Where evil twins and friends come to snark Point Horror and other teen genre fiction
 

Recap #40: The Stranger by Caroline B Cooney

The Stranger by Caroline B. Cooney

The Stranger by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: The Stranger by Caroline B. Cooney

Summary: From the first moment she sees him in class, Nicoletta is drawn to Jethro, fascinated by his dark, mysterious face. She is attracted yet repelled, interested but afraid. Nicoletta becomes obsessed, unable to think of any-thing but this strange boy.

But she knows so little about him.

Until she follows him to a deserted cave on the edge of town… and learns the truth.

Jethro is not like the others. No, not at all.

He has a terrifying secret. A secret no one must ever find out.

The Stranger by Caroline B Cooney - Scan by Mimi

The Stranger by Caroline B Cooney – Scan by Mimi

Tagline: He’s not like all the other guys

Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall. Nope, no bad guys.

Warning: I like this. A lot. Despite its faults.

Further Warning: This story is Twilight. Really. Only it gets to the point quicker. And it’s a lot less offensive.

Once again, Mimi has provided her copy of the front cover, which gives a much better idea of what this book will be about.

[Wing: I agree, Mimi’s cover wins this one. I enjoyed this, though not as much as Dove did. Mostly, I found it ridiculous.]

Initial Thoughts:

I thought I’d read this before, and that Jethro was a dickhead who invited our protagonist to play a “dangerous” game, which involved scaring people. Apparently that was Twins. This I had not read before.

[Wing: Gee, that certainly makes me want to read Twins immediately — wait, is the dude in Twins actually named Jethro too? Because that is ridiculous.]

Recap:

We open up with our lead, Nicoletta Storms (who does not like to be called “Nickie”) being told by Ms Quincy, the music teacher that, unlike the past two years, Nicoletta has not made the cut for the Madrigal Singers. She is usually one of the four sopranos, but this year Anne-Louise tried out, and she’s had voice lessons for years. And what, Nicoletta has not? That seems unlikely. This could be Ms Q breaking it to her gently that her voice just isn’t good enough, but it seems like a weird excuse to use.

[Wing: I think she is trying to be gentle here, but Nicoletta not having voice lessons but being a part of the Madrigal Singers isn’t that weird. Plenty of people in high school were a part of the competitive singing groups but didn’t take private singing lessons. For that matter, I was a competitive musician and didn’t take private lessons because they were too expensive.]

Nicoletta is particularly upset because her whole life revolves around this group – not just the singing, but her friends are all Madrigals.

Nicoletta asks what about all the extra stuff she has done without fail, like sorting refreshments, finding ushers and spell-checking the programs. Ms Q says they’d love for her to keep on doing that, which stings a little.

“I’m not good enough to sing with you,” she cried out, “but you’d love to have me do the secretarial work? I’m sure Anne-Louise has had lessons in that, too. Thanks for nothing, Ms. Quincy!”

I sort of love her already. Ms Q tells her to go to the guidance office and find something to fill the slot usually taken by the Madrigals. Nicoletta’s response?

I’ll sign up for Bomb-Making, thought Nicoletta. Or Arson.

Yep, this was published in a pre-Columbine world. (One quick google search later: six years before.)

In case you missed it, Nicoletta is a bit of a brat. I suspect in part because her parents used to be rich and live in Fairest Hill, but now they have a “tiny ranch with ugly, crowded rooms” and she has to share a room with her eleven year old sister, Jamie. While she sits and waits for a slot to see the guidance counsellor, she hates: her parents, for losing their money; Ms Q for giving her slot away; and Anne-Louise for getting it. And I know I should be hating her for being a brat, but clearly I’m in a mood where I’m happy to have a brat for a lead. I don’t understand me either.

Her guidance counsellor suggests she pick up Study Skills to fill the gap. Nicoletta is in a contrary mood so takes Art Appreciation instead.

That night she takes calls from Rachel, her bff; Cathy another friend; and Christopher Hannon, known as Christo. Apparently everyone has had a crush on him at some point. They basically say they’ll boycott because Ms Q doesn’t understand that friendship is magic. [Wing: It has only just struck me how ridiculous “Christo” is as a nickname, oh my god.]

The next day in her Art Appreciation course, she finds herself staring at a boy.

He had the most mobile face she had ever seen. Even in the dusk of the quiet classroom, she could see him shift his jaw, lower and lift his eyes, tighten and relax his lips. Several times he lifted a hand to touch his cheek, and he touched it in a most peculiar fashion – as if he were exploring it. As if it belonged to somebody else, or as if he had not known, until this very second, that he even had a cheek.

She finds him utterly beautiful and captivating and is so taken by him, she tries to introduce herself. However, he walks off without apparently hearing her.

After school, she meets up with the Madrigals.

“Hey, Nickie,” said Christo. He rubbed her shoulders and kissed her hair. Affection came easily to Christo. He distributed it to all the girls and they in turn were never without a smile or a kiss for him. But that was all there was. Christo never offered more, and never took more.

In my opinion, girls are not Christo’s cup of tea. [Wing: That is how I read him at first, too.]

Anyway, it turns out that Anne-Louise is actually spectacular, so Nicoletta is not getting back in the group any time soon. They invite her to Keyboard, an ice cream parlour with a piano, where they hang out and sing. Nicoletta considers it, but then Anne-Louise joins the group and it becomes awkward, because everyone is in awe of her voice.

Nicoletta makes an excuse and leaves, and then she spots the very beautiful boy from her Art Appreciation class, and since she has nothing else to do, she follows him.

New counter:

This is TWILIGHT!: 1 (stalking) (You have to read that counter in the “THIS IS SPARTA!” tone, ok?)

[Wing: *dying*]

For the first part of the stalking, it could be they’re just heading the same way, but once he turns off the beaten track, it’s definitely stalking. He’s aware of her, when he speeds up, so does Nicoletta, when he slows down, she does too. She’s doing this because she’s depressed about the Madrigals and her new small house and all that nonsense, and for some reason I’m not scoring this with Cheer on the killer. I don’t know why. Wing will beat me up for this.

[Wing: Nah, she knows what she’s doing is wrong. It’s when the stalking is presented as romantic that I get up in arms.]

They end up on a dirt road, surrounded by trees and rocks, and Nicoletta is convinced that the rocks greet the boy as he arrives. Finally, the boy turns to see her, and she explains that she had a bad day and lost her friends, so she followed him.

He says she can’t have lost all her friends, and she agrees, but it does feel like it. He says he will walk her back to the road, and she can tell him all about it. So that’s what they do, and she tells him everything. He gives her a scarf, and she wants to keep it forever.

This is TWILIGHT!: 2 (obsession)

She learns his name, Jethro. And Wing actually texted me simply to say “JETHRO?” when she got to this point. [Wing: I STAND BY MY REACTION.] Even Nicoletta finds this an odd name, and asks if he’s named for an ancestor. This makes him smile, and she is smitten. She asks if he likes the class, and then suggests they have lunch together. She wants to kiss him, but he touches her face instead.

It was not the hand of a human.

This is TWILIGHT!: 3 (cold, inhuman)

And we jump to Nicoletta being at home, talking to her family, mum, dad and younger sister, Jamie. Wow, parents exist. Jamie is giving Nicoletta a hard time for running away from Jethro when he touched her. Her dad is more tactful about it, but basically says that Jethro probably felt mortified, as Nicoletta had appeared to be into him, but when he made a move she fled. Everyone agrees that his hands were human and simply cold.

Nicoletta is embarrassed by her behaviour, but still thinks his hands weren’t human.

Her family then brings up and old joke. Back in the day, Nicoletta had adored the Little House books, and when she was young she asked why her dad didn’t play the fiddle and sing songs. She also tried eating raw turnip because she read it in the books. Her family bring this up frequently. And I love it. This is the kind of silliness that families do. Whenever I skype with Wing, one of her family will pop up and say, “Hey, did you tell Dove about $silly thing?” Wing gleefully informed Mr Dove and most of the Wing family of a particularly stupid moment I had when my computer got a virus, and I momentarily wondered aloud if I’d get excess dial up charges. Sod off. I first got online in 1998. That was a thing back then.

In fact, it’s such a natural human thing to tease your family, I’m absolutely flabbergasted we’re seeing it in a Point Horror.

[Wing: Yes. This is actually what I loved most about the book, the realistic silliness and family dynamics. Also, there was 0% chance I wasn’t going to tell EVERYONE about your dial up charges thing, because oh my god, Dove. DIAL UP. I laughed so hard I turned colors. Then again, so did you.]

Nicoletta sees a picture of herself on the mantel, all dressed up for the Madrigals, and gets overwhelmingly depressed that that part of her life is done, so she blurts out that she didn’t get in this year and doesn’t want to talk about it.

She wakes up the next morning, having dreamed of Jethro, feeling clear-headed and well-rested, which is unusual. She dresses quickly and without the usual agonising she does over outfits.

Also, she’s wearing Devnee’s skirt, the skirt Devnee wore on the first day of her beauty.

Nicoletta:

She wore a skirt she rarely touched: It had two layers, a tight black sheath covered by a swirl of filmy black gauze.

Devnee:

She settled on a long black skirt with a filmy brown and gold overskirt…

Cooney seems to like this look. I don’t remember that ever being a fashion over here – I’ve done a google image search and I’ve literally never seen anyone in real life wear that kind of skirt – but apparently it was HUGE wherever Cooney lives.

[Wing: I’ve never seen that style, or at least what Google images showed me using that description, except on formal dresses. Definitely not day-to-day wear.]

At school, she doodles Jethro’s name in her notebook. Christo sits next to her, and she finds his endless cheer annoying instead of likeable today.

The teacher had visited England last year and, sad to say, taken along his camera and several million rolls of film. Today he had yet more slides of where famous English authors had lived and gone to college and gardened. It was the gardening that most amazed Nicoletta. Who could possibly care what flowers bloomed in the gardens that no longer belonged to the famous – and now dead – authors? In fact, who could possibly have cared back when the famous authors were alive?

I agree with Nicoletta about the gardening. The other stuff would be more interesting, but I feel her pain. The minute someone says “slideshow” to me, I’m done. My response is Pavlovian. I’ve sat through or given too many boring presentations to give any slideshow a fair crack of the whip.

While the slideshow is on, Christo asks her to the dance on Friday. Nicoletta is floored. Christo is good looking and very desired in school, but has never appeared to have a preference with the girls, he seemed to like them all equally. Also, she wants Jethro to ask her out (Nicoletta, you could ask him, you know). Despite all this, she says yes.

And I don’t approve.

Cheer on the killer: 1 (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.) I’m don’t hate her completely for this, because I’ve been enjoying her so far. Still, it’s bad form to date someone you’re not interested in.

[Wing: Especially when she is so clearly interested in someone else and knows it.]

At lunch, Jethro is waiting for her. On her way to his table, Christo catches her arm and steers her towards his table. Jethro turns away. Everyone is excited that Christo is dating Nicoletta, but she just wants Jethro.

After school, she avoids getting a lift home from Christo, who says he’ll call her, and heads towards the place where she saw Jethro yesterday. She feels like a boulder is watching her. The problem with Cooney is that if you’ve read more than one of her books, you know her characters have silly feelings, and are always asking themselves questions such as “whose hands are they, if they are not my own?” or whatever, so it’s hard to know what is foreshadowing, and what is the pure whimsy of Cooney.

She comes to a narrow path between two frozen lakes, and then after that the trail abruptly ends with a sheer rock face.

She notices a cave. The opening is not natural, it’s a perfect rectangle. She walks in, despite being terrified, and inside it is beautiful. The walls are smooth and polished and seem to emanate light. She keeps walking for awhile, and realises that the cave is suddenly ugly and frightening, with holes that would kill her. She turns to flee and the cave goes pitch black. She screams for Jethro and trips over. The ground shifts beneath her and she panics and screams. Then she realises a creature is in the cave with her.

Its skin rasped against hers like saw grass. Its stink was unbreathable. Its hair was dead leaves, crisping against each other and breaking off in her face. Warts of sand covered it, and the sand actually came off on her, as if the creature were half made out of the cave itself.

Instead of carrying her to the depths of the cave to eat her, the creature carries her out and tells her to never come back, because it isn’t safe. Nicoletta realises that, come to think of it, her small house shared with her family isn’t all that bad, given that this creature has to live in that scary cave. She asks if it is alone, and it replies that “Alone would be better.” It makes her promise to not even think of returning to the cave.

This is TWILIGHT!: 4 (creature says it would be safer for her to stay away)

When Nicoletta gets home, she loves her home. It’s light and warm and soft and filled with love. She even loves her younger sister, because when she’s bratty, that’s what younger sisters are supposed to do.

This is BETTER THAN TWILIGHT!: 1 (appreciates home)

She wants to tell her family about what happened, but thinks they won’t believe her, or worse, they would laugh. She’s feeling very protective and interested in the creature, because it saved her. She wants to go back. She decides to talk to Jethro about the cave tomorrow and see if there’s a spark of recognition.

When the phone rang and it was Christo, Nicoletta could hardly remember who that was. She could barely remember Madrigals, her group of friends and her great loss. Christo wanted to know what color dress she would wear. Nicoletta actually said, “Wear to what?”

Christo laughed uneasily. “The dance Friday, Nicoletta.”

She detested rudeness in people. She was ashamed of herself for not having her thoughts where they belonged. Quickly she said, “I was kidding. I’m sorry. It was dumb. I have this lovely pale pink dress. Are you getting me flowers? I adore flowers.”

Nicoletta, I’m kind of disliking you now. I like that you are ashamed of being so off-hand with him, unlike Bella (This is BETTER THAN TWILIGHT!: 2 (notices when she’s being a dick)), but still, this is bad behaviour, and it doesn’t stop her from being barely involved in the conversation. She agrees to have lunch with Christo tomorrow, but thinks of Jethro.

The next day during lunch, Nicoletta hates her behaviour, but does fuck all to remedy it. Hypocrites are hypocritical: 1 (Because it’s ok, when you do it.)

But yay! Jethro’s in class today. So she approaches him and says they should go for a walk together after school and talk.

So talk they do. Jethro is adamant that Nicoletta does not go back to the cave, but she wants to. She’s also convinced they’re in love now. She thinks he’s going to kiss her, but then Christo shows up in his car.

Jethro urgently asks her to promise not to tell anyone about the cave, but she doesn’t answer. She introduces the two boys and Jethro asks Christo to give her a ride home, because she doesn’t know much about hiking and the woods are dangerous. Christo is thrilled that he’s uncovered Nicoletta’s hidden outdoorsy side, and wants them to go hiking this weekend. Nicoletta doesn’t care.

Then ditch him. Stop being an arse. I hate this. Tell Christo you’re not that into him and let him go.

Cheer on the killer: 2 (+1)

Christo notices that when he shakes hands with Jethro that his hand is all sandy.

I assume we skip to the next day, where Nicoletta hides in the library after school, so Christo won’t follow her, then she heads down to the woods/cave area. There’s fresh new snow and the lakes either side of the path are frozen. She finds the creature and asks about Jethro. The creature tells her to leave, but she says she loves him and wants to find him. The creature cries.

They’re interrupted by gunshots, hunters in the distance, they think the creature is a bear. Nicoletta suggests they hide deep in the cave, but the creature says no, she can’t go in there otherwise the same thing that happened to it will happen to her.

The creature grabs Nicoletta and blends into the rock face. The hunters go into the cave and talk about how they’re going to kill the “bear” and put it in the cave opening because it will make a great photo spot. Urgh. I really don’t get why some people feel a need to kill animals. If hunting as a “sport” is so necessary, I think it should be equal. Send one hunter to face a bear with no weapons. See who wins.

The hunters head off into the cave, Nicoletta tries to call out to them, both to get herself saved, and to warn them of the dangers of the cave, but the creature covers her mouth. The hunters fall to their doom.

The creature says it had to do that, and Nicoletta realises that she’s been thinking of it as a “him”, and she recognises his eyes and words when he begs her not to come back. Finally, she’s starting to theorise that the creature and Jethro are the same being.

Next up, Nicoletta’s getting ready for the dance, and she doesn’t care. Her sister, Jamie, is giving her a hard time for being so out of it.

The dance happens off screen, and when they leave, Christo wants to park on the road leading to the cave. Nicoletta is excited, because it means Jethro can see her in her pretty dress (there is a lot of notes about how pretty she is throughout this book, but I’ve ignored it). So many words about how Christo wants her and she doesn’t care.

Cheer on the killer: 3 (+1) and This is TWILIGHT!: 5 (ignoring everyone who is not hot boy)

Think of Christo, Nicoletta told herself, accepting the kisses but not kissing back.

Ok. WTF? This is just disturbing. Kissing – the kind that teens do when they park – is a two-player game. So either Christo is slobbering over what may as well be a mannequin and not caring that he is receiving nothing for his efforts, which is terrible because he’s clearly ignoring a lack of reciprocation – I would say consent, but the text says she “accepts” them. Still, it’s woolly and worrying.

Or Nicoletta is kissing back in a most half-hearted fashion, while thinking about Jethro. Which Christo is still not noticing.

[Wing: That’s not really on Christo, though. Especially for the first time they’re making out, that could just be her style, or her nerves, etc. She has done nothing to reject him throughout this, just simply goes along with whatever seems to be the “normal” thing for them to do — I’m not even sure why.]

I kind of want to slap the pair of them.

Nicoletta runs out of the car, and to the path between the two lakes, and Christo follows her at a distance.

She talks to the rock creature/Jethro. He asks why she betrayed him by bringing Christo here, Nicoletta says she loves him and would never betray him.

Yeah, Nic. You did. He explicitly said don’t tell anyone, and you brought your moron fanboy along.

Hypocrites are hypocritical: 2 (+1)

Jethro tells her to get Christo out of here, so she runs to him, and both morons crack the ice in the lakes and go into the water.

And I wish it ended there, with Jethro the Rock laughing his head off at the pair of them.

Sadly, the water is shallow and they’re just fine. Cold, but fine. So, I guess they’re immune to frostbite and all that stuff? Also, Christo finds this kind of behaviour delightful, as if she’s just a whimsical magic girl and everything is wondrous, rather than the fact that she doesn’t like to kiss him, constantly runs away from him, and talks to rocks.

On Saturday, the parents are out, so Nicoletta plans to go to Jethro. Before she leaves, Jamie shows her a local news show. A woman is crying over her missing husband, who is one of the hunters who fell to his doom in the cave. She has guilt, and thinks that she didn’t react to their deaths like a normal human being.

As she leaves the house, her Madrigal friends, Rachel and Cathy pull up and demand that she tells them everything about her date with Christo. I bet you can imagine how invested Nicoletta’s going to be in that conversation, right? JOY! CHRISTO SHOWS UP TOO.

In an attempt to not be alone with him, she suggests they go to the mall. And I have to say, this is a delightful bit of snark.

“Let’s all go to the mall!” said Nicoletta. “That would be fun.” She clapped her hands like a moron and twirled to make her hair fly out in a golden cloud.

Christo actually wanted to know if, on the way to the mall, they should swing by Anne-Louise’s and pick her up and bring her along. “So the whole gang is together,” he said eagerly, as if Nicoletta were part of the gang. Rachel cringed. Cathy held her breath. Boys were so thick.

On the way to pick up Anne-Louise, they pass by the lane that leads to the cave, and Christo tells Rachel and Cathy that he and Nicoletta had an “adventure” down there after the dance, and that they saw “a thing. A Bigfoot. A monster. A Yeti. Something.” He intends to hunt and catch or kill it.

Anne-Louise joins them and Nicoletta tries to use that as a distraction, but instead everyone is now talking about the creature. Nicoletta says she didn’t see it, but Christo is adamant it exists and he will kill it. Anne-Louise thinks they need to notify the authorities of the cave, because that might be where the missing hunters are.

At the mall, Christo’s dickishness increases. He wants Anne-Louise to shut up, because he wants to hunt the monster; Rachel and Cathy need to shut up full stop; and Nicoletta needs to give him Jethro’s full name and number, so he can act as tour guide for his I MUST KILL THE MONSTIE hunt.

Rachel, Cathy and Anne-Louise basically tell him to fuck off. Good.

Nicoletta understands that Christo is showing off for her – he wants to kill it and present her with a trophy she can’t refuse. Except, yeah, no, because she’s clearly not into that. This is all about his own ego. [Wing: Right? That is a weird trophy anyway, but especially when she’s finally doing something to tell him no.]

That night, she sneaks out to see Jethro before Christo can start his hunt in the morning.

On her way to him, there are references to Little House on the Prairie – that she preferred to be Laura, but now she was Mary – that I don’t get because I’ve never read it, but the one episode I watched featured a girl with my real name, which was alarming, given that my surname isn’t very common. [Wing: I’ve read them many times, and I have no idea how she is being Mary here, unless she means that going into the cave is like becoming blind, which is a pretty shitty comparison, actually. Also, Laura caused way more trouble than Mary, so technically she’s still being Laura here.]

She touches the big rock, and it seems to shy away from her, but she presses on. Something takes her hand, and leads the way, so she thanks it, but nobody’s there, it’s just a stick.

“Don’t be afraid.” The voice came from nowhere, from nothing. Now she screamed silently, twice as afraid. “They’re trying to help,” it said.

Are we suddenly in an Enid Blyton book where the trees and rocks and everything is alive?

Jethro doesn’t want her to see him in his rock form. She doesn’t care, she has to warn him about Christo’s great hunting plan. Jethro’s all, “whatevs, he can keep the hunters company at the bottom of the cave.”

Apparently, nobody dies in the cave, and nobody leaves. It has taken Jethro a hundred years to learn how to leave the cave.

Behold the legend: Before the pilgrims, sailors were shipwrecked in this area, they found and explored the cave. Some fell to the bottom and could not be rescued. Their souls could only leave their bodies if they were burned at sea with their ship, so their bodies died and their souls rotted and became part of the cave. They put a curse on the cave:

“Whoever entered that cave,” said Jethro, “would be forever abandoned by the world. Just as they had been.”

Apropos of nothing, Nicoletta asks if the Indians fell in, and is told, “The Indians always had a sense of the earth and its mysteries. They knew better than to go near the cave.”

Racism: business as usual: 1 (If you’re lucky enough to see a person of colour in any of these books, they’ll be stereotyped to the hilt.)

Then the white people showed up, including Jethro and his dad. His dad fell in, but Jethro didn’t leave the cave, so he didn’t forget. He offered to trade places with his dad, so dad could get help. Naturally, his dad forgot all about him once he left the cave.

So why does Nicoletta remember the hunters? Wing, did I miss a nuance of this rule, or is it just a continuity error? I think I’m going to score it, because if anyone who didn’t go into the cave when they fell remembered the lost, then Jethro’s dad should have been peppered with questions like “Where’s your son?” and eventually people should have looked for him. [Wing: Continuity error.]

If Jethro was literally erased from everyone’s memory, then the same should have happened for the hunter’s family and Nicoletta.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 (Because why stick to what was said last chapter? Or even last sentence. Make it up as you. If your lead character says it, it MAKES IT SO!)

Jethro found a way to leave the cave for a while, and in the sunshine he is a real boy. Kind of like the opposite of Edward Cullen. This is TWILIGHT!: 6 (sunlight turns him real)

Jethro goes to school to pretend to be a real boy. This is actually better handled than Twilight. With Twilight it comes across as “lol, we must mingle with the commoners so we can stay here, silly plebs,” whereas Jethro’s literally trapped at the bottom of the cave, alone – the other lost can’t interact with each other – and occasionally gets to break free to pretend to be a human.

He begs her not to come back because the cave knows her and wants her to fall. If she did fall, they would not be together, he would also forget her, and she would forget him. Jeez, they can’t even be damned to eternity as rock monsters together. Dude, this fucking sucks. I ship it and it’s fucking doomed. SINKING SHIP AHOY!

Wing is never going to talk to me again. Ever. She’s going to leave me over this.

[Wing: I am laughing so hard I am starting to turn colors again, that is what is happening. I had no idea you shipped it so hard. If you love this damn book so much, why has this recap taken forever?]

Nicoletta leaves at dawn, sad about the situation, but happy because she knows that Jethro loves her. He hasn’t said it, but he has proved it by trying to keep her away from the cave.

On her way back, she sees Christo’s van, followed by a TV news van. She imagines their fall in the cave.

How many days, or weeks… or years… would they struggle against their fate? How long before they became, as Jethro had become, part of the cave? Just another outcropping of sand and rock and dripping water? Would she, Nicoletta, in that other world have grown up and had children and grandchildren and been buried herself by the time Christo understood and surrendered to his fate?

Nicoletta is not just thinking of Jethro, she’s thinking of Christo and all the news people and that they probably have families, people who will miss them.

And then she does the most badass thing ever. The thing that Bella Swan would never think of.

Nicoletta throws herself under the wheels of the TV van.

Seriously. What a badass.

[Wing: It is ridiculous, but it is also pretty badass. Though, to be fair to Bella Swan, she certainly sliced her own arm up to distract that one vampire.]

She gets a broken leg for her troubles. Her cover story is that she was out jogging and she slipped on the ice. Everyone mostly accepts this. However, it does leave her completely unable to visit Jethro.

The Madrigals show up at hospital, singing, to show her that she’s loved, which is kind of adorable. Ms Q is there, which annoys Nicoletta, since Ms Q kicked her out of the Madrigals.

Christo wants to know why she was there, since it’s so far from home, and she says it’s because she wanted to support him, and makes him promise he won’t hunt without her there.

Nicoletta wakes up in the night, and Jethro is there, and he says he loves her.

He’s angry that she could have been killed, but calms when she says that it was for him. She then says they should flood the cave, use toy boats and blow it up to give the trapped souls a send off.

Jethro worries what if he’s trapped as the rock creature, not human.

Nicoletta blazes right past that thought, not interested. What if they tell her parents? And what if her parents fall into the cave? Will he at least consider blowing up the cave. Ok, how?

Conveniently, Nicoletta’s dad has recently bought dynamite to blow up stumps in the back garden and has left it in the garage because he’s not got around to it yet.

Dear America, stop selling stuff that can be used to kill people. If it’s illegal to sell fireworks, why can you sell dynamite? Seriously, America, WTF? Love and kisses, England, where fireworks are legal, but guns and dynamite are not.

[Wing: I have my doubts he would (a) be so easily able to get ahold of it unless he works in construction or demolition, and even then not for personal use that he could just leave it sitting around in his garage, and (b) would be able to use it at their tiny house in town, and (c) actually needs it because, again, see tiny new house and yard, how do you need dynamite for that?]

A nurse bustles in to check on Nicoletta, and during this time Jethro morphs into the rock creature. Despite trying not to, Nicoletta, the moron, screams. The nurse follows her line of sight and screams too.

The nurse calls for security, but cannot tell them she saw a monster, so the problem is dropped. Nicoletta says nothing.

When her family visit, she’s happy to see them. (Fuck you, Bella.) This is BETTER THAN TWILIGHT!: 3 (is happy to see family when distressed)

She thinks for a moment she can trade places with Jethro, let him step out of the cave – but then she realises she’ll be forgotten, like she was with the Madrigals, only worse, because it will be forever with no reprieve. She cries and her mom comforts her.

New chapter, with an abrupt start.

“A snow picnic?” repeated Nicoletta.

“Yes!” said Anne-Louise. “It was my idea. And you’ll be our mascot!”

Your mascot? thought Nicoletta. I get it. You’re the soprano, Anne-Louise. I’m the puppy. The rag doll. The mascot. Drop dead, Anne-Louise, just drop dead.

I kind of love the hatefulness that Anne-Louise brings out of her. Also, Anne-Louise has a crush on Christo. Brilliant, drop Christo, let her pick up the pieces and go live in the mouth of the cave with your rock boyfriend.

Naturally, this is taking place near Jethro’s cave. And on the way there, it is revealed that Christo is going to kill the Yeti while he’s there. For fuck’s sake, Christo, stop. Also, Anne-Louise is really annoying in this scene. She’s acting like a little girl, so that Christo can be a big brave man. Come to think of it, they’re perfect for each other.

Christo says he’s going to the cave, and Anne-Louise follows him. Then everyone follows. I’m not sure how Nicoletta follows, given that they made a big production of her being carried to where they were picnicking and using the cooler as a seat, but the text implies that she goes too.

There’s a fumbly 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.) moment here, where a voice says “Anne-Louise, you go first.” The following chapter has her screaming, and Nicoletta feels guilty, wondering if she pushed Anne-Louise to go first and then she’s stumbling out of the cave, shaken but fine.

Oh, ok, this is still confusing as hell, but ok. Basically, she went in, fell, and Jethro saved her and pushed her out of the cave. Anne-Louise now implores Christo not to go in.

Rachel suggests they come back with equipment and people who know what they’re doing in a cave – very reasonable – and Christobrat all but stomps his feet and throws a tantrum at that idea. Please, Nicoletta, for the love of all that is holy, trade Christo in for Jethro. They decide to drive everyone home, and Christo will come back later and kill it.

Thankfully, he’s prevented by heavy snow that night. Nicoletta can’t sleep, and she looks out of her bedroom window from her bed. She sees Jethro. He looks like he’s carrying something. I wonder what. They meet in the garage. She offers to trade with him so he can be happy, but he says no. They say they love each other, she thanks him for saving Anne-Louise, and he asks her to stay away from the cave until her leg is better. She refuses, but he leaves anyway.

At school, presumably a few days later, since the snow prevented Christo from hunting, Ms Q asks Nicoletta to come back to the Madrigals. Anne-Louise has left them. Nicoletta says she’ll think about it after she speaks to Anne-Louise.

Anne-Louise can’t remember really what happened in the cave and now wants to go back. So they head back, with Christo.

As they arrive at the cave, it blows up. Jethro stole the dynamite (gosh, how shocking) and blew up the cave entrance. And that’s that.

Final Thoughts:

Ok, so are you with me that it’s Twilight? Gorgeous boy, complainy girl. Boy is supernatural, and is made of rock. There is a love triangle that holds no water at all. But this has the decency to give us a depressing ending instead of going to prom. Also, Nicoletta is a badass for throwing herself in front of a van to save Jethro.

I never really understood why Cleolinda loved Twilight so much – though she explains it quite well on her blog, but I never quite got how the Twilight story itself made her so happy. Now I do. I like the lulz of this. It’s not earth shattering literature, but it’s kind of adorable. And I will re-read it. For fun.

Wing’s going to leave me, isn’t she?

[Wing: *packing her bags*]

[Wing: I find this one ridiculous and fun, though not ridiculously fun. Clooney’s whimsy sometimes works for me and sometimes annoys the hell out of me. Tipped more to the former here. I could have done with much less Christo, and I didn’t think that plot added anything to the story. He could have wanted to hunt things without the romance being tacked on like that.]

Final Counts:

Cheer on the killer: 3

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1

Hypocrites are hypocritical: 2

Racism: business as usual: 1

This is TWILIGHT!: 6

  • sunlight turns him real
  • ignoring everyone who is not hot boy
  • creature says she would be safer to stay away
  • stalking
  • obsession
  • cold, inhuman
  • creature says it would be safer for her to stay away

This is BETTER THAN TWILIGHT!: 3

  • is happy to see family when distressed
  • notices when she’s being a dick
  • appreciates home

[Wing: I loved this new counter set enough that I will unpack my bags and stick around awhile longer, I suppose.]

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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12 Comments

  1. Mimi
    Posted 2 September 2016 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    The dude in Twins was named Jon Pear. I’ll let you decide if it’s more or less ridiculous. I hated Twins so much I wanted to destroy it after reading.

    You had far more patience with Nicoletta than I did when I read this book.

    Cooney loves the name Madrigal. I’m not sure why.

    • Dove
      Posted 2 September 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Did we just disagree on a book? My worldview is now shattered! 🙂

      I hate Twins. I’ve avoided this book for years because Twins is so awful.

      • Mimi
        Posted 2 September 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        It’ll be okay. Every reading relationship has a few bumps in the road. :o)

        Cooney just gets to me. I can’t seem to embrace her particular brand of absurdity at all.

        • Dove
          Posted 2 September 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          I can see that, she does seem to be completely in love with trying to make everything sound lyrical and romantic, even when she’s talking about dropping a pen on a floor, or brushing your hair. It’s exhausting.

          Also, at least we solidly agree on Room 13 — unless you’ve since read it and decided that Wing and I are way off the mark with the genius of Robert Swindells.

          • Gemma
            Posted 8 September 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

            ROOM 13 YES.

    • Wing
      Posted 2 September 2016 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Jethro is worse, but Jon Pear is pretty terrible.

      Madrigal is a specific type of choral singing.

      • Mimi
        Posted 3 September 2016 at 3:39 am | Permalink

        She also named the girl in Twins Madrigal.

        • Wing
          Posted 1 August 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          She really recycles things, doesn’t she?

  2. Posted 1 August 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Oh I am so glad that you shipped Jethro and Nicolette. I did too. It was utterly stupid but I really did love it. It was like some Russian fairy tale. Cooney is ridiculous but she believes everything she writes so somehow I fall under her spell. I think some of the other Point Horror writers just spun them out while thinking of the paycheck. Cooney writes with her genuine weird wholehearted gypsy soul. She’s exactly like those skirts she writes about – there’s gothic substance there but there’s another layer of gauzy bohemian on top.

    • Wing
      Posted 1 August 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Oh, damn, calling it a Russian fairy tale is spot on! It really does feel like that.

  3. Posted 1 August 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Oh and my goodreads review of this https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2564558-the-st is so scarily similar to yours that I think WE might be twins (triplets??). I think I’ll stop stalking you now before you get a restraining order.

    • Wing
      Posted 1 August 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Ha! One of those great minds think alike moments, clearly. We’re going to end up with an army of evil twins, and it will be great! (And no restraining orders here. We love having more people around here.)

3 Trackbacks

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