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Recap #26: The Cheerleader (Vampire Series: Book 1) by Caroline B. Cooney

The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney

The Cheerleader by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: Cheerleader (Vampire Series: Book 1) by Caroline B. Cooney

Summary: Cheerleaders are beautiful, popular and exciting – girls that Althea longs to be. But Althea is nobody – she gets no phone calls, shares no laughter and has no friends. Then one day she meets him, a vampire who offers to make her a cheerleader in exchange for a simple bargain.

Tagline: She wants it all. But he wants blood…

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. The “Bad Guy” is a vampire, and owns it proudly, so no need to be coy.

The Cheerleader by Caroline B Cooney - Scan by Mimi

The Cheerleader by Caroline B Cooney – Scan by Mimi

Initial Thoughts:

I remember loving this book back in the day. Not least of all because I had a strong desire to be popular. Not that I wanted to be the centre of the world, just that I wanted a few friends, so let’s just say this one hit home and if someone had asked me to hand over [popular kid] in exchange for it, I totally would’ve done it. In fact, I was pissed off by the end of the book, which I’ll cover when I get there.

Note from the future: it was really hard to trope count this since most of the tropes were triggered by the vampire. I went with it, but they don’t really count for the most part. I probably should’ve used the “I beat you because I love you” tag on every sentence, but didn’t really think about it.

Recap:

We jump straight in to the action, no faffing around with silly prologues or bad guy POVs. Nope, we’re straight in to the vampire offering to make Althea popular.

Caroline B. Cooney has a lovely turn of phrase when it comes to the vampire. Everything he says is silky and watery and described as washing over you, and it’s all very dreamy and sort of romantic – not in the sense of “I must boink the undead right now”, but just sort of olde-worlde, offering your sweetheart a token, etc. [Wing: Capital R Romantic.] And the fact that they’re discussing chowing down on Celeste, the most popular girl in the school, makes it all the more lovely. I know this sounds sarcastic, but I genuinely love the way the vampire talks.

Also, it really doesn’t hurt that I have mentally cast him as this guy.

Michael Wincott as Top Dollar in The Crow

Michael Wincott as Top Dollar in The Crow

But while we’re on the subject of Cooney, I’ll add my caveat: this way of writing only works with the vampire books. I read Twins recently and got sick of the flowery nonsense. [Wing: I think it depends on who she chooses as the narrator. I think the floaty, wandering voice works well for the narrator of The Face on the Milk Carton too.] [Dove: God, I haven’t read that since the 90s.  I’ll dig out my copy and get it converted.]

To recap, Althea used to have friends, but they broke off into different groups at high school, and Althea is not welcome in any of them. The cheerleaders are the most popular girls in school, and Althea would love to join them. She has tried out in the past, but didn’t make it. The fact that Celeste made Varsity as a freshman is particularly galling. It says that Celeste is now in ninth grade, and Althea is in tenth.

Althea pulled herself together. She was envious of the popular girls, but she was kind. She didn’t want anything nasty to happen. And Celeste seemed like a perfectly nice person. “What would you do to Celeste?” said Althea warily.

It smiled. The teeth were not quite as pointed as Althea had expected, but she shuddered anyway.

She was told, with an air of reproach, “It doesn’t hurt, you know. It’s just rather tiring. Celeste would simply be… rather… tuckered out.”

The eyes changed their focus, leaving Althea’s face. She felt as if she were released from suction cups.

It stared at the sky, at the black cloudless sky sprinkled with stars, gleaming with moon. It seemed to find a companion with whom smiles were exchanged. “Celeste would be back in school the next day.”

That’s what I mean by the dreamy style of writing. One person’s “purple prose” is another person’s Dove’s delight.

Cheer on the killer: 1 (Yeah, this counter might get the wrong kind of use during this series, therefore: Because the recapper is a friendless loser who over-identifies with the protagonist.)

The next day at lunch, there’s a contrast scene at lunch – Althea is not wanted anywhere, Celeste can sit wherever she wants, everyone adores her. The next day Althea doesn’t even venture into the cafeteria. She doesn’t know how she could even get Althea to her house, since nobody even know she exists. The next day she pretends to be looking at something else while eavesdropping on the conversation going on at the popular table, and wishes she was a part of it. Celeste is only fourteen, Althea is sixteen, this is unfair, etc.

They notice her, Ryan knows her name. Celeste asks her if the house is haunted, and she tells them they have a shuttered room – the small circular attic room which has three windows, all shuttered on the inside and outside.

On the way to class, Althea invites Celeste to her house after school.

“You’re so sweet, Althea,” said Celeste. “That’s so nice of you. But I have cheerleading practice, of course.”

The “of course” sends Althea into a rage. She drives until the rage wears off at which point a decision is made.

You have cheerleading practice, of course, thought Althea. Celeste, my friend, I have a car, of course. And a Shuttered Room, of course. And a vampire.

I sort of love Althea. She’s so emotional and sulky and the writing amuses me greatly. It’s just so whimsical. She offers Celeste a ride home.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 1 (previously All my friends are a bag of dicks – Something strange and evil is happening. Since I hate all of my BFFs, it’s bound to be one of them.)

Next up she’s talking to the vampire, who says that once they’d driven past her house, Celeste was caught in his dark path. Althea wants to know if she’s in his dark path, but the vampire tells her that some people are unreachable. He promises that when she gets to school, she’ll be popular.

And she is. As soon as she walks through the door, Becky (who Althea describes as “The best cheerleader. The one Althea most wanted to be liked by, and to be like!” – massive crush there) is bouncing off the walls in pure joy that Althea is here. Ryan quickly joins them, and suggests that he comes over and teaches Althea about astronomy – the tower would be a great place to put a telescope. There are jokes to be made here, I am certain. [Wing: He wants to make her see stars. He wants her to play with his long rod. He wants to enter her secret place. Can I stop now?] Ryan walks them to class, despite the fact he’s a year older and not in their class.

Becky invites Althea over after school. They’ll go to McD’s to meet up with all the popular kids first, natch, and then she and Ryan can play telescope, because he lives next door. Althea is delighted. [Wing: So weird that McDonald’s is the popular place to hang out.] [Dove: Well, we used to hang out at The Noble Platform outside McDonald’s when we were teenagers.  The Noble Platform was a step in an alleyway, long enough so we could all sit and smoke and not be seen by teachers or parents (one had to yell “‘Tis noble!” before sitting down).  Of course, we weren’t the cool kids.  I have no idea where they hung out.]

Music class is next, and Althea swaps seats from the end, where she was always ignored, to the centre, where everyone is delighted to have her around. Even Dusty, another cheerleader, whose seat she takes, is thrilled, because she was sick of being in the centre of things.

Then Celeste staggers in – Celeste is two years younger. Didn’t you just say that Ryan couldn’t be in your class because he’s a year older? Why is Celeste in your class if she’s two years younger? [Wing: I think what they actually say is that Ryan is in a different type of math class. Celeste is two years younger, but only in the next class down, and in high school here, the classes aren’t strictly segregated by age group. It sounds like Althea is in a middle level math class, Ryan is in a higher level math class, and Celeste is taking the middle level math class, which might mean that she’s advanced for her grade, or it might mean she took different math classes before freshman year.] [Dove: My bad, I misunderstood that, probably because British classes were separated by age, no matter what someone’s aptitude for the subject was.] – anyway, she looks like a zombie, thoroughly exhausted, barely able to pick up her feet. Several students make bitchy remarks, and the teacher is sharp with her.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 2 (+1)

Althea wonders why Celeste isn’t blushing, then realises that she lacks the blood to do so.

Next up, she goes to McD’s with Becky, who’s just as bouncy as ever and tells Althea all about her day. When they get there, Ryan’s getting out of his car, which only has one working door (illegal, right?). Althea finds herself getting all swoony over him, although she had planned to fall madly in love with Michael.

Talk turns to Celeste, they’re already over her attitude – in response to being asked what was wrong, she only had the energy to shrug – they think she’s keeping secrets, so fuck that bitch.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 3 (+1)

But Althea’s like “Ryan’s flirting with me” so it’s totes worth it.

She has a conversation with the vampire that night. She thinks about cutting down the hemlocks outside, but believes her transaction with the vampire is done, so whatevs, she’ll just leave it. [Wing: And yet when she thinks she’s won at the end, no thought to cutting down the hemlocks, even though she knows they are a part of the vampire’s territory.] [Dove: I think this book proves that Althea has a goldfish attention span. She has a heel/face turn every few paragraphs and does nothing despite making decisions.]

DED FROM STUPID: 1 (Exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.)

She tells the vampire she didn’t realise Celeste would be that knocked out, but he promised nothing in that regard.

And maybe I was wrong when I said the purple prose in this story amused me. I’m on chapter six and it’s grating on me.

The tower of the house cast the first shadow of day. A shutter flapped where it had come unfastened. It sounded like a soul unhinged.

Does it, Althea? Does it really? So if my soul rips free of its moorings, it’ll sound like rotten wood battering against some bricks? [Wing: Probably not bricks, much more likely wood.] [Dove: That’s the part you’re objecting to?  So, you think Althea’s theory is correct re: the sound of ripped souls, but my assumption on what the house was made of is the stumbling block?  Ok then.]

The next morning there’s an announcement that there’s a vacancy on the cheerleading squad. Becky suggests that Althea try out. Althea’s a little put out that Becky’s shrugged off Celeste’s friendship so easily, but ecstatic that she can now try out.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 4 (+1)

There’s almost nobody at the tryouts, thanks to the vampire.

“Midseason replacements are problematic,” said Mrs. Roundman. “The kind of girl we want is not a girl who sits around with an empty schedule. By now, such a girl has other commitments. She’s a busy, active, involved person, or we wouldn’t want her on our squad, anyway.”

“I don’t have other commitments,” said Althea nervously.

Mrs. Roundman hugged her. “I think you knew a spot would open up, Althea,” said the coach. “Your commitment to cheering is very strong. I can absolutely feel it, Althea!”

I would not like to be hugged by a teacher.

Celeste watches the tryout and Mrs Roundman, the coach, tells her to bugger off because she’s a quitter and her sickness is upsetting everyone.

Cheer on the killer: 2 (+1) and Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 5 (+1)

The JV team are disgruntled because they feel as if they’re being bypassed. When they ask Mrs Roundman about it, she’s confused. It’s a nice touch.

Mrs. Roundman frowned slightly. She looked out over the grass, and the grass trembled slightly, as if invisible feet were passing by.

Also, Althea’s not happy with Mrs R’s final answer, which is that this isn’t a permanent change, it’s only until the football season is over.

Althea practices hard and she’s ready for the first game. She bumps into Jennie, her old best friend, the one who dropped her once they got to secondary school. Althea delights in the change: Jennie used to be embarrassed being seen with her, but this time Jennie wants her attention and Althea is higher up the hierarchy. “I’m Althea, Varsity Cheerleader, and she’s just Jennie, Former Friend.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 6 (+1)

She decides to have a party on Saturday. Everyone who gets an invite is delighted. Althea walks around the house, planning it out. There is absolutely no mention of Althea’s parents at all. Never. I think it’s time for this counter.

Parents? What parents?: 1 (They’re in fucking Europe. They’re always in fucking Europe.)

The vampire shows up and says he’s considering who he wants. She thinks about bashing him to death with a chair, but he’s not impressed. She does throw a chair at him but he merely reproaches her for being childish. I still love the vampire.

Althea says there will be no more victims as she wanted popularity, and now she has it. They’re done.

But no, the vampire wants more yummy humans, or the popularity goes away. He’ll have someone at her party.

“What is final,” said the vampire gently, “is your popularity. Do you wish to make a fool of yourself at your first game? Do you wish people to laugh at you in public? Do you wish the squad to request Mrs. Roundman to remove you? Do you wish her, at halftime, to put in one of those oh-so-eager Junior Varsity cheerleaders instead of you?” His voice was, slippery as silk, and cruel as boredom. He said, “I made you. I will unmake you.”

She thought, I can pretend to go along with him. That will give me Saturday’s game and Sunday’s party. Then I’ll be safer, and I’ll make it clear to him that this is over.

He tells her to put an arm around whichever party guest she chooses for him.

Althea throws a chair at him again. He vanishes, so she keeps throwing the chair around until there’s nothing but splinters.

The party’s a massive success. The house is overflowing with people. She finds Ryan and he says he wanted to look in the tower room but it’s locked. They move to the kitchen where Jennie runs into them and starts reminiscing over how they were totally BFFs and it’s completely sad that they’re not now. Jen, the reason you’re not friends? All on you.

“I’ve missed you, too!” cried Jennie. “I don’t know what happened when we hit high school. Something came between us! Let’s don’t ever let that happen again!”

“Never!” cried Althea, full of friendship, full of love. She put her arm around Jennie’s shoulder and hugged her tight.

Beyond the kitchen window, between the hemlocks, a path like a black sidewalk grew over the grass, slid across the porch, and crept through the silent windowpane, it left slime, gleaming like entrails.

Althea released Jennie and leaped back. “I didn’t mean that!”

There’s a moment of surprise, and then Jennie decides she’s going out to the hemlocks to get fresh air. Althea thinks to herself that someone needs to stop Jennie, but is too scared to do anything.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 7 (+1)

After the party – so… nobody stayed over? Teenage parties I attended weren’t complete without the sleep of shame on the floor because you passed out too late to grab somewhere comfy, and then you had the breakfast of champions (cup of tea and as much toast as your host could provide) the next morning – anyway, afterwards, Althea and the vampire have a row over whether or not the hug with Jennie meant he could chow down on her. [Wing: Nope. Not a lot of party sleepovers over here in high school. Sleepovers would generally be a couple girls gathering at someone’s house after the party, if anything.] [Dove: maybe it’s because we drive a year later than you, but most parties I attended allowed us to crash on the floor of the living room after. Also, I did live in a small town with no public transport, so that was probably a factor.]

Vampire says it’s all her fault, she chose; Althea thinks it’s not, she was showing affection. Then she wonders why she didn’t hug a nobody who crashed her party. Then she has a panicked moment where she realises that everyone matters. Luckily, any decency she momentarily has is talked away by the vampire, who reminds her that Jennie dropped her like something you drop really quickly once they hit high school. And also, Becky is like 20% cooler as a friend. So fuck Jennie.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 8 (+1)

She cleans the house, and then has another pang of conscience about Celeste and Jennie. She stomps up to the shuttered room, ready to shut the vampire in. He stops her with one sentence.

“Do you want the first party to be the last party?”

He does say a little more, but he basically has her from the first moment.

The following Monday, Althea is exhausted. Everyone wants her attention, and she manages to make a bit of an effort but she’s distracted because Jennie is absent. She finds that the more she ignores people, the more they want her.

She finds herself in the library, flirting with Ryan, and notices that other people are jealous of how wanted she is. Michael arrives and they decide to grab some pizza. They’re going in Michael’s car because the police have noticed that Ryan’s car is an accident waiting to happen, and he’s not allowed to drive it until the doors work, which would cost a fortune, so that’s not happening.

She sits between them as they drive, and thinks that “nothing, including sex or being elected president, could be as splendid as sitting in the front seat.” As a person who has done one of those things, I fear she may be overestimating the joys of sitting. She adores the pair of the boys, and can’t work out which one she likes best. Ryan is made of awesome, but Michael is like Ryan 2.0. All the same features, but better. Not that we’re shown any of this. Anything to do with Michael happens off screen and is later recounted in five words or less.

There is a booth where all the popular kids sit at Pizza Hut. Althea is escorted by the two hottest boys ever. Then Dusty and Kimmie-Jo arrive and validate her popularity some more. Then Becky arrives and pauses, as if she’s not sure if she’s welcome.

Althea waved to Becky, calling, “Come on over here, Becky, we have plenty of room.”

Kimmie-Jo and Dusty frowned slightly. Becky came up breathlessly, her cheeks turning pink with excitement. Ryan and Michael acknowledged her politely.

Becky was really only a fringe member of the popular crowd. Only being on the Varsity Squad had moved her onto that fringe. Only during games and practices would she really count. Here, at Pizza Hut, Becky was minor.

Althea was overcome with a sense of power. She – who had been nobody! Nothing! Invisible! Inaudible! She could bestow popularity on Becky.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 9 (+1)

This is why I had such a misguided notion of friendship as a young ‘un. I really did think it was like this at school and late teens. When I finally was in an environment where I was around lots of people, I just was ruthlessly friendly to everyone I met and that somehow fermented into popularity. However, I found it didn’t actually come with a points system.

When Althea leaves, Becky shrinks, because her popularity meter is not high enough to earn her a place at the table with Kimmie-Jo and Dusty. So Althea malevolently asks her to sleep over this weekend. Loudly. This gives Becky enough popularity points to stay at the table.

And this level of power is so awesome, Althea no longer cares that Jennie is a zombie.

Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 10 (+1)

When they get back to school, they bump into Constance and her friends. They’re seniors, so Althea is amazed they know her name and she feels like a little kid around them.

The talk turns to friendship.

“We’re writing essays on friendship for English,” said Michael. “It’s a tough subject. The first essay was what friendship gives to you. You had to be specific and name three friends who gave you something one from elementary school, one from a sport or an activity, and one who’s not your own age.”

You can see where this is going, and so can Althea. She assumes it means Constance, because for some reason, this vamp doesn’t eat boys. It was the 90s. I assume the vamp doesn’t eat boys because of the gay? [Wing: Do we know it doesn’t eat boys, or does it just eat the people Althea focuses on, which for all her claims of love for the boys, is really the girls. She is obsessed with the girls.] [Dove: I can’t guarantee that it never eats boys, but I don’t remember this or the sequel having a boy target.  The third, however, may do.  Although I seem to remember that nothing happens in that book.  At all.  It’s like Room 13.  Only it takes 150+ pages to do nothing over the course of an evening, rather than a week.]

“Now the second essay, which I have to write tonight,” said Michael, “is what you give to others in a friendship.”

Althea blurts out that you don’t hand your friend over to a vampire. Which doesn’t really answer the question, but everyone laughs like a drain over this.

She gets annoyingly purple-prosey over the shutters and hemlocks (but she’s not home, she’s still in the car with Michael, Constance and Ryan). Then she remembers she invited Becky to sleep over on Saturday. And then her thoughts take the wild jump that she’s given Becky away to save Constance.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 (Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss me and Wing the hell off.) and Well, that escalated quickly: 1 (Yeah, ok, so maybe the bad guy motivation isn’t quite as strong as you might hope.)

Yeah, that came out of nowhere, presumably just so the chapter could have a dramatic end. There was no implication at all that she’s handed over Becky, but the narrative treats if as if it’s all “how could I be so stupid, that’s exactly what it means”. WTF?

She drives home with Ryan and suddenly wonders how much of anything is real. Is the vampire prompting Ryan every single step of the way, every thought and action, or is it more of a general theme. Either way, though the text never takes this next step: this is abuse, emotional and physical.

I beat you because I love you: 1 (Abusive relationships in any way, shape or form.)

And as I said in the initial thoughts, this counter should be applied to everything that happens ever in this book, but if I did that, this recap would be longer than Wing’s on 13 Tales. So I’ll just flag the really scary bits, but forgive me if I miss anything else, because this is really hard to apply counters to, since the vampire is deliberately invoking most of the tropes.

RIGHT. I’M DONE. IT’S BULLET POINT TIME, BITCHES. (Still totally taking the word “bitches” back.)

  • Althea and Ryan kiss.
  • Althea talks to the vampire. He asks for nothing but says the house and Althea belong to him. Althea stamps her foot in response. GIRL POWER.
  • Becky calls Althea and they talk about hair and makeup and boys. Not joking. Becky says Althea can bail out of the sleepover if she has plans with Ryan, and Althea has a flashback where Jennie broke their plans because a boy asked her out. And then told Althea that she’d never hang out with her because she has a boyfriend now. Dude, no remorse on Jen getting bitten. Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 11 (+1)
  • Althea tells Becky that it’s sisters before misters here, and Becky’s delighted. I want Becky and Tawny to start dating. It would be the cutest relationship ever. Anyway, Althea’s going to Becky’s now, to protect her from the vampire.
  • The vampire admits he wants Becky next. NO DEAL, VAMPY. SHE’S MINE.
  • Althea goes to Becky’s house. Ryan’s there. Becky runs outside to look at the stars, and Althea freaks out, thinking the vampire will eat her. Ryan thinks it’s cute Althea’s “afraid of the dark”. Becky hears something in the bushes and goes to investigate and when she comes back she’s pale and sluggish.
  • But it’s Althea that’s all exhausted. Becky faked the noise in the bushes last night to leave Ryan and Althea alone.
  • The next day, Althea is awake and Becky is exhausted. JUST WORK IT OUT, COONEY. WHICH ONE GOT BIT? It’s not mysterious, it’s flip-floppy. (Actually, I know it’s Becky, but I just wanted to rage about how it bounced three times.)
  • She goes home, strong and resolved to shut the vampire in the shutters. The first window opens just fine, but she gets scared leaning out of the window, with her centre of gravity off and stone below her. Still, she gets the first one done. The second window doesn’t open. She breaks it open and shuts those shutters. The third window opens and the shutters close easily. Then she realises there are shutters on the inside too.

She threw herself at a different shutter and pushed with all her might. To her surprise it closed without a murmur. She reached for its companion shutter to bring that to the center and bolt them they were to be coupled by long, thin, black bolts; but when she touched the second shutter, the first returned to its open position against the wall.

  • Althea’s arms were not long enough to reach both shutters at once.
  • Welp. That’s that over. Also, the vampire slams the door and locks her in the tower. LOL.
  • Althea is scared, then she’s accepting, and then she’s just tired.
  • A car horn honks outside. It brings her back. It’s Ryan. She thinks about asking him to help her close the shutters, but instead asks him to turn on the car radio and dance for her. Ryan’s mad dance skills and loud music banish the vampires. They go to Pizza Hut.
  • Becky’s there. It’s all good. “They all cheered for pizza. Althea cheered loudest and longest and she thought: I won. How intrepid I am! I got out of the tower room in spite of the vampire. I saved Becky after all. What power I have. How incredible I am!” I think you mean insufferable, not incredible. Cheer on the killer: 3 (+1)
  • Althea revels in her popularity, she loves Ryan, it’s still all good, and she’s convinced that her own empowerment brought the vampire’s downfall. Because that’s how you defeat vampires (one of the few supernaturals that do have vaguely consistent rules). By growing an ego the size of Texas.
  • When the vampire comes back, she tells him she doesn’t need him. So he’s all “ORLY?” … “I totes saved Becky!” … “Nope, she was too far away.” … “Leave me alone!” … “DONE.”
  • Bad day goes: car won’t start; she calls Ryan but he’s already left; nobody stops to offer her a ride; she gets covered in snow and slush and isn’t pretty; nobody cares; nobody talks to her; a couple of JV cheerleaders badmouth her and say she doesn’t deserve her place on the squad; Becky blanks her; Ryan can’t figure out who she is or why she’s talking to him; there are tryouts for the cheerleading squad again, and this time there’s loads of people wanting to try out. It is confirmed that literally every part of her popularity comes from the vampire. This is a horrible message. It basically says that popularity is a lottery, and you can be the most horrible human being ever, and you still have friends and are loved, or you could be the sweetest person in the world, and have nothing. Ever. Also I beat you because I love you: 2 (+1) [Wing: Not exactly a lottery, but there’s a lot of truth to this. You can do all the “right” things and still end up in a shitty situation or with a shitty life. Bad people can get wonderful things.]
  • She cries herself to sleep and wakes to find the vampire offering to give the popularity back. She’s allowed to keep Becky, but he wants Constance. Constance will be the last one he asks for. She doesn’t believe him, and spends the rest of the night weighing up whether or not to hand her over.
  • The next day, everyone loves Althea again. Woo! Popularity is back. Ryan asks her to a dance, and Michael and Constance ask if they want to double date at a fancy restaurant before the dance. Constance wants to get to know Althea better. Althea invites Ryan, Michael and Constance to her house. Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 12 (+1)
  • Constance gets scared about the house. Althea has yet another face turn where she realises that she’s an awful person. Let’s see if this one takes. She yells at them to drive away, but Constance is already under the thrall and trying to get to the hemlocks. Much yelling and social awkwardness later, she gets them away from her house unharmed.
  • Now she has to deal with the vampire. He’s going to bite her instead. She’s ok with it, but asks to feel popular one last time. This time he asks her to hold out her arms, as if it’s tangible, which is awfully convenient, because the plot calls for it. My, that’s awfully convenient: 1 (“Oh, gee! You mean Billy-Bob has the exact information we need? What are the odds?”)
  • She rejects the gift. Then she attacks him with her popularity.

Althea grabbed him. She took her popularity and pushed it against him, shoved it on him, wiped it on his face and his clothes. She mopped him with it.

  • She locks him in the shutters and walks away, resolving that one day she’ll hang with the cool kids, but she’ll have earned it. Except this entire book has shown that your personality has nothing to do with your popularity, so um… yeah. Good luck with that, kiddo. [Wing: Well, technically it showed that Althea’s personality had nothing to do with her popularity, and actually, I’m not sure that’s true even prior to the vampire, because she comes across as annoying and passive aggressive as hell. Plus all that talk about her little whispery voice and how before high school people would fall silent to listen to her, and nope. Get the fuck out.]

Final Thoughts:

Well. That was a thing that happened. Cooney’s whimsical prose sometimes is cute, other times it’s annoying. It sort of works in this book because I buy that the vampire is old, but it really grates in other stories.

This was really hard to put counters on, as I’ve said. I still enjoy this. It’s terrible wish-fulfilment, I’m sad and alone and some terrible thing could offer me a magical way out. But the unfortunate message is that a vampire is the only way you can have friends. Althea is the same person with and without the popularity, and with the vampire’s help, she’s queen bee, but without she’s lower than dirt. [Wing: Still not true. Althea had friends, then became bitter and unable to adjust to life’s changes, which doesn’t really make me want befriend her either. She’d rather sacrifice to evil than do the work to figure out how to change things. Everyone else seems to managed to have at least some friends, even if they aren’t the most popular girls in the school, at least until Althea sicks the vampire on them.]

[Dove:  I tried to respond, but I’ve been up for two days so I failed.  I think I have a point, but I can’t make it.  We need a podcast or something so I can verbalise!]

Final Counts:

Cheer on the killer: 3
DED FROM STUPID: 1
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1
Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 12
I beat you because I love you: 2
My, that’s awfully convenient: 1
Parents? What parents?: 1
Well, that escalated quickly: 1

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I am the evil twin. I'm in a feud with Richie Tankersley Cusick, and I'm waging a war on over-used en-dashes and ellipsis. All of these things are related. I worship at the altar of the ISUZU TROOPER, BITCHES.

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7 Comments

  1. Mimi
    Posted 9 December 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I read this one for the first time a few months ago. You know, I still get shudders when I remember the little thought Althea had about harvesting the vampire’s foil-like fingernails in a little basket. That was truly horrifying. And how he said he was able to “migrate within Celeste’s boundaries” sounded well and truly dirty. I really hated Althea in this book. I still haven’t managed to read the second one yet.

    • Wing
      Posted 14 December 2015 at 4:11 am | Permalink

      I really loved the first two books when I read them as a teenager, but even then, I hated Althea. I didn’t manage to find a copy of the third book until just a few years ago. It did not appeal the same way the first two did by that point.

  2. Gemma
    Posted 10 December 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Podcast!

    Mimi, yes! I read it years ago but his foil-like fingernails stuck with me, too. Ew.

    • Dove
      Posted 14 December 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Wing and I take forever to schedule time to do anything, given that we’re in different time zones and both have commitments. We’ve been considering a podcast for ages. Who knows, in the new year, we might get around to it.

      The foil fingernails always made me think of the Freddy Krueger glove I made out of pencils, card and a garden glove, all covered in tin-foil, for a friend’s fancy dress party.

  3. Dade
    Posted 14 December 2015 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    I always found Caroline B Cooney to be too verbose and too obvious with her metaphors. I recently read an interview with her: she’s Christian and likes her horror stories to be non-violent parables about making moral choices. That being said, I recently read “Freeze Tag” and really liked it.

    • Wing
      Posted 14 December 2015 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      I did not know that, but it makes sense. Unfortunately, really; I liked her better before knowing that.

  4. Dawn
    Posted 12 October 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Does Althea have a last name? I have a report to do on the book of my choice, and I have no idea what her last name is

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] I have no doubt she’s even worse now I’m an adult. Back in the day, I actually read this before The Cheerleader. Despite having Return in the title, it did not occur to me it was a sequel. This is one of those […]

  2. […] can also read my recaps of The Cheerleader and The Return of the […]

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