Title: Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Summary: From the beginning Martha knew there was something evil about the house. It was so cold and sinister. And it wasn’t just the house that was giving her the creeps. Martha was sure someone was following her, watching her every move.
Then the practical jokes began – the scarecrow with the carving knife in its head, the fire. And, worst of all, the phone calls…
Tagline: Trick or Treat, trick or treat, candy is dandy, but murder is sweet
Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.
Note II: Electric Boogaloo: There are 584 instances of ellipses used to end a sentence. I would say 572 of them would be better suited to the single full stop. Then she goes mad with dashes instead of full stops. In total there are 863 badly ended sentences in this book. Seriously, no more than 20 of them need either ellipses or dashes. The rest is just… unnecessary – to give the impression… of atmosphere – I wouldn’t have noticed… if I hadn’t been scanning in my copy… for my… kindle – Argh.
[Wing: It is a sad, sad thing that you counted.]
[Dove: I didn’t count, Word did when I did a find and replace. Is that still sad?]
Note 3 (3D): Ok, new format, see if I can make these things a bit shorter while retaining the information. [Note from the future: I can’t.] I’m going to read a chunk, recap, read a chunk, recap, etc. Rather than recapping as I read.
This was the first Point Horror I ever read, it had a great picture on the front cover, an interesting summary and I was ready to be terrified.
I’m still waiting. I remember powering through it and finding it to be a jumbled mess at the end. I remember feeling that it was quite a dull book, and although I read it cover to cover, probably in about one sitting, I never really got into it. Let’s see how it pans out 20 years later…
Also: Wing, did you see that there’s another twee poem! This time it’s the tagline. *happiness* … *coughs* … *evil happiness*
[Wing: That is not evil happiness, that is pure, good happiness. It is a good cover though. Minus the horrible twee poem.]
Our main character is called Martha, and as far as I can tell, she’s a right Dolly Downer. The first chapter is entirely exposition. She and her dad are driving to the brand new house – brand new to them, it’s about a zillion years old – that dad has just bought with his new wife, Sally, and they’re all going to live in it together. Sally has a son a year older than Martha called Conor. This is the first time all four of them will be under the same roof. I don’t know where Martha has been while the other three were at the house and I already don’t care. Seriously, I’m a page in and I hate her.
Cheer on the killer: 1
Dad is cheery and annoying, a phenomenon known in the UK as “uncle knobhead”. He writes horror, and enthuses about the new house and how awesome it is because there’s a study for him to write in, and a studio for Sally to paint in, and loads of rooms for Conor and Martha to… uh, exist? in?
Martha is doom and gloom. We meet Conor, we learn that Martha is “irresistibly drawn to him”. Oooh, squicky.
Incest is relative: 1
[Wing: No, seriously, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE INCEST?].
Moving on, Conor has longish tawny hair (what colour is tawny, anyway, because I’m picturing the owl. Wing, am I right?), and he wears bulky sweaters and jeans. He is aloof and constantly half-smiling as if he’s in on a joke that nobody else gets. I either fancy this guy or want to knock him out, I’ll let you know how it pans out by the end of the book.
[Wing: Tawny is generally golden, sort of like a lion. At least that’s the comparison I see a lot.]
Conor shows Martha to her room and she gets a bad feeling about it. It’s really cold and she tells Conor that she thinks something bad happened there. She can’t make it feel like a nice room, even after she unpacks all her things. Oh, woe is Martha. It must suck to move to a gigantic-ass house (incidentally, the house on the cover looks like the house I grew up in, so out of all the characters we’ve met so far, the house is my favourite).
Things we learn: Sally can’t cook, but she goes out of her way to make Martha feel welcome. Martha is basically Bella Swan, so she does fuck all in return for such kindness and hospitality. She just mopes, bitches about the house, and internally insults Sally’s cooking.
Cheer on the killer: 2
Also, Conor is a snarky so-and-so (relatively speaking) and pretty much any time he pokes fun at Martha is a joy:
Sally grinned. “There’s supposed to be an old cemetery somewhere on the property.”
Martha nearly choked. “A cemetery!”
“You shouldn’t have told her,” Conor shook his head. “She’ll be packed up before dessert.”
That night, Sally and Dad go for a drive because they can’t sleep. Martha cries herself to sleep because she’s a whiny bitch who doesn’t seem to realise that the family upheaval was not directed at her personally and everyone’s adjusting.
Forcing a smile, Martha left the kitchen. Everyone’s glad to be here but me. The thought made her feel lonelier than ever, and she dragged herself upstairs, fighting back tears.
Cheer on the killer: 3
Also, her closet keeps popping open. This is serious business guys. If that were me, I’d just grab all of those boring books that I get given at Christmas by people who know I like reading but have no idea what I like to read, and wedge it shut. But I’m irrational that way. You know, fixing something that bothers me.
[Wing: And all these years I’ve been so glad I only get non-boring books as gifts, but however will I wedge shut my closet?]
Martha is awoken by a ringing telephone call. Someone says “trick or treat” and hangs up. Martha realises there is a dead guy hanging outside her window and screams. Conor dashes to the rescue and points out it’s not a dead guy, it’s a scarecrow, so chill, dude. After they have a fight that I just want to quote all of, because it illustrates just what a spoilt brat Martha is, and how likeable Conor is, and how this book is written from entirely the wrong perspective. If it was from his point of view, we might be worried that his bratty bitch of a new stepsister was seriously dangerous and trying to kill them. Instead, as we read from Martha’s point of view, we’re generally of the opinion that anyone who has met her would want her dead. And, pretty please with cherries on top, could they hurry up?
Cheer on the killer: 4
[Wing: Still really want to read the book from Conor’s point of view.]
Martha and Conor go into town the next day to get picture hooks. Martha freaks some guy out because “from behind” she looks just like someone he used to know.
DED FROM STUPID: 1
The guy is Blake, and he’s really nice to Martha, and possibly a bit dense seeing a blonde from behind freaks him out. He has a cousin called Wynn. Martha immediately fancies Blake.
In other news, Martha still hates the house. In a jumbled scene right after meeting Blake, there’s mist and Martha can hear someone crying and feels generally spooked and… nothing really happens.
[Side note: Wing, don’t you think this house would be perfect for a writing retreat?]
[Wing: Yes! Right up until we got distracted running around in the secret tunnels and got zero writing done.]
Oh, and the parents go on vacation or something now. [Wing: And not to Europe, so there.]
Parents? What parents? 1
“Honeymoon,” Conor corrected. “We’re the ones who get the vacation.”
“From what?” Martha grumbled.
Martha glanced at him, almost wanting to laugh, but too upset to give him the satisfaction.
I’m sorry, but Conor’s very quotable and it always highlights what a dick Martha is.
Cheer on the killer: 5
The next day at school, her guidance counsellor is Blake’s older cousin, Greg, and he looks just like him. Martha even comments that they look like twins. She also tells Wynn that she looks like Blake too. Wynn kinda nods and agrees, but I’m not sure how I’d react if I was told by a girl that I look like two boys that the new girl has a crush on. I’d probably be all “Hey, Martha, pick one of us and have a crush, ok? Also, I’m a girl, don’t say I look like a boy.” But I get the feeling that Wynn’s the wishy-washy kind of best friend, who’s just there so that Martha has someone to exposit to when nobody believes her about all the later “pranks”. Note: this kind of friend is unnecessary when the whole book is from Martha’s point of view.
Side note: at this point, I begin to think that this was the first draft of Twilight. When discussing the book with Wing, I found myself saying, “It’s like Smeyer read this and though “Now, what this needs is less sex, less action and let’s completely focus on that creepy thing. That’s very sexy. In a totally PG/on-top-of-the-clothes kind of way.”
Wynn also tells us that the whole school has a crush on Conor. Then later amends it to just the girls. It’s ok, you know, for guys to like guys. Or girls to like girls. Or anyone to like anyone, really. Except Katie Holmes. I don’t approve of anyone crushing on her.
“Lusting after Conor!” Martha fell into step beside her.
“Well, they have. All the girls have.” Wynn flushed slightly and added, “Heads have been turning since he got here. Like the domino effect every time he walks down the hall. They haven’t been able to keep their eyes off him.”
“Conor?” Martha groaned and shoved the door open, glad to be outside at last. Leave it to Conor, she thought dismally. I get treated like a plague victim, and all the girls in school have fallen in love with him.
And just think, we’ve been told you’re very pretty, so it’s not your looks. Now, what could the problem be, Martha? Could it be that you’re a completely obnoxious brat and Conor has the patience of a saint with your bullshit?
Cheer on the killer: 6
DED FROM STUPID: 2
Wynn then says that Martha’s house, “the old Bedford place”, is…
Well, she doesn’t say fuck, certainly isn’t Samuel L Jackson, she’s not even male, and it’s not just the room, it’s the whole property, but still. That’s almost exactly what she says.
She tells Conor about it on the way home, someone was murdered in the house, that’s all she knows, and Martha is a brat about it. From her point of view, Conor is being smug and unhelpful, but from a neutral adult’s point of view, he’s simply asking questions and making noncommittal responses. I mean, what does she want from him? To slam on the brakes and weep in her arms as they both bellow to the sky “OH MY GOD! WE’RE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!”? Seriously, Martha, shut the fuck up.
Cheer on the killer: 7
[Wing: Is this the part where she gets all pissy because he doesn’t bombard her with all sorts of attention, and he’s just an introvert who doesn’t need to talk all the time? I know that happens at some point, and it is horrible and I hated Martha so much. SO MUCH HATE. Introverts are awesome, shut up Martha.]
When they get home, Martha dramatically throws herself on the bed and sulks. (Conor is a senior, so if she’s one year younger that makes her, what, seventeen? Grow up, Martha, you’re acting like a twelve year old.)
Cheer on the killer: 8
She sees Conor entering the woods and follows him out. Yet again, she feels threatened by the spooky woods, and jumps out of her skin when Conor asks what she’s doing out there without a jacket. Then he gets possessed and leads her to a cemetery. Or at least, I think that’s what the author is going for. Conor reveals that he’s never been there before, after making some weird comments like “it was so strong” and “it’s gone now”. So, uh, yeah, possession, some sort of psychic thing, a ghost led him there? Dunno.
[Wing: What is up with the ghost/psychic thing when the book is really building to a human killer.]
DED FROM STUPID: 3
They get back to the house, Conor makes food but Martha storms off in a huff before she can eat it.
It was here I realised I should be keeping count of how many times Martha storms off.
Cheer on the killer: 9
The house catches fire. It should be exciting, but somehow it’s all about Martha bitching about how much her life sucks. It’s not a big fire, just a tea towel. Martha, naturally, blames Conor. She ignores him on the ride to school the next day. That’ll show him. If I was Conor, I’d burn down the house every night if it provided some peace and quiet from her bitching. Also, she totally missed a trick. If I hated the house that my dad just bought and I was a brat and the house was on fire, I’d just haul my spoilt ass out of there and let it burn to the ground and then I’d be all, “Soz, dad, but the house is cremated, Conor and I will be staying at a swanky-swanky hotel until you buy a house that I approve of.”
Cheer on the killer: 10
At lunch, she bumps into Blake and is too nervous to eat. He comments on it, assumes she’s on a diet and assures her that with her body she doesn’t need to. Hang on, I’m gonna quote that because it’s creepy.
“Don’t tell me – diet?” Blake grinned, nodding at the pitiful lunch she’d selected. “You don’t need it, Martha – not with your body.”
Conor appears and I was sure that Martha would storm off in a huff, but she just huffs until he leaves. She doesn’t eat though. She also repeats (at any given opportunity) that Conor is her stepbrother. Pretty much any conversation he is mentioned, she’ll correct them.
[Wing: She focuses on that so much I’m pretty sure she’s setting up her reasons why it’s not incest, okay Dad? Except her Dad totally notices how they have a connection and seems okay with it, so I don’t know why she’s worried.]
Incest is relative: 2
Blake then tells her about the house. A girl called Elizabeth lived there (dead beautiful girls are always called Elizabeth, in my experience). She went out with a guy called Dennis. Dennis was a bully and a prick (and also Blake’s rival in sports). On Halloween night, they snuck away from the Halloween party and he killed her in her bedroom, which is now Martha’s bedroom. Wynn found the body, but can’t remember most of the events of that night.
Dennis started small, phone calls, threats, a small fire, etc. before killing her.
“He told her she’d never go out with anyone again.”
“Oh, Blake – he told her that?”
I love the way Martha thinks this is the most terrible thing to hear ever. I don’t mean threatening phone calls is something to laugh at (unless you’re a cop in a Point Horror, in which case: lol away), I just mean that particular line sounds more like “no-one will ever go out with you because I’ll tell them you’re frigid!” than “I’m gonna kill you dead!”. My point is, this seems the weakest thing Dennis did, but it’s the one Bella Martha took to heart.
Martha asks why nobody did anything to stop him and we are told:
“Hey, wait a minute!” For a split second Blake almost looked angry. “What could we do? No proof, no evidence – Dennis and I never got along, and that sure wasn’t a secret – and Elizabeth had dumped the guy. Do you know how that would have sounded to the cops? They’d have called it high school soap opera. And if Greg had gone around telling tales about Dennis, he could have lost his job.” He looked into Martha’s shocked eyes. “Do you think I’m proud of myself for this? Hell, I can hardly stand to think about it.” He jumped to his feet, hands in pockets and started pacing. “And Wynn… sure she knew about it… but if we’d made trouble for Dennis… well… he’d hinted to Elizabeth that he’d… make trouble… for Wynn.”
How on earth would Greg lose his job? He’s a guidance counsellor. I’m sure “telling tales” would be frowned upon, if, for example, Dennis had told him in confidence that he sometimes walked on the grass when there were signs that specifically told him not to, but threats against another student’s life is somewhat different. I’m sure it would be an acceptable breach of confidence – and, if I’m reading this right, Dennis didn’t tell him anything, so it wouldn’t be Dennis’ confidence he was breaking. It would be Elizabeth’s, or Wynn’s or Blake’s, and I’m sure, again, that would be understandable, since Elizabeth was the victim of the threats and potentially a crime, Wynn too if you can get past all the ellipses to read the final sentence or so.
DED FROM STUPID: 4
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1
Although I take their point about going to the cops. This is a Point Horror, everyone knows that cops laugh their pants off at a distressed teenager, especially if she’s a young and vulnerable girl.
It’s funny though, I watch a lot of the Crime & Investigation Channel, and I’ve never once seen a programme that has content along the lines of “Dennis started an aggressive campaign against Elizabeth, with threatening phone calls, dead rats left on her porch, and fires started in her house. Of course, they were in high school, so none of that really matters. In fact, we find it fucking hilarious. Go Dennis! Keep the lols rolling.”
They found Dennis’ car and knife the next morning in the river. But they never found Dennis.
Ooooh, it’s so scary, isn’t it?
In other news, Martha doesn’t speak to Conor at all until they get home, when she throws this charming opener out:
“I hope you cook better than your mom,” she said.
The look Conor threw her was reproachful. “Everyone cooks better than my mom.”
If I was Conor (and by the way, I’m only about 20% into this book now) I’d have picked up a spatula and rammed it down her throat. She’s such a whiny brat. Martha tells Conor about the murder while he makes chilli for them (ummm… chilli).
“How can they be so sure it was him?”
“Of course it was him!” Martha stared, her calm snapping.
Two things, 1) as if Martha has ever been calm at any point during this book; and 2) Martha has heard exactly one account of what happened, why is she so sure that’s true? Blake hated Dennis. I’m sure there are plenty of versions of what happened. I’m sure that someone out there thinks it was a double suicide. People always have different theories about everything. Naturally, Martha storms off in a huff before she can eat the food Conor has made. She then gets another trick or treat phone call.
Cheer on the killer: 11
She then goes out for pizza with Greg, Wynn and Blake, because she’s just charming that way. Greg refers to her as his newest and prettiest student, which is creepy. Wynn says she doesn’t want to do the Halloween ghost story assignment and Greg teases her because she fancies Conor and likes romance.
“A romance?” Greg bent close to her, lowering his voice dramatically. “A mysterious stranger who sneaks into girls’ rooms at night and–”
Again with the Twilight references. Because Greg thinks that stalker shit is romantic, and also thinks that Wynn (who might be his sister, I’m not sure, Blake is cousins with both Wynn and Greg, but no specification is given to their relationship) should find that romantic. A guy creeping into anyone’s room is creepy. End of story.
Incest is relative: 3
[Wing: Another story I’d read: Wynn and Greg are the same person, dun duh duuuuuuuuh.]
They ask her about Conor and Martha says she doesn’t know a thing about him because he keeps to himself. Which is bollocks. The poor guy doesn’t volunteer information because Martha’s too busy shouting at him for whatever is wrong with her at this precise second – Conor, the house is creepy; Conor you set fire to the kitchen; Conor, my room is cold; Conor, I heard a creepy story; Conor I hate you! Jeez, if I had that constant input, I wouldn’t bother putting myself out there for the BFF job either.
Cheer on the killer: 12
Martha “couldn’t remember when she’d had such fun” at the pizza place. Seriously, she’s from Chicago. She’s never done anything more fun? Chicago’s a great place for wrestling, she could have seen CM Punk wrestle! She’s never been to a theme park? She’s never gone horse riding? She’s literally never had more fun than cheap pizza with three relative strangers? Ok then.
[Wing: Not to mention, Chicago has some amazing restaurants, including pizza parlors. Though Martha’s so horribly boring, she probably never did have fun in Chicago.]
When she gets home she sees someone in her bedroom, and somehow this Conor’s fault too, even though he opens the door for her. He offers to swap rooms with her because she’s spooked. She throws it back in his face, and waits for him to walk away before changing her mind.
Fuck off, Martha. I hate you.
Cheer on the killer: 13
By the way, I take it back about Wynn being wishy-washy, she’s a good friend. She also clarifies that she’s not friends with Martha because her brother is hot. She genuinely likes Martha. Yeah, I don’t get it either. They talk about the murder again, and Wynn says all she can remember is “the long dark”. She will repeat this every time Martha asks, and every time, Martha will ask what that is. And every time Wynn will remind her that she cannot remember. Just take it as read that this exchange happens in every conversation, ok?
DED FROM STUPID: 5
[Wing: It’s…as if…we’d forget…if they went…more than a…page…or…two…without reminding us…that Wynn can’t–remember.]
Also, Wynn says that Dennis wouldn’t have killed Elizabeth, he loved her, and as Elizabeth’s best friend, she knows her shit, ok? Nobody believes her. Wynn reveals that Elizabeth dumped Dennis for Blake. She also says that Martha reminds her of Elizabeth, because they’re such good friends and laugh at the same things.
Naturally Martha takes this to mean “you look exactly like the dead girl” and later somehow blames Conor for this shit, though she manages not to storm off in a huff when he reasonably points out that “remind me of” is not the same as “look identical to”. Mostly because they have to get to school.
DED FROM STUPID: 6
Cheer on the killer: 14
Martha bunks off with Blake to pick up decorations for the Halloween dance (why is a student doing this in school time?). They make out. He asks her to go to the dance with him. Whatevs. He drops her home and she’s home alone waiting for Conor to get home, presumably so she can ream him for something else. She falls asleep and when she wakes up someone or something is in her room. Then she turns on the light and nothing’s there. Another phone call happens. The voice calls her Elizabeth.
[Wing: You missed the second best part of this book, which is the make outs in the hayloft! Not just make outs, but make outs in the hayloft! The best kind.]
Oh, god, I’m so bored I’ve started watching Freddy’s Nightmares in the background. In other news, those twins that are in two episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares? Yeah, they suck. Their evil is a different kind of evil to me and Wing.
Oh, hey, guess what, Martha’s bitching at Conor for being late. He had car trouble. He’s also aware that she bunked off school. Her reaction?
How she hated him – what had she ever done to deserve this stupid life she had now?
I don’t know, everything you ever did in the whole wide world? You suck and you deserve everything you get. My god, this has become an essay on how much I hate her and why. But there’s so much material! Conor finds a secret passageway from the butler’s pantry to Martha’s closet.
Cheer on the killer: 15
Martha promptly kicked his shin. “I hate you, Conor! Do you hear me? I hate and detest and despise you!”
Cheer on the killer: 16
And then she says that he’s strange, and she knows him as much as he knows her.
“You like Emily Dickinson and rock music, Mexican food, and you love to bake – brownies, mostly. Daisies are your favorite flowers, red’s your favourite color, and you don’t go much for white. You had lots of friends in Chicago – especially some guy named Ken – you love to write, and you’re good at it, but you have absolutely no confidence in yourself. You had a cat you grew up with, you love animals, you feel like nobody takes you seriously, that they never listen, that they think you have an overactive imagination–”
Allegedly, this is true, except we have no evidence at all of any of this. Bad writing all over the shop.
[Wing: He sounds like he’s reciting all the things he’s memorized to better woo her.]
Incest is relative: 4
Can I just summarise the rest? I’m so bored of this book. I wish I could be quick and amusing like Wing, but I’m just far too long-winded.
[Wing: No, no, it’s not you, it’s this terrible book. It could have been awesome, it just wasn’t.]
I’m skipping everything but the ending, because it just goes: vaguely sinister thing, Martha blames Conor, Conor lets her, one of the Chambers kids perks her up, rinse and repeat.
Cheer on the killer: 20 (giving it 4 seems fair)
They go to the Halloween dance (except Conor, I don’t even care why), and Wynn says she sees Dennis. Martha bundles Wynn into the girls’ loos and tries to find the boys. As she does that, she gets a phone call on the locker-room pay phones (remember pay phones?) saying that no-one’s home and they’re all dead, so Martha flips out and heads home with all the Chambers, Blake, Wynn and Greg, in tow.
Oddly, she is relieved that Conor is alive. Then a shadow leaps out and slashes him with a knife and they run, in the dark, and they fall over into more dark, and, just to remind you, it’s really fucking dark for a long time, ok? Nobody twigs that this is the long dark. They end up in the cellar, and Bad Guy is going to burn them alive.
“I’m sorry, Conor,” she whispered.
“Sorry? For what?”
“For everything… for causing you so much trouble… for getting you into this.”
Well, Conor’s a better person than me, because he accepts her apology, whereas I’d be more likely to scream, “You ungrateful brat, all you’ve done is piss and moan about everything since I met you. You’re horrible about my mom and your dad, and some murderer hates you and your horrible personality, and now because of that I get to die next to you. My life sucks and it’s all your fault.” Or something like that.
They find a way out of the cellar before they die, they go through another long dark passageway and end up in a mausoleum. There’s a bit of misdirection over who Bad Guy is, but it only lasts for a couple of lines and doesn’t matter. It’s Wynn, in case you didn’t read the book but are reading this recap.
Wynn was madly in love with Dennis, and believes he loved her too. She killed Elizabeth because she didn’t love Dennis enough. Also, there is a reference to sex in there… how naughty is that? *is scandalised*
“They were in her room, and they were laughing… and I could hear them talking…and I could hear the bed… and they didn’t even know I was there–”
[Wing: Kinky. Wynn likes to watch.]
She also killed Dennis. I can’t even begin to care why. By the way, I actually like Wynn, I just hate this book. Thankfully, Wing and I have got brilliant plans, which we may roll out around Halloween, and certain characters, such as Wynn, will be part of it.
And finally, the incest:
“I was just telling them about Dennis,” Wynn said anxiously. “I was going to tell them how I put his car there on the bridge – I was just–”
“Yes, sweetheart, I heard you.”
Martha had never seen Greg so shaken, his face so white, his hands so unsteady. Gently, lovingly, he eased Wynn back to her sitting position on the floor and cast Blake a tragic look.
So there we have it. The jilted girlfriend did it. Martha deserved it, but sadly she lived.
[Wing: Not to mention, Wynn was going to kill Martha because Martha was taking a boy away from her just like Elizabeth did, and see, even Wynn sees the Martha-Conor incest. WHAT IS UP WITH ALL THE INCEST IN THESE BOOKS?]
Oh my god, I hate this book. I really hate this book. In theory it should be good, it’s a basic new girl/spooky house tale, it has an awesome front cover and an interesting summary. And yet. The character is thoroughly hateful, Conor is never a threat, even though I think he’s supposed to be, and even though he starts out cool, about halfway through I just want him to man up and tell Martha to fuck off.
Another thing that pisses me off is the possession scene where Conor feels the need to take Martha to the cemetery. What was that all about? I either like the stories to be thoroughly supernatural or a human Bad Guy. Faffing around in between just annoys me because I just want Cusick to pick a side and write it properly.
Cheer on the killer: 20
DED FROM STUPID: 6
Incest is relative: 4
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1
Parents? What parents? 1
Also, please note a screen shot of a few pages of this blasted story. The pink and purple text is the misused punctuation.