you. Everyone bar your doors, Delia the Wild Woman is on the prowl. /eyeroll

[Dove: Saddest part? Still more badass than Wing. The story Wing, not recapper Wing.]

[Wing: *preens*]

Of course, Delia spends this precious stolen hour (/eyeroll) walking around Pleasantville and getting lost. That sounds like a great use of your time. We get a description of what she finds that is supposed to be tense and dramatic, but really is — oh, just see for yourselves:

I didn’t think it was possible to get lost in Pleasantville – but now I was. I found myself in an old section of town that I wasn’t familiar with. All the houses had wide front porches and big front yards.

It was quiet, too.

Very, very quiet.

I stood as motionless as possible and listened. There was no noise of radios or television sets. No children ran shrieking as they played. No cars whizzed by.

Not a soul was around. The only sound was the faint rustling of the leaves on the trees.

I started to get the feeling I was in one of those TV stories about someone who finds out they’re the only survivor on the planet.

And that’s when I saw the sign… YARD SALE. It hung from a mailbox, swaying slightly in the breeze. It was stuck there with pieces of faded masking tape.

The mailbox stood in front of a dark green frame house. There was a weeping willow tree in the front yard. Whoever lived there wasn’t too concerned with keeping the lawn mowed. The yard was overgrown and full of weeds.

I loved to shop at yard sales. But it looked like I was too late for this one. I could see that there was another sign advertising the yard sale on the front porch. Maybe there was some stuff left to sell, inside the house.

I walked past the sign on the mailbox and headed up the walkway. As I started up the steps I had one of those feelings Jewel told me was called déjà vu. I’ve been here before.

For just a fleeting instant, in my mind’s eye I could see the house as it might have been once… the paint fresh, and the lawn mowed. And for a moment I could imagine running inside, up the stairs to a room in a corner of the house. I would sit in the room… and write in my diary.

An apocalypse that leads to a yard sale. Well now.

The neighbor is an old man who reminds Delia of the boogeyman for absolutely no fucking reason. He tells her the house has been empty a long time. He also tells her that she looks a lot like the girl who used to live at the house, the one who is now dead. Ok, that’s slightly creepy, but since she’s already describing him as the boogeyman, it loses some (i.e., all) of any potential impact.

Apparently, the girl was murdered by one of her friends.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 4

Yeah, I’m giving it a point, even though that could have been handled as a useful dramatic reveal.

I will never know how I managed to get away from the awful man with the filmy blue eye… or what happened between the time I left him and found myself in downtown Pleasantville. I only know that the next thing I remember was standing in front of Rose’s Doorway to Beauty Salon on Main Street.

Convenient.

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1

(Means: “I didn’t see anything” or “I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything about the accident”, because either would lead us to the bad guy, and we’ve still got twelve chapters to go.)

Delia has never been to a beauty salon before. She cuts her long, straight hair herself. While I am surprised her mean old aunt doesn’t demand to do it for her, I’ll actually believe this. Both Dove and I cut our own hair a lot of the time. She’s good at it. My hair is wildly curly, long, and thick, so it’s hard to tell when I mess it up. This works for us.

[Dove: However, I cut chunky waves into my hair, because it’s easier. I have no idea how to cut straight across for myself, which is apparently what Delia does.]

[Wing: …]

Despite this, Delia decides to get a haircut and style, and even considers getting her nails done. Gee, I wonder if she’s supposed to be under Laura’s influence or something.

And then this happens:

I watched as Rose started squeezing the plastic bottle in her hand, squeezing the permanent wave solution onto Miss Tilley’s head.

But something was terribly wrong. As the solution touched Miss Tilley’s curls, a wisp of smoke rose up. I heard a faint sizzle, and Miss Tilley let out an agonizing shriek.

What I saw was so awful that I was powerless to move. The salon owner didn’t stop to see what was wrong. She just kept squeezing on the solution, in spite of Miss Tilley’s horrible cries.

Was Rose crazy… or had she made some horrible mistake? What she was squeezing onto the curls wasn’t permanent wave solution, it was acid.

I was unable to make a sound.

The acid was running over Miss Tilley’s head, carving out gulleys and burning deep holes everywhere it touched.

Miss Tilley was screaming, but still Rose kept squeezing on the solution.

Was it possible that I heard what I did? Rose told Miss Tilley to… “Relax, you’re going to look very glamorous.”

And then Miss Tilley stopped screaming.

Why?

Rose turned the chair around, so that Miss Tilley was facing me.

The acid had eaten a huge hole in Miss Tilley’s face.

Miss Tilley was dead.

Well, I thought. It looks like Rose didn’t just give Miss Tilley a permanent wave. She gave her a permanent wave… good-bye.

Attempt at bad pun: fail. Attempt at creepy disgusting description: fail. Attempt at drama: fail.

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL.

World of fail: 2

[Dove: Bwahahahaha! And you know what we need? This is on par with whimsical notes, so how about this?]

Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 1

[Wing: Fine. Sure. I’m drinking. I don’t care.]

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 5

DRAMATIC BREAK AND IT WASN’T EVEN THE END OF THE FUCKING CHAPTER.

/chugs vodka

Delia’s not hallucinating, though (thank fuck for that, I do not want to deal with more mental health: with tact and sensitivity points), she’s been imagining a terrible death for Miss Tilley because Miss Tilley was rude to Delia and Jewel when they were little kids. Awesome. Delia tells us this sort of thought is not like her. Ok.

Whatever.

The next chapter is all about Delia’s make-over. She gets a manicure, gets her hair cut, has some pointless conversation with Rose that ends up with them discussing the old guy from before and calling him crazy. Awesome.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 21

Yes, ten points. I’m angry that I had to deal with it right after being happy the story hadn’t gone there. I’d have made it infinity, but Dove gets whiny when I do that.

[Dove: Only because it breaks my stats. I have no issue with the idea of it pissing you off so much that you want to give it millions of points, it just ruins my analysis.]

[Wing: … you you you. It’s all about you.]

Basically, we learn that the neighborhood where Delia got lost sounds like a neighborhood that was torn down a few years ago, and that Rose first thinks Delia says the old guy told her her friends were going to kill her, Delia, not that a different girl was killed by her friends. Which is just as weird as it sounds.

More needless words and bad description gets us to Delia’s home. She’s scared of showing mean old aunt her new hair and nails, but mean old aunt isn’t home. She’s left a note that says she’s staying at a friend’s place to take care of the friend’s plants and cat, and Delia buys this, even though she’s never heard mean old aunt mention a friend before and even though mean old aunt left her own cat behind unfed. Which seems unlikely to me, but what do I know? I’m a dog person.

Then there’s this: Delia finds tuna salad for dinner. She hates tuna salad, but she’s read that Laura loves tuna salad. She decides to try to act more like Laura, makes a sandwich, and decides to drink soda because that’s what Laura would drink. And Delia ends up loving it.

Now, I love tuna salad and soda, and I am all about trying new things, but this is just weird and stupid and pointless and I want more vodka.

[Dove: I thought she was allergic to tuna. I remember being really cross the first time I read it because, yup, that’s how allergies work.]

[Wing: Oh, give it time.]

Then Delia sees a paper bag in the hallway and starts to remember what she did between being lost and arriving at the hair salon. She went shopping and bought art supplies and red shoes.

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 2

And that’s what you forgot you did? I don’t … I can’t … nope.

NOPE

NOPE

Delia then goes back to reading the diary and learns that Laura always got a manicure before getting her hair cut, which makes Delia feel good, but then she has a panic attack because her haircut isn’t short enough to be like Laura’s.

I’m done.

*throws book and drinks*

I’m not done. Damn it.

Next chapter opens with Delia and Jewel back at the drive in restaurant while Jewel teases Delia about never changing her hair before but now she wants two haircuts in two days, and Delia stumbles through her explanation. And yeah, it’s a little weird that she wants it cut out of nowhere, but that happens, and when people aren’t happy with their haircut, they can go back and get something else done. This is not as big a deal as the characters are trying to make it.

Too many words later, Delia has a shorter haircut and has lightened her hair. She goes home, mean old aunt still isn’t back, now the cat’s not around either, and Delia decides to eat more tuna salad while she watches her fave show about ESP and paranormal stuff like that. Conveniently, this episode is about past lives. Gee. Useful.

There’s a lot of different people on the show talking about their past lives, and by god, reading about Delia watching tv is even more boring than reading about her reading a diary.

Now there was a close-up, and Crystal stared intently into the camera, and out at me. “But still we go on and on, trying to resolve the same issues… and meeting the same people again and again in each life… until we learn what we have to know.”

What is that? I wondered. After Crystal said “Good night,” an inner chill grew stronger and stronger. What if… what if… I repeated silently to myself several times, before I could bring myself to finish the thought.

What if all you knew about your past life… was how you died?

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 6

Delia goes to read more of the diary, and wishes she knew what kind of music Laura liked, because she wants to listen to it. Look, Delia, there’s thinking you have a past life and there’s being obsessed with some girl in a book who YOU NAMED YOURSELF. Whatever. Then she thinks someone else is in the house, goes looking, and someone wraps their hands around her throat. A whole chapter for THAT.

[Dove: anne rice?]

[Wing: *weeps*]

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1006

Yes. You read that right.

[Dove: *gulps* My stats! My stats! My stats! My poor stats! My freakin’ stats!]

[Wing: Oh, you ain’t seen nothing yet.]

Unsurprisingly, it’s her prankster boyfriend, Brock. He’s pretty startled, too, though, by her even shorter hair in a new colour. Turns out, she stood him up, they were supposed to meet at the library, and he came to check on her. And decided to try to scare her half to death. That’s love, folks.

They have a bit of a fight about her not having chosen a college yet, because he wants a future with her at the college he’s chosen, then we learn that she once told him she was allergic to tuna fish, and she realises she’d forgotten about that.

NOPE. If you think you are allergic to a food, you don’t just FORGET. FUCK THAT.

[Dove: HA! FUCKING HA! I FUCKING KNEW SHE WAS FUCKING ALLERGIC! YOU DON’T JUST FORGET!]

[Wing: TOLD YOU.]

Her explanation to Brock is that mean old aunt told her she was, but she’d never really tried it before. Which I would have accepted, but not that she forgot.

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 500

(Dove is going to be so mad at these numbers.)

[Dove: *cries*]

[Wing: *preens*]

Next chapter, we’re whiplashed back into Mr Parrish’s class. Delia’s just read that Laura cheated on an exam. Laura also steals things. Delia has grown to love the pranks and mocking people, but is uncomfortable with the cheating and stealing. Of course, conveniently, they now have a test that Delia doesn’t remember knowing about at all. Hey, Delia, maybe this is why you were supposed to meet Brock?

Apparently, Delia’s been reading the diary for weeks now, and hasn’t done any schoolwork. Why in the world is it taking you so long to read a diary? WEEKS? When you spend pretty much all your time reading it? IT CAN’T BE THAT LONG. Delia could easily cheat from Brenda Ann’s paper, and goes back and forth over it, talking to herself and/or Laura in her own head, before fleeing to the loo to get violently ill.

Delia doesn’t go back to the classroom in the next chapter, instead she goes off to think. She decides fighting so hard not to cheat was what made her sick. Then she thinks about the last few weeks and the things she remembers doing, things that are more Laura than Delia. We saw pretty much none of this in the actual writing. Why, Smith, WHY?

  • She danced all night with Brock at a barbecue at Brenda Ann’s house, even though Delia hates to dance.
  • She cracked jokes, did unusual things, and made outrageous remarks.
  • She played a prank on a woman at the mall last week, telling the woman she saw her car get stolen.
  • All the haircuts and manicures.
  • She’s not writing in her own diary so she has more time to read Laura’s.
  • (We don’t find this out until the dramatic end of the chapter, but) Delia’s been shoplifting clothes, too.

Delia says she’s thinking and feeling more like Laura, and can’t tell the difference. She doesn’t know if she’s thinking or if Laura’s thinking. After some creepy(ish) calls, Delia talks to Jewel, says she was sick during class, and then Jewel reminds her she’s supposed to be going out with Brock. As Delia gets ready, she realises that if she reads something in the diary, she has to do it, no matter what. Ok then.

The entire next chapter is the end of her dinner date with Brock. He pranks her by pretending he forgot his wallet, she pranks him by hiding some of the money he paid with while he’s in the loo, then she lies to him that she’s chosen to go to the same university he’s going to. An entire chapter. Just for that. /headdesk

OH. MY. GOD.

Apparently, quite some times goes on between that chapter and the next one, and in the beginning of the next one, she admits she lied. So that was the most pointless fucking thing ever.

NO REALLY, I’M DONE NOW.

/drinks

(Still not done.)

Delia decides to try out the painting materials she bought a few chapters (and possibly sixty years, it’s impossible to tell how time passes in this book) ago. Immediately she knows how to paint and paints a self portrait. She’s exhausted when she’s done, and terribly thirsty, and goes and drinks a tonne of water before coming back to look again at what she created.

And we get this actually fairly creepy image, so good job, Smith:

And when I saw it, I gasped. Such a shock of horror ran through me that my knees nearly collapsed.

The likeness I had created was astonishing… that’s what I remembered thinking when I last looked at the picture.

Now I saw it as if for the first time.

I’d painted the figure as if bathed in an eerie glow. The hair clung close to the scalp, wet, and droplets of water dripped onto the shoulders.

The skin was a clammy, chalky white. Huge eyes glittered in their sockets and stared out from the canvas beseechingly. The lips had a bluish cast.

Moment by moment some new thing that I saw in the picture became more terrifying than the last.

Now I could see there was something terribly wrong with the portrait that I’d painted.

I had painted a picture of a corpse.

I’m not even going to give it a point for the dramatic chapter ending, because I like it.

The next couple chapters have Delia going to see a psychic type person and having a past life regression. She freaks out in the middle of it because the room she’s in doesn’t look like her own and she doesn’t recognise her own face in the mirror. ISN’T THAT THE FUCKING POINT, DELIA?

Delia goes home. Still no mean old aunt. Someone starts speaking to her, talking about how she needs to stop pretending and the voice always wins. She bumps into the cat and freaks out. Turns out, the cat accidentally turned on the answering machine, and that’s what Delia’s been hearing. There are other messages for her, from Brock and Jewel, and then she gets a call that is a voice on a tape, telling her to look outside, there’s a special present for her. If it’s a dead cat, I am going to set something on fire.

[Dove: I love you for that.]

[Wing: I am a delight.]

And then this happens instead. Which on the one hand, yay no dead cat. On the other hand — you’ll see:

That’s why when I saw the box tied with a white ribbon and a big bow on the back porch, I decided to open it.

I knew it was a foolish thing to do. But curiosity got the best of me.

I put my ear to the box.

I couldn’t hear anything ticking inside.

And so I untied the ribbon… and took the top off the box.

The explosion nearly knocked me off my feet.

[chapter break]

BOIIIINGGG!

Well, it wasn’t actually an explosion, I admitted when I caught my breath. Perhaps it was more the surprise that made me jump.

It was only a jack-in-the-box.

Not a very cheery one.

Whoever had left it for me had quite a sense of humor.

The jack-in-the-box character was a little clown.

The clown was holding a piece of paper with a message.

REMEMBER, DELIA? I’M ALWAYS WATCHING YOU.

The message was written on a page that had been torn from a diary.

The paper was smeared with blood.

And so was the little clown.

On closer examination, I decided that the “blood” wasn’t blood at all, just red paint. It was really just a disgusting prank. I was so angry, I threw the little clown into the backyard.

Half an hour later, when I wasn’t so angry, I went back to find it.

But it was gone.

Sorry, Dove.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: infinity

[Dove: Nope, it’s fair.]

I’m so done.

Jewel finally turns up, all angry because she fell on the way there and spilled all her stuff, and then gets snappy at Delia over her new look and another new haircut. (WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN WHAT?) They argue a little over past lives next, and then Jewel goes to wash her face. (Ok?) She’s gone a long time, and Delia finds her in her bedroom, reading Laura’s diary. Delia freaks out, shouting at Jewel for reading Delia’s diary, and Jewel talks about how worried she and Brock are because Delia’s been acting so much different. They argue more, this should be tense and wonderful (friends trying to protect friends), but I don’t care about any of the characters, so it’s not.

Then Jewel says Delia can’t be mad at her for reading it, because there’s nothing written in it.

If that’s true, then why the hell were you standing there so long reading it, Jewel?

WHY DO I ALWAYS WANT LOGIC FROM POINT HORROR? I AM NEVER GOING TO GET IT.

Next chapter, Jewel is gone, Delia is raging over how weird it is and how she used to enjoy reading Laura’s diary but then it got weird and she keeps thinking about what Jewel said. She grabs the diary to check, and yes, all the pages are empty. Which would be awesomely creepy.

Except it’s the wrong diary and Delia just didn’t notice it earlier. It’s one of the diaries Delia collects because they are interesting, not Laura’s actual diary. So basically two chapters of pointlessness then.

She sits down with Laura’s actual diary, and decides to write in it. Why? Who knows? Who cares? /drinks

Delia falls into a trance, and when she wakes, she’s written the same sentence over and over and over: Find my killer.

In a better book, I would be excited and have chills right now.

Mr Parrish gives them an assignment to read old newspapers and write a story inspired by it. Natasha, the librarian who doesn’t ever share her last name, helps Delia use microfiche to read a now defunct newspaper. At first, Delia doesn’t find anything of use, and when she goes to get a different edition, she sees a picture on Natasha’s desk that has the girl Delia’s recognises as Laura in it, with her red nails and red hair. Turns out, Natasha’s sister knew Laura. Natasha says Laura drowned while night swimming, and pulls the article for Delia when Delia asks.

Laura drowned the night Delia was born. Laura was swimming alone with her cousin, and the cousin claimed to try to save her, but Delia decides it was murder.

Delia now knows the cemetery where Laura is buried, and of course goes to visit her grave. It’s actually kind of a sad, creepy little scene, though not well written, and I didn’t even hate this ending:

I stood there for several moments. After a while I realized that I’d been crying. And then, I just couldn’t stay there one more second. I ran, stumbling along, my vision blurred with tears. When I reached the car I jumped inside and sat there sobbing – not from sadness, but from being overcome with emotion.

I had just stood by the grave where my own coffin was buried under the ground. Inside it was my own corpse.

Though it is pretty pointlessly dramatic. Whatever.

Once again, an indeterminate amount of time passes. Delia enters the painting she did in the school art contest and wins first place. Her friends are not friendly with her anymore. Mr Parrish stops to talk to her about the story she wrote based on the newspaper article, because he was surprised when she didn’t write about Laura’s death. He saw her reading the article about it and becoming very involved? I am getting gross creepy abuse of power vibes here. I don’t think I’m supposed to, but I am. He says he knew Laura, but before he can say anything else, he’s called away to meet someone.

The next day, the painting has been slashed during the night, and Delia makes up with both Jewel and Brock. Why did the fight even matter then? Why does nothing matter in this damn story?

Delia and Brock make a date, and then Delia goes back to the salon to get her hair dyed back to brown. (There’s a little red herring about the slashed painting, but I am ignoring it, because it was so obviously a red herring and also immediately debunked.) Of course, her hair doesn’t turn out brown, even though it’s clearly brown dye used. It’s now red. SHOCKING.

Delia and Brock talk about their fears about college while on their date, and it would be kind of sweet and touching, except I just don’t care about this story. I tried. I failed. I am out of care. Then Brock takes her on a surprise trip up to the lake where some girl died sometime. Romantic. (Ok, no lie, I’d go hang out at a lake where a girl died.)

On the way up, another car starts running into them, they start using crazy slurs, I drown my anger in vodka and give them all the points.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: all the points

The car drives them off the edge of the world. Or, you know, the convenient cliff near the lake. Whatever.

Brock is hurt and unconscious, but alive. Delia decides he was going to kill her at the lake and whoever came along in the car saved her. Turns out, it’s Rose, her stylist. Delia goes with her, thinking she’s safe. Why? WHY? Of course, it’s not too far into the walk that Delia realises she’s in trouble, Rose knows she’s Laura, and Rose is “insane.”

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: all the points again and Wing burns down the world

In a completely shocking twist /sarcasm Rose is Cousin Goody Two Shoes, and she recognised Delia-as-Laura from the first time she saw her. They fight in the water, try to drown each other, then the police arrive. Mr Parrish tipped them off, because he conveniently went to get a haircut but Rose said she had to go kill her cousin and was too busy to help him. He knew Laura was already dead, because Laura was his high school sweetheart. I want to know what the hell Rose was doing, when she’d already closed the shop when Delia left earlier. Why did she even bother talking to Mr Parrish? THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

Turns out, Rose killed Laura because she knew Laura was causing all sorts of accidents, including digging holes and covering them with leaves to hurt their grandmother. She knew this because she read Laura’s diary. She knew that Laura was crazy.

No, seriously, I am going to set everything on fire.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: FUCK EVERYTHING

Parents? What parents?: 2

Of course, the ending to this story is not horrible. I might like it, if not for everything else. So I’m going to recreate it here:

Dear Diary,

I’m not afraid of the future anymore. And I no longer feel as if there’s a struggle between a living personality and a dead one going on inside me. Here at art school I’ve started a whole new life, and tried to put those awful memories behind me.

Now that I’ve lived through that whole terrible episode, I find I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt before. In fact, in a strange way, I think some good came out of the whole nightmare.

For instance, I pay more attention to my appearance. If it hadn’t been for the diary, I never would have known that I like red nail polish. Sometimes I think I’ll try another color, but for now, I’m sticking to red.

I’ve decided that I like my hair this way, and I like it red, too. I think I’m going to keep it like this. My new boyfriend loves it. He I think it’s really me.

It’s too bad about Aunt Gracie, though. The way she died, in that bad accident.

Final Thoughts

That fucking cat better have lived, that’s all I have to say.

[Dove: Why does it always end this way? In this book, we only care about the cat. In The Lifeguard we care about the off-screen BFF. Why, Point Horror, why?]

[Wing: Because when it is an off-screen BFF or a cat, the author hasn’t had the chance to make us hate that person/animal and cheer on the killer.]

Counters:

Cheer on the killer: 1 EVERYTHING ALWAYS KILL HER NOW

DED FROM STUPID: 2

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: infinity

Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 500

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: FUCK EVERYTHING

Parents? What parents?: 2

Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 1

World of fail: 2

Because fuck you, book. That's why.

Because fuck you, book. That’s why.

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