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Recap #175: Sweet Sixteen by Francesca Jeffries

Sweet Sixteen by Francesca Jeffries

Sweet Sixteen by Francesca Jeffries

Title: Sweet Sixteen by Francesca Jeffries

Summary: Leslie can’t wait to turn sixteen. She’s planning a huge birthday Party. Everyone’s invited. Her gorgeous boyfriend, Rick. Her best friend, Deborah. Her cousin, Trish. It’s going to be the biggest bash ever. [Wing: That … that is a list of three people. THREE.]

But out of the blue, weird things start happening. Scary things. She nearly gets knocked down by a runaway car. People start getting hurt. It seems like someone doesn’t want Leslie to make it to sweet sixteen.

But a few little accidents won’t scare Leslie. She is going to have her party. Even if it kills her…

Tagline: Sweet sixteen and never been…killed

Initial Thoughts

Hi guys! How’ve you been? I’ve been great, lots of exciting stuff happening (to any American readers with Arthritis you may see my face advertising your medication very soon [Wing: Well that’s interesting!]), but I’m so happy to be back doing a recap which I hope y’all enjoy!

As a child I really liked this book and really wanted a huge sweet sixteen….I’m going to be honest, while reading this book I kept trying to remember what I did for my sixteenth and I have absolutely no memory of even turning 16. I think I went for a meal with my friends? Or we snuck out and went clubbing? But I did that a lot so it wasn’t a sixteen thing, it was more like a Saturday thing. I remember when I turned 13 I went to the cinemas with a bunch of friends and my mum. In my family, it was more of a celebration to turn eighteen or twenty-one. I definitely remember my twenty-first, I don’t remember my eighteenth.

I may need to see someone…..

Anyway I did enjoy this book, it wasn’t as awesome as I remember but I didn’t hate it (Side eyes Halloween 2) The ableism was annoying as hell but there wasn’t a lot of it and Leslie was a solid character who was easy to empathise with.

[Wing: Aaaah, Sweet Sixteen. Mine was a party, but it was in that weird time where I wasn’t quite out of the church cult yet but I was involved with decidedly non-church-cult-friendly people like Ostrich, so the party was mostly church cult people (surprisingly enough, because church cult didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays, though it had loosened up a bit by then), but then later on there was drinking. Fun times.]

Recap

Prologue time, we open on ‘May 8th, 1993, Saturday Night’. Ooh exciting. Its a hot, humid pre storm evening. We are introduced to 12 year old Leslie Barrows who will be turning 13 in 3 days, Leslie shares her birthday with her beloved Granny Sophie Barrows and they have always celebrated together. Tonight, however, they are having a party just for Granny Sophie as she is turning 80. Its a ‘Strictly grown up affair to honour her Grandmother’. Leslie is running round helping make sure everything is perfect. Leslie goes to see her Granny Sophie who is the uncontested head of the family, she came over from Eastern Europe as a young girl to carve out a new life in America and the family all adore and respect her. Leslie is her Granny’s favourite person and vice versa and they look alike with the same shade of green eyes, same heart shaped face and red hair that falls in waves, even though Granny’s hair is now white. Leslie understands that she and her Granny have a special bond and Granny doesn’t look at anyone the way she looks at Leslie.

I really love this relationship, I was exceptionally close to my Grandma; she was a rare, wonderful person. Grandmas are the best.

Leslie’s aunt May and cousin Trisha, who is the same age as Leslie, arrive; May comments on how much Leslie looks like Granny Sophie and how special it is that they share a birthday [Wing: They are leaning real hard on that whole shared birthday + looking alike thing. Real hard.] Trisha slams a cabinet door shut and whispers that her birthday is just a few weeks away but no one except for Leslie hears her. Leslie tries to talk to Trisha but Trisha ignores her. Leslie doesn’t push it as she never knows how Trisha will react to things but she does wish they were close and were able to hang out as friends as well as cousins.

Trisha tries to talk to her mum about what she wants for her birthday but her mum is too busy getting into the party spirit. Leslie tries to talk to Trisha about Trisha’s birthday plans but they are interrupted by the Shaws, a new family who have moved to the area, they have a daughter, Deborah, who is the same age as Leslie and Trisha. Mum and Dad Shaw leave Deborah with the girls and head into the party. Trisha tells Deborah that just because they are the same age they don’t need to hang out. Ouch, Trisha. [Wing: I was just starting to feel sympathetic toward Trisha, too.]

Deborah gets embarrassed, but Leslie makes nice, just as the girls are getting on they hear an argument coming from the hall, Trisha’s mum and dad are going at it and Trisha’s dad storms into the kitchen and leaves without acknowledging his daughter. Trisha runs into the party and Leslie goes after her but is called over by Granny Sophie. Leslie notices that Granny seems to be agitated and is proved right when Granny Sophie starts talking about how she is nearing the end of her life, but she is at peace with it as her family is her future, she tells Leslie how special she is and says that she wants Leslie to have her emerald ring one day as is it their birthstone. It’s quite poignant.

Suddenly Mrs Krashmer, Granny’s best friend, arrives. Mrs Krashner came over on the same boat as Granny Sophie but dresses and acts like she never set foot on American soil, she wears only black dresses and scarves, only associates with people from the old country and keeps her ‘old world ways’. Leslie can’t understand how they are friends. Mrs Krashner announces she will tell Leslie and Trisha’s futures. Apparently, Mrs Krashner has a reputation for predicting births, deaths, sickness — even the weather. [Wing: One of these things is not like the others.]

Right. I want a book based on the adventure of Sophie and Mrs Krashner, two young teens travelling to America on their own; one embracing change, the other resisting with every fibre of her being, adapting to a new country, getting jobs, getting married, children etc with Mrs. Krashner predicting the crap out of everything, imagine the possibilities.

[Wing: O.O That is a brilliant idea. I want to read it immediately.]

Anyway, Mrs. Krashner makes the girls drink tea so she can study the tea leaves. Whilst looking at their tea leaves, Mrs Krashner suddenly looks frightened and declares there will be ‘Grave trouble before your sixteenth birthdays’; just as Leslie is about to ask what trouble, her mum rushes into the kitchen screaming for an ambulance; Granny Sophie has collapsed. End of prologue.

Well I have to say that was quite well written, the atmosphere was beautifully vivid and that was one of the few times I have read a point horror and actually felt a sense of unease.

We jump to April 1996, Leslie is 15 and one month away from turning 16. Leslie is getting ready but as usual is running late, no matter how hard she tries she is always late. Her parents joke that it’s her only flaw as it appears Leslie is the perfect child, polite, well mannered, gets good grades and is super responsible but she thinks that she is just boring. Leslie laments that last year when she should have been rebelling all she did was hang out with her boyfriend Steve and her best friend Deborah. Oh, Leslie, don’t be so hard on yourself, rebelling is so overrated.

Leslie gets ready and looks at a photo of Granny Sophie taken when she was around the same age as Leslie. They look so alike they could be twins and Leslie styles her hair the same way as Granny Sophie’s in the picture. Leslie thinks about how it’s been three years since her grandmother passed away, she had a stroke at the party and never recovered. That’s so sad. Leslie still really misses her. As she is getting ready she thinks about her new boyfriend the uber-popular jock Rick, she starts daydreaming about marrying him, Ok Leslie lets calm down you’re 15. She’s pulled back into reality when her mum calls her down for breakfast.

Leslie rushes down and is greeted by a sullen, moody Trisha. Leslie isn’t exactly overjoyed to see her cousin and as she starts to eat breakfast Trisha makes a snide comment about her weight. Leslie thinks that she might not be skinny she certainly isn’t overweight, yes, please let’s start with the fat shaming, you know how that thrills me. Leslie, reacting way more maturely than I would, bites her tongue and refuses to engage. It turns out Trisha’s parents finally split up and she is going through a bad time emotionally. Leslie takes a moment to study Trisha. Trisha’s hair is duller than Leslie’s, her eyes are hazel and her nose is short and stubby, not the true Barrows nose, Leslie thinks that they do have some resemblance and she has heard family members discussing them saying Trisha looked like a ‘washed out version of Leslie. A pale imitation’. What the hell? That’s an awful thing to say, did Trisha hear it? No wonder she doesn’t get on with Leslie. Leslie thinks that the divorce has given Trisha a haunted look and she has never looked more beautiful.

I hate this idea of romanticising stress or depression, it plays into this idea that mental health is something desirable to have and by having these mental health issues you are somehow more deep or complex or brooding or soulful, when we really need to recognize mental illness for what it is, it’s hard, ugly and it messes up people’s lives. Anyway, this apparent new beauty has caused the male population to find her suddenly attractive and she is now dating Leslie’s ex boyfriend Steve. WTF? Um girl code? Leslie isn’t too fussed even though Steve was the first boy she ever kissed, looking back she realises it was more of a friendship, Steve wasn’t really romantic and when they ended things it was on good terms.

Still, it’s weird that he’s now dating her cousin.

Leslie asks if Steve is picking Trisha up to take her to school but Trisha is tagging along with Leslie and Rick for the third time. Leslie is annoyed that she must hang out with Trisha who is nowhere near done insulting her but then feels guilty for not wanting to hang out with her, Leslie’s mum has told her that Aunt May just watches tv all day and doesn’t even turn the lights on or make dinner because she is too depressed about the divorce. Mrs Barrows asks Trisha about her mum, Trisha says that her mum is hooked on talk shows but at least she knows they aren’t real, Mrs Barrows doesn’t get it, but this is a dig at Leslie’s best friend Deborah who adores talk shows. I hear you Debs, Ricki Lake was my Jam. Leslie gets the dig and is mad at Trisha.

Since the night of Grandma Sophie’s party Leslie and Deborah started hanging out and getting closer, they talked about clothes, boys, love, movies and everything in between.  Deborah was the first person Leslie called when Steve asked her out, she was the first person Leslie called when she and Steve ended it. Leslie realises that since she started dating Rick she hasn’t seen much of Deborah and because of that Deborah is spending all her time watching talk shows, quoting them in school and taping them in the morning so she didn’t miss anything. Leslie acknowledges that Deborah takes things to the extreme but Trisha doesn’t need to be nasty about it. Leslie reminds herself that Trisha is going through a rough time and needs support. Mrs Barrows asks Trisha to stay at the weekend to help organise Leslie’s Sweet Sixteen party, Trisha politely declines, saying she and Steve have plans all weekend and Leslie is disappointed because when she’s in a good mood, Trisha can be really fun to hang out with, Leslie again wishes she and Trisha could be real friends. I can understand Trisha not wanting to hang out with her so-called perfect cousin and her perfect family when her own home life is going tits up.

Perfect Rick pops his head in the kitchen and Leslie’s heart skips a beat, Rick isn’t her usual type, Leslie goes for dark brooding guys and Rick is Mr All American or, Leslie thinks, maybe she didn’t go for the hot popular jock because she never thought she was good enough, Aw that’s sad. She feels a pull to Rick and he to her. Leslie has already decided she is in love with him. Rick charms everyone in the kitchen-even Trisha cracks a smile, and Leslie thinks everything is perfect, until they get to the car and Rick’s beautiful ex Caroline is sitting in the front seat. Rick apologises to Leslie claiming he had no choice because Caroline is ‘so sensitive, so vulnerable, I really hurt her when I broke up with her. Doing these little favours is the least I can do.’

[Wing: UMM. Rick. No.]

Rick seems to think that Caroline can’t do anything for herself but Leslie has this chick’s number, Caroline wants Rick back and will stop at nothing to get him. Leslie has to endure a car ride of watching her boyfriend be completely fawned over by his stunning ex, Trisha makes a joke about Caroline to Leslie giving Leslie a glimmer of that elusive friendship she desperately wants with her cousin. [Wing: Leslie’s hope for a friendship with Trisha is kind of heartbreaking a lot of the time. I love them, and I want them to be friends, and yet it also makes sense why they both react to things the way they do.]

They get to school and Steve is waiting for Trisha and blames Leslie for her being late before hurrying off. Deborah comes running over, she has short brown hair and wears baggy shirts to ‘hide her flab’ Oh Fuck Off Francesca. Deborah is excited because it’s the first time she has driven to school and she drags Leslie away to see her perfect parking. [Wing: Oh my god, Deborah, you are adorable.] Leslie is distracted trying to see Rick, dammit Leslie give your friend 5 minutes of attention for her achievement. Leslie, it turns out, is very superstitious and she thinks that if she can just get a minute of alone time with Rick her day will go well. Ah I get that, I have days were I’m convinced the stars have aligned to hate me and if I see one Magpie I have to find a second one like a complete Mulder but then I have days where I literally couldn’t give less of a shit about the stars, magpies, ladders, indoor umbrellas like a total Scully. I’m complex, guys.

Instead of being happy for Deborah, Leslie asks if she can see Rick. Deborah, realising she is fighting a losing battle says he is with ‘Snob Central’.

So ‘Snob Central’ is the fake tv show Leslie and Deborah made up, casting the popular kids in embarrassing situations: like the Caroline episode in which she was aboard the Titanic and was so busy blow drying her hair she missed the last lifeboat, but Leslie stopped joining in when Deborah focused on Rick. [Wing: I am utterly delighted by this game of dickery. Everyone’s kind of an asshole inside, in a realistic way, and I think this is a hilarious game for them to play to try to deal with social climbing crap.]

Leslie has always thought Rick was different and making fun of him made her uncomfortable. Leslie tries to convince Deborah that the popular kids are actually nice, but Deborah is having none of it. Leslie starts to herd Deborah towards the group and Debs starts talking about a talk show she taped about Sweet Sixteens but it was called Sour Sixteens, Deborah makes kind of a fuss about the episode causing a few of the popular kids to pay attention; just as Leslie is wishing they had stayed at the car, Deborah tells her how there was another talk show on the other channel about fortune tellers which reminded Deborah of the prediction Leslie and Trish got from Mrs Krashmer. Leslie is surprised, and it takes her a moment to react as she had buried the whole incident deep in her memories because it scared her so much. Leslie tries to signal to Deborah to stop talking but it’s too late, she’s attracted the attention of Donna, a beautiful, popular girl who is also Caroline’s BFF. Donna is immediately intrigued and brings a group of people over with her, Leslie wants the ground to swallow her up. Donna demands to know the story and Deborah, suddenly being the most popular person in the group, can’t help herself from spilling the whole tale, Donna exclaims that ‘Our Ricky’ is dating a doomed woman and Leslie realises her day is ruined.

Leslie spends the whole day trying to track down Rick but she can’t find him anywhere. During her study lesson, she thinks over the day and how she wished Deborah hadn’t said anything about the prediction and how she had to lie and pretend she was fine about the whole thing but was secretly beyond mortified and now thinks all the popular kids think she is a ‘nutcase’ FFS Leslie, stop. Leslie moves on to her ‘second annoyance’ Oh Jeez. Caroline. Leslie remembers Caroline’s previous boyfriend Tommy Terroni, apparently Caroline followed him round like a lost puppy, mooning after him like a ‘crazed’ fan until his family moved away. Crazed? Really? Crazed? Just stop first you’re romanticising depression now this girl is ‘crazed’ no she just a dick stop it Jeffries stop it now. There wasn’t much detail but this doesn’t sound like an obsessed ‘crazed’ (rolling my eyes so hard I actually hurt myself) stalker. It sounds like a girl with an intense crush. Leslie wonders how Caroline would have reacted if Tommy had stayed and dated someone else. Well Leslie I’m guessing the same way she’s acting now, she would try and monopolise his time, flirt outrageously with him and annoy the crap out of his current girlfriend. Asshole behaviour? Yes. Crazed? No sweetheart, no.  As Leslie is pondering the evilness of Caroline she notices Donna and Caroline are passing notes, one of the notes falls to the floor and it’s a picture of a heart with the names Rick and Caroline written in the middle. Bam Bam Baaaaaaam!

Leslie finds a note at her locker from Rick, she can smell his cologne on it so she stands there, in the public corridor smelling it for a while remembering ‘late night embraces and Rick’s soft as a butterfly kisses’…And Caroline is the weird one? The note says that Rick feels terrible he missed her all day and wants to make it up to her by taking her out for dinner. Leslie closes her eyes and allows his scent to envelope her but when she opens them again her ex Steve is watching her from across the hall, he’s talking to Trisha but looking at Leslie over her shoulder. Dude, creepy.

The look reminds Leslie of when they were dating and she would talk to another guy or make plans with friends and Steve would get this possessive, angry look. Dude, super creepy.

Luckily Rick appears in front of her and all her stress and tension melts away. Rick tells her he is going to treat her all evening starting with dinner at Tony’s Pizzeria. Be still my heart. Rick escorts her to his convertible, opening doors and making her laugh. Leslie casually suggests that she has her permit license now and could drive but Rick is too far into his perfect gentleman routine, he does, however, let her pick the music. The evening is lovely they talk, laugh, eat pizza and Rick won’t let Leslie pay for anything. Leslie is having such a good time she doesn’t want to bring up Caroline and her feelings for Rick, even though she knows he would understand. Leslie tells Rick he is too good for her. Noooooooooo! Leslie! Stop!

Ok so throughout the book we get descriptions of how Rick is so considerate and caring and spoils Leslie and treats her like a princess and, maybe, when I was 11 and I first read this book I was swept up in the Prince Charming act but now in my early 30s with over 20 years hindsight? This relationship is super controlling and Rick is subtly making Leslie utterly dependent on himself. [Wing: Exactly my thought. I didn’t read it as a kid, but even baby!Wing did not like people paying for me or driving me around or making all the plans — okay, so baby!Wing and adult!Wing are both control-obsessed people, but still. Rick’s not impressing me.]

Leslie spends the rest of her evening with her family planning her Sweet Sixteen as her big sister Sharon has come home from college specially to help… Are Sweet Sixteens really this big of a deal? Like I could get the sister coming home to go to the party but coming home to help plan it? Doesn’t she have work to do? Essays to write? Exams to study for? Is she not drowning under the weight of work, first time adult responsibility, lectures, the crushing feeling that nothing is ever good enough?? What the hell kind of Mickey Mouse College is this? [Wing: Dying.]

Leslie had a late night because apparently, this party needs all the planning of a Royal Wedding. She gets woken up by a very early phone call and her first thought is that its Rick, the love of her life, who she has been dating for three weeks. Actually, it’s Deborah calling to see if she can catch Leslie before she heads out with Rick since Leslie spends all her time with him now. Oh Deborah. Leslie feels awkward as Deborah used to hang out with her and Steve all the time but her relationship with Rick feels too new and thinks Deborah and Rick will be awkward around each other as they have nothing in common. Well, Leslie maybe they would have things in common if you didn’t keep them separated? I get that the relationship is brand new but I can’t stand it when a girl drops her friends for a guy, Ovaries before Brovaries! [Wing: It is super weird to me that Leslie is against Deborah hanging out with her and Rick when they all hung out when she was dating Steve. Are you sure you don’t want her hanging around, Leslie, or is that something that Rick has told you?]

Deborah wants to see if Leslie will come over to watch the Sweet Sixteen talk show she taped to get ideas for her party, Leslie explains she can’t as Sharon is home from ‘college’ and they are going dress shopping, Leslie then gets super excited telling Deborah all the plans and how she wouldn’t need to see the episode anyway. Deborah is disappointed and asks if they can meet on Sunday instead but Leslie has a paper due. Deborah gets upset saying that she was always welcome to hang when Leslie was dating Steve but feels like Leslie is leaving her out, Leslie tries to soothe the situation but Deborah slams the phone down.

Later on Leslie is at the movies with Rick, the queue is huge and Leslie has found herself on a double date with Donna and her boyfriend Brian, apparently, Rick couldn’t say no when Brian called wanting to hang. Rick really needs to assert his own authority on his friends and exes, he’s turning into the Too Nice Guy, like he’s the guy that in 10 years will be flat broke because he’s lent too much money to friends or paid for them to go on holiday or gave away too many organs. Leslie feels uncomfortable as Donna is Caroline’s best friend and Brian makes her think of those creepy made for TV movie husbands that never believe the wife until its too late, but she doesn’t say anything to Rick.

What an oddly specific description.

Brian sees some of their friends further up in the line and gets the group to join them, again Leslie feels awkward and uncomfortable pushing in front of the line. Leslie seems to spend a lot of time feeling awkward and uncomfortable but never actually talking about it or voicing her opinion. Come on Leslie, speak. Leslie feels even worse when she realises it’s pretty much all the popular kids from school, she’s waiting for someone to bring up the prediction but everyone is pretty cool and chill if somewhat vapid. Leslie tries to imagine Deborah hanging out with them all and thinks it could be ok. Everyone is laughing and joking and Leslie feels like she is finally starting to fit in with the popular group. Rick buys tickets and snacks and Leslie feels comfortable enough with Donna to start talking about her Sweet Sixteen. Donna seems really interested in Leslie and is being so nice that Leslie decides to invite everyone to her party. Yeesh, we’ve all done it. I did it this last night, I’m arranging my birthday night out (Cocktail Bar with a Studio 54 Fashion theme) and I totally went from small intimate gathering to ‘3 glasses of wine in invite everyone’. They better bring presents.

So while Leslie is inviting the world and his wife, Rick comes back with snacks and drinks, Leslie helps him with the drinks and spills soda all over her top. Rick quickly tries to clean it up but she has a huge orange stain on her new white blouse, Donna immediately yells that this is THE PREDICTION!!! No, no Donna this is an accident, a small, non-threatening accident, this is not grave danger. Donna may need a lobotomy. Leslie laughs it off but Donna gets serious and asks if she is worried about it, before Leslie can speak Rick pulls his sweater over her head, Leslie is both grateful and annoyed at Rick once again taking charge. Rick tells everyone that Leslie doesn’t have to be worried as she has him to protect her. Leslie feels really uncomfortable (AGAIN!); Rick is always chauffeuring her around, paying for everything, doing little favours but she isn’t helpless, she’s not Caroline she can fend for herself. Yes Leslie feel these feelings and follow them, out the door. But Leslie still feels good having Rick’s ‘strong arms’ around her, standing there with his friends wearing his sweater, so she doesn’t say anything. Again. As they go into the cinema Leslie hears a strange high pitched laugh and sees a flash of blonde hair. Only one person has a laugh like that, Caroline. Francesca, like Fetch please stop trying to make Caroline happen, she is the reddest of red herrings.

A few days later, Leslie is having lunch at school confused by how she has ended up in this group. Leslie had been saving a table for Rick and his friends, they usually sit outside but due to the rain, they had to move indoors. While Leslie was sitting at the table, Deborah joined her as did Steve and Trisha who didn’t want her to be alone. Oh, Trisha how uncharacteristically kind of you. Of course, at that moment Rick and all his friends descend making for very uncomfortable bedmates. Poor Deborah has somehow been pushed to the end of the table between two football players too scared to lift her head. Donna is talking to Caroline linking two tables, but Leslie is trying to ignore Rick’s beautiful, blonde crazy, ex. Yes, cos it’s always the girls who are crazy exes. Shut up, Leslie. Trisha is sitting next to Leslie but ignoring her. Someone throws a paper aeroplane at Deborah and Caroline exclaims that it’s a love letter. Caroline seems to exclaim or squeal everything, can’t she just, like, talk? Deborah gets embarrassed so Leslie tries to take the attention off her by talking about how tired she is as she stayed up late working on her history paper, Trisha snarks at her but Leslie powers on, she then moves on to talking about the invitations she made with her mum. They are shaped like ice skates with real laces and pompoms, she brought them to school so she could post them on the way home, why not just give them out? [Wing: Good question. Also, why in the world is she being so elaborate with the invitations? Is that — is that something people do for birthday parties?]  She hands around Rick’s invitation for everyone to look at, my god I would have to leave the table, this is so dull! Rick and Leslie sneak off to make out while everyone is distracted by the invitations. Distracted by the invitations…right. When they get back everyone is leaving, Leslie picks up her bag but it feels super light when she checks it the invitations are gone! No! Jesus No! Not the worlds best invitations!!!!! Why God WHYYYYY!?!?

Leslie searches the cafeteria but the invitations are gone, when she gets back to class Caroline tells her not to worry as things disappear all the time just like how one week Caroline had a boyfriend then the next week he was gone, yes but Caroline that’s because you are an insipid, obsessive, vapid, rude little bitch who needs a hobby, Caroline also tells Leslie that she will win Rick back. Does Rick get a say in this? Because he seems pretty happy with Leslie.

Leslie spends the rest of her afternoon getting generic invitations, filling them in and sending them out. Its a boring time-consuming job and throws off her schedule for the week. A few days later she still hasn’t caught up but has to meet Trisha at the mall, she’s not exactly thrilled since Trisha is the world’s snarkiest teenager but their mums made them do it as they both need new skating outfits for the party.

Actually, I’m getting into the party thing, it’s really cute how involved everyone is especially the parents.

Trisha is really late and Leslie is annoyed, finally Trisha arrives but looks awful her hair looks like someone chopped it off with a dull axe. Trisha tries to joke about it but gets upset, Leslie immediately comforts her and asks what happened Trisha tells her that Deborah called to hang out, which shocks Leslie as Trisha and Deborah don’t get along, Trisha says Deborah misses Leslie and she felt sorry for her so agreed to meet up, Deborah got her hair cut then convinced Trisha to get hers done. While Trisha was getting a trim Deborah started jumping around like she had ants in her pants and the stylist was so surprised she cut a huge chunk out of Trisha’s hair, the stylist kept trying to fix it but it just ended up a huge mess. Trisha cries saying Deborah felt so bad she went home and makes Leslie promise not to ask Deborah about it. Leslie looks at Trisha and thinks that she has finally realised she can rely on family and maybe they could be friends. Leslie promises she won’t say anything but changes their shopping schedule to include a hat store. Leslie buys Trisha a green hat to match her top and they set off shopping.

They hit the skating outfit store, while they a browsing Leslie mentions how they have both had bad luck; Leslie with the invitations and Trisha with the haircut. Yeah, Leslie, I think Trisha got the worse end of that deal. Trisha agrees with me. Trisha then says she lost her rose petal earrings which were her lucky charm, Leslie gets a jolt of recognition, was Trisha superstitious too? Did they have this in common? Trisha comments that it all might be part of Mrs Krashmer’s prediction. They spend a while looking at outfits before Leslie finds a lovely blue top and matching skirt. Trisha, however, can’t afford a brand new outfit since the divorce and is looking in the sales and return rack, she doesn’t find anything that would fit her or doesn’t have rips or stains. [Wing: What the hell kind of store is this that is full on selling new items with rips/stains, returns and sales rack or not?] Trisha says she wants to wait to see if her dad has sent any money through before she buys anything. Leslie feels embarrassed buying an expensive outfit for a no expense spared party while Trisha can’t even afford a sales outfit, Leslie wants to pay for an outfit for Trisha but feels it would make the situation worse.

As they leave Trisha says the whole divorce has got her thinking about more important stuff, then drops the bomb she wants to dump Steve. Leslie is shocked, Trisha says that things are ok but she wants more and after seeing how bad her parents’ relationship got she wants more in her relationships. Ok I get that but sweetheart you’re 15 marriage is a loooong time off.

Trisha tells Leslie that Steve feels things so intensely it’s kind of scary and she just wants to have fun. Leslie feels a weight lifting off her shoulders, something had been bothering her all week, how Steve always seemed to be staring at her, always seemed to be hovering close, Steve still had feelings for her. She was just about to tell Trisha this, which given Trisha’s inferiority complex is an awful idea when someone grabs her from behind and twists her arm up and behind her back. Leslie spins round and its Steve! Dude! So not cool! Steve looks flustered and says he needs to speak to Trisha, so why are you grabbing Leslie you asshole? Steve says he really needs to speak to Trisha, and again I ask why are you grabbing Leslie you asshole? Leslie rubs her arm where it hurts and can’t believe Steve grabbed her in such a violent way. Trisha is fairly blasé about the whole thing and acts as if her boyfriend grabs and twists girl’s arms every day. Trisha asks if Leslie is ok to go to the restaurant to check her party reservation without her. Leslie says its fine but she is really shaken up, she does that typical girl reaction of trying to pretend everything is fine so as not to aggravate the volatile ex-boyfriend. You know, that thing almost all girls do to ensure their safety because telling a guy he’s being out of line could lead to you getting hurt even worse. [Wing: Truth.]

Leslie heads off to the restaurant thinking about Steve and how Trisha breaking up with him is probably for the best and maybe Trisha had been thinking about this for a while which would explain her bad mood…I think we can all agree Trisha has been in a bad mood since birth. Leslie does feel bad for Steve getting dumped, again.

When she gets to the restaurant, ‘Flamingo’s’ her reservation has been cancelled and a wedding has been booked in its place. Leslie tries to explain that it was booked by her parents weeks ago but apparently there is a wedding booked instead. [Wing: I’m actually really confused on this, because wouldn’t most weddings have been booked months in advance, if not longer?] Leslie wants to cry and wishes her parents were there with her to sort things out but decides she will just have to book another restaurant and heads home. She took that well. When she gets home there’s an answerphone message from Caroline! Somehow Caroline has got an invitation to the party and her message definitely verges on creepy. Caroline just let it go, your behaviour is very unhealthy. [Wing: “Somehow.]

Leslie is upset, as I would be, this is supposed to be Leslie’s special day she doesn’t want to spend it with Caroline’s nasty, bad energy. Leslie storms to her room and starts reordering her closets, that’s a good tactic for anger actually. I may try it. As she goes through old games, outfits, shoes etc she starts going over everything that has happened and tries to put it down to bad luck but then she thinks about Trisha’s hair and lost lucky earrings and thinks that Mrs. Krashmer’s prediction has come true. Leslie calms herself down, the prediction was ‘grave danger’ what has actually happened has been less grave and more horrible bad luck.

Leslie doesn’t really know what to do with herself and is very confused, she starts to tidy her room and finds Granny’s old album, feeling better already she opens it to the first page but it’s a troubling picture: a black and white of Sophie and Mrs. Krashmer sitting on a bench looking upset while the wind whipped their hair around them as a storm brews, Leslie looks at the date and it’s the same as today! That sounds like an epic picture. Leslie starts to think that this is a sign that bad things will happen. I admit it’s a bit of a coincidence that she happened to find the album and see the photo on the exact same date the picture was taken. Realising she needs to talk to someone Leslie calls…Trisha! I know! It’s so nice to see the cousins finally getting along.

Leslie tells Trisha everything and wants to hear Trisha say she’s blowing things out of proportion but Trisha has also had a horrendous day, what the haircut wasn’t bad enough? Turns out Steve got turned down for a big internship that’s was going to help him get into college, don’t worry Steve I’m sure you can easily get into Sharon’s ‘college’ without any internship. So when Trisha broke the news she wanted to split up he freaked out and dragged her round the mall yelling he will never let her go. Right, so this guy has gotten physical with two girls in one day? Are we going to tell any parents? Talk to a trusted adult? Ignore his behaviour? Right ok we are going to ignore his behaviour. Trisha says that that could also fall under the prediction but Leslie isn’t sure, erm Leslie I think that having an ex-boyfriend scream at you that he will never let you go and drag you round a public place is much more ‘grave’ than missing invitations or a cancelled reservation. The doorbells goes so Leslie says goodbye to Trisha and her non-grave problems (Leslie I’m rolling my eyes so hard at you right now); it’s her dress delivery, but Leslie is confused as she is supposed to be picking it up in a few days, the delivery man literally couldn’t care less and leaves the dress. Leslie opens the box but her beautiful velvet dress has been ripped to shreds.

The next morning Leslie wakes up in a bad mood. Her dress is hanging on her door looking awful, she will have to return it and say it got damaged during delivery. Wait a minute, how have her parents not gotten involved yet? Why is a 15-year-old dealing with all of this? The restaurant booking and the ripped dress? I would definitely have told my mum and got her help!

Leslie gets out of bed and steps on the album as she looks through it, she remembers her dream: Granny Sophie was trying to tell her something, a secret she needed to know. A very important secret…the phone rings and the memory is lost. Rick is on the phone and all Leslie’s worries melt away she thanks him for listening to her last night, she called him after she called Trisha to tell her about the dress and minimize her experience with Steve some more. Rick tells Leslie he can’t take her to school this morning but he sounds strained and nervous, he says he has errands to run then whispers that he would do anything for her and he will make it up to her and that ‘this doesn’t mean a thing’ even though they don’t mention her they both know they are talking about Caroline. Rick? Grow a back bone.

Leslie has to rush to get the bus and their goodbye is quite strained. Leslie thinks about taking the bus then calls Deborah, realising that she is basically using Deborah for a lift and it’s unfair she is about to hang up but Deborah answers and would love to give her a lift. Deborah is also picking up Trisha, she mentions the haircut and Trisha dumping Steve, Leslie says she knows and Deborah seems disappointed Trisha already told Leslie. Deborah picks up Trisha who has hidden her hair under a hairband, Leslie and Trisha make a couple jokes and seem to be getting on. Deborah is super excited and declares that they are all single ladies, Leslie points out that she has a boyfriend but Debs counters that he is probably fawning all over Caroline right now, ouch Deborah, harsh. Deborah starts talking about another talk show this one about the rebound guy, she then makes a joke that she should date double dumped Steve. Leslie has a sneaky feeling that she isn’t joking and starts thinking about how Deborah used to act around Steve and maybe she doesn’t just miss Leslie but also misses hanging with Steve, she tries to imagine them together watching talk shows eating snacks together but can’t quite see it. Still thinking about it later on in school Leslie sees Steve, she tries to tell him that’s she’s sorry about his internship but Steve turns all creepy and says he doesn’t mind as he would miss too many things then he just strokes her face. What is it with this guy and touching her? He walks away and Leslie turns around to see Deborah watching from across the hall.

Leslie is drowning, it’s dark and she can’t find her way out, she’s being wrapped in a shroud, a door slams, she’s in a closet, she hits the doors, she can’t breathe…She sits up suddenly gasping, she’s in her own room and her own bed, it was just a nightmare. The unsettling feeling from the nightmare stays with her all day even when Rick surprised her at lunch, she doesn’t tell him about the dream.

Later, during study period, Leslie is still in an unsettled mood but reflects that’s things are getting better, the boutique replaced the dress and Flamingo’s called to say that they called to confirm the wedding but the number they had was for a tow-truck company so her booking was back on. [Wing: WHAT.]

Practically everything was fixed but she was still fixated on the dream and the prediction, she wants to talk to Trisha who is sat next to her but Trisha’s in a (n extremely) rare good mood, humming and doodling. Leslie doesn’t want to upset her considering the whole hair and Steve situation. Behind Leslie, Donna and Caroline are whispering and giggling about her, news of her ripped dress, lost invitations and cancelled restaurant reservation have been circulating which have obviously filled Caroline with glee. Hey Caroline? Karma’s a bitch and so are you. Leslie suddenly feels very alone and adrift, she doesn’t fit in with Rick’s friends but she feels like she is drifting from Deborah, plus she is weirded out thinking about Steve and Deborah dating and considering how strange and possessive Steve has been acting she is not comfortable around him anymore. Leslie misses her easy familiarity with Deborah. Leslie realises that she feels closest to Trisha out of everyone. Don’t worry Leslie, I’m sure Trisha will call you fat again soon and everything will go back to normal.

Leslie remarks how happy Trisha seems, Trisha shows her what she has been drawing, it’s an ice skating outfit a white tuxedo with a pleated skirt, she saw it in a catalogue and her mum is going to buy it for her plus her dad has said she can have a Sweet Sixteen too! [Wing: Okay, that outfit sounds both ridiculous and adorable, and I am charmed by Trisha and Leslie getting closer.] Leslie is genuinely happy for her. Damn, these two really get on and care for each other when Trisha isn’t snarking.

The teacher tells them both off for giggling and when she isn’t looking Caroline drops a heavy book on the floor causing the teacher to tell them off again. Caroline is such a useless paperclip. Trisha whispers to Leslie asking if she can come to her house after school to see the outfit, Leslie says yes then Caroline moans to the teacher that there is too much talking so the teacher yells at Leslie that she will end up in detention if she doesn’t stop talking. Leslie has never been spoken to like that by a teacher in her life. Leslie is understandably upset considering Caroline spent the entire period gossiping about her misfortune. I have to say I honestly hate Caroline, I don’t know how Leslie hasn’t bitch slapped her yet, every time I see her name I roll my eyes so hard I’m pretty sure I visited Narnia. Caroline gets up to sharpen her pens and mouths the word ‘Detention’ at Leslie. Oh Caroline, I truly hope you are the first to die. [Wing: … that’s right, this is a Point Horror, there’s supposed to be some sort of threat of death, isn’t there? Not that it often really happens in the book, but a death fake-out at the very least.]

After school finishes Leslie and Trisha walk to Trisha’s house to see if her outfit has arrived, they bitch about Caroline and Trisha tries to give Leslie advice, Leslie just wishes Rick would ignore Caroline so she will get the message. Trisha remarks that they have a strange relationship and she’s not sure if Caroline is ‘nuts’ (FUCK OFF TRISHA) OR IF Rick enjoys the attention. [Wing: That’s a good point about Rick enjoying the attention, though.] They get to the house and Trisha’s package is there, yay. Trisha is so excited as she opens the package. Leslie has never seen her this happy and given the descriptions of Trisha this must be a sight to behold: Trisha with a smile. Trisha opens the package and just stares at it, Leslie asks to see it but Trisha is frozen in place blocking the package, finally Trisha moves, she drops the package and runs out the room. Leslie goes to the package and opens it, inside is Trisha’s outfit, covered in blood.

Leslie goes to Trisha who is crying in her room, Leslie tells her that it’s not blood but red paint. Trisha thinks she can clean it but ends up making it worse. Leslie tells her it must be a mistake at the warehouse and they will replace it like with her dress…Leslie and Trisha go through everything that has happened and start talking about the prediction.

Trisha thinks that blaming the prediction is an easy out as bad things like divorce and breakups happen every day that’s just life. Leslie disagrees, she thinks that the timing is proof plus the fact that things are getting worse each day first it was lost invitations now it’s cut up and damaged dresses. Leslie decides they have to talk to Mrs. Krashmer, Trisha isn’t convinced but decides to go with her. They find Mrs Krashmer’s address in a trunk of Granny’s things in Leslie’s attic. They get a bus to Medvale as there was no phone number.

They get there and try to find Mrs. Krashmer’s house. Medvale used to be a very wealthy part of town but over the years things have become rundown, the girls are nervous walking around as it starts to get dark, there is broken furniture all over and people in baggy clothes sitting outside their houses. Because we all know baggy clothes mean degenerates. [Wing: Oof, bagging clothing is pretty racially coded here. Damn it, Jeffries.]

They get to Mrs. Krashmer’s house which is super run down, they knock on the door and an old woman comes down the stairs but she isn’t Mrs. Krashmer, apparently, Mrs. K went to live in a nursing home a year ago. The girls set off to the home it’s called Merry Glades but looks super creepy all dark bricks, creeping Ivy and bars on the windows. Those poor pensioners…I will probably end up somewhere like that. Trisha wants to bail but Leslie thinks they should see it through. They ask at reception for Mrs. Krashmer only to be bluntly told she died. Leslie is sympathetic but disappointed, she asks to speak to any friends Mrs. Krashmer might have had but the receptionist refuses and says the inmates, oh I mean ‘residents’ are very disturbed by her death, as the girls ask why an elderly lady wearing some sort of clown make up (What IS this place?) yells that Mrs. K predicted her own death! So wait, Mrs. Krashmer was Granny Barrows oldest and closest friend who the entire family knew and let’s be honest some of them grew up with her as an honorary aunt and what, they just dropped her after Granny died? No one bothered to keep in touch? Give her a call? Send a Christmas card? They just stopped talking to her once GB was dead? Wow, the Barrows are assholes. [Wing: Damn, that family is a bag of dicks.]

Leslie is sitting in school pretending to listen but thinking about the fact that she that she is straight up cursed. Jokes, shes actually splitting hairs over when Mrs. Krashmer died, see ol’ Mrs. K predicted her death at the stroke of midnight April 24th but Leslie is questioning if it was before or after midnight as she seems to think Mrs. Krashner could have died on the 23rd. Wait what math is she using? If it was after midnight on the 24th that would be the 25th right? I thought she was a straight-A student? [Wing: Oooh, this is an interesting question, actually. Would the stroke of midnight on the 24th be the moment the day turns from the 23rd to the 24th or the moment the day turns from the 24th to the 25th? Because I would parse midnight on the 24th as the moment the day turns from the 23rd to the 24th and midnight on the 25th as the moment the day turns from the 24th to the 25th.]

Anyway she feels super sorry for Mrs K who died away from her native home in a creepy care home, Oh Leslie if only there was something you and your family could have done like called her, or visited once in a while or sent a damn Christmas card. Leslie now believes she is truly in grave danger and the prediction is coming true, this chick goes back and forth on this so much Im just gonna say OK Leslie, it’s not like you’ve changed your mind half a dozen times already. Suddenly Mr Corr hand is heavy on her shoulder and he tells her to speak to him after class. Are teachers allowed to grab your shoulder? Caroline is behind her and simpers that while Leslie is in trouble she has got a big fat A on her paper thanks to Rick and she is just off for a ‘date’ with him in the library. By date she means she’s going to stare at him studying from across the room. Caroline please see a therapist for your obsessive behaviour, it’s not cute, you are just a basic, boring bitch who seriously needs a hobby and I am over your presence in this book.

Leslie waits nervously until Mr Corr announces that she cheated on her paper and is getting an F, he says that someone anonymously sent him a copy of her paper from an older student in another town. Like who has the energy? Furthermore, he now thinks she has cheated the whole year and not only will he be informing her parents she is probably going to fail the course. Woah Jackass take a chill! This is a straight A student who has NEVER been in trouble ever and by all accounts is smart, well behaved, talented and somewhat of a model student maybe you need to calm down and think about this wildly out of character act before you call the firing squad. Leslie tries to defend herself until he shows her the other paper, it’s exactly the same as her except for the name, just one name ‘Krashmer’ Bam Bam BAAAAAMMM!!! [Wing: UM. Yeah, this is a fucking overreaction and and he acts like there’s no way a copy of an “older” paper could have been faked.]

Leslie is devastated and scared as she leaves the classroom she’s worried how her parents will react they’ll be so disappointed and might even cancel her party, plus she now knows someone is screwing with her, she bumps into Trisha and tells her what happened, Trisha goes white and says she failed a history test but all her answers had been changed, Leslie looks and sees all the answers had been rubbed out, this is why y’all need to be using pens. Leslie is finally convinced the curse is real…wasn’t she finally convinced like three pages ago? I can’t keep up! Anyway, while Leslie is convinced Trisha has changed her mind and thinks someone just wants to be top of the class and since everyone knows about the prediction they could have easily written the name Krashmer just to mess with Leslie. Leslie wants to tell her parents but Trisha talks her out of it saying everyone will laugh at them. Leslie agrees thinking Rick would dump her over it and decides to keep it to herself.

Later on her parents take the news of her apparent cheating well, she can still have her party she will just have to write a new paper and she can’t go out on a school night anymore. Leslie goes to her room and is about to call Trisha to tell her the good news when the phone rings she picks it up and hears children singing happy birthday from a tape, the tape gets faster with the voices getting higher and higher until they are shrieking down the phone then suddenly the tape gets cut off leaving Leslie listening to silence, DEAD silence.

Leslie calls Trisha and tells her about the call, Leslie tries to convince Trisha that it’s all connected that someone is doing all these things the haircuts, the tests, the invitations, the skating outfit etc its all being done by someone not just a series of random events. Leslie starts to think who it could be at first, she thinks of Deborah feeling shut out of Leslie’s life, jealous of her new closeness with Trisha and harbouring feelings for Steve, then there’s Steve himself caught up with strong feelings for both cousins or it could be someone who hates Leslie and is using the prediction as a cover, someone like Caroline. No guys, she’s too obvious and totally not smart enough to pull any of this off, like I don’t even know how she ties her shoelaces in the morning. Leslie even wonders about Rick, sometimes she has the most curious feeling not quite distrust and not quite doubt. Babe it’s called intuition, trust it.

They hang up and Leslie decides to have an early night she dreams of dancing with Rick but as he spins her she spins into a funeral, it’s her granny’s funeral, suddenly granny sits up and tells Leslie she must be careful, birthday parties can be deadly then Leslie is in the coffin and the door is closing and she can’t breathe. Leslie pushes as hard as she can the coffin pops open and she falls out of bed.

As she is awake early, she gets ready and calls Rick to tell him she is going to walk to school, Rick is annoyed that he can’t control her I mean drive her to school, he asks what’s wrong, I don’t know Jonny Bravo maybe ask your hag of an ex? Leslie says she’s fine she just wants the exercise, they arrange to meet up later for a date. The phone rings again Leslie thinks it’s Rick but hears the talk show music and realises it’s Deborah, Deb asks Leslie is she needs a ride but Leslie explains she wants to walk so Deb gets mad and hangs up. Jesus Deb I know you miss her but getting mad at Leslie at every turn is not going to make her want to hang out with you. Leslie feels like she has been a bit short with both Rick and Deb and feels awful, she’s about to call both to apologise but realises she might actually need this time alone to think so sets off. Good girl, you do you for once!

Leslie thought the walk would help her relax but she was wrong, it’s cold and she can’t stop thinking about the nightmare, the weird things that have happened, the phone call it’s all swirling round her head stressing her out more she even thinks she can hear children screaming happy birthday. Leslie crosses the street when she hears a car engine she turns and a car is speeding towards and Not slowing down, Leslie jumps out the way and misses the car by inches the car crashes into a rubbish bin then reverses up the way it came, spins around and drives away. Leslie just manages to see a flash of red before its gone. Leslie gets up and checks herself out she has a few cuts, a cut up knee and ripped jeans and at first she thinks its just a bad driver who lost control of the wheel (Girl please!) but realises that if it was an accident they would have stopped, they wouldn’t have reversed and sped off.

By the time she gets to school she is shaken and scared, someone calls her name she turns but it’s Steve he says he needs to talk to her, over his shoulder Deborah is waving at her trying to get her attention, Leslie decides that Deborah is trying to get her away from Steve, ok that’s a bit random Les. It’s only then that she notices Steve and Deborah’s cars are parked next to each other and they are both red.

Leslie runs away from Steve and runs all the way home, her mind is whirling with ideas of how to stay safe she will steal Steve’s car keys and search his car for evidence, she will hire a private detective to protect her, she will never leave the house, she’ll transfer to boarding school in Switzerland, no she will go to hide at Sharon’s ‘College’. By the time she gets home she realises that running away is a great fantasy but she needs to do something, her life has been threatened, she thinks she can’t trust anyone until she knows who is doing this. The red cars don’t prove anything except a stunning lack of imagination when it comes to car colours. Leslie wonders if she should go on the date with Rick but then can’t believe she ever suspected him especially when he stood up for her in front of all his friends about the cheating allegations, he defended her and the girl who accused her started crying.

I mean on one hand I’m glad he defended her, on the other hand, berating someone until they cry? These red flags, they are getting stronger boo.

Leslie starts wondering if Rick is so protective why he still hangs out with Caroline who loathes Leslie or is he manipulating Caroline into needing him? Leslie zones out watching bad TV until she falls asleep, when she wakes up she decides to go for a walk, she leaves her parents a note explaining where she is. Why is she leaving the house? Didn’t she nearly just get murdered this morning?

When she gets home it’s almost time for her date with Rick, it’s too late to call and cancel but she is still thinking of cancelling and telling Rick when he gets to her house. Her parents have left a note saying they are at Aunt May’s for the evening and she should call if she needs them. There’s also a bunch of messages from Rick asking where she is and if she is ok. Leslie decides she will answer his questions then send him home, but he pulls up outside the house and through the window she see’s how hot he looks and totally changes her mind. He comes into the kitchen and she melts against his chest. Leslie explains how ill she felt and she’s sorry she didn’t tell him, Rick says everything is ok he checks she can still go out tonight and once she says yes he tells her he has arranged everything, Leslie gets slightly annoyed but when she sees how much effort he has gone to (an overflowing picnic basket, silver candlesticks, portable CD player and a lovely big blanket plus he knows the perfect romantic spot where they can watch the sunset. Damn that sounds good), she totally melts again. To be fair I would too.

Leslie wants to ask if she can drive the car but she knows what the answer will be ‘Rick likes having her eyes on him driving, he likes driving, he likes being responsible for her and taking care of her’ and she doesn’t want to ruin or spoil the night. Scratch that I don’t want to go on this fictional date anymore.

They drive up the mountains, Rick is the perfect driver and Leslie feels totally happy and blissful listening to the romantic music when there is a loud bang and the car stutters to a stop, right on a corner near the edge of the mountain road which has very old frail railing, with a break in the middle of it. Shouldn’t someone have fixed this? This seems needlessly precarious. The engine won’t start; Leslie checks the gas and it’s empty. So why the loud bang? Leslie thinks it’s like one of those movies were the couple run out of gas early so the guy can make moves on his date, but I doubt Mr Tries Too Hard With A Smidge of A Hero Complex would pull a stunt like this, he would prefer to romance a girl into bed (by making her so utterly dependent on himself she no longer has autonomy over her body or decisions). Rick finally realises the problem…I thought he was a ‘perfect’ driver? Rick says he saw a gas station a while back so will go get more gas (It’s so weird to call it gas, its petrol, why is it called gas if it’s a liquid?) [Wing: … that is actually a good question. I know it’s short for gasoline, but I wasn’t sure why Americans went with gasoline as opposed to petroleum, and apparently it comes down to some old trade names and variations and chemistry words being broken into trade names, things like that.] Leslie realises he doesn’t have designs on her and gets freaked out she will be all alone on the mountain roadside. After the days she’s had I totally agree. Rick tells her he won’t be long and heads off and Leslie is left all alone. And then randomly at the end of this chapter Francesca Jeffries has written ‘Grave Danger’. It is utterly pointless and serves no purpose being there. I imagine she thinks the reader has forgotten the prediction (As if we could) and wants to remind us. Thanks Francesca.

Leslie is waiting in the car, the sun has set alarmingly quickly and now it is very dark and cold with a strong breeze. I totally forgot Perfect Rick has a convertible. Leslie thought she would be enjoying watching the sun set with all its glorious colours with the picnic but instead it dropped out of sight way too quick and she just wants to go home. She finds a torch in the glove compartment but it only serves to make the night seem darker. Leslie can hear owls hooting and things howling in the distance freaking her out even more, she decides to pull the hood up so at least she will be warmer and have some protection. The hood will only go partway up no matter how hard she pulls, but at least she has some cover she thinks as she settles into the car. [Wing: Why in the world didn’t Rick suggest that before he left if he’s trying so hard to keep her safe from the rest of the world?]

Leslie turns on the CD player and tries to relax, she reminds herself that no one knows where she is and whoever is behind all the creepy things that have been happening has no idea where she is right now so she is essentially safe. The night gets darker and the torch is pretty useless, even with it she can only see a couple of inches in front of her face. Just as she starts to relax a rock comes flying through the windshield heading straight for her, she ducks into the footwell of the front seat as glass falls all around her. [Wing: Glass from what? Is that supposed to be windshield glass? Because that’s not really how auto safety glass works.]

The CD player gets smashed to bits. Leslie is frozen to the floor, everything has gone quiet, she waits a while then slowly moves backwards towards the car door, suddenly the car starts rocking as if someone is pushing down on the trunk, Leslie wants to look but the half up convertible hood is blocking her view, the rocking continues and Leslie realise they are trying to move the car towards the broken guardrail maybe even over the edge of the cliff! Leslie throws herself into the backseat towards the back doors, she manages to fling the door open and dives out of the car just as the rocking stops she looks at the car and the guardrail and the car hasn’t moved an inch, she looks around for her attacker but they are gone into the darkness, Leslie is frozen by the side of the car when she hears a rustling sound, its Rick, he calls for her and she dives into his arms, Rick makes a joke about leaving her alone more often if this is the reception he gets but Leslie starts babbling about what happened she grabs the torch and shows Rick the shattered windshield, Rick whips out a flashlight to study the car Leslie asks where he got it thinking he might have left her with a crappy flashlight and kept the good one for himself, Ok Leslie he was the one walking down a road in the dark he definitely needed the flashlight more than you, turns out he bought it at the gas station when he got the petrol, Rick thinks it’s a bunch of kids out for a joyride trying to scare her, he’s mad about the cost but is even more upset he left her alone and she was scared and in danger he feels bad for putting her in that position.

Ok I kind of like Rick for having his priorities in order.

Rick sorts everything out and makes sure Leslie is ok then drives her home. Rick gets her home and tells her to eat since she has had an awful shock, he tells her he will call her to check up on her later. You know this is one of the very few, if only times, I don’t mind Rick being Mr Perfect boyfriend his reaction was exactly what it should have been except maybe I would have called the police, kids or not smashing up a car and jumping on it while someone is in is, I’m pretty sure, a criminal offence right? Leslie is glad to be home and flops onto the couch too drained to do anything, she falls asleep on the couch but jerks awake thinking that if she had been in danger earlier then Trisha could be at risk right now, Leslie races to call Trisha and Aunt May answers, shes flustered and panicked Leslie asks to speak to Trisha but Aunt May explains she is in the hospital, someone pushed her down the stairs at the mall.

Leslie’s parents pick her up and take her to see Trisha. The nurse explains that aside from a sprained ankle and being very shaken up she is fine. They go into see her, Trisha is very pale but doesn’t have to stay overnight but she will need to use a crutch for a few days. Trisha says that it could have been a lot worse. Leslie doesn’t want to think about that, she asks Trisha what happened Trisha says it was so busy she didn’t really see who did it but she was at the top of the stairs when she felt two hands shove her back and she toppled over right down the staircase.

Just as Leslie is about to ask if anyone saw who did it (again where are the police!?) when the adults return, Leslie wants Trisha to stay at hers, at first Aunt May says no but Trisha chimes in that she really wants to stay over so in the end, everyone agrees. Once they are alone in Leslie’s room, Leslie tells Trisha what happened on the mountain, Trisha is shocked and thinks Leslie has a worse experience because at least in the mall there were tonnes of people around. Leslie is really scared and wants to tell someone but when she asks Trisha she has already fallen asleep. Leslie finally dozes off but has another creepy dream its Granny’s birthday and everyone is there but Rick is with Caroline, Steve grabs her hissing ‘you and me, you and me’ Deborah is talking to Mrs. K about Oprah (God I would pay money to see that) everyone surrounds her calling her Sophie their faces elongating wide and grotesque, suddenly Granny appears in front of her she tells her its ok its just a warning but then falls to the floor having a stroke in front of Leslie, Leslie tries to help but Granny says that tragedies always strike on birthdays and then dies, Leslie is cold and something is pressing on her, she cant breathe, she screams out! And wakes up, Trsiah is next to her asking if she is ok? Leslie mum runs in as she heard the scream, Leslie explains she had a nightmare but is fine. Once her mum leaves Leslie tells Trisha she cant take any more and wants to cancel her party, Trisha understands but counters that if they tell their parents whats going on and cancel Leslie’s party then theres no way Trisha will be allowed one and she really wants a party, Trisha thinks that the party will be a fresh start for her and she needs it to happen. Trisha tells Leslie that because Leslie has always been supersticious and believed in stuff like this then she will believe the prediction will come true no matter what happens and she needs to stop believing in this stuff or she will convince herself that she is doomed. Leslie understands and agrees to be the party guinea pig, if she survives her party then Trisha can have one. Excellent reason to have a party there Les…

It’s Party Day! Whoooo! Yaaaaasssss! Whoooo! Sweet Sixteen baby!

I’m trying to get into the party mood but I just don’t get why sixteen is such a big deal like all you can do is buy scissors and scratch cards without your mum. [Wing: Well, at the time, in the USA, it was a big deal because DRIVERS LICENSE BABY. At least that’s why I was stoked. CAR = FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOM.]

Leslie wakes up on her birthday; it’s a hot muggy days and the hottest day since May 8th three years ago. The day of Granny’s party. Leslie doesn’t like the sound of that, she doesn’t want to think of that tragic party or have anything in common with it. I get that completely it was such a sad night.

Leslie gets ready, she is thinking about how in the two days since the night of mountain shenanigans and sprained ankles nothing has happened to cause any concern, everything is moving along smoothly and she has finally sort of relaxed, she’s still been having bad dreams but tries to forget them because its her birthday, she’s 16 today! Her mum calls her from downstairs she hurries down and her parents have a gift and Leslie immediately recognises Granny’s beautiful, ornate wooden jewellery box, she opens it and inside it all Granny’s jewellery, her parents explain that Granny willed Leslie all her jewellery to be given to her on her 16th birthday, her parents say its granny’s way of always being close to her. [Wing: That got me in the feels a little.]

Leslie looks at the gorgeous necklaces, bracelets and rings until she finds the one she is hoping is there, the emerald ring. Leslie tries it on, at first she feels strange wearing the ring her grandmother wore almost every day of her life but the ring has a warmness to it and as she wears it she can feel the bond between herself and granny getting stronger, she feels she can draw on this strength to get herself through anything. As thunder rolls outside Leslie finally feels ready for her party. No snark here that was a lovely little chapter, I have a ring of my grandma’s, it’s not expensive and it wasn’t one she wore a lot but it was hers and I love wearing it and feeling close to her.

Leslie skates around the rink hearing snippets of conversation, everything thinks it was a genius idea to have a skating party on the hottest day of the year, the party is a massive success. Deborah is trying hard to be social and even though Caroline is there (Again, Why is she there!?) she has steered clear of Leslie so Les can pretend she didn’t turn up. Rick skates next to her holding her hand and Leslie is just so happy, Rick goes to get a drink so Leslie skates over to her sister Sharon. Hi Sharon hows ‘college’ going? Got a lot of free time at that ‘college’, must be nice right? What are you studying?  Procrastination 101 with an intro to slacking? Well, you are excelling I must say…DAMMIT SHARON TELL THE TRUTH YOU’RE NOT AT COLLEGE ARE YOU? YOUR WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE!!!!

Anyway, Sharon tells Leslie that the party is going great (and she would know); Sharon points out that Leslie got lucky as the rink will be closed from tomorrow for the whole summer for repairs. Leslie thinks that she was lucky to have everything go so well so far. Trisha hobbles over, she is wearing the tuxedo skate suit even though she isn’t skating, Trisha asks Leslie If she is glad she went through with the party, Sharon is immediately suspicious but Leslie lies that it was just pre-party jitters. Rick calls her over to the other side of the rink so she skates over to him, as she crosses the rink she hears Deborah telling Donna’s boyfriend about a Sally Jesse Raphael show about friends getting revenge on ex-friends, Leslie wonders how she could have ever though Deborah was having a good time, from the look on her face talking about the show Deborah is definitely pissed off, Leslie stops skating feeling unsettled all of a sudden, she then hears Caroline telling Donna that she will get Rick back.

‘Rick doesn’t know it yet. But he’s going to come crawling back to me. He doesn’t realise he needs me that’s all. But he will. I swear to you, Donna. He will very soon’ Ah Delusion, thy name is Caroline.

But seriously this chick is just awful she’s so obsessive and is coming across quite unhinged. She desperately needs therapy on her overt jealousy issues and personal boundaries, not to mention considering she is so into Rick she has absolutely no respect for his choices. Obviously, she isn’t the bad guy, shes just way too dumb to pull anything off. I just wish she wasn’t in the book she’s so irritating.

Leslie skates away feeling even worse then hears Rick and Steve arguing about her; they look ready to strangle each other. Rick is telling Steve to stay away from Leslie and Steve is yelling that Rick treats her like a china doll when she is a person. I mean Steve’s got a point. Even though he’s still a douche. Rick storms/skates off and Leslie tries to calm Steve down, girl don’t you remember his nearly dislocating your arm a few weeks ago? Why is he at your party? Steve says that Rick makes him so mad, Leslie says that she knows Steve has been hurt by Leslie and Trisha, but they are interrupted by Aunt May, she says that her and Trisha are heading to the restaurant. Leslie turns back to Steve but he has gone, she notices that everyone is heading towards the exits and the staff is packing up, part one of the party is over and now its time for the best part, the food part. That’s not in the book, I just really love to eat. Leslie tells her parents she is going to get changed and heads to the changing rooms. She looks at her beautiful velvet dress (Velvet? In this heat? Eurgh) and is so excited, she takes off her shoes and just as she is thinking the prediction was a load of bull the lights go out.

Leslie calls out thinking the staff didn’t realise she was still in there; she feels her way to the door but it’s locked. Leslie screams for her parents and starts to panic, she feels like she is one of her nightmares. Leslie pounds on the door screaming for help. There is no response, and she realises everyone has left the building. There is a blast of cold air and she shivers thinking of her nightmare again, her fear and panic are rising all she can think is that the prediction is coming true, she hears a floorboard creak and a tapping noise, Leslie calls out asking who is there but there is no answer, she suddenly thinks of Granny Barrows and how in each dream she has cautioned and warned her. Leslie stops calling out, she realises that whoever the person is in the room with her is the person responsible for everything that has happened in the last few months. Leslie grabs one of her skates, yes, girl arm yourself! She holds the skate higher but can barely see suddenly two hands shove her from behind, Leslie flounders and tries to right herself but is grabbed and thrown into a locker, the door is locked, Leslie twists around banging and kicking the door but it’s locked tight and she is trapped.

Leslie hears the tapping noise and whoever did this leaving the changing room, she is all alone. Leslie thinks she will miss her party and be stuck in the locker all night until the rink staff come back in for work but then remembers they won’t be coming back in tomorrow, the rink is closed for the whole summer no one will be coming to save her she is trapped in a locker with no way out. That is freaking terrifying. Seriously what an awful way to die, trapped in a locker knowing no one will be coming, slowly starving to death. Wow. You know what Jeffries, well done that is one hell of a grim ending. Leslie is getting colder, the muffin man must have messed with the thermostat, again genius when Leslie dies her body will decompose and she will be found sooner because of the smell, keeping it colder will slow down decomp, so there won’t be any decomp scent thus the people coming in to do the repairs won’t realise there is a body there. This Muffin man is a smart cookie, they just didn’t factor in two things.

1. Leslie’s will to live.

and

2. She is still holding her ice skate.

Leslie is feeling dizzy and cold, she can see Granny B beckoning to her as she falls forwards she feels the skate bump the door and realises she can get out, she uses the blade to wedge into the crack in the door she puts all of her weight behind it and shoves, hard, it moves a little but its enough to encourage her and she repeats the action a few more times until the door bursts open.

Leslie falls to the floor panting, she breathes and tries to calm herself. Girl, take all the time you need that was freaking terrifying. As she lies on the fall she thinks about the tapping noise and she knows who the Muffin Man is. [Wing: Yeah, that was a good final clue.] Leslie finds her sneakers, puts them on and gets out through the fire exit, she races down the street to Flamingo’s. as she gets there, the Maitre D’ glares at her for wearing a skating outfit and sneakers, Yo Jackass the look she is wearing is FASHION. Leslie ignores him and walks into the dining area it’s decorated with her birthday banner and presents, for some reason that makes me sad. There is a huge circle of people listening to someone, Leslie can hear someone maybe her mum, crying. Leslie says nothing she is waiting to see if she is right, as the crowd parts slightly Leslie smiles, she was right, the person in the centre is Trisha.

Trisha is crying, yeah crocodile tears, telling everyone what has been happening with the prediction and the things that have happened to both girls. Trisha is saying she wanted to tell everyone but Leslie begged her not to. Trisha says that she saw Leslie being dragged into a car by two men and could be dead by now, Trisha moans this is all her fault. Leslie can’t listen to this crap anymore and steps forward and says it IS Trisha’s fault. YES QUEEN! God, I love a good entrance.

Trisha is shocked so is everyone else. Leslie’s parents run over to her hugging her and sobbing, they tell her how they looked for her and thought she went straight to the restaurant. They ask her about the ‘men’ who took her, Leslie tells them it was Trisha. Aunt May thinks Leslie is lying and tells her she’s ‘overwrought’. Aunt May? Shut up and listen to your niece who has had A Day! Leslie looks at Trisha and says she figured it out because of the tapping, it was Trisha’s crutch, Leslie goes on to lists the things that have happened the tricks, the missing invitations, the night on the mountain ending with nearly being run over. I mean I would add the second or is this the third attempted murder and mention the locker but this is Leslie’s moment. Leslie’s voice finally breaks with emotion as she asks Trisha what we are all wondering, Why?

Trisha stares at Leslie then leaps at her, Steve grabs her, I’m so glad his penchant for grabbing women is coming in useful. Aunt May yells that Trisha doesn’t know what she is doing, Trisha ignores her and screams that Leslie has the perfect life and is the perfect daughter she never has to worry about boys, or school or money. Trisha lets the dam break and it all comes tumbling out about how she had heard Granny B promise Leslie her emerald ring all those years ago, the ring that Trisha herself adored that planted the first seed of resentment. Trisha falls to the floor crying, she tells them she only wanted to scare Leslie so she would cancel her party and maybe refuse the gifts, Trisha tells how she pretended to lose her earrings, how she jumped around when she got her hair cut to make it look bad, she wanted to stop but it wasn’t working so she needed to make things worse then she lost Steve, wait so Steve dumped her? After that she really wanted to hurt Leslie she wanted revenge, she says she’s sorry and Leslie goes to comfort her but Trisha jumps up screaming at Leslie to get away, Aunt May steps in and tries to calm her daughter but Trisha just screams about the divorce and how her mum has no life and screws everything up. Trisha starts smashing up the room while Leslie’s mother holds her, Leslie’s dad rushes to stop Trisha but she picks up a long knife lying next to the cake and hold it out, Mr Barrows stops not sure what to do.

Leslie rushes forward and tells everyone to stay back. Trisha lights the candles on the cake yelling that its Leslie’s sweet sixteen, then she throws the cake at Leslie who thankfully ducks, the cake hits the window and the flames from the candles set the curtains on fire everyone freaks and runs out but Leslie is frozen to the spot, she looks at her ruined birthday and just feels so tired, her mother grabs her and drags her outside, Aunt May has already hustled Trisha out. Leslie watches the restaurant burn and realises the prediction really did come true.

Three months later, Leslie is at the cemetery laying flowers on her Granny’s grave. Leslie thanks her and hopes that somewhere Granny has heard her and understood, as far as Leslie is concerned Granny saved her. As she stands there she thinks about what happened, a week after her birthday she broke up with Rick, she wants to be in an equal relationship, not one were she is treated like a doll incapable of her own thoughts, she wants to be treated like a person not a damsel in distress. That’s not to say she doesn’t miss him she really, really does she misses talking to him, she misses seeing him early in the morning before school she just plain misses everything about him, but she needed to make a choice and the relationship the way it was, wasn’t right for her. Yes, this is good, Leslie you are making good choices here!

Steve and Deborah got together; turns out all the times Steve was being creepy he just wanted to see if she minded if he asked Debs out. Ok, that’s fine but why did you grab and twist her arm like some sort of douche bag? If I was Leslie I would have told Steve to stay away from women full stop. Leslie is happy for them though, really Leslie? Really? You’re physically aggressive ex is dating your BFF and you’re cool with that? I swear this book has no concept of the girl code.

As for Trisha well she is in a secure unit getting the help she so obviously needs. The doctors have told Leslie she can’t visit as she is Trisha’s ‘Stressor’ but apparently Trisha is doing really well with therapy and medication, even better Aunt May got her shit together and been unbelievably strong and supportive visiting every day and telling everyone that Trisha will get through this and will need her friends. Leslie isn’t even angry anymore just sad. As she leaves the cemetery Rick is there with his car he asks Leslie is she needs a left but she declines, he gets out anyway to open the door for her Leslie is frustrated that he hasn’t learned anything until he tells her she can drive she realises he is holding the door open to the driver’s side, he tells her she can drive anywhere she chooses, Leslie smiles. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call growth.

Final Thoughts

This was a decent little story, the ablism was fairly minimal which was new for a Point Horror. Leslie was a solid character and I really liked her growth throughout the book. This is one of the few Point Horrors where there was an actual sense of unease and as the acts against Leslie escalated and became more violent you could feel a strong sense that Leslie could be seriously hurt at some point. The charcters were well written even if I don’t believe for one second Sharon is at ‘College’. The characters were fairly strong and we did get lovely moments such as the relationship between Leslie and her Granny Barrows.

Jeffries did give us male characters that were not great guys which I liked, we were allowed to think these guys were asses because it was written that way, Rick was far too controlling hidden under the guise of being a ‘good guy’ and I’m glad Leslie dumped him after realising that was not the relationship she wanted to have but I was pleasantly surpised that Rick realised this and by the end it looked like he was trying to change his behaviour. I’m choosing to believe he was trying to change his behaviour not just pretending to so he could get Leslie back and go back to his controlling attitude. I like character growth in books.

Steve was just a walking disaster and I wanted him to just go away not end up with Deborah, he was like a shitty consolation prize for Debs. Like because she was quirky and ‘fat’ she should be happy with this obsessive, creepy, physically abusive asshole.

Caroline was just a nightmare an utter nightmare and I have nothing to say about her.

Trisha, oh Trisha. Jeffries did well with this character, I mean she wasn’t above suspicion, but it was a nice twist at the end and the character was able to be sympathetic as well as malicious. There was a real sense of sadness and you totally understood why she felt the way she did. Trisha obviously had some severe mental health issues which were not glossed over or made too overt, early on it was hinted at her having mild depression or anxiety and by the end we understood that she had some fairly serious issues including awful low self esteem and a huge unferiority complex and was very unhappy with with how her life was going and was focusing all her energies on Leslie who she seemed to blame for everything. The relationship between the cousins was very real both in terms of affection, rivalry and jealousy.

This was a solid story and it was both entertaining and sad. I still don’t get the fuss about sixteents though.

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