Twins by Caroline B. Cooney
Title: Twins by Caroline B. Cooney
Summary: Twice the evil.
Twins Mary Lee and Madrigal are living double lives – with some shocking secrets
Mary Lee and Madrigal are twin sisters, beautiful and deeply attached to each other. Then in high school, Mary Lee and Madrigal’s parents decide to send Mary Lee away to boarding school – cruelly separating the girls. The twins have only been apart a handful of times in their lives. Mary Lee is devastated at first, and then horrified as Madrigal betrays her by approving of their parents’ shocking plan. Spending high school apart, as two separate sisters – not as twins?! What about their special twin bond? Madrigal seems to be thriving in her new solo life, and even finds a fabulous boyfriend. Mary Lee, lonely and unhappy at boarding school, begins to wish she had her sister’s seemingly perfect life. But when her secret wish disastrously comes true during a weekend ski trip, Mary Lee learns more about Madrigal’s new life than she could have ever dreamed… or feared.
Every kid’s fantasy is to be a twin. Now, that innocent dream is turned into a nightmare by a million-copy selling author. Caroline Cooney spins a shivery tale about a young girl who steps into the shoes of her dead identical twin sister and uncovers a horrifying legacy of evil.
Tagline: Twice the evil.
Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.
I’ve never read this before, but I kind of wish we’d done this one before Perfume, because I am ridiculously charmed by their names. Still, at this point, I’m pretty attached to “Wing,” so I guess it’s no problem. Back to the book, I’m both looking forward to Cooney’s whimsy and also braced for it, because the last couple of her books that we’ve recapped have been a little bit much for me, whimsy-wise. Ah well, on to the evil twin shenanigans. (I certainly hope they’re better than the Perfume shenanigans. God forbid someone skip brushing their teeth.)
[Dove: I loathe this book. Actually, when I was recapping The Stranger, I thought the plot of this book happened in that one. I was glad to be wrong, because I actually liked The Stranger.]
(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)
We open with Mary Lee being shocked that their parents are sending her to boarding school, because by god, separating identical twins is akin to blowing up the entire world. (Mary Lee: lovely olive skin, beautiful hazel eyes, long black lashes.) Mary Lee thinks about how she looks exactly like Madrigal, which I thought was already pretty clear from the fact that they are identical, but okay, book, I can see how you plan to treat us. Also they are both the “fairest of them all” as the book immediately makes a Snow White reference, because it would be impossible for the magic mirror in the story to tell one of them they were the fairest. I hope this is foreshadowing that one twin cuts out the heart of the other twin.
Mary Lee tries to stay calm, because their parents really admire calm, but she keeps bursting out that they have never been separated, they’re not regular sisters, if one is sent away neither will be whole, and their parents couldn’t possibly understand because they’re ordinary people. Even if there weren’t other circumstances driving their parents to separate them, this obsession on Mary Lee’s part would be more than enough!
Their mother adores having identical twins and loves dressing them the same, fixing their hair the same, and admiring their perfect synchronicity. I’m starting to see from where Mary Lee gets her obsession. Their mother is sad but certain that they are doing the right thing by splitting up the twins. [Dove: But it does reek of that “I’m going to never tell my child off, I’m going to give him everything he wants… oh, why oh why can’t he hold down a job/relationship/did he turn out to be a rapist?” parenting.]
Mary Lee is shaking, but doesn’t need to look at Madrigal to make sure she is too, because they always, always, always react the same way. Even more, they can never tell who started any given reaction. Madrigal might have started shaking first, and Mary Lee followed, because that is always what happens. One echoes the other.
No, seriously, these girls need to be separated IMMEDIATELY. This can’t be healthy.
Mary Lee can’t manage to stay calm any longer, not that she was doing a great job of being calm in the first place, and shouts that their mother can’t do this to them. What about your father? Is he just standing around like a lump on a log, making no decisions? Does he obsess over making them look exactly alike at every moment of every day?
Their parents brace themselves against her screaming and stand strangely still, but are not even close to changing their minds. Mary Lee keeps shrieking about how they spent seventeen years making them exactly the same, making them one person instead of two, and now they are going to be separated? Mary Lee doesn’t actually sound like she’s seventeen. Maybe seven.
Even though both twins are there, because where one goes the other always follows, their parents seem to be talking only to Mary Lee. Is the twist on this book that there aren’t actually twins? Because I am going to be pissed if this is one of those dissociative identity disorder stories where the person is dangerous because of multiple personalities. I mean, I’m guessing no, because people actually talk about Madrigal soon, but maybe.
Mary Lee keeps shouting about how they’re ripping the girls away from their own selves. Their mother doesn’t like that at all, because Madrigal is not Mary Lee’s self, she is her own self, and they were wrong to let the world treat them as one unit, because they are not one, they are two. [Dove: Good point, mum. Shame it took you seventeen years to figure it out.]
We get more from Mary Lee about how they are not run-of-the-mill sisters, they are twins, and they cannot be separated.
Their mother doesn’t like this, either, and says it isn’t healthy for Mary Lee to say “we” instead of “I” and “us” instead of “me” and that she needs to be a girl named Mary Lee and not half a twinset. Mary Lee says that identical twins can’t do that and they are trying to fight a biological fact. I’m pretty sure that’s not how identical twins — or biology — works, Mary Lee. [Dove: Even Elizabeth isn’t this obsessed with Jessica.]
Madrigal is staying home under their supervision, and Mary lee is going off to boarding school. She turns to Madrigal, because the force of her own turn would turn Madrigal as well. They don’t imitate each other so much as simultaneously broadcast. This is both repetitive and really fucking weird. When she asks Madrigal if they will stop their parents, Madrigal smiles. Mary Lee does not share this smile. Wait, didn’t you just spend paragraphs and paragraphs telling us about how they always do the same thing, enough so that they don’t ever know who does it first? How is that now changed?
And then Madrigal says that she thinks it is a good idea. So much for that whole identical twins can’t possibly be different at all that they have been obsessing over from the very first line of the book.
Mary Lee goes 1,912 miles away to school, which is pretty damn far. She’s sick with fear as she flies, because she’s never entered a room or a building with Madrigal. She immediately takes that back, though, because it’s not quite true, but she can count the few exceptions, which is still pretty dramatic.
Times they have been separated:
The twins have never actually dated, because they never do anything without the other, despite what Mary Lee literally just told us. Their presence overwhelms the boys, because girls who are as beautiful and incredibly alike as they are are not girls so much as Events. Her hour with Van is also an Event, and Madrigal does not know how often Mary Lee thinks about that afternoon. But I thought you were one and the same and always know what the other is thinking, etc.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 (+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!)
The biggest Event in Mary Lee’s life, however, is this Separation. Mary Lee thinks in capital letters a lot. I am entertained enough to replicate them in this recap.
Their parents tell them they can’t telephone, they can only write letters. Ah, for the days when that could be more or less enforced, and they wouldn’t have secret cell phones and video chatting and all sorts of things. Mary Lee begs to be able to call, and tells Madrigal not to listen to them but to call her when they’re not home. Madrigal, though, continues to say they are right, and I’m just not seeing how these twins are one and the same and exactly alike, etc., no matter how often Mary Lee says it. I actually feel kind of bad for her, because she’s so obsessed with being just like her sister, and yet. And yet. [Dove: It’s always funny when headcanon gets disproved by actual canon, and the headcanoners don’t take it well.]
Mary Lee is certain that if Madrigal had also fought back, the Separation would never happen, but she didn’t, she hasn’t argued even once, and Mary Lee feels bruised by that betrayal. For a moment, she thinks that her twin will actually not miss her, but she pushes that thought away immediately. Surely Madrigal, left at home, will be as devastated as Mary Lee, who is shipped away.
She doesn’t understand why any of this is happening. Their parents hover over her the entire final week, as if she’s in danger, as if the people around her are unsafe. Mary Lee cries herself to sleep every night, and her parents seem to as well, but Madrigal’s eyes are clear and bright.
Gee, Mary Lee, it’s almost as if Madrigal doesn’t give a flying fuck about any of this and probably doesn’t even want to be a twin any more. But that, clearly, is not getting through to Mary Lee.
The school sounds pretty amazing, actually. It’s in the mountains, and they are high and crisp. The school is a wide, grassy campus filled with stone buildings and surrounded by thick, dark woods. I want to live there immediately.
Mary Lee is alone for the first time in her life, and she hates it. She has always been glad not to be ordinary. Mary Lee keeps trying to reach out for Madrigal through the “waves” that identical twins can use to communicate, but there is nothing from Madrigal, and this is even worse than her darkest nightmares.
The more you talk, Mary Lee, the more I think separating you two is the healthiest thing in the world, even if your sister isn’t actually trying to kill you.
When their father drops her at the airport, he tells her to be brave, put her best foot forward, try hard, make friends. Stay alive. Well that’s certainly not weird and creepy at all. (It could be a comment on how the world is dangerous for girls with brown skin, which Mary Lee could have based on that brief description of her, but I doubt the story is going for anything that deep, and this is actually all about Madrigal trying to kill her, or Mary Lee trying to kill herself, or both.)
Mary Lee does thing that is a weird combo of orders, especially the part about staying alive, because she knows she can’t actually die of loneliness, no matter how terrible she feels without Madrigal. And there’s no way she’ll make friends, because she doesn’t want any friend except for Madrigal. This sibling relationship is totes healthy. [Dove: Jessica and Elizabeth of Sweet Valley are starting to look healthy in comparison. And now I’m wondering, given the release years, if this was a kind of parody of SVH when it was at the height of its popularity. Mary Lee is doormat Elizabeth, and Madrigal is sociopath Jessica. Suddenly I’m a bit more interested in this book.]
Her new dorm is huge and filled with strange girls whose names she has to learn. She lives on the third floor, and it seems more like a gathering of teams than a crowd of potential friends. The girls treat her as if of course they will all end up best friends, because they have all been the new girl at some point. This is a far better welcome than Mary Lee actually deserves, considering how shitty she is being over all these things, and how much she thinks everyone else is plain and boring and normal without having an identical twin.
Mary Lee’s two roommates are Bianca and Mindy, and they greet her with smiles and hugs, tell her how glad they are to have her, and promise to show her the ropes, because it’s their third year there. The writing throughout this is strange, weirdly distanced, almost like a fairy tale.
Even though Mindy and Bianca are super nice, Mary Lee can’t really respond pleasantly. She’s overwhelmed by everything, especially the thought that she won’t be able to go home again until Christmas, and by all the similar names (also on her floor are Marilyn, Merrill, and Mary — Mary Lee is not wrong, we could use some name variety here!). Mindy and Bianca decide to call Mary Lee ML to try to keep her separate from the others. It makes her feel like a corporate logo, a piece of stock. The writing in this, so weird and distanced and kind of delightful and terrible all at once.
Mindy and Bianca escort her everywhere at first, introduce her to everyone with smiles and hugs, but Mary Lee is basically a lump on a log. She’s never had to make friends before, and she doesn’t know how to reach out. This finally shows her that their parents are right and Mary Lee, at least, has been hurt by relying so much on her twin. (She says she’s been “crippled” by it, which is both bullshit and also a shitty way to describe it.) [Dove: I just wanted to shake Mary Lee here. It’s never nice being new somewhere, and if someone takes the time to help you aclimatise, then you perk up and make the most of it, because they’re doing you a favour, not the other way around.]
Though seats are assigned at dinner, the girls can sit anywhere for breakfast and lunch, and no matter how much Mary Lee wants to join a full table, to talk to them, to laugh with them, she can’t bring herself to try for anything good. She’s branded within days as a loser who must sit alone, who has no friends and never will. Mindy and Bianca continue to be nice to her, but ask if she can be transferred to another room.
Mary Lee is desperate for a friend, but she’s been too absorbed by Madrigal, and she feels like she’s lost everything good and safe and home because of it. This is actually really sad, but it’s also repetitive as hell, and that takes away from the emotional impact.
Mary Lee is also under strict orders not to tell anyone that she is an identical twin. This breaks her heart, and she wants to know why they want her to hide it like a scandalous past. Her dad tells her that she’s supposed to forget about it, like a “crippling past” which is once again a shitty thing to say, and also explains a lot about why Mary Lee is the way she is.
Also, this is a lot of fucking buildup for absolutely nothing to really have happened yet. Jesus. Stop repeating everything a billion times and get on with the plot! I can’t even give it a recap trope point because it’s not a recap of what’s happened, since nothing has happened!
Mary Lee slowly starts coming up with questions for her parents, questions she hadn’t thought to ask before (and, honestly, questions that make a lot of fucking sense!): if there is too much togetherness, why don’t they just make Mary Lee take different classes, or sign up for a different sport, or do different activities — or at least go to one of the private day schools in town rather than a boarding school two thousand miles away.
Eventually, Bianca and Mindy start yelling at her, telling her to make an effort, and tell her that if she’s lonely, it’s her own fault. This is both realistic and annoying as hell, because the writing is such that we haven’t actually had much personality (or, really, any) for Bianca and Mindy. We’re told everything, but not shown. It’s obnoxious and it really distances the reader from what’s happening. (Not that anything is happening.)
Mary Lee decides that they’re right, and actually everything is her fault, including the stuff at home, or her parents wouldn’t have handled the situation they way they did. She just has no idea what she did wrong, and this should be really heartbreaking, but at this point, I’m so distanced from the characters and the story itself that I don’t really care.
Mary Lee does write to Madrigal, and though she wants to talk about how miserable she is, how much she wants to come home, she knows that’s not what their parents want to see, and so she lies, and talks about how she’s on the field hockey team, and how wonderful her roommates are, and how her English teacher, Mrs Spinney, thinks her writing is brilliant.
Madrigal writes back, which surprises the hell out of me. Her letters are full of lies, too, we’re told, though I’m not sure how we’re supposed to know this. Or maybe we’re not, and it’s just Mary Lee’s hope that Madrigal is lying, because she not only doesn’t write as often as Mary Lee does, but she also talks about how she’s having a great year, and how good an idea the whole thing was, and what a wonderful time she’s having.
Mary Lee also wonders about why they suddenly need supervision, which they’ve never had before. That seems unlikely, but would explain a lot, I guess. Boarding school is supervised, of course, but also, Madrigal is supposed to be under the close observation of their parents. Who knows whether that is actually happening, though.
Mary Lee counts down the days until the Christmas holidays, and obsesses over the twenty days she will spend at home, twenty days with Madrigal, twenty days when she will not have to use a mirror, because Madrigal will be her mirror, and she will be Madrigal’s.
Part of me really hopes that Madrigal has cut and dyed her hair and pierced everything so that they look different.
(During all this, Mary Lee thinks about Madrigal as her “living twin” which is kind of a weird way to put it. I mean, is there a secret dead triplet out there somewhere? [Dove: SURPRISE PERFUME!WING CAMEO?])
When Mary Lee gets home, she finds she can no longer read Madrigal, and they are no longer joined at heart and mind. They are Separate. Their parents won, and Madrigal is glad. (Just like when they were eleven and forced to finally have separate rooms; it took them years to learn how to sleep with walls between them. Now the wall is invisible.)
(What is up with parents keeping their twin daughters together in the same room until they are preteens?)
Mary Lee feels sick over everything, Madrigal is calm and happy. She tells Mary Lee (who she calls Mreelee as a baby nickname, and I can’t figure out how to pronounce that in way that isn’t basically “Mary Lee” and therefore it doesn’t make sense as a nickname for being unable to pronounce the full name) that she wants her back, of course, and gives her a kiss, but it is all duty driving her.
Mary Lee wants to know what’s happened, because she can’t stand to be just like everyone else. Madrigal doesn’t seem to care about this, either, and tells her that life has changed. Mary Lee claims that they haven’t changed, and yet Madrigal makes an expression that Mary Lee can’t read and can’t replicate.
Madrigal has a boyfriend: Jon Pear.
Oh lord. Here we go. While I do think it’s good for the twins to become separate people and have their own lives and friends, if this whole story turns around a boy and a romantic relationship, I am going to be furious. That is a shitty story to tell. Girls can only fight and change over boys, right? [Dove: Also, behold his symbolic name “Jon Pear” == “join pair”.] [Wing: … how exactly do you pronounce “Jon”?]
Mary Lee is shy around Madrigal now, and says she’d like to meet him. Madrigal says no, because even though he knows she has a twin (and people at school have probably told him they’re identical), he’s never sen Mary Lee before, and Madrigal doesn’t want him to see her, doesn’t want him to think about a set of Madrigals, only Madrigal herself. And while it’s completely understandable for them to want lives outside of each other, that is a really shitty way to handle all this, because it makes it seem like the only reason Madrigal wants to be separate is because of a boy.
Mary Lee feels like the family’s deep dark secret, and of course she would. She’s been shipped off to boarding school and not even allowed to meet the new people in her sister’s life. Madrigal tells her to meet boys at the companion school near her boarding school, and Mary Lee admits she would like a boyfriend, but that has nothing to do with them, and what she really wants is them.
Madrigal tells her that she now has a different “us” and Mary Lee cannot interfere. Jesus, that is also shitty. How easily girls replace their friendships with romantic relationships, right? This is crap. [Dove: And also kind of not. Girls at my school would stop hanging around their friends when they had boyfriends, and then come back when it ended. However, the fact that Romance > Friendship every book makes me want to kick things.] However, even though the writing is still very distancing (mostly because we’re continually told and not shown what’s happening), this is working to make me feel more sympathetic toward Mary Lee.
Mary Lee begs Madrigal to come spend a weekend at her school, because it would help her a lot. Madrigal says that she’s too busy because she has Jon Pear, and again tells Mary Lee that all she needs is a boyfriend, and she should just go pick one. FUUUCK, I hate this story.
Mary Lee thinks that if she could pick, she’d pick Van, but that is no longer an option, because she lives so far away.
Madrigal goes on with her life, and Mary Lee sobs at her parents. They say they aren’t happy, but they are still right. They seem distant toward her, and this really hurts Mary Lee a lot. She begs to know why they’re doing it to her, and they tell her to trust them, because they’re doing it for her.
On the flight back to school, Mary Lee wonders what Jon Pear is like, and thinks that if he loves Madrigal, he would love Mary Lee, because they are exactly the same.
And then, we have this:
I wish, she said to the invisible stars behind the featureless clouds, I wish for Madrigal’s life.
That sounds like a total Freaky Friday moment to me!
And we’ve only just reached the end of chapter one, oh my god. This recap is going to be a billion words long.
Chapter two opens with Mary Lee on the phone with Madrigal. They’re going skiing together, and she wants to meet Mary Lee’s friends and show off and just be them together. Mary Lee can’t believe their parents agreed Madrigal can come, and in fact, they have not, but Madrigal has arranged it despite them.
Mary Lee is super excited over this, and actually starts talking to Mindy about how thrilled she is that her identical twin is coming. Mindy is skeptical, because it’s February and Mary Lee has never mentioned having an identical twin before. This is actually valid. What a strange thing it must be for them, with Mary Lee suddenly vivacious and outgoing, and talking about a surprise twin sister!
Marilyn shrugs her off, and says that it happens, too much winter, and the “useless ones get crazy.” Fuck off into the sea, Marilyn.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1000 (+1000) (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.)
The popular girls laugh at Mary Lee, and one of them asks if Madrigal is really identical to Mary Lee, why in the world would anyone care? Bianca defends Mary Lee, but only because of the roommate rule that requires they stick up for their roommates no matter how dorky they are. [Dove: That might be the one thing I like about this book – that the rule exists and the girls obey it.] [Wing: I would be super interested in a story about Bianca and the others at boarding school.]
And then Madrigal arrives. She stalks onto campus, and it becomes hers. She is the Event that Mary Lee wishes she could be. She makes the girls her possessions, because that’s healthy, and the girls only talk to the two of them. They love Madrigal, call her Maddy, and invite her everywhere with them.
The girls on the third floor can tell Madrigal and Mary Lee apart, even though no one back home has been able to do so for all of their seventeen years. Mary Lee figures out that it’s because Madrigal has personality, and Mary Lee is basically wallpaper, and stays that way even with her sister at her school.
The weekend becomes the most horrible weekend of Mary Lee’s life. She’s taught a “terrible and unwanted truth: It is not the surface that matters.”
Yes, yes, what a terrible lesson to learn. I’m going to start doing shots now.
Anyway, Mary Lee learns this because the twins are identical on the surface, but for five months, Mary Lee has given them nothing of her personality; within 24 hours, Madrigal is their best friend. Mary Lee decides this is because they’re not actually identical. Instead, Madrigal is better, and everyone but Mary Lee has known it all along. Madrigal is the worthy one, and Mary Lee is just an echo.
My, this is certainly a healthier mindset than her obsession with being an identical twin.
She desperately needs for Madrigal to notice and save her, but she doesn’t. Instead of instantly comprehending the situation, she instead enjoys herself. She entertains them with stories of her high school, the handsome, wonderful Jon Pear, their wild dates, Jon’s romantic escapades, and his “crazy, insane ideas.”
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2000 (+1000)
It sounds nothing like the home Mary Lee remembers. She can’t believe that their parents, who did everything but fingerprint the kids they let their daughters play with, now let Madrigal run around unsupervised with Jon Pear. (I’m having a really hard time not writing his full name every time I refer to him, so I’m going to just go with it.)
Bianca is envious of all of Madrigal’s freedom. She keeps playing with Madrigal’s hair, as if Mary Lee’s hair has not been around all year. Oh, come on, Mary Lee. That’s on you. They were so excited to have a new roommate, and you pushed them away.
On Sunday, Mary Lee says she’s going to stay back to work on her report, and Madrigal should go ski with Bianca and Mindy. The sisters are fixing their hair together, a perfect reflection of the other without mirrors. Madrigal says Mary Lee has to ski, and when Mary Lee argues she’s not as coordinated, Madrigal points out they have identical leg muscles, too. That’s not actually true. The muscles depend on how you use them, not only how you’re born. Madrigal wants her to ski because Madrigal still wants to impress people, and two of them are more impressive than one.
Madrigal’s ski outfit is gorgeous, dark crimson and green plaid with black velvet trim and black boots. [Dove: That sounds repugnant.] She’s a trendsetter, and now everyone else on the slopes is outdated, including Mary Lee, who is wearing the same neon solids everyone else has all winter (hers is turquoise). Mary Lee loved it when she got it, but now she feels loud and obvious and lacking in taste. She feels like an imposter. She can’t stop noticing that Madrigal is more no matter how identical they look.
Mary Lee hopes that Madrigal does not know how jealous she is of her sister. She knows that her loneliness at school is her fault, a decision she made without knowing how wrong it was, and she struggles to find a way to start over and make friends even though she’s ignored them before. Madrigal, it seems, is still as affectionate as ever with Mary Lee, because they never come close to fighting, which is actually crap, because that scene at Christmas certainly seemed like fighting, even if it was only us being told about something that had happened previously and not really a dynamic scene.
Mary Lee reluctantly agrees to ski, but teases her sister that she’d better break her leg in the same place Mary Lee breaks hers. And that’s actually kind of adorable.
Madrigal laughs, but also says that she has too much at stake to allow for hospital time. She means Jon Pear, and Mary Lee is embarrassed by how jealous she is of her sister. She wonders if that is the difference that people see between them, if that having a boy is the great difference that lifts one above the other.
SERIOUSLY? FUCKING SERIOUSLY? A GIRL IS ONLY INTERESTING AND WONDERFUL IF SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND? WHAT THE FRESH HELL IS THIS STORY?
Mary Lee feels like she no longer understand what love is, because her twin has discarded her and her parents shipped her away. If she can’t trust the love of her family, how can she trust the love of “some unknown boy, or of anyone?” And that is actually a really good, deep point.
Mary Lee asks if Madrigal and Jon Pear talk about her. Madrigal takes a moment, but eventually says no. Mary Lee presses, because everyone always wants to know what it’s like to be identical twins, and Madrigal says he probably does, but he has the good manners not to refer to it. That cuts Mary Lee deeply.
Madrigal goes on to say that she’s not sure if he believes she actually could have an identical twin, because he’s so deeply in love with her he thinks two Madrigals would be impossible.
Mary Lee trudges in Madrigal’s wake as they take the bus to the mountain and walk up to the ski chair. Madrigal pauses on the walk up, and Mary Lee can feel that pulsing wordless communication between them when Madrigal calls her to her side. Mary Lee is filled with joy at this, and races after her sister to the lodge. They say together, with the exact same inflection, “I knew you’d come.” Madrigal then admits that she’s been afraid they’d lost it. Their joy is great as they embrace each other.
Madrigal suggests they switch clothes, because she feels bad that Mary Lee is now wearing outdated ski clothes. Hmmm, I wonder where this could be going… Madrigal points out that Mary Lee is the one who needs to be popular at her school, not Madrigal, and she doesn’t understand why she tried to leap into her sister’s world as well as her own. Mary Lee is completely relieved that they are still twins, and they change clothes quickly. Madrigal tells Mary Lee that she needs to be Madrigal for awhile, to utterly charm them, and then when they are enthralled with her, they’ll tell them the truth and then Mary Lee will have all sorts of friends at her school.
I…do not think that is going to go the way you think it is going to go, but sure. You do you, girls.
(For the moment, I am going to keep referring to them by their original names; if this ever becomes too confusing, I’ll switch it out to something else.)
Mary Lee finds all her new “friends” absolutely lovely, and for a second, even think they are the best things in the world, until she remembers that having a twin is actually much better. Mary Lee watches Madrigal, who has managed to reach the chair lift first, because she’s the one walking on her own. Mary Lee feels terribly sorry for her, sitting on her own, when no one else on the mountain is alone. She reminds herself that right now she is Madrigal, and when she becomes Mary Lee later, everyone will still love her.
Mindy invites Mary Lee to come visit her over spring break, and Bianca tells her they were shocked to learn there were twins, and she’s nothing like her sister at all, because she’s interesting. Mary Lee unbinds her hair; up on the ski lift, Madrigal tucks hers even more tightly under her ski cap. Mary Lee is annoyed that they never refer to her by name, but only as the twin, the sister — they only see her in the shadow of Madrigal.
Mary Lee realizes that she is never going to be able to fix things at school, she’s ruined everything for Mary Lee, who is boring and not worth inviting anywhere. She decides the girls will moan and groan and scatter when they find out the truth, and there will be no friendships for Mary Le as her own self. Madrigal will be clever and funny to have pulled it off, but Mary Lee will be empty once she leaves.
She decides she doesn’t want Mindy and Bianca to like her because she’s somebody else. She wants to be a separate person, she wants to be likeable, and she wants to have friends of her own. Their parents were right. Their twinship was unhealthy, and they needed to be separate.
Mary Lee decides that the next three day weekend, she’ll go home to argue with her parents about sending her away. She’ll be as separate from her twin as they want, as long as she gets to live at home too.
Mary Lee aches to go home, to have her own space back there, to not be stuck here.
And then the gondola in which Madrigal sits breaks, and dumps Madrigal out of it. She falls, horribly, onto a rock scree. Gravity, the mountain, the rocks, they didn’t care about twins, and “the end of identical twins took only a moment.”
The girls cry, hold Mary Lee back. The rescue crew turns up, and Madrigal is dead. Madrigal who they think is Mary Lee.
The headmaster of the boys’ school comes up to her, and says Madrigal to her. She says Mary Lee, and he thinks she’s asking for her sister. He tells her, as gently as he seems able, that Mary Lee is dead. Mary Lee tries to argue that it’s really Madrigal, but she can’t get the words out, and the adults believe her grieving process is making her confused. He thinks it will help her to touch the body of her dead twin, and that is some seriously fucked up shit. Mary Lee shrieks and sobs when she sees her sister, and the ambulance takes her away to the hospital.
At the hospital, the nurses tell her that her friends are there to sit with her and her parents will be there soon. She’ll get a little shot to relax her through the rest of the night. She again says Mary Lee’s name, and again they think she’s asking about her sister. The nurse talks to her about how much she always wanted to be a twin, and how she hoped her kids would be twins, and it seems very inappropriate.
The shot works fast, and Mary Lee falls into darkness, and thinks it feels like death. She thinks that she needs to tell Jon Pear, because he loves her, and she has to tell him that Madrigal no longer exists.
When she wakes the next morning, she sees an identical bed next to her, a twin, empty and waiting, and she’s desperate for Madrigal to be there, alive. She wants to be in the psych ward, because “If I’ve done something terrible or shameful, it’s okay, as long as my twin is alive.”
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3000 (+1000)
This is heartbreaking, but also, fuck off with that psych ward bullshit. People don’t only end up there because they’ve done something “terrible or shameful.”
The nurse again calls her Madrigal (or Maddy, really), and again the adults think she’s asking about her sister. This repetition at least makes sense here, but it is just as annoying as it was before. Mary Lee asks if they told her parents that Mary Lee died. She feels weak for not telling them herself. She then realizes that Madrigal, or what is left of her, is probably somewhere in the hospital, naked and alone on cold steel. Mary Lee is deeply shaken by that thought, and it is truly heartbreaking and terrible. Poor girl.
Mary Lee says she needs to go back to the school, and the doctor says that is very brave of her. Her sister’s roommates are coming to spend the day with her while they wait for her parents. She again tries to say that she’s really Mary Lee, but the doctor won’t let her get a word in edgewise, because her parents told her about the twins over-identifying. She says it was a shame the equipment snapped, and Mary Lee (or Madrigal, as the doctor thinks she is) can’t blame her parents for what happened.
Bianca and Mindy turn up, also calling her Maddy, and she decides it is too much effort to fight with them. She’ll give up until her parents show up, and they will know her for who she really is, and they will know that the daughter they didn’t want at home lives, and the daughter they cherished more has died.
(Except weren’t we told that no one at home can actually tell them apart?)
She’s terrified when she starts to wonder whether her parents will wish that Mary Lee was the one who had died, and whether they will be sorry that she lived. Oh, Mary Lee, this is legitimately heartbreaking, you poor dear.
Back at the dorm, she tries to change into her clothes, but Bianca says that is sick, she can’t start by dressing in her dead sister’s clothes, and instead she needs to wear her own clothes. Mary Lee asks them to leave her alone, but they promised the doctor they wouldn’t. Fuck, that is truly miserable. I would want to be alone (I might be able to manage having my dog with me, but no actual people, not even people I love), and if I couldn’t, if I was surrounded by people always, I would snap.
Anyway, they promised the doctor because the doctor is afraid that Mary Lee will become suicidal, because identical twins can get a little “screwy.”
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 4000 (+1000)
Super professional there, Doc.
The girls try to comfort her, but it doesn’t help. She does hope, however, that while nothing can bring Madrigal back home, surely there would be enough love to bring Mary Lee home.
Aaaaand we have only just finished chapter three. These chapters are so damn long, and this recap is already taking forever.
When her parents arrive, the Dean of Students greets them forth, and Mary Lee thinks it looks like he’s congratulating them on the death of a twin. That’s some cold shit right there. Her parents are frail and cling to each other; Mary Lee watches them from afar as Bianca tells her (or Madrigal, at least) to be brave. Mindy even starts to say that Mary Lee must have been the daughter they didn’t much care for, because Mindy is apparently a complete bag of dicks. Bianca chastises her, but Mary Lee thinks she’s right.
As Bianca comforts her, Mary Lee thinks she could have been friends with her, but she didn’t even try, and now she so, so much regrets it.
She keeps thinking about Madrigal telling her to be Madrigal for awhile. She thinks about how Madrigal must not have meant to die because she is sane. Well fuck off with that. First of all, suicide is nothing to wave off like that. Second, people can be insane and not suicidal, or suicidal and still fight to live. So fuck you, Mary Lee.
Mary Lee starts to imagine herself in Madrigal’s life, the popular daughter at home, the light of her parents’ world. This is both heartbreaking and absolutely believable, considering how she’s felt for the rest of the book. She tries to push away those thoughts, because she’s learned a hard lesson this year about who she wants to be and what kind of life she wants to have, and how in the world can she consider throwing it away. But, she reminds herself, becoming Madrigal is only halfway becoming someone else. She’s already an “overlapping fraction with her identical twin.”
As she keeps considering it, she thinks that no one else would notice, but surely her mother would, because she gave birth to them. But if her mother doesn’t know, Mary Lee isn’t sure what to do. Should she pretend to be Madrigal? Should she finally clean up all the confusion? (And if she does, how badly are they all going to judge her for waiting so long, even though in reality, none of them actually listened to her? Because you know that’s exactly what would happen, the way all these people have been so, so shitty so far.)
She wonders if it is amoral to take another person’s life, whether it is what Madrigal would want, whether it’s what her parents would want, considering the sent her away and kept Madrigal at home.
Then she realizes that surely Jon Pear will know the difference.
Her thoughts turn to Van, and how much she adores him, and she goes off into some really ridiculous descriptions: he was the birthday cake and the soft icing; he was the summer wind and the new leaf.
Okay, Mary Lee, you are being kind of ridiculous now.
Anyway, Scarlett and Van are not twins, but they are both seniors because Van was held back in first grade because he was hyperactive and none of the second grade teachers wanted him yet. He’s become super preppy, though, plays water polo, wears blue blazers with khaki pants, and is friends with boys name Geordie and Kip. Oh my god, Van. Oh my god, Mary Lee. I don’t even know what to do with this ridiculousness. [Dove: Geordie is what we call people from Newcastle. So I’m reading that name with an accent.]
Mary Lee chastises herself for daydreaming about Van when her sister is dead, and then wonders if Jon Pear knows, if he’s wishing that it was the other twin who died. Except, oh right, he does think it’s the other twin who died, if he knows about it at all.
Mary Lee decides to leave it to her parents. If they recognise her, if they know who she is, she will be Mary Lee. If not…
Bianca rushes to greet her parents first, and Mary Lee can’t believe how friendly and protective she is of Madrigal after just a few days.
Mother comes in first, desperate with hope. Mary Lee wonders what kind of hope that is, what she actually wants to be real, because Mary Lee wants to give that to her, whatever that is. She will be whichever daughter Mother wants to be alive.
Jesus, that is fucking dark.
Her mother doesn’t speak, however, just opens her arms and bundles Mary Lee up into a big hug. Her father does the same, and asks if she saw it happen, was it terrible, was it quick, did she cry out. UMM. Maybe not the greatest questions to be asking your living daughter, especially since there were plenty of other fucking witnesses. Cut her at least a little break, damn!
Mary Lee waits and waits for her parents to say a name, but it is Bianca and Mindy who call her Madrigal, and her parents agree that they can help pack up Mary Lee’s things and just ship them home. And just like that, Mary Lee becomes Madrigal.
Mary Lee cries into a pillow throughout the flight home (and while there are still pillows on planes, sometimes, it’s rare that they are handed out with being requested. My how things have changed since this book was written.) She’s broken over Madrigal dying, but also because her parents do not know their own child. Which is some really heavy shit, and has made Mary Lee really fucking sympathetic, even though I’ve been most ambivalent toward her before this. (I mean, come on, surely her parents know the truth and are just going along with this for some reason, possibly because they, too, have been talking to that super professional doctor. Surely they know.)
That night, Mary Lee remembers to go into Madrigal’s room and use Madrigal’s things, and says good-night to her parents as Madrigal, but also says that they are staring at the remnants of their family the way you stare at a person who lost a limb. Because that’s super cool, to stare and turn someone into a thing. Fuck off with that, Mary Lee.
Her parents choose to cremate Madrigal, and Mary Lee throws a fit over it. Father dramatically says that some things must be … finished, and Mary Lee thinks in that pause he actually wants to say destroyed. Jesus, this is so fucking cold and dark and twisted. [Dove: I prefer the concept of cremation. Over here, at least, you require two doctors to certify death before it takes place. For burial, only one. Plus, you take up less space in the ground. It’s both economic and reassuring.] [Wing: Oh, I love cremation. I want to be cremated. But the way their parents handle it is creepy.]
Mary Lee swears she can feel the hours of Madrigal burning in the furnace, the waves of heat and terror. Damn, Mary Lee, that is again super dark and terrifying.
The memorial is packed with teens, but Mary Lee thinks few, if any, are actually there for Mary Lee. Most come to get out of school or because they are morbidly curious about death, and many come to be there for Madrigal, but Mary Lee’s only friend had always been Madrigal, so why would anyone have actually come for her?
None of the teenagers go through the receiving line, which is a horrible tradition anyway, and one I wish I could have skipped at my mother’s funeral. Mary Lee hides behind Madrigal’s sunglasses and struggles not to burst into tears all over again. She wishes someone would tell her how sorry they are about Mary Lee’s death, about how much she meant to just someone. But almost no one even talks about the dead twin, which is also really fucking cold. Instead they all tell Mary Lee-as-Madrigal to be brave, and ask what they can do to help her parents. Even though there is nothing that can actually be done.
Jon Pear does not come up and introduce himself. Mary Lee finds this strange, because surely he would come to his girlfriend’s sister’s funeral. But maybe he already knows the truth, he came through the line and saw her, immediately knew exactly who she really is.
She sees Scarlett and Van in the distance, but they don’t come talk to her.
As Mary Lee wears Madrigal’s clothes and uses Madrigal’s things, she thinks that it is both the ultimate trespass, taking someone else’s life, and at the same time, the ultimate identical twin-ness.
Her parents eventually decide it is time for her to go back to school. Mary Lee calmly agrees to do so, because she’s decided that if her own parents can’t tell which twin has survived, no one else will be able to do so either.
Mary Lee wears “romantic mourning” to school: white shirt with a lacy front, ankle-length black skirt, hot pink jacket over the shirt. Apparently, Madrigal on her own was brilliant and loud, and had secretly replaced her entire wardrobe while Mary Lee was away at school.
Mary Lee mourns all over again, and has a brief moment of anger that Madrigal was able to set her aside as easily as she set aside her old clothes. She pushes that thought away, and instead focuses on the fact that she must not be the echo now, because there is no one left to speak first. She can no longer imitate, because there is no example to follow. She must be Madrigal, and she must lead.
The high school is huge and engulfs her. There’s been no thought about how the fuck she is going to find her way around, or use Madrigal’s locker, or any of the practical details. Wonder how she’s going to pull that shit off. [Dove: Isn’t this the same school they both used to go to before ML got shipped off, or did I misread this?] [Wing: It is, but that doesn’t mean she knows Madrigal’s schedule this year, or where her locker is this year, or the code to it this year, or even where all the classes are, though I do keep forgetting they took the same classes each year, so probably she would have a good idea of at least where the classrooms are located.]
She only thinks about how Jon Pear will expect her to know everything about them, and she actually knows nothing. Because of course the boyfriend is the important part, and not, oh, a school full of people and teachers and paths and classrooms and all sorts of tiny little details she’s already supposed to know.
She comes up with a plan, that if she makes mistakes, she will cry and say that death and mourning has confused her. Which is, I guess, not a terrible excuse, but I can’t imagine that working for long. Or maybe I’m just cold.
The principal immediate comes out to greet her, to tell her about the Remembrance Service they had at the school. That pleases her, and she wonders what people said about Mary Lee. He goes on to tell her that the next day they had a Moment of Silence. That seems weird, to have them on two separate days. She’s upset about this part, because it is only a moment. That is pretty standard, though, Mary Lee. [Dove: Also, the world thinks Mary Lee died, not Madrigal, so having any kind of acknowledgement of the death of a student’s relative is pretty much above and beyond anyway.] [Wing: Well, Mary Lee was a student until this year, so there’s that angle to it, too.]
Mary Lee smarts off to him, and he seems to expect that of Madrigal. She demands he walk her to class, and he does that as well. I do not buy this one fucking bit. As they walk, she sees Van in the distance, and wants to throw herself at him. When he sees her, though, his posture is hostile: feet spread, hands out, like a deputy in an old western, ready for a duel.
I am seriously looking forward to learning more about Madrigal. Clearly some shit has been going on back at home.
Mary Lee’s first class as Madrigal is French. She has no idea how good Madrigal was at French (or where she sat), but seems to have at least some knowledge for herself, of course. I guess she kept taking that class at boarding school.
The other students tell her how sorry they are that she had to see it happen, how glad they are that she is back, that she is okay. She’s upset because they do not say anything about being sorry that her sister is not okay. Mary Lee expects a lot of people, considering how little she gives them.
At the end of class, she sees a boy watching her, a boy with golden flecks in his eyes, flushed cheeks, a fast breath. He is both handsome and not, roughly crude, a mix that makes her dizzy. She thinks she has it all now, but she cannot bring herself to say anything to him. His smile breaks like “thin ice over black water. Like danger.” Mary Lee would have fallen in love with someone gentle, like Van, but Jon Pear is not gentle and romantic. He is fierce, and their eyes are locked as if in combat.
She’s afraid of him, and tries to ignore him, but he winks at her, slow and insolent, and, she thinks, both sickeningly violent and completely sexy. Welp, this is one of those Good Girl Bad Boy things, except the Good Girl stole her sister’s life, so … I guess we’ll see where this goes.
After the bell rings, he comes up to her and touches her cheek with his fingertips. He asks if she missed their little gifts to each other. She frantically tries to figure out what gifts those would be, then gives up and tells him she missed everything, which makes him laugh, and kiss her forehead.
She tells him, Jon Pear, to walk her to her class, and his eyes are like tiger’s when he asks her if she wants to do it again, and then, when she says of course, he says, like a spell, that he is Jon Pear. They stand a long moment, staring and touching, and then she walks away from him, because she has to take risks now.
Even as she’s wondering if she should rush back to his side, it turns out she did exactly the right thing. He follows her, begs her, says he needs her, that he’s sorry he asked for so much so soon. Mary Lee’s not even sure what he asked for, exactly, and she’s filled with jealousy and grief that he and Madrigal had their own secret language.
They walk the hall together, holding hands, and he asks if they should choose again. His voice cracks like ice, like black ice that drivers never see until it’s too late. You’re really driving that metaphor into the ground, Mary Lee. As he speaks to her, she realizes that nothing he says is love, nothing he says is nice, and anything he chooses will be evil.
Madrigal and Jon Pear, Serial Killers would be way more interesting than whatever this story is actually trying to be.
Jon Pear tells him that he is her twin now, and at last she has somebody who truly understands her, a twin of the heart and soul instead of the flesh and the blood. Well that’s certainly not creepy as all hell.
He catches her tears in a vial. Because WTF? In the middle of a crowded hallway? NOTHING WEIRD TO SEE HERE, PEERS. NOTHING AT ALL. [Dove: I always took vials to school, just in case one of my friends cried, so I could steal their tears.]
And then he eats her last tear, because why the fuck not!
Now Mary Lee thinks about how safe boarding school had been, how nice it was to be so many miles away, how kind the girls had been. She can’t believe that Madrigal loved Jon Pear. She’s afraid of him, and obsessed with him already, and all the places he’s touched her. She thinks he is evil, and Madrigal could never have loved him.
She tells him that she has lost her twin and no one can replace her. He doesn’t like to hear that, and his expression is dark and blank and oddly threatening. She sees Scarlett in the distance, and wants to go to her, befriend her, talk and weep and gossip with her. But she gives Jon Pear one more chance, because Madrigal loved him, despite how wrong that seems to her. She waits for him to tell her he’s sorry for her loss. Instead, he laughs, and tells her that she doesn’t miss her sister. He kisses her after, and even though she wants to run away, she also wants to fling herself at him, to kiss him until they both die of exhaustion, like “a fairy tale in which lovers dance themselves to a frenzied end.”
He tells her again that she doesn’t miss her sister, and she was clever in getting rid of her. That everything is going to plan, and he likes that in a woman.
They are the “us” now, the twins, and she doesn’t need her dead sister, she needs him. She can’t breathe, she can’t talk, but finally she forces out that twins have to be born, they cannot be made. In response, he tells her he loves her, and there is no more appealing thought in the world.
Is this a fairy story? Is he spinning a spell around her?
Just as she was a half a person at boarding school, half of her now years to have Jon Pear and half wants to run away, to go back to boarding school, to escape him and his eyes and his vial of her tears. “Half is crippled; half cannot quite make decisions.” All of you is a little ableist shit.
She’s about to tell him that yes, of course they are twins now, but Scarlett comes between them before she can, pretty in a soft and doe-eyed way, moving as if she’s about to run away, a timid, shrinking beauty. Okay, author, we get the point!
She apologizes for not speaking to Madrigal at the funeral, and acts as if she’s afraid to get close to her. Mary Lee realizes that’s it exactly; people are afraid of her. Whoever Madrigal was without Mary Lee, people feared her. She just doesn’t understand how that can be true, when Madrigal is just a seventeen-year-old girl.
Scarlett then becomes the first person to actually say she misses Mary Lee, and how much of a tragedy her death is. She says that even though Madrigal knows what she thinks of her, she’s still sorry for her loss. Mary Lee is shocked that Scarlett thinks so little of Madrigal, but before she can pursue that thought further, Jon Pear says that Mary Lee didn’t matter, and Madrigal didn’t need a second reflection in the mirror. He takes the ribbons and pins out of her hair and then twines it around her throat, because that’s not presumptive and creepy as all fuck.
Scarlett ignores him, and tells Mary Lee that she wants to put flowers on Mary Lee’s grave, but she doesn’t know where it is. Mary Lee loves Scarlett for being the only one to miss her. She admits there is no grave, and her sister is “on the wind now. She is part of the air and the sky.” Scarlett thinks that is beautiful. [Dove: Wait. What? They just shook the cremated remains free? What the actual fuck? Is that legal over there?] [Wing: Yes and no. In some places, it is allowed, but in some places, it is not. What do you guys do with your ashes?]
Van storms up to them, approaching “as if he’d be willing to break wrists to break in.”
Mary Lee realizes that Jon Pear and Madrigal are an Event the same way Madrigal and Mary Lee used to be an Event. She does not want to be lost or forgotten at boarding school anymore, she wants to be an Event, and Jon Pear will make her one.
Van comes out of the circle of people and joins them. When he looks at Mary Lee, he holds his breath for a long time. Are you about to tell me that Van is the only person who recognizes Mary Lee for whom she really is, even though he’s spent approximately 30 seconds alone with her in all their lives? When her parents can’t even tell? This is fucking bullshit.
Mary Lee decides that she doesn’t have to keep all of Madrigal’s life the same. She can instead choose to be friends with Scarlett and Van, who are excellent friends and great siblings. When Mary Lee asks Scarlett to go to the mall with her, Van says that she has other plans and she always will.
Jon Pear sneers that he’s being very brotherly, and then says that of course after that “unfortunate little episode,” Scarlett needs a brother around often. Are we going to have another rape story? I really fucking hope not.
Van steps between Scarlett and Jon Pear and moves her back as if he’s her guard dog. They disappear into the group of students gathered round, and Mary Lee can no longer tell one face from another. She wants to know what happened and why they blame Madrigal, but Jon Pear says that there is no need to discuss Mary Lee again. He is not just saying this to Mary Lee, though, but to the entire school. He says that they have buried her even if she’s not buried beneath the soil, and no one can mention her again.
Why the fuck does he have this much control over the school?
They walk together, alone again, and she asks why he fell in love with her. He says it is because of her name, the song of the murmuring waters. I’m pretty sure that is not actually what “madrigal” means, but okay, whatever, perhaps I am asking for too much now.
Mary Lee can’t shake Van from her thoughts, and she doesn’t understand why she’s putting so much value on the short time they spent together months ago, but she does. She tries to convince herself that she can be Jon Pear’s song of the murmuring waters, but she still can’t stop thinking about Van.
Jon Pear then goes on to say that he also fell in love with her because she is the twin he always needed. She, again, says that she is not his twin, but again he laughs at her, from good to evil and back. He tells her that they are twins of the soul, and she is drawn to him and can’t tear herself away.
I am rolling my eyes so damn hard. Throughout the entire book, really, but especially right now. [Dove: This is exactly who I thought Jethro from The Stranger was. This explains so hard why I enjoyed this book: context!]
Jon Pear walks her to her car at the end of the day, which seemed like it was super short. No mention of how she got to classes or into her locker. I’m going to assume it was all Jon Pear and move on. She’s still drawn to him, his beauty, his ugliness, his evil. Yeah, yeah, you’re so awesome, Jon Pear. The Bad Boy all the Good Girls love. *headdesk* *shot* *headdesk*
She wants to know everything about him, and begs him to tell her again, even though he says that she already knows everything, and he didn’t leave anything out. When she starts to dance to the music on the radio, she remembers that Madrigal will never dance again, and wants to be alone to mourn for her, but she can’t manage any tears, because she can’t stop thinking about Jon Pear.
She tells him she can’t even cry for her sister, and he reminds her that he has her tear. She wants to know what he will do with it, and he says he likes this game, and he’s glad she came up with a new one, because they’ve played the old ones enough.
Seriously, if we don’t get Serial Killer Madrigal and Jon Pear, I am going to be pissed.
The house is quiet and isolated when she gets home, much darker and more dangerous and more sinister than she remembers. She misses boarding school and the chaos of living there, even though she hated it before. She tries to picture Madrigal and Jon Pear being boyfriend and girlfriend, doing normal things together, but can’t really manage it.
She tries to open the door with Madrigal’s key, but it does not work at first. Eventually, though, she manages to open the door, so that really had zero point and is just padding this already dragged out word count. Seriously, very little has happened, and what does happen, we are mostly told about after the fact and not shown, and I am really, really bored. Just give me some more about what Madrigal’s been up to and stop teasing it.
She can’t stop thinking about Jon Pear no matter what else she is doing, and she does think that it is like being twins again, that he has taken Madrigal’s place in her heart.
Mary Lee looks around Madrigal’s room, looking for some sort of love note from Jon Pear. She doesn’t find anything, though she does find the same three novels that she bought while she was away at school, because their twin link often extended to shopping. I am getting really tired of all this Twin Magic, which is not nearly as fun here as it is when various WWE twins use it. (My favourite are the Usos, but Dove would argue for the Bella twins.) [Dove: True. And Nikki is the best Bella twin.]
Mary Lee remembers one time when they had magically bought the same green barrette and started parting their hair on the opposite side without talking about it. While Mary Lee was charmed by their similarity even on their own, Madrigal threw a fucking tantrum, because she wants to be just one person, she doesn’t want to share her decisions with Mary Lee, she doesn’t want to be a twin.
Gee, I wonder if their parents sent Mary Lee away to save her life….
Turns out, the school did not ship Mary Lee’s things back, because it is too hard on her parents, so instead they are going to get rid of them. Mary Lee thinks they are going to throw it away like trash, but I’m betting they’re donating them somewhere to do some good.
Mary Lee wants to run and tell her parents the truth, but when she goes downstairs, she hears them talking about how they don’t miss her, but it hurts so much, and if they had to lose a daughter, it’s better it was that one. Their mother wants to know what they’re doing now, and whether they’re making a mistake, and their father says that having twins was the mistake. Well damn, parents. DAMN.
Mary Lee runs back upstairs and stares at herself in the mirror. She thinks she can hear it talk to her, about how there are two of them, and she doesn’t want to be somebody’s double, she doesn’t want to be interchangeable parts. UMM. That is exactly what you’ve wanted throughout this entire damn book.
The news of Madrigal’s return spreads quickly throughout the school, and it is suddenly filled with apprehension. Mary Lee, however, only has thoughts for Jon Pear. She has a bad night’s sleep, but it convinces her that even though she’s afraid, she’s being ridiculous to call him evil.
She looks for him in class the next day, but he’s not there. Instead, she ends up sitting near Van in European history, and she tells him how nice it was of Scarlett to say she was sorry about Madrigal. Which is, of course, a slip, and she has to cover quickly by saying that she keeps forgetting who she is and that she’s lost half of herself. Van tells her that’s sick; she argues that it is just being twins.
I am torn on this, because losing one of my siblings would be like missing a piece of myself, but also, none of us are as creepily co dependent as Mary Lee was toward Madrigal. So overall, I don’t necessarily think it is sick that she’s having problems, but their whole relationship seems to have been twisted and dangerous.
Mary Lee is struck by sadness and weeps, but has no tears, because Jon Pear has taken them from her. She’s weirded out that she can’t cry now, and wonders if he now owns her because of it. She then tells herself it is a pitiful, absurd train of thought, which is a pretty good description of Mary Lee throughout this story so far. She convinces herself that him collecting tears is just a weird quirk like being a glue freak or a deadhead. I am dying over the deadhead being tossed in there. I just laughed until I nearly choked.
She also convinces herself that Madrigal loved him, so he must be lovable.
Van lifts his hand, and Mary Lee, misunderstanding, grabs it. He jerks it away, though, and makes her think he is disgusted to be touched by her. She tells herself to get a grip and stop having creepy ideas about people, which is a pretty spot on observation and rather great of her to realize.
She tries to say nice things about Scarlett, but Van is having nothing of it. He tells her that he doesn’t know what she’s up to, but he’ll never let her near his sister again. As if his sister can’t make decisions for herself. (Though I can’t mock this too much, because I am just as protective of my siblings. You hurt them, they tend to forgive you. You hurt them, I hold a grudge for life.)
The teacher assigns them to work together on the oral presentations they’re giving next month (but only if Mary Lee feels up to it). She does, but she’s confused by Van’s reaction, and wonders if he has a crush on Madrigal, if he’s jealous of Jon Pear and that’s why he won’t let Scarlett be friends with her. AGAIN, as if his sister doesn’t get to make her own decisions about her friends, but also, yes, that sounds exactly like the explanation that makes sense. Except the opposite of that. Oh, Mary Lee, I think you are being willfully obtuse now.
AND THEN SHE DECIDES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HIS CRUSH ON MADRIGAL BECAUSE JON PEAR IS SCARY AND NOT HER TYPE AND SHE WANTS TO BE FRIENDS WITH EASY PEOPLE LIKE SCARLETT AND VAN.
Oh my god, Mary Lee, you really are as terrible as Madrigal was in your own way, aren’t you?
She wraps her fingers around the edge of her desk and says that she would love to work with Van. The class stares at her, and Van slams their desks together. Just in time, she realizes he is trying to smash her fingers. Considering how little we know about what Madrigal has actually done, that seems a little over the top. If you’d give us some sort of real information rather than fancy, Cooney, maybe we could care more.
Van tells her that she hates him for that day he spent with Mary Lee, and because everyone else came into the world whole, but she was split, a division. And now she has what she wants, her sweet sister dead, and she should stay with her new twin, Jon Pear, who is exactly her type.
MARY LEE DECIDES THAT VAN HAS GOTTEN INTO DRUGS SINCE SHE LAST SAW HIM.
OH MY GOD COME ON, MARY LEE.
Van then tells the teacher they can’t agree on a topic and asks to be reassigned. The teacher agrees, but nobody volunteers to work with Mary Lee, which is kind of a shitty spot for the teacher to put her in, really. Mary Lee realizes that, as much as she wanted Madrigal’s life for her own, Madrigal actually has no friends, only enemies. Mary Lee doesn’t know what she’s done.
I…don’t remember you actually doing anything, Mary Lee, which is a huge part of the problem.
Van follows her the rest of the day, watching her from afar in a really fucking creepy way. So far, at least, it’s not presented as romantic, except in so far as that she already has a crush on him. Oh, and the fact that even while he stares at her, she thinks about how cute he is. Mary Lee! He tried to smash your fingers! He’s angrily stalking you! Maybe you should not be interested him.
Cooney’s whimsical writing is really wearing thin. She’s giving us no real answers, each chapter takes forever, and instead of actual concrete things, she gives us paragraphs of this:
Pizza day, so she chose extra cheese. She loved pizza, especially the way you dragged the strings of mozzarella through the air, and whipped them around your finger and ate them off your finger, laughing. She took two milks, because pizza induced thirst. She took a green Jell-O, because it had a castle turret of real whipped cream. She emerged from the kitchen tray-filling line and into the cafeteria.
Just tell a damn story, Cooney!
Mary Lee has a few moments of freaking out about having nowhere to sit that she belongs, and then takes herself over to sit next to Scarlett, who is completely astonished. Not really surprising, considering the (tiny bit of) information we have. After a minute of weird silence, Scarlett introduces her to Emily Sherwood, who doesn’t smile at her, but only asks for her last name, because everyone talks about her all day (comforting), but no one uses her last name. Scarlett points out she doesn’t need one, because really, how many Madrigals could she possibly know? But Emily sang in Madrigal choirs for years, and of course knows that the name means a renaissance song.
No one eats, they just watch her, and wait. Very creepy and disconcerting.
Mary Lee is desperate for explanations (which is a much more appropriate way to say it that she’s “crazy” for explanations, which is, of course, what Cooney uses) Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 5000 (+1000), and actually asks them if they’ve noticed how everybody is hesitant and on edge. I have to give it to her, that’s a pretty brave thing to say, considering everyone keeps staring at her.
Van joins them before they can answer, and he dumps her out of her chair and shouts at her to get away from his sister. Dear god, I seriously hope he’s not supposed to continue to be a romantic lead in this book, because fuck. Protective of his sister or not, this is turning into some real shit.
Mary Lee whispers that she thought they were friends, and Van open mocks her for that while everyone stares at them. Finally, she asks him what he wants, and he flat out tells her that he wants thee ski accident to happen to the right person.
She, of course, has a quick thought that her parents think it happened to the right person. This is all such a terrible, painful mess, and I am once again feeling sorry for Mary Lee. Kudos on that at least, Cooney. I may think the story is dragging and your whimsy overdone here, but you are creating a sympathetic character, at least most of the time.
Scarlett comes to Mary Lee’s rescue, and tells her brother to hush, because Madrigal’s just lost her sister. Van doubles down, though, and says they shipped Mary Lee away to protect her from Madrigal, to keep her safe and sane (fuck off with that noise, Van), but no, the ski accident took the wrong sister. Scarlett begs him not to make a scene, but it’s way too fucking late for that.
This is not a thought Mary Lee has had before, and it takes root in her head. Maybe there was something so wrong with Madrigal that they had to ship Mary Lee all the way across the country to keep her safe. And if that is true, why did Madrigal change her mind and come visit the boarding school? She didn’t have their parents’ permission, she arranged it all herself. At the time, Mary Lee thought it was a nice sister thing to do, to defy the people keeping them apart, but now … what if Madrigal actually hated her and that is why she came.
She remembers Jon Pear saying that Madrigal had pulled it off, had destroyed the sister as planned.
That is a terrifying thought.
Immediately, Mary Lee squashes it, and tells herself that she won’t let other people poison her against Madrigal, who was perfect. [Dove: “Elizabeth could never stay mad at her sister for long…” — every Sweet Valley book ever.] Jesus, Mary Lee, you don’t have to believe what they’re saying, but your sister was quite clearly not perfect even if you just take into account the things she did to you! This is really an abusive relationship, and my heart aches for Mary Lee.
Instead, she decides to write off Van, because only a terrible person could say such a terrible thing. And then Jon Pear turns up, and he and Van are staring at each other “like pit bulls eager to rip off each other’s flesh.” Again, so much wrong there. Pit bulls are not inherently violent dogs, and this is perpetrating terrible violence put on them. And also, let the boys fight it out, at least then something would be happening.
Jon Pear is smiling, though, and says that scenes are Scarlett’s specialty. JESUS CHRIST, STOP OBLIQUELY REFERRING TO WHATEVER HAPPENED AND JUST FUCKING GIVE US SOME ANSWERS.
Mary Lee doesn’t want anyone to start anything, so she tells them they should just sit down together and eat pizza and be friends. Because that’s likely to happen in this atmosphere even if she doesn’t know what else has happened. COME ON, MARY LEE.
Van mocks her for that, too, saying she would never have friends. She argues that everybody in French told her how sorry they were, and he points out that everybody in French is afraid of her. She knows that much, at least, and can no longer convince herself that Madrigal had friends, because it’s clear that she had no friends, and therefore now Mary Lee has no friends. She can’t handle that, because friends are everything.
Jon Pear tells her that she has him, her twin, and they can go work on her next gift. Van shouts that they won’t let them, everyone knows what kind of things they do, there aren’t any victims left, and they can’t get away with it again. JUST GIVE US A FUCKING ANSWER ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE BEEN DOING, GODDAMNIT COONEY.
Mary Lee desperately claims that she’s really Mary Lee, not Madrigal. I’m sure you are shocked that no one believes her, because there’s no way she could be sweet Mary Lee, and she needs to take her sick boyfriend and go.
And so Mary Lee goes with Jon Pear, because at least he cares about her, at least he’s a friend, and friends are everything.
I cannot take this whiplash any longer. First she’s one thing, then she’s another. First she’s accepted something, then she hasn’t. Just settle on SOMETHING, Cooney. The way you’re telling this story isn’t entertaining!
Mary Lee needs answers from Jon Pear, and says that since she’s not used to being single after being a twin, she’s trying to understand who Madrigal was before the accident. Jon Pear easily says that she means who Madrigal is, and it would have been fun if Van and Scarlett believed she was Mary Lee, but they didn’t, and so she doesn’t have to pretend not to be evil, because she is evil. Not pure evil, he adds, not like him, but she always surrenders to him because being bad is more fun.
Mary Lee refuses to believe him, because surely she would have known if she had a sister who was good at being bad. But she can’t actually convince herself of that, and surrenders to the idea that Madrigal was good at bad. She’s just not sure if she, Mary Lee, will also surrender to it.
She half-heartedly asks about Scarlett and the others, but he brushes them off because they’ve already worked them over. He tells her it is her turn to choose; he saved her turn while she was offing Mary Lee.
She tells him she can’t choose, it’s only her second day back and her heart hurts still. She needs to be away from the pressure. He scoffs, because she loves pressure. She realizes that she needs to be careful, or she’ll end up being his next victim. He’s dangerous. But she can’t really become Madrigal, either, because Madrigal is also dangerous. What a nice little rock and a hard place you’ve created for yourself by not telling the truth.
She asks why he took her tear, and he says he loves to scare people. She was scared even though she knew what he was doing. Which isn’t actually an answer, but is super creepy. He then shouts at her for using her dead sister as an excuse, because she has a limited capacity for love, and as soon as she began loving him, she could no longer love her sister.
She calls him whiplash, and he loves it, holds her, and again tells her to choose. She decides that if she knew the rules to the game, she could play, and she could end it. She will play the game and stop it as she sees the mystery unravel. And then she’ll be the hero of the school and win people’s friendship and I see no way this could possibly go wrong. Not a single way.
She tells him to choose, because she’s too tired. He laughs and agrees to cruise the town and pick somebody up. They’ll have to look outside the school because Van will have warned everyone, but there are two private schools, another public school, and an arty school. So there will be plenty of choices.
Mary Lee feels tough and competent, and thinks that if she survived all by herself at boarding school, she can handle anything. Except you weren’t so much surviving as slowly dying at boarding school and couldn’t even manage to stay yourself while there, so I don’t think this bodes well for you rescuing whoever he chooses.
Jon Pear chooses a kid who is watching the marching band practice. (Yay, marching band!) She realizes that surrendering to bad doesn’t require her to actually do anything bad, but only to go along with it. This is a really deep, smart point, and I’m sad that is buried so far down into this whimsical writing, because it’s still a good lesson today, AMERICA.
She asks what he will do, and he corrects her: It’s what they will do together.
The student they’ve chosen is a girl with a gamin face, hazel eyes, and a tipped nose. She dances as she moves, giggles, flirts. Oh dear, this is not going to go well at all. Jon Pear is, of course, at his most handsome, so that he gleams like a trophy before her, is completely chivalrous and wonderful. Again, wonderful, creepy point, buried beneath all the whimsy and crap that has come before this point where the story seems to finally be taking off.
Jon Pear convinces the girl to join them in the car because they’re going to a party in the city. She says she’d never go alone because it is dangerous, but going with friends is fine. Oh, god, these are suburban kids, aren’t they, afraid of the locals in the city. Fuck. She’s Katy, and she’s super friendly and chatty.
Mary Lee tries to subtly get out of the car at a traffic light, but the handle won’t work and she can’t unlock it. This is creepy as fuck, and if Cooney backs out of making them actually serial killers at this point, my disappointment is going to be intense.
Mary Lee tries to get Katy safe by suggesting she needs to call her parents, but Katy says her parents never care what she’s doing. Ooof, this is not going well. He takes an access road, and Katy points out that they won’t be able to stop at any houses, and is he lost, etc. He says they’re meeting everyone else at the party. Mary Lee wonders if there are other players to the game. She doesn’t want to stop him now, because she needs answers, but she’s afraid she won’t be able to stop him later if she lets things keep going.
Okay, this, I love: It seemed more and more possible that her identical twin had gone on dates not to dance, not to see movies, not to park the car and kiss but to hurt people.
Mary Lee tells Jon Pear to take her back to school so she can get her car, and she’ll take Katy home, but Katy doesn’t want to go home. She never gets to do stuff like she’s doing, and it’s actually very exciting. Jon Pear laughs at Mary Lee and turns the music up. Rap music, “words of rage and hate blended with screaming instruments.” Gee, Cooney, why don’t you shove your biases a little harder into that sentence why don’t you.
Oh, but then it gets much, much worse as Cooney describes the city and how people from the suburbs stay away from the “human debris” and the “packs of [human] animals looking for victims.” Jesus fucking Christ, Cooney. Your racism and classism are fucking showing.
Racism: business as usual: infinity (If you’re lucky enough to see a person of colour in any of these books, they’ll be stereotyped to the hilt.) I’m going straight to infinity for it because this really came out of fucking nowhere and was completely unnecessary.
Jon Pear chooses an exit that freaks Mary Lee and Katy out because it is such a dangerous location. Mary Lee is terrified when she sees the trash-barricaded alleys and the empty buildings and the gang in leather and chains. Oh lord, Cooney, never, ever fucking try to write about a city again. Stick to your whitewashed, Stepford suburbs.
Jon Pear stops around the corner and tells Katy that she’d better move up front to sit with them. She’s too scared to get out of the car, and he teases that what does she think will happen, that they will leave her. Yes, I think that is exactly what is going to happen, because Cooney is simultaneously writing terrible things and also not willing to actually go there with them being serial killers.
Sure enough, Jon Pear closes her door and locks up the second Katy steps out of the car. He puts the car in drive, even, but doesn’t pull away. Katy screams and pounds on the car; Mary Lee is terrified that the screaming will draw the gang’s attention, and also that Madrigal went along with shit like this.
She realizes this was the evil that entertained her twin, evil without vampires (I see what you did there, Cooney), rituals, curses, or violence.
Jon Pear talks about how much he loves panic and the look it has put on Katy’s face.
Mary Lee thinks of all the things she could do — kick him, disable the car, call the police, hit him with a tire iron — but all she does is tell him to let Katy back into the car. he says they never let them back inside, don’t be ridiculous. So this is what Madrigal is doing, more than once, and presumably at least once to Scarlett. She doesn’t understand why no one has called the police, though, why no one has done anything about it. That is a very good fucking question, Mary Lee.
Mary Lee asks what he did to Scarlett, and he reminds her that she chose her. He decides she just wants a bedtime story, to wallow in the details, so he tells her that she was far more scared than Katy is now, and he likes talking about it. She didn’t chase after the car, she just collapsed on the sidewalk, and when the rats came to investigate, they crawled all over her. She didn’t get bitten, but she did “go insane” and they followed her for block after block must watching her. She started seeing rats everywhere and screaming for help.
Katy is throwing herself at the car, and Jon Pear laughs. He loves it when they are so afraid they aren’t human anymore.
Jon Pear says that no one ever tells. He’s not sure why, maybe they are ashamed, victims always think it is their fault, but they never tell, or they lie, or they only tell part of it, or they wait for months.
Van’s mad because Scarlett spent two weeks in a mental ward, getting rid of rat visions. I — fuck. I don’t even have any words for the layers of shit here, so just — fuck. Whatever, infinite trope points, I hate Cooney more than Stine at this moment. Fuck.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: infinity
Mary Lee realizes that evil can love just as deeply as good, because Jon Pear so deeply, truly loves Madrigal. He’s glad that Mary Lee is gone because she used to clutter Madrigal with good, friendly, forgiving thoughts. He kisses her for awhile (and despite everything, she likes it), and then he says he wants to see her afraid, too.
He unlocks the car and opens the door. Nothing happens at first, and then a rat comes and grabs her shoelace. She freaks the fuck out at this. The rat follows her, she panics, and she runs. She’s not sure if she’s running from the rat or from Jon Pear. The rat, at least, continues to follow her.
She runs into a decrepit building, hurts herself on a collapsing step, basically makes all the mistakes that people make in horror movies. Jon Pear backs up toward her, and he’s really bad at it. She hopes he crashes, but even if he did, he’s clearly not going fast enough for that to do much damage to him.
Katy finally comes around the corner. Jon Pear escorts her to the car, and leaves Mary Lee stuck in the stairs until she begs. He breaks her free and then puts her in the backseat. He tells her that she was great, thanks her for her terror, because she knew he would really drive away. Katy cries, he eats her tear, Mary Lee tries to think of good things.
Jon Pear goes all hipster emo kid bullshit with “tears are the soul, tears are pain” and I am left rolling my eyes so hard it hurts. So I guess he’s right. Great.
Mary Lee wonders how much her parents knew before they sent her away, if they ever followed Madrigal. If they did, they are terrible fucking people for not putting a stop to anything, just getting their other daughter out of the way where she’d be safe. Who cares about anything else.
Jon Pear actually gets Katy giggling and talking about what a wild high her terror had been. This is scarier to Mary Lee than anything else, because it is clear that Katy will never ask for help, and if anyone is going to stop Jon Pear, it will have to be Mary Lee.
Back at the high school after dropping Katy at home, Mary Lee tells him that they are done hurting people. Jon Pear laughs at her, and tells her that everyone is jealous of him because he does whatever he wants. Soon they’ll have the whole school doing anything to anybody. Because that’s exactly what’s happening so far, Jon Pear. Oh wait, no, no it’s not.
Mary Lee argues that the school is full of good, brave people, and when Jon Pear tells her to name just one, she says Van, which is a mistake. He is enraged that she likes Van. Jon Pear loves Madrigal, and this is a betrayal. And now he has a target.
Dear god, this book is never going to end. I have been recapping it for days and thousands of words and still no end in sight.
As Jon Pear approaches, Van puts himself in front of Scarlett, and Mary Lee loves that about him. She tells Jon Pear to stop, that it isn’t a game, that they are people, and he is shocked and infuriated by someone finally telling him no. Or, more specifically, by Madrigal finally telling him no.
Meanwhile, Van says that her pretending to be on their side won’t work, and she feels hot and ashamed.
Jon Pear tells them about how Madrigal and Jon Pear watched a man drowning once. How they watched and waited, and when he was too weak to call out, they waved at him. Scarlett weeps. Van goes pale. Mary Lee’s heart breaks, because her beloved sister did that.
Jon Pear says that he doesn’t do anything he could go to jail for, he just stands and watches and waits.
Mary Lee falls to her knees in shock and pain, because either Madrigal was born the same as him or he taught her to be that way, but no matter what, he was bad, and Madrigal was too.
Mary Lee swears to stop him, he talks about how he knows she killed her sister who was weak and soft and whimpering. She stands and says that she is not Madrigal, she doesn’t know what Madrigal had planned, but nothing happened to Mary Lee, it happened to Madrigal herself. Mary Lee took advantage because she thought Madrigal had a better life, but now she sees it is ugly and barren and cruel and she will stop Jon Pear.
And suddenly, Scarlett starts to believe her, though Jon Pear freaks out, because he would have known, he would have known, wah wah wah.
Mary Lee throws away his talisman of tears and apologizes to Scarlett for hurting her, to everyone for hurting them. They leave Jon Pear standing alone, and Mary Lee joins the others.
Van and Scarlett walk Mary Lee to her car, but her car won’t start and they don’t realize it before they leave. SHOCKINGLY, Jon Pear has a key and has disabled her car. SHOCKINGLY. No one saw that coming. Jon Pear tells her that they will turn Winter Sleigh Day into Winter Slay Day. Oh, the punnery is strong with this one.
Madrigal tried to talk back to him once, too, and he says Mary Lee is braver than her sister, because she keeps trying when Madrigal backed own after that once. He promises to make her into his new twin of evil, just like he did to her sister. Mary Lee says he’s not evil, he’s ordinary, and that is quite a blow for him.
He retaliates by telling her all the ways Madrigal hated her, for looking the same and sounding the same and acting the same, for going to the mall with Scarlett and flirting with Van, for being the kid her parents loved, for sending her messages via her thoughts.
Mary Lee tells him that she and Madrigal always loved Winter Sleigh Day, and she tells him it’s a beautiful, nice day, and he absolutely can’t ruin it with his silly little pranks. That, of course, infuriates him even farther, because Mary Lee pretty much has his number now.
He fixes her car and tells her they’re having a contest, there’s no rules, no fair play, he won’t give warnings, and he will win.
Her parents are waiting up for her when she gets home, obviously worried, but they have no gone in search of her despite their fear. She tells them that she is Mary Lee and not Madrigal and a little bit about why she pretended to be her sister. She does not surprise them, though; they knew from the beginning. They went along with it because they were afraid and they didn’t know what to do.
UMMM. Probably not that. Probably anything but that, really.
They tell her that Madrigal was always a scary little girl, and the only good thing was that she didn’t take it out on Mary Lee. But then she got worse and worse, and so they sent Mary Lee away to keep her safe. Umm, maybe, again, getting her real help would have been a better way to go than basically anything they did.
Mary Lee is furious at her parents for making so many big mistakes, which is totally valid. She learns from their mistakes that the worst thing to do is see something wrong and then just stand there and let it happen. And this is, again, a fantastic point and something people desperate need to remember in our current political environment, but fuck, it is buried so deep in this story I don’t know if people are actually going to make it this far.
At Winter Sleigh Day, Jon Pear talks about letting some of the skaters go through thin ice. The other students surround him holding sharp icicles (weapon of choice, I guess?), and they decide to push him into the water and watch him drown. Everyone votes yes except for Mary Lee, who says it isn’t right and they have to be decent whether Jon Pear is or not.
Van lashes out at her yet again, and he really better not turn into the romantic lead after all this crap. The mob pushes Jon Pear toward the ice, in tears and terrified. At the same time, a little kid, Bryan, leaves the safe course and heads onto thin ice. People try to stop him, but he thinks they are cheering for him. The kid falls under the ice, and Mary Lee shouts for Jon Pear to save him, be he can’t think of anything beyond himself, and the mob of students can only think of him.
Mary Lee goes in after Bryan, despite the cold and pain rescues him, and the teenagers help a little too late and get them out of the water. Jon Pear disappears in the chaos, Katy suggests that maybe he was supernatural, because Katy thinks she’s in a different Cooney book, but Mary Lee knows the truth, he’s just terrible. But how could he disappear without anyone seeing him — and then she sees bright colors in the water, and she worries about whether her friends pushed him in, or if he fell himself and just no one saved him. Either way, your friends all just became as bad as he was, Mary Lee! This is the second Cooney book where the good people ended up doing shitty things, but this time, I think they’re going to stay the good people. WTF, Cooney.
Mary Lee reassures herself that she, at least, voted no, she is a good person, Jon Pear didn’t win with her, she won. She is Mary Lee and she is glad. But Jon Pear really did win, because he wanted to infect the school, and apparently he fucking has. What an ending.
Ridiculous, but would have been kind of fun without all the ableism and racism. Did enjoy how Madrigal and Jon Pear were well on their way to becoming serial killers, even if they did nothing but manufacture events so that people died in front of them (which is not actually doing nothing, but I’m going to let that one go). Do not believe for one second that Madrigal and Jon Pear would have gotten away with what they did for so long without someone telling an adult. Of course, Mary Lee’s parents were actively terrible, much worse than useless, so perhaps all the adults are. Though this had a similar ending (good kids gone bad), it was not nearly as satisfying as Freeze Tag, because Mary Lee actually does nothing, and that is what she thinks makes her still a good kid, except that what Jon Pear did was nothing, and it made him bad. At least Meghan got to do things and be awesome in Freeze Tag!
[Dove: This book was just annoying. Everything was so purple-prosey it made my eyes bleed. Nothing needs to be that flowery all the time. I couldn’t get past the silly whimsy to enjoy it. And I think the story would have been a bit more interesting if the bad things Madrigal and Jon Pear were doing were actively bad, rather than just telling a story where letting bad things happen is just as bad. It’s a wonderful point, but it makes for a really passive story.]
[Wing: I think it would have been less annoying as a passive story if Mary Lee was more active in response, but she spends so much of the book also being passive that everything drags down.]
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1
Racism: business as usual: infinity
I am the evil twin. I'm in a feud with R.L. Stine, who is terribly prolific. Every story needs more werewolves.
This is basically Cooney doing the Good Samaritan parable. AGAIN. Without a supernatural element to act as a metaphor, it really fell flat for me. I suspect Jon Pear was meant to be Jean Pierre – maybe the publishers thought readers couldn’t pronounce it properly?!?
I’m guessing Cooney didn’t quite know what to do when she was given the title “Twins”, as she’d essentially covered that very material in “The Perfume”. Feels like she threw everything at the wall to see what stuck!
And those two girls creeping into Mary Lee’s hospital room like great big fashionable mice? Weird? Where were the editors when that one slipped by?!?
I’m just amazed that the parents knew she was Mary Lee and STILL had all her belongings disposed of. They couldn’t have had them shipped home to wait for her to decide to stop lying?
I hated this book. I read it a year or so ago and it just made me want to tear it into a million pieces and burn it so it couldn’t inflict harm on any more innocent people. Every time I complain about a book, my daughter says “At least it isn’t Twins” or something similar and I then feel grateful for small mercies.
PS Based on some of the things you said in this recap, you probably should stay FAR away from Twisted by RL Stine. I can’t even imagine the BOOM that would happen.
This was the first book I read by Cooney, back in the day. For me it fell to pieces the moment we actually meet Pear. A very weak villain overall, and up until then I was way more interested in Mary Lee’s slow realization that her sister was not the good sibling she was idealized as.
IMO Cooney actually handled the theme of “not doing anything about evil itself helps evil happen” much better in other books. For example, “Burning up”, though that wasn’t a Point Horror book.
I haven’t read Burning Up, but I will add it to the list. I agree that she handled that same theme better in other books; I didn’t realize quite how many times it comes up, though. I may need to do a recap mini-series focused on Cooney and this theme, just to compare how she explores it across books (and genres; I think it shows up again at least somewhat in the Whatever Happened to Janie? series too).
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Evil twins, Wing and Dove, and their friends recap Point Horror and other teen genre fiction.
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