Recap #245: The Last Graveyard School Recap: #28 – The Spider Beside Her by Tom B. Stone by

1 November 2019
Graveyard School #28: The Spider Beside Her Cover by Mark Nagata

Graveyard School #28: The Spider Beside Her Cover by Mark Nagata

Title: Graveyard School #28 – “The Spider Beside Her,” a.k.a. “The End”

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Summary: Along Came A Spider…

And Sat Down Beside Her…

And They Became Friends?

What has eight legs

And spins webs of silk

And sucks up people

Like they were glasses of milk?

Ask Ari Spinner. She likes spiders. They don’t make her scream. They make her smile. She and the spider are best friends. And there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for a best friend.

Is there?

Initial Thoughts

In all seriousness Wing if you really are able to comment on this recap despite your arachnophobia it really means a lot to me. I was able to add two pictures, one of Ari throwing a spider and another, well…

I swear I’ll make it up to you.

[Wing: If this wasn’t my beloved Graveyard School, and the end of it at that, I doubt I’d even try to make it through this, but since it is, I’m giving it a try. I love this series, and I love Jude’s recaps, and I’m sad to say good-bye to this world.]

So.

Here we are.

The last of the Graveyard School books. I’ve been recapping this series for two years and it’s finally come to an end. No more Park. No more Stacey. No more puke perfect Polly Hannah. No more Dr. Morthouse and Basement Bart. No more recollections about Ms. Stoker or the Skeleton on the Skateboard or the Ghost in the Boys’ Bathroom.

This is the longest I’ve ever been committed to a project that was actually officially posted and didn’t simply percolate inside my head. It’s probably the first I’ve ever finished properly that ran to its end after so long. For the longest time the Graveyard School books have meant a lot to me and I hated how I was the only person who seemed to care about them.

I wanna thank Wing for allowing me this space to discuss them in detail, share my thoughts and ideas on sequels as well as give me the incentive to set up some cool commissions. I also want to thank her for her comments on most of the recaps, which gave me the drive to focus on completing these since they’re always a delight and let me know there was definitely an audience for these books.

I also wanna thank all the artists for the Graveyard School commissions they supplied me with, and before the year ends I want to do a special gallery post featuring all the G.S. artwork I own.

“The Spider Beside Her” is one of the saddest books in the series, and not just because it’s the finale. It’s also one of my favorites and one of the several I keep in a box ready to move in case of a home emergency like a fire.

The cover alone brings a very nostalgic feeling for me, recalling when I located the Fantastic Fiction webpage listing all the titles: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/tom-b-stone/

At the same time it reminds me a lot of this song, “Supporting Me” from “Sonic Adventure 2” during the battle with the Biolizard.

Thacker does an amazing job establishing scenes in this series, and I’m not referring to just the spider-related imagery. The summary has you believe Ari Spinner’s the main character, when she in fact shares the protagonist role with another kid while ALSO being the actual antagonist. It goes in a much different direction than you believe from the blurb, and I refuse to say any further.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t feature many of the Graveyard School cast. Thacker focuses on a core few of the kids, so there are no appearances by the Pikes, the Wolfsons, the Fosters, Tyson, Skate and Vickie, Jeep, Alex, Kyle, Christopher, Kirstin, Jason, Bent, or *sob* Jordie.

With that in mind, it’s time to finally say goodbye.

Recap

It was like a rainbow, but if a rainbow had come in shades of black, gray, and bruise green. Park Addams and Stacey Carter weren’t sure what they were looking at, but John Melvin West, a.k.a. “Mel,” insisted it was art.

Currently art class was in session at Graveyard School, and luckily the art classroom happened to be one of the nicest rooms in the building. Its only drawback was it had a great view of Graveyard Hill, the same graveyard that gave the school its dreaded nickname and put it firmly in the world of the X-Squared Files. Although no one knew for sure if the abandoned cemetery was the true cause of the horrors that plagued the students.

Mel certainly didn’t know, and he didn’t care either. He was an artist so he looked at things from an artist’s perspective.

Art was the only class he liked at Graveyard School, and he had gotten used to looking out the window and not seeing the graveyard at all. He saw only light and shapes and colors: the gray humps of tombstones, the garish flash of wildflowers in the spring, the occasional random movement that disappeared if you looked too closely.

But then again, it was best not to look too closely at anything that appeared near the old graveyard.

So Mel kept a mental distance from the view. He was an artist, not an elementary-school exorcist.

[Wing: Mel just made me laugh out loud. I appreciate Mel.]

Mel was seated at a table with Park, Stacey, Stacey’s bestie Maria Medina, star pitcher Algernon “Algie” Green, and of course Ari Spinner. Just, you know, the main kids, together as usual. Stacey looked at Mel’s artwork, then looked up at the bowl of fruit they were supposed to be drawing, then back at Mel’s rendition of the scene. Mel wasn’t sure he liked the expression in Stacey’s eyes when they were joined by Ms. Beamer. For a Graveyard School teacher, Ms. Beamer was positively normal. Her only quirk were the many jangling bracelets she wore on her arms and the bell earrings adorning her earlobes.

Ms. Beamer complimented Stacey and Park on the color and accuracy of their sketches, and offered similar commentary to Algie and Maria. She stopped when she got to Mel, and asked what she was looking at.

“It’s how the bowl of fruit makes me feel. It’s how I see it inside,” Mel explained. “Plus, I’m practicing drawing with my left hand. I know what I can do with my right hand, since I’m right-handed. But I think as a left-handed artist, I’ll be able to be even more creative.”

Of course puke perfect Polly Hannah snickered when Mel finished talking, but Ms. Beamer ignored her. She studied Mel’s sketch silently, the bracelets and earrings remaining perfectly still and making no noise which was serious business. When she returned the sketch back to Mel, Ms. Beamer spoke to him as a compatriot in the arts.

“The composition is good,” she said. Her voice was not as chirpy and bright as it normally was, but serious. She spoke to Mel as if she was speaking to another adult. “But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the use of black is a statement in and of itself. Many young artists think so… and all New Yorkers, of course. But it isn’t the case.”

“I don’t understand,” Polly whined.

Mel ignored her. “Right,” he said, trying to conceal his pride at being called an artist, even if only by Ms. Beamer. “Thanks.”

Speaking as a New Yorker I can confirm yes we all think black is a statement in and of itself. That out of the way, Thacker’s kind of got art students down perfectly in regards to Mel and I appreciate her showing the different ways teachers can engage with their students over their projects, giving them appropriate critiques based on their respective content.

[Wing: Another laugh out loud moment at the New Yorkers statement. And this is great. Damn it, Thacker, can you relaunch the series? I don’t want this to be it.]

After handing Mel’s work back, Ms. Beamer returned to her normal mode as she inspected the other students. Seeing Ari Spinner’s work wiped the smile off her face, but not in a good way this time. Ari didn’t bother to react to her teacher’s shock, which was normal for her.

Ari was the least affected by the adults in charge. She was a small, thin girl with piercing dark eyes and straight black hair cut sharply along the edge of her equally sharp jaw. Her quick fingers were always moving. But she herself was often motionless, peering at nothing: a blank spot on a wall, a dark corner, a square of windowpane.

Ms. Beamer gently tried to ask Ari about her, um, unique drawing. Ari almost seemed to scowl as she responded by silently holding up her picture for all to gaze upon. Most of the students were equally shocked, except for Polly who was disgusted. Mel, meanwhile, felt both disgusted AND envious. He of course ignored Polly’s response, figuring her artwork was as lifeless and uninteresting as Polly herself. Mel instead focused on Ari’s artistic vision.

Although Ari might not be long on artistic talent and certainly wasn’t going to win any contests for congeniality and charm, she had a vivid imagination.

The fruit in her picture almost pulsed with bright, unnatural color: a poison-red apple, a Dracula’s-cloak-purple bunch of grapes, a coral-snake-orange orange. In disconcerting contrast, a web of silver half-encased the arrangement.

Mel knew it was a web not because of Ari’s skill in drawing but because of the final touch she had added atop the orange: a big, black, hairy spider with an unpleasingly plump body and something that looked like a pair of parrot beaks on either side of a mouth that opened beneath several malevolent black eyes.

[Wing: On the one hand, those colours sound amazing. On the other hand, WTFARIWHY.]

This has always been one of my favorite sequences in the entire franchise. Okay I may be a writer but I’ve never really considered myself an artist because I am SHIT at illustrating and it frustrates me to no end. It’s why I spend so much on commissions since I can’t draw myself. But as a kid I loved buying coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils. I especially loved all the weird Crayola variants. One of my favorites was a scented crayon called “Grandma’s Perfume Orange.” So this scene always makes me smile for the color commentary and I’m wondering where the fuck did Ari get those shades because I am JEALOUS.

Anyway.

Polly doesn’t bother to hide how much she loathes Ari’s drawing, simply because of the spider. Ari forgets about everyone else in the room as she zeroes in on Polly, demanding to know what her problem is. Polly whines that she hates spiders because they’re gross, what with all their legs and how ugly they are and how they eat dead things.

Ari’s like BITCH U DID NOT and is ready to get all up in Polly’s grill. Who in the fuck do you think you are with your 99 cent Polly Pocket knockoff hairstyle looking to badmouth arachnids, Polly?

“They’re not ugly. From a spider’s point of view you’re just a stupid biped, and every time you eat a hamburger you eat a dead thing.” Ari said. Her fists came up. “What has a spider ever done to you?”

Gone with the weird, thought Mel, giving Ari his full attention for the first time since he’d noticed her creeping around Graveyard School at the beginning of the year.

No one knew who she was or where, exactly, she came from. But then, that was the case with so many of the students – and teachers – at Graveyard School.

While Mel doesn’t get an excuse for why we haven’t heard of him before, Thacker at least explains how Ari would’ve been lurking in the background this whole time with no one mentioning her existence.

[Wing: Ari, they exist. That is what they have done to me. They exist, and they move in terrifying ways, and they have too many legs. They can exist all they want outside my space. Once they come into my space, they’re dead because it’s them or me. They are useful, and spiderwebs can be beautiful, but they are horrifying creatures who will likely kill me eventually because it’s them or me. Or because I’m terrified and will die of fright, which is more likely.]

Polly starts to back away from Ari, threatening to tell her mom if Ari tries something. Ari didn’t listen, and despite being shorter than Polly she was truly menacing as she marched closer to the spider-hater. Ms. Beamer tried to stop Ari as she pulled her fist back and prepared to punch Polly. Polly tried to duck, but it was too late for at the last second Ari opened her hand and threw a spider in Polly’s face! [Wing: YOU MOTHERFUCKING THREW WHAT?! GODDAMNIT, ARI, FUCK OUT OF HERE.]

Graveyard School Russian - Ari Vs Polly

Graveyard School Russian – Ari Vs Polly

HOLY SHIT THE RUSSIAN EDITIONS OF THE BOOKS HAVE ILLUSTRATIONS WHICH I JUST LEARNED AND NOW I AM PISSED I ONLY FOUND OUT JUST AS I FINISHED RECAPPING THEM.

Polly’s screams rang through the classroom as she lost her shit. She desperately scratched at her face pleading for someone to get the spider off as she flailed around the room like a human top. One of her hands caught Park right in the eye and she toppled over an art display and a bookshelf. The entire class was in chaos as Ms. Beamer chased after Polly. Only Ari stood perfectly still, watching as the teacher finally caught Polly and assured her the spider was gone.

Polly was a mess. Her face and neck were covered in self-inflicted scratches. Her normally well groomed hair was a mess, resembling a blonde version of Vickie Wheilson’s exploded dandelion look. Polly’s jacket was all twisted up. Her tights were torn and her shoes were scuffed. She looked decidedly very un-Polly.

[Wing: No lie, I’ve had a similar reaction to this. Poor Polly.]

The waterworks began while Polly tried to reassemble herself. She sniffled and said stuff about telling her mom. Park was livid, exclaiming Polly had punched him in the face. True enough there was a nice purple welt on his face, just below his eye. Mel ignored everyone and got to work on a doodle of Polly based on her current visage. He exaggerated everything about Polly’s rampage and ended up doing a caricature that looked like a mutant version of Roger Rabbit. It wasn’t pretty, but hey, it’s how Polly makes him feel inside.

After straightening herself out, Polly focused on Ari and demanded the spider-thrower be expelled for attempted murder. Mel stopped drawing while looking at the thin, cruel smile on Ari’s lips.

“Expel her,” Polly almost shouted, fury turning the whites of her pale blue eyes Polly-pink. “Expel her now! She tried to kill me.”

“With that spider? I don’t think so,” Ari said scornfully. “If I’d wanted to kill you, that wouldn’t have been my spider of choice.”

“You-you-” Polly sputtered.

Ari continued coolly, “Now you have a reason to hate spiders.”

“Polly punched me in the eye,” Park said. “Shouldn’t she be expelled too?”

“That was an accident!” Polly screamed, rounding on him. “My hand slipped.”

Ari’s thin mouth twitched. “Mine did too.”

BURN.

Unfortunately, Mel’s little laugh gets Polly’s attention and soon she sees him sketching. Polly was too fast for him and grabbed his drawing. If she wasn’t mad before, Polly was now and started screaming about Mel’s defamation of her lack-of-character. Ms. Beamer calmly took the sketch from Polly’s wildly swinging arms; Polly now unintentionally resembled the drawing more than ever.

The kids swarmed around Ms. Beamer despite her order to sit down, and soon everyone was laughing at the sketch. Maria, who hated Polly the most, congratulated Mel on his dedication to realism while Polly shouted at everyone to stop. However, Mel could see Polly was keeping her eyes on Ms. Beamer the whole time despite how “distraught” she was. Naturally, Polly was faking. For a moment, Mel looked at Ms. Beamer and dreaded how this situation would end. Yet what was in the teacher’s eyes? Amusement? Appreciation?

You know, say what you will about Polly, it honestly is kind of sad her personality is so obnoxious not even other adults like her that much.

Of course, Ms. Beamer remembers she has to be the *ugh* authority figure and tells Ari and Mel they both have to see the principal. Mel’s horrified, because he’s never been sent to the principal’s office in his life! Polly immediately stops crying long enough to snidely inform Mel he should’ve thought of that BEFORE he drew that sketch. Maria tries to side with Mel, but Ms. Beamer’s mind is made up. She jots down two passes for the kids even as Mel pleads not to be sent to Dr. Morthouse. He even stops to lower his voice, afraid the principal might hear him saying her name. Mel asks what ever happened to freedom of expression, to which Ms. Beamer responds he should remember this the next time he chooses to use his artistic ability for such an “unworthy cause.”

[Wing: Look, Mel, freedom of expression doesn’t mean you won’t have to face consequences for your work. Learn this lesson now, while you’re young. Also: don’t be a bully.]

Snatching the pass from his teacher’s hands, Mel left the classroom wishing he could rub out the entire school and consign it to that Great Eraser Shaving Pile In The Sky.

On their way to Dr. Morthouse’s office, Ari doesn’t see what the big deal is since she’s been sent to the principal lots of times. Mel wasn’t trying to listen, figuring spider tossing was a much more heinous offense than drawing a picture of Polly Hannah. Ari feels hey, it’s not like Doc M can put them in cocoons and suck ’em dry. Mel wouldn’t put it past their beloved principal of doing just that. Ari adds that’s how spiders eat. Mel always figured vampires did that; Ari acts like this is the funniest thing anyone’s ever said on anything before they reach the office door.

Behind a desk in the waiting room was perpetual grumperpuss Mr. Kinderbane, the school secretary. Mel bitterly hands over his pass, muttering what a mistake this is. Kinderbane couldn’t agree more.

“Take it from me – it’s always a mistake to visit the principal’s office.”

Ari and Mel sit down and as Mel stews in anger he starts to wonder what happened to the spider Ari threw when the door to the principal’s office bursts open. Smiling her silver smile, Mel tries not to think about the possible fang in the principal’s mouth.

“Make new friends, but keep the old,” Dr. Morthouse said in her hoarse voice. “And I can see I’m doing just that. Welcome back, Ariadne. John Melvin, this is our first visit together, I believe.”

Mel’s heart slowed down. Blood cannot freeze in your veins, he told himself, not unless you’re stranded in Alaska.

He stood up on shaky knees. “It’s not fair,” he said.

Dr. Morthouse flashed silver again. “It never is.”

[Wing: Ariadne. Subtle.]

Ari and Mel enter the office, Ari being all casual as she’s done it a number of times before but never taking her eyes off Morthouse. In the dim light, Mel tries to asses the office layout and finds the neutral coloring unsettling. So ordinary, so dirt-brown, like they’re trying to hide something by being so passive.

Dr. Morthouse lovingly inspects their passes with her strong, nimble fingers. Mel moves in his chair defensively when Morthouse addresses Ari first.

“Well, Ariadne. Engaging in a spider toss in art class. Have you no consideration for the feelings of others? What of the poor spider?”

Mel blinked in surprise.

Ari said, “It was fake. Any arachnophile would have known.”

“Ah, but what we’re dealing with here is quite the opposite. Arachnophobia, wouldn’t you say?”

Ari shrugged. “Ignorance is no excuse.”

A flash of silver. Dr. Morthouse was… smiling?

How could Ari talk to Dr. Morthouse like that, as if they were equals? Mel wondered. It just proved how completely unnatural Ari was. If he hadn’t liked her before, he liked her even less now.

Not that it mattered to someone like Ari. Ari was a lone wolf.

Or maybe a lone spider.

[Wing: Ari, arachnophobia isn’t ignorance, it’s, you know, A FUCKING PHOBIA.]

Morthouse turned to Mel immediately, discussing his rather nasty drawing.

Mel said, “It was accurate.”

He closed his eyes and prepared to die.

When he discovered that he was still breathing, he opened his eyes again and barely stopped a scream. Dr. Morthouse was standing over him. She leaned forward.

Mel tried not to breathe. He had never been so close to the dread principal before.

“Accuracy is in the eye of the beholder,” Dr. Morthouse said.

After leering over Mel, Morthouse walks back over to her office window and peeks through the blinds. For a moment, Mel tries to imagine life through the principal’s perspective and attempts to consider her view of the graveyard.

He tried to see what Dr. Morthouse saw in her mind’s eyes: a hill pierced by stumpy rows of worn, lichen-encrusted tombstones, dead grass bending beneath a cold wind that never stopped blowing, dead hands reaching up to pluck at the grass blanket that covered rotting bones…

No. No, not even Dr. Morthouse could look out and see that sort of horror. Could she?

…Mel you’ve been going to this school for like six years WHAT DO YOU THINK???

Mel tells himself to stifle it, saying he’s never seen that sort of thing even if he could imagine it in his mind, or if he’d drawn it himself and it had come to life. He’s snapped out of his thoughts when he sees the blinds jangle from a breeze…

But the window’s not open.

Dr. Morthouse finally addresses the two troublemakers, asking if Mel’s responsible for the graffiti problem the school’s been having. Mel is outraged at being associated with the no-talent hack job done on one side of the school. Besides, Mel thought to himself, who’d be dumb enough to spend time at Graveyard School after hours and by themselves? Morthouse is delighted to hear that, figuring Mel should have no problem helping Mr. Bartholomew, a.k.a. Basement Bart, clean the wall on Saturday.

Unless, of course, Mel would like to hear her proposals for… other punishments?

Oh did you say 9 on Saturday morning? Fantastic great job Doc.

Morthouse also figures if Ari loves trash so much, she can pick up garbage on Saturday instead of throwing it around. Ari is insulted the good doctor would call spiders “trash.” Mel didn’t care, he couldn’t get out of the office and away from both Ari and Dr. Morthouse fast enough.

The following Friday afternoon, Mel was not looking forward to Saturday as he unchained his bike. Park and Algie tried to be sympathetic and told Mel it could be worse. At least Mel will be outside and Basement Bart won’t be able to sneak up on him. Mel doesn’t believe that and reminds Park he’ll be stuck with Bart AND Ari. Algie kindly suggests they can help Mel, until Park hastily reminds Algie they have baseball practice on Saturday. Sucks to be you, Mel.

That night, Mel’s in his room trying to figure out what to draw when his dad informs him he has a call. From a girl. A girl named Ari. Mel’s blood froze and he told his dad he wasn’t available. Mr. West calmly informs Mel he will not tell this nice young girl an untruth, and if Mel doesn’t want to talk to her he will tell her exactly that. Mel immediately grabs the phone and says Ari’s probably calling because of the, um, art project they have to do. That’s right, “art project.” Mr. West thinks that sounds cool, but Mel informs him it’s just homework in disguise. Hey, as his dad puts it, things could be worse. Mel’s sick of hearing people say that when he finally puts the phone to his ear.

Ari’s called to say she’ll see “John Melvin” at his house tomorrow morning so they can head to school together. Mel says “no” even as Ari mentions he’s a good artist, but Ari doesn’t seem to care and blithely mentions seeing him tomorrow. Groaning as Ari hangs up, Mel loses himself in thought as he considers the possibility of not surviving the cleanorama. And then what? All that hard work of making it through Graveyard School, day after day, would’ve been for nothing. Mel finally snaps out of his gloomy mindset when he realizes he drew something without thinking.

A spider descending onto a web, with a figure trapped in a cocoon.

Himself.

Ari was there the next morning, just as she said she’d be. She asks if Mel’s ready to scrub walls when he LOUDLY tells his mom (before she enters the room), that he’s off to work on that school project. Mel tries to hurry Ari away before Mrs. West comes in to meet her. Ari’s more confused over what project Mel’s talking about. Heading to get his bike from the garage, Mel runs into his dad as Mr. West tries to clean the blades on an old push mower. Mr. West looks up and realizes Mel’s companion must be Ari, when he goes to swat an insect on his arm. Ari FLIPS and throws herself towards Mel’s dad, saving the poor creature from a squashy fate.

Ari plucks the small spider from Mr. West’s arm and releases it into a nearby bush, saying it’s bad luck to kill spiders. Mr. West can’t help but be confused until Mel nudges Ari away so they can get their punishment over with.

By the time the two reach Graveyard School, Mel and Ari find Basement Bart waiting for them with a bucket of soapy water, a brush, gloves, and a trash can. His orders are simple; Mel is to scrub, Ari is to remove. Bart takes several long strides towards the school and disappears around a corner. The moment the kids hear a door slam, they get to work.

Mel scrubs and scrubs and scrubs, and any time he momentarily stops to take a break he feels Basement Bart’s gaze descend upon him. He’d sometimes catch Ari out of the corner of his eye, and sometimes she’d smile at Mel. Mel thought she could be nice, but he kept remembering how this was supposedly her fault in the first place. And besides, he’s not looking to make friends. Yikes. [Wing: Dude, it is zero percent her fault that you drew that damn picture.]

Once in a while, Mel would see Ari bend down to look at something and figured she was watching out for spiders. Suddenly, Mel stopped when he heard Ari screaming in pain!

Mel ran towards the fence separating the graveyard from the playground and found Ari on her knees in pain. Ari’s grasping her wrist and exclaims a spider bit her. Mel can’t believe this, but he can’t recognize Ari’s pain sounds more like someone who’d been betrayed by a loved one. He misunderstands and wonders if Ari was bitten by a poisonous spider when she shows him the red mark on her wrist. Ari explains she went to examine a pretty web when the spider chomped her wrist…

And then it bites Mel!

The spider jumped off Ari and landed on Mel, biting the back of his hand. It escaped before Mel could smash it, and the spider disappeared back into the grass between the fence. Mel’s pissed Ari didn’t mention the spider was still there, and he can tell she’s not sorry at all he was bitten. This only increases Mel’s lack of interest in befriending Ms. Spinner and gets back to work on cleaning the graffiti, regardless of the pain in his hand.

[Wing: OKAY DID NOT NEED THIS SCENE. EXCUSE ME WHILE I FRANTICALLY MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO SPIDERS LURKING NEARBY.]

By the end of the day, Mel had forgotten about the spider bite until Ari reminded him. There were two tiny red marks in the center of the back of his left hand, but it didn’t hurt anymore. Ari tells him they’re lucky it wasn’t a poisonous spider and starts to explain the differences in spider breeds. She informs Mel a tarantula bite isn’t poisonous, though it can hurt a lot. A brown recluse, now that’s a different story. Getting bit by one of them gives you an oozy wound that never heals as your skin’s eaten away. Despite everything, Mel thought this was interesting.

“I guess that’s why they’re called recluses. Because they’re not very friendly.”

Ari raised a thin eyebrow. “I never thought about that,” she said.

Mel says he’s got to get home or his parents will freak about him being late, even if he was working on a “School project.” That’s when it finally hits Ari that Mel didn’t mention he had to be at school for a punishment. Mel’s all “Duh” and asks what Ari told her parents. Ari shrugs and says she didn’t tell them anything, and Mel’s sort of impressed she got away with it. She doesn’t respond and hurries home.

Seems Mel is more exhausted then he thought when he almost passes out during dessert at home. He decides to turn in early, surprising his parents. Mel’s a bit confused by how tired he is, because sure it was hard doing all that scrubbing but he didn’t think he’d be THIS exhausted. As he got into bed, Mel’s left hand began to throb. He considered getting first aid stuff, but he trusted Ari’s judgement it wasn’t a poisonous bite and tried to forget about it. While Mel slept, he had no idea how much his hand had twitched and danced almost as if it was sentient.

Going to bed early did nothing to help Mel’s state of mind, and come Monday morning he was still exhausted. His left hand still ached as Algie greeted him and asked if he had a bad weekend. Mel practically bit Algie’s head off he was so irritable, looking back and wondering how Saturday had seen so long ago. Was this some sleeping sickness contracted from the spider bite? Despite himself, Mel said it could be worse.

Come art class, Dr. Morthouse made an announcement over the school intercom. Mel vaguely thought he heard the first graders crying at the sound of Morty’s voice, but focused his energy on yawning. He didn’t care about the glare Ms. Beamer gave him. Doc M explained they’d be holding an art contest to choose a mural to put on their newly clean wall. Ms. Beamer got excited by this and was looking right at Mel expecting he’d be eager to participate, but he had no energy to react. Still, Beamer suggested everyone put their energy towards the contest. Polly voices a smug comment about not expecting any spiders in the winning entry, which made Mel notice Ari was absent.

Mel had once again doodled something while lost in thought. It was a drawing of Ari’s head on a spider’s body. That was the only real contribution he made during art class, as Mel seemed incapable of producing anything meaningful. Just a bunch of lines, not even close to the abstract piece he made last class. Mel was disturbed by this, more focused on his creative block than how his hand didn’t hurt anymore despite his fatigue. On his way out of class, Mel grumpily wondered what good was art, anyway?

Ari was absent for several days, and during those days Mel felt like a zombie. He passed through classes as if he was sleepwalking, and every contribution he made in art class was progressively horrid. Mel felt a chill go down his spine when Polly Hannah’s stiff, emotionless copies received more earnest praise, not believing he could sink THAT low.

Finally, Ari returned to school on Friday and Mel saw a chance to ask if his spider bite was the cause of his bad mood. Too bad Ari looked as awful as Mel felt. She’d gotten a haircut leaving her black locks looking like bristles covering her head. She barely recognized Mel when he approached Ari’s desk at the end of the day. Mel can tell Ari’s been out sick and brings up how crappy he’s felt too, asking if it’s because of the spider that bit them. Ari keeps saying “No” and tries to get away from him to her next class without really answering.

A few days later Mel followed Ari on her way back to her house. He won’t leave until they talk about what happened, and asks her what type of spider bit them. He knows she’s the local expert and if anyone could identify a spider, it’s Ari Spinner.

“Only six kinds of spiders that are poisonous to humans live in the United States: four types of widow spiders, black, brown, red, and varied, of which only the female is known to bite, and only when cornered or provoked; the lynx spider, whose biting habits I am unfamiliar with; and the brown recluse, which will attack with little to no provocation.”

Ari says she doesn’t know what kind of spider bit them because she’s NEVER seen that type before. Of course, she admits there are thousands of different spiders out there so she’s not familiar with ALL of them. Ari suggests it was a jumping spider, but they aren’t poisonous. Besides, their bite marks are gone so it couldn’t have been that dangerous. If it wasn’t the spider bite, than what was making Ari and Mel feel so shitty?

[Wing: TOO MUCH SPIDER TALK.]

Mel continues walking with Ari towards her house in an older part of town. It was an equally old abode that could’ve used a coat of paint. Mel was about to leave after Ari said she could navigate fine from this point, until Ari almost fell to the ground moaning in pain!

Running towards Ari, Mel was shocked when she ordered him to stay away. Ari stumbled forward and tried to open the front door when she fell again and started crawling into the house. Mel ran in after Ari and started screaming for her parents while she tried to hoist herself up grabbing a table in the hallway. While Ari struggled to stand, Mel attempted to help by grabbing Ari’s arm and was shocked by how bristly and bony it felt. Ari broke free of Mel and crawled towards another doorway. Again Mel called out for Ari’s parents as she stammered “No one.” He was about to scream again when his voice disappeared. What scream would be appropriate for the sight before him?

Ari looked… different. There was something very wrong with the way she was standing. On three pairs of legs.

Her whole body was jerking and twitching.

As Mel watched, a huge shudder tore through her, and another set of long, spindly legs sprouted from her side.

This can’t be happening, Mel thought. I am not seeing what I’m seeing.

Ari was standing next to a mirror. She picked up her eight feet, one at a time, and rotated her strange body to stare at her reflection.

Mel stared at her reflection too. He swallowed hard. “Ari?” he croaked. When she turned to look at him, it wasn’t Ari at all.

The spider in front of the mirror, the one with Ari’s eyes, turned to face him. Two chelicerae tipped with wicked-looking fangs moved almost like lips.

In horror, Mel realized the spider was trying to speak. At last she succeeded.

“What?” said Ari.

Cue Mel reenacting the following:

Later that evening, Mel was searching all the info he could find on spiders but kept seeing the horrible image of a spider head with Ari’s eyes. He had to do something, though. Something happened to Ari and he felt he had to help her, so learning about spiders was the first step he took.

Mel was rather disgusted by reading about how spiders eat, thinking what a horrible existence this must be. Mr. West entered to inform Mel he had a call. From his “Girlfriend.” Mel stopped for a moment, imagining Ari holding up her phone with her spider legs. The thought was too awful and even if he wanted to help Ari, revulsion overcame Mel and he hung up. Ari immediately called him back. She at least sounded normal over the phone.

Ari proposes it was the spider bite that transformed her, but Mel doesn’t believe it. That spider bit him too and he didn’t transform. Ari ignores his disbelief and went on talking about all the cool stuff she’s done as a spider. Climbing walls, spinning threads to build a web. She can’t eat solid foods so she’s been eating stuff like soup and pudding. While she talked, Mel read about the way a spider’s mouth works like a straw to suck bodily fluids for food. They can spray digestive juices on their prey so they can suck them through their mouths. Creatures like tarantulas can reduce small frogs or mice to skin and bones in just a couple of days.

Mel goes back to the conversation when Ari announces she felt something weird would happen, but didn’t expect this. And she intends to go with it, much to Mel’s shock. [Wing: Shock should be the last thing you feel. Of course she’s cool with being a spider.] Hey, the world seems pretty cool from a spider’s point of view and she can spin webs. That put a damper in Mel’s plans, sort of. Ari sounded like she didn’t want or need his help, so what could Mel do? This whole situation was creeping him out, and figured it’d be best to continue avoiding Ari like before. He quickly ended the phone conversation, with Ari not picking up on his tone.

Wondering if it was indeed the bite that changed Ari, Mel grew fearful and inspected his left hand. Nothing had changed yet, but it had momentarily throbbed. Again Mel dismissed the spider bite as the cause, writing Ari off as a crazy girl so obsessed with spiders she probably did something to make her like her eight legged friends. Hey, it’s Graveyard School, weirder shit’s happened.

Mel fell asleep and woke up some time later to realize something was indeed wrong with his left hand.

What was left of it, anyway.

Most of it had dissolved away, leaving fingers as limp as rubber-glove fingers, boneless and bloodless, little skin balloons.

Mel began to scream.

And then he woke up.

Mel inspected his left hand, relieved it wasn’t just a sack of flesh attached to his wrist. It still twitched, though. Thinking Ari’s giving him nightmares, Mel momentarily wondered how she was sleeping right now. In a giant web? He went back to sleep with the lights on.

Despite everything, the next day at school Mel felt better than he had in a long time. Waiting on line for lunch, Mel felt totally reinvigorated even if his hand still twitched. He considered talking to someone about Ari’s transformation, but started to wonder… was this all a joke? Had Ari figured out something to fool Mel. That she’d been standing in front of a mirror when she transformed made Mel wonder if it was a trick mirror.

Ugh, denial in Graveyard School. It’s such a virus.

Back in art class, Mel’s creative block vanished but his left hand twitched with every stroke made with his right. This time the class was drawing a rendition of a tree branch as Ms. Beamer instructed everyone to capture the essence instead of the details. Of course Polly Hannah whined about not understanding what that meant. Suddenly, as Mel finished a leaf in the sketch, his left hand took on a life of its own. Mel started to draw a comic featuring Polly and Ms. Beamer. The panels depicted the teacher inspecting Polly’s work, leaning down, moving her head back up not realizing her bell earring was close to Polly’s hair wh-

OW!

Polly started crying as she struggled with Ms. Beamer to get her hair free from the teacher’s earring.

JUST LIKE MEL HAD DRAWN.

Horrified, Mel ripped the drawing in half and then panicked wondering what would happen to the two women. Thankfully, Polly and Ms. Beamer were not magically torn apart as Beamer managed to free herself from Polly’s curls. Mel tried to convince himself it was just a coincidence until he remembered the spider bite. Then he remembered the spider-Ari drawing he did, before returning to his coffin of denial thinking it was all a joke Ari was pulling. He was not capable of bringing things to life with his drawing skills.

Too bad Mel was having a hard time believing that, when he added lines to the leaf in his drawing using his left hand. Everyone in class was shocked as the leaf on the branch suddenly withered. None of them were as shocked as Mel when Ari greeted him from behind, and Mel threw himself on the floor screaming at Ari to keep her fangs away from him.

The rest of the class and Ms. Beamer turned to Mel and Ari. Ari apologized saying she startled Mel by accident, before giving a note to Beamer for being late. Mel kept his eyes on Ari, trying to notice any spider-like qualities retained in her human form. Polly laughs at Mel’s frazzled state.

“He’s hysterical,” said Polly in a satisfied tone. “I bet he’s stuck like that. Like when you cross your eyes. They’ll stick. My mom said-”

“Oh. Is that what happened to you, Polly? You got stuck like you are?” Park said in a tone of great interest.

Mel assures everyone he’s not stuck, assessing the variations in gaze aimed towards him. He couldn’t help but notice Ari’s eyes looked darker. Blacker. More… protuberant. Mel apologized to Ms. Beamer for the outburst.

“I haven’t been feeling very well, and I must be a little tired, or something.”

“Or something,” Ms. Beamer answered dryly.

Mel gets back in his seat just as the bell rings. Ms. Beamer reminds everyone the deadline for the contest is in a few days when Ari approaches Mel and assures him she’s all better now. Ari explains she changed back to human shortly after he left the other day. She said it’s easier turning from arachnid to human than vice versa, but expects to get better with practice. Mel’s aghast she plans to practice this, and Ari misunderstands saying she wonders if this was a one-time thing. She says as an arachnophile she might’ve noticed if she could do this in the past. Ari’s always imagined being a spider, and now she is. Dreams really do come true.

Ari completely misses the sarcasm in Mel’s congratulations and fears being unable to change again. Mel asks what would happen if she abruptly changed during the middle of the day, in class, in front of everyone. Ari brushes away his concerns saying she’d dash for the bathroom. Mel can see it now, someone looking under a stall to see eight legs and rushing to Dr. Morthouse screaming there’s a spider on the toilet.

Ari reminisces on how she molted, explaining that’s how spiders get bigger by shedding their skin. Mel interrupts her debate on semantics to say she has a problem. A problem in that she somehow turned into a giant spider. Ari coldly informs him the only problem is if she can’t transform again. More to the point, Ari thinks Mel can help and suspects he had something to do with her original transformation. Mel calls Ari twisted, but she laughs in his face. The very sound makes Mel almost sink to his knees.

At home, Mel’s parents tell him it’s dinnertime. Mel’s too focused on a spider web in the front yard, watching a small fly struggle as it gets wrapped in silk. Remembering what he read about spiders and how they eat, as well as WHAT they eat, Mel had to ask what a spider as big Ari would consume. His conscience gets the best of him, and Mel frees the fly before the spider devours it. Mel informs the fly it got lucky.

She arrived around midnight, Ari the Not-So-Ittsy-Bittsy Spider. Traveling along skeins of silk, she reached Mel’s house and descended from his rain gutter. Ari used one of her legs to tap on his bedroom window until he woke up. Mel didn’t even scream when he saw the large shadow of Ari’s new form. At this point he’d reached a level of understanding that removed some of the fear. The spider bite granted them a wish. Ari became a spider, and Mel could draw with his left hand (as a bonus, of course, his drawings were so realistic they came true).

Ari kept tapping on the glass, choosing to ignore Mel telling her to leave as she discussed her respiderfication a few short hours ago. Seems Ari wanted someone to talk to, but Mel doesn’t want to be that someone. He advises Ari discuss this with her parents, but she scoffs in his general direction. Mel bluntly informs Ari he won’t open his window, even as she offers to let him ride on her back. She tries to talk about how she’s always considered spiders so beautiful, so elegant. Mel cuts her off, so Ari asks if he’s got anything to eat. Like some raw steak. Or a pet rat.

Mel gets back to Ari’s parents and asks if they know.

Trouble is, for that to happen she’d need parents in the first place.

“Have you told your parents?” Mel interrupted.

“What parents?” Ari asked.

“You don’t have parents? Who do you live with?” Mel asked.

Ari shrugged – at least, that was what it looked like to Mel. She said, “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”

“But how can you live by yourself? It’s not right, Ari. Someone has to take care of you.”

“I manage just fine. And I’m sure I’ll be even better with my special spiderness. Now promise you won’t tell,” she said again, her voice suddenly deepening and becoming more menacing.

“I promise,” Mel said. He was afraid not to.

Ari’s voice suddenly turns sweeter, more silken, as she coxes him to come outside. Mel grows more afraid and figures the real reason Ari came over is because she’s hungry.

This is where the book gets really sad as Ari can no longer ignore Mel’s constant efforts to brush her off.

“Don’t you like me?” Ari said. “I thought you were my friend.”

“We were never friends, Ari.”

Without warning, the bristles that covered Ari’s body stood up. “You never liked me, did you?”

“I never thought about you,” Mel said honestly. “Nobody did. You just kept to yourself so much we figured you didn’t want friends, so we just… forgot about you. Except for Polly Hannah. I guess she doesn’t seem to like you. But nobody likes her, so what’s the big deal?”

Wow.

Ow.

Okay, so, I’m not sure what to say on this. I mean, because Ari always kept her distance from everybody it’s hard to judge Mel for not viewing her as a friend when she always made it seem like she didn’t want friends. Ari can’t expect that Mel had wanted to be friends with her when they were sort of forced to interact with one another. But God, considering Mel brushing her off earlier in the book it’s hard not to feel for Ari when it looks like she genuinely maybe wanted a friend after so long. This entire sequence is so gray to me.

Anyway, Ari doesn’t appreciate the brush off and gets angry. She screams this could happen to Mel too, and guess what Mel? Being this different makes you lonely and it sucks balls. Ari says they can be different together. Mel shouts he’s not different and nothing’s happened to him, which causes his left hand to twitch. Ari picks up on this, and Mel, letting his anger get the best of him, stupidly (the book even calls him out on this) calls Ari an “insect.”

That’s the last straw, as Ari asks what can Mel do to make her go away. Huh? Huh? You’re just a carbon-based biped. Ari’s literally shuddering with anger as she rants.

“You can’t do anything to me. I have powers. I-” She shuddered again. Then she said, “You’re not my friend. And that makes you my enemy, just like all the rest. You’re no better than Polly Hannah. I’ve always hated people, and I was right.”

What the fuck happened to this girl?!

Ari exclaims they’ll all be sorry, because with each transformation she gets stronger. Unfortunately for Ari, her time’s up and she’s turning back.

Her front legs suddenly sprouted what looked like human hands.

Ari hurriedly makes her way down from the rain gutter before it’s too late. Mel reaches his window just in time to see a fully human Ari standing on the lawn. Her eyes are ablaze with bloody murder and promises Mel he’ll be sorry. And it won’t take long for her to follow through on that.

Thanks Mel, you just had to piss her off.

A couple of days seemingly pass and Ari hasn’t been back to school. Mel doesn’t know how to feel about that, wondering when she’ll strike. It makes it hard for Mel to focus as he plays soccer with Park, Stacey, Maria and Algie. Maybe he shouldn’t have picked being the goalie, since the net lining looks too much like a spider’s web.

Every time Mel thinks of Ari and what sort of spider activities she’s up to, his left hand twitches. He’d been careful to only draw with his right hand, which was still powerless. Mel wondered how much control Ari had over her transformations, which causes him to miss the soccer ball as it goes behind him. The other kids are getting annoyed by his lack of attention, but Mel hadn’t told them about Ari. He could only remember her saying “I’m hungry.” What did a spider that size ea-

HOLY SHIT SHE’S HERE.

Graveyard School Russian - Ari Attacks

Graveyard School Russian – Ari Attacks

Maria was the first to notice, screaming while the others stopped dead in terror as a giant spider emerged from the tree behind the soccer goal. Ari had spun a web inside the tree and was making a dragnet towards the soccer goal when Park screamed at everyone to run. He was the first to be snatched. Stacey bravely and foolishly threw herself forward and tried to drag Park back as Ari lassoed silk around his legs to draw him closer. Ari was too strong and jerked the lasso so hard Park AND Stacey were pulled forward.

After securing Park in the tree, Ari shot silk at Algie and the girls. Mel was frozen in terror as his worst dream came true. He thought Ari’s pedipalps were moving to smile as she acknowledged his presence. Mel managed to move quick enough to dodge Ari’s silk blasts, which get tangled in the soccer net. Stacey screams at Mel to keep moving and save himself, and Mel knew leaving now was the only chance to rescue them later. As Ari angrily struggled with the soccer net, Mel fled from the park and ran all the way back home. Ari didn’t follow him. Why would she when she’d snagged four out of five?

Seeing that night was approaching, Mel knew he didn’t have much time. He’d have to suit up and head to Ari’s place to save Park and the others before Ari finally sated her appetite.

Unbeknownst to his parents, Mel carried a pack loaded down with everything needed for the big Spider War. He spun another lie working on a project and told the ‘rental units he’d be at Park’s. Mel was edgy the entire way to Ari’s house, wondering if she was lurking in the shadows and following him before he reached her place. His only confidence came from the weaponry in his bag. It was the best he could do on short notice since time wasn’t on his side.

The outside of the house gave no indication Ari was home, so Mel stepped forward and pushed the front door open. He could hear moaning, followed by:

“‘Won’t you come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.'”

“I’m not a fly, Ari,” Mel said. His voice sounded strong. Good.

“To me you are,” Ari said.

Mel was careful to see if any traps awaited him before entering the hallway. He hesitated before entering the huge living room. From the crystal chandelier, Algie was suspended in a cocoon of silk. Mel could tell from the glasses showing through the silk strands. For one horrifying moment, Mel feared Algie might be the only one left until he saw similar looking cocoons.

And Ari.

Ari was suspended from a silk skein in the far corner of the room. Mel kept to the doorway, out of striking distance and ready to fight back. He tells Ari this isn’t right, so Ari smugly asks if he said they’re not WRAPPED right.

“I think I did a very good job wrapping your friends,” Ari said, and laughed.

Mel said, “They’re your friends too.”

“I don’t have any friends. Remember, Mel? To me they’re just menu choices.”

See Mel, when you tell the girl who can turn into a giant spider that you’re not her friend, SHE MIGHT GET PISSED ABOUT IT.

Ari moves towards the chandelier and starts to poke Algie with one of her legs, sadistically torturing him as Algie freaks out in the cocoon and can’t free himself. She smugly dares Mel to try anything as he screams at Ari to leave Algie alone. Ari loses interest when Algie does his best to remain calm.

Mel decides to take action by keeping his back to the wall and making sure Ari doesn’t see him slowly lowering his pack. He tries to ply Ari with comments, asking what kind of spider she’s become since she seems to be an impressive amalgamation of several types. Falling for the distraction, Ari admits he’s right. She’s like a mix of a tarantula, a jumping spider, and a web spinner. She doesn’t see the tool behind Mel.

Mel offers to tell Ari a secret if she doesn’t hurt him. He finally admits the spider bite DID grant him something amazing. While he can’t turn into an arachnid too, he can now draw with his left hand. Ari’s unimpressed, while Mel’s more focused on subtly edging closer to her and a table near the curtain rod. Mel points out he was never able to draw well with his left hand, and reminds her of the drawing he did of Polly. Just the mention of Polly makes Ari spit the girl’s name out so venomously Mel shivers. Mel adds that whatever he draws with his left hand comes true. So obviously, they had some run in with a spider that could grant wishes.

The moment Mel raises his left hand in demonstration, he whips out the pair of hedge clippers with his right and attacks!

Mel jumps on the table and cuts at several strands of silk, making Ari’s web sag and freeing the cocoon trapping Stacey. Ari screeches and angrily lunges toward Mel, but her legs get tangled in her desecrated web. When Stacey finally falls to the floor, Mel jumps with the clippers pointed outwards. He grabs a strand of silk and swings like Tarzan towards Algie. Algie tries his best to scream when a loop of silk goes around Mel’s foot, but Mel ignores it to focus on freeing Algie.

Ari jumps on Algie as soon as he falls, but then Mel cuts her thread of silk. The silk around his foot jerks him upward and Ari curses him before he manages to snap himself free. Too bad the clippers are getting jammed from webbing when Ari gets her legs on Mel. Mel quickly pulls out a can of bug spray from his pocket and gives Ari a dose straight in her face. Ari’s momentarily blinded but screams bug spray won’t hold off an arachnid for long.

[Wing: Lies. There are spider-sprays, and if you use enough, you could stop even this giant spider. Of course, I’d be dead of terror way before now, but the rest of you could survive.]

Mel decides now is the time for his ultimate move. He gives the clippers to Algie so he can free Maria and Park, and then screams at Ari to get her attention. Mel wants Ari to come after him and she’s more than happy to oblige. Mel runs with his pack into the hallway, skidding on the rug to safety at the other end. Ari shoots some strands at Mel’s sleeve, but he dives into a cubby hole below the stairs.

Slamming the door shut, Mel sees Ari trying to get her legs beneath the door and he stomps on them hard. Ari screams in pain and retreats. For a moment everything’s quiet until, back in the parlor, Algie shouts for Mel to draw one of his living pictures. Mel pulls out a notebook and a marker from his bag, and he has to move faster when Ari starts shooting silk at the bottom of the door to pull it off. Drawing faster than ever, Mel matches Ari for every strand of silk with his lines. He finishes just as the door flies open and suddenly Ari is screaming in despair.

Slowly, Mel gets up and leaves the cubbyhole for the living room. Inside, he finds Park and Maria have been freed. All five kids stand around Ari the Human Girl. Park and the others can only stare in disbelief as they realize Ari was the spider. Mel had put Ari through several stages of demorphing to put her back to her human state permanently. Ari looked up at Mel and loathed him entirely for destroying her dream.

Park and the rest have no sympathy to give, their disbelief replaced by understanding and rage knowing she tried to murder them in cold blood. As Park puts it, Ari’s lucky Mel didn’t stomp her out. Suddenly, Ari goes from angry to scared and asks if they would’ve really done that to her. Ari pleads for them to understand, a spider her size had to eat you know? She couldn’t survive on insects. Park coldly reminds Ari there are plenty of other animals on the food chain between humans and insects. Believing Ari’s dangerous, the others tell Mel to erase her for good.

Ari begs to be spared, begs Mel to simply turn her back and she’ll go far, far away. The kids warn Mel not to believe her, when Mel tells everyone he has to think. Mel wants everyone to meet at Graveyard Hill tomorrow morning where he’ll have a decision.

Begrudgingly, the kids meet at Graveyard Hill the next day. Park, Algie, Stacey and Maria surround Ari and keep their eyes on her at all times in case she tries anything. Mel shows up and has good news for Ari, because he WILL turn her back. Ari is ecstatic while the rest ask what is wrong with him. Mel assures the group he knows what he’s doing and tells them to stand back. Taking out his sketchbook, Mel begins to draw Ari through a human-to-spider transformation.

When it’s over, a tiny, tiny voice starts yelling from the grass.

The kids look down and commend Mel on what a fantastic artist he is, while Ari the spider shrieks about being tricked. Mel admits yes, he did trick her a bit, but he gave her what she wanted. Ari’s a spider again, but now she’s the size of an average spider. Ari swears vengeance as she scuttles into the graveyard.

Park and the rest ask Mel what he intends to do with his abilities. Folding the Ari sketch into his pocket, Mel decides he’ll focus on abstract art for the time being.

As the group leaves the graveyard, Ari watches them from the grass and thought about what to do. She figured all she needed was find the spider that granted her wish. It bit her once, it could do it again. And if it did, well…

Anything could happen.

Final Thoughts

Despite how Ari tried to kill Park and the others, I do feel sorry for her. She’s so, I guess the word is “unique” among the cast. She operates on a different level than the other kids. And so sad. Thacker gives us just enough of a hint that something awful happened to this girl in the past, but doesn’t allude if it was her lack of parents or something else that made her into such a misanthrope. Did her parents die or was she always an orphan? How did she end up in Grove Hill and was she always living in that house by herself? How did she get enrolled in school? Did Dr. Morthouse not care?

Mel, I-I don’t know what to say. He feels more down-to-Earth and realistic than the other kids. Kind of a douche but not entirely. He didn’t want to associate with Ari because she scared him. I always focused more on Ari than him.

Park and the others are fucking brutal though. After everything they’ve been through these kids had no mercy to share against someone who knowingly wanted to kill them.

[Wing: Their response to Ari wanting to kill them is the best of their reactions. Their response to her existing as a human before that is terrible, as is Mel’s. Damn, kids. This was, of course, not my favourite book, but it was surprisingly enjoyable even for me. Ari was sympathetic for the most part, and it was one last hurrah with a couple of my fave characters. I’ll miss this series.]

Back in 9th grade, I had an idea for an entire sequel series that featured Park and the rest being forced to go back to Graveyard School when the local middle school burned down during the summer. The only story I really worked on was a sequel to this book, featuring Ari’s return and several kids being bitten and slowly turning into spiders. I wrote at least twenty pages of them in a notebook I still have, but looking back I’m not happy with how they turned out due to… reasons.

Trivia

Activities Section: Instructions on a game to play where one kid can trap their friends in a web.

Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe:

  • Pink headband, pink sweater with a flower-embroidered collar embroidered, white tights, pink shoes

My Final Words

Huh.

So that was it then.

I’m done.

God damn it my chest feels heavy.

…Fuck I don’t know what else to say. I worked on this project for two years and now it’s come to an end. I’m not even crying but I feel like I should be.

I didn’t even find this series when I was a kid. Not really. I only became truly invested in the books when I was 13, and I never really stopped re-reading them. I hate this. I hate how it feels so much like no one else still really knows about this series and I wish I could do more about it because they’re so fucking good and the type of horror books kids deserve. Not like Stine’s that are so bogged down with shit characters and scenarios and cheesy, awful endings tacked on just because. Thacker created a series with kids who felt like actual kids. Her writing didn’t fall into the trap of becoming pretentious and snooty and so in love with the idea of itself.

I don’t know, if it hadn’t been for Wing allowing me to join this site, that I would’ve ever been able to talk about them in a way people would notice.

And now I have news! I was originally upset about this series of recaps ending, but I’ve recently learned (as I mentioned) that the Russian editions of the books apparently came with illustrations! I am amazed how I am able to keep learning new things about Graveyard School, and even though the recaps are done there’s still more out there. I swear I will find out a way to track down the Russian books to do scans of their pictures.

For now I say thank you, and stay tuned.

Categories: Graveyard School recaps
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1 Comment

  • Thomas says:

    It was interesting to hear so much about a series I had not known of before. I may take a peek at one someday. Since I have nothing to say about the series itself, all I can add is that I was reminded of a similar situation where I found Christopher Pike’s Spooksville books in my high school library and was drawn to them assuming they would more like Goosebumps but ended up with something a bit more mature while still of course for a middle grade audience. I’ll find out how well they hold up soon enough but I do recall enjoying them and the main characters quite a bit. Never did read all of them enough to give the same “man I miss these” feeling but it did get a tv show like a decade after the fact so there was that.

    I did however get that “Man, I hate that I’m out of these now” when I finished re-reading all the Nightmare Rooms, because they were similar to the series that was the reason I read them but generally more mature and better, and from Stine himself no less, so Yeah it was bittersweet finishing those up. And now I’m rambling about myself because I’m me, guess that’s all I got.

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