Title: Followers by Anna Davies
Summary: To tweet or not to tweet . . . what a deadly question.
When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school’s production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department’s “social media director” and starts tweeting half-hearted updates. She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account [Dove: Yeah, that never happened.], Briana can’t muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark . . . and a body’s rotting in the theater” are obviously a joke.
But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana’s rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone’s horror, the grisly tweets continue . . . and the body count starts to rise.
There’s no other explanation; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.
With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it’s up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions . . . or she becomes the next victim.
Tagline: Briana’s next update might be her last. . . .
Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.
Dove and I were epically excited when we learned there would be new Point Horrors published. We probably should not have been.
[Dove: I have been dreading reading this. Ever since Wing said she’d do a new PH, I’ve been dragging my feet over reading this. And maybe cursing her name. Just a little. Especially since this is the author who gave us “Identity Theft”, the book that made me quit new PH.]
[Wing: I am truly the evil twin. Also, the cover of this book has nothing to do with the content. Be better, new Point Horrors. Be better!]
Briana Beland is our protagonist. She’s a teen actor who has just started earlier this year at a new art boarding school, MacHale, and is getting ready to audition for Hamlet. She’s even dyed her normally honey blonde hair to a dark brown, though really it only makes her look exhausted, not like Ophelia. Things are not going well at her new school; no one cares that she is alive. Her mom is a bit of a stage mom, and Briana is pretty down on herself after how badly her transition to the new school has gone. Briana is from Connecticut, but MacHale is in Maine. Since she’s about to start winter term (or “winterm” in the book, oh my god, name smushing school terms), that means we’re in for a cold winter setting.
Sure enough, MacHale is dark and cold when they arrive, and her dad is worried about her walking around the castle-like school on her own at night. Her mom assures him that it is safe, and he wonders if Sarah Charonne’s parents felt the same. Apparently Sarah was a student who disappeared when Mrs Beland was a senior at the school. (So Briana is a legacy, and yet didn’t start at the school when everyone else did? That is strange.) For a long time, everyone thought she’d just run away, but then five days before Briana’s first fall semester began, Sarah’s remains were found in the woods near the Runnymede River dam. There has been no progress on finding her killer, and it has stirred up town-and-gown resentments. (Forsyth is the working class town where MacHale is located, and things are pretty icy between locals and students.)
Winterm is a short term between fall and spring semesters, when they put on a play, but don’t actually have classes. Lots of time for shenanigans and dangerous hijinks. Briana is desperate to play Ophelia in Hamlet because she is tired of being just another anonymous student.
[Dove: At this point, how awesome does this book sound? We have winter. We have snow. We have a massive old building with most of its residents absent. We have a missing girl from years ago, whose remains have just turned up. We have a fairly decent protagonist with mom issues (that’s a personal one for me). At this point, I was like, OMG, THANK GOD I’M READING THIS BOOK. (That feeling didn’t last long.)
Also, her surname is Beland. Anyone from Yorkshire cannot help but read that as “bell end”. And it’s funny. N0 matter how childish it is, that’s funny.]
[Wing: I just laughed so hard. SO. HARD. But you’re right, this has all the points to make it a wonderful story. And yet.]
Mrs Beland is a terrible stage mother, and nearly ruined Briana’s love of acting before she even had a chance to begin. After overhearing her mother saying some pretty shitty things about her, she did a lot of research and got into MacHale on her own terms. Briana’s not a complete loner; she has casual friends, including her roommate, Willow, but mostly feels like she hasn’t found her own place at the school.
When her parents finally drop her off, her mother gets in one more passive-aggressive comment to her father that Briana still manages to overhear, and then she heads inside. She’s not alone for long, though, because she finds Willow in their room with Tristan Schuler, Chad Connor, Tad Richman, and Eric Riley. Eric is a senior, the star of every play, and the recipient of many theater awards. Briana is absolutely smitten by him, and certain that he will play Hamlet. Chad and Tad look almost like twins, with “floppy Irish setter-colored hair” dimples, and expansive bow tie collections that they wear when in the a capella group; Tristan is the editor in chief of the newspaper and heir to a line of soy products.
Briana sits down to join them, and learns from Tristan that Eric broke up with Skye, who is part of his band and, apparently, now his ex-girlfriend, though Eric says they’re just taking a break.
Briana thinks that Tristan always speaks “like a smart and funny Twitter feed, as though every single thought he had was distilled and delivered in 140 characters of snark.” We have seen literally none of that so far in his conversation. Also, I know this is the new, modern Point Horror, but you’re leaning pretty heavy on the social media aspect to make this story come together, Davies. [Dove: Note from the future, Tristan is never funny or snarky. In fact, he sounds like a token gay person in a sitcom that’s all white het cis normative, and lol, gayz r funny.]
[Wing: Gay BFFz 4EVA.]
Sure enough, Briana’s phone buzzes while she’s sitting next to Eric, and she finds a Twitter update from Tristan. We then get a Twitter exchange:
Tristan: The real #machaledrama? Realizing I stole @alleyesonbree’s bed. #sorrynotsorry
Tristan: Somehow I think @alleyesonbree is OK with the seating arrangement. 😉
Briana: First night back and Tristan is already starting trouble. #dramadramadrama
I’m torn. I love Twitter in reality, and love seeing it worked into stories (or any social media worked into stories) as long as it is well done, but I am not sure this counts. I guess I will give it some more time before I decide.
[Dove: Also, I did not read her twitter handle properly. I kept reading it as AlysonBree or something, and I just assumed I’d missed the part where Alison is her surname or her first name and she goes by her middle name. Thank god they spend about eight pages explaining her twitter handle.]
Briana has some back and forth teasing with the others, and tells them to call her Bree, who, she decides, is more outgoing and confident than Briana. Briana and Eric end up going to the theater together to rehearse their audition pieces.
So far, each chapter opens with a new Tweet. I am going to share them with you, because if I have to read them, so do you.
Eric: Me and @alleyesonbree making Shakespeare history #worstlyricintheworld #auditions #rehearsing
I’m not sure that Davies knows how hashtags are actually used on Twitter.
They walk along a cobblestone path through the academic buildings, Scholar’s Walk. Legend is that only seniors could walk from one end to the other; everyone else was supposed to step off at some point or risk bad luck. I love superstitions like that.
They’re alone in the auditorium, which is designed like a theater-in-the-round, with ten rows of wooden bleachers surrounding each side of the stage and a retractable skylight above the stage that can be opened in nice weather.
Adrenaline surged through my veins. I’d been rehearsing one of Ophelia’s earlier monologues, before she goes crazy, when she realizes Hamlet isn’t acting like himself and she doesn’t know what to do about it. She confesses to her brother, Laertes, about how weird Hamlet seems. Most people do Ophelia’s later monologue, where she’s the one everyone thinks is crazy, but I didn’t like that one. I like it when she’s still herself, before the madness has gotten to her. When she still thinks everything can be okay.
That’s pretty damn heavy handed foreshadowing. I swore we had a trope counter for this, but apparently not. I’m going to use the McGuffin, ahoy!: 1 (+1) counter instead. (An attempt is made to casually reference something that is clearly going to be a plot point at a later date. And it fails to be casual.) Also, there is some interesting analysis to be done of Ophelia’s characterization and actions in Hamlet, but this is not a story I trust to do that. [Dove: Hey, guess what? Defriended, the last new PH we recapped was studying Hamlet too.]
[Wing: Oh good god, why.]
Eric and Briana joke around a little, and Eric actually says “Macbeth” inside the theater, which is another superstition that I love: the play is cursed, and saying it causes bad luck. In order to fix it, he has to turn around three times and spit over his shoulder while outside the theater. She sends him out to do that, and takes the stage, picturing herself as Ophelia. Then she realises how quiet and dark the theater is while she’s alone. She goes looking for him, and ends up nervous and frightened in the dark. She swears she sees two glowing dots staring at her from the woods, and then Eric turns up startles her.
Briana runs her monologue for him, and he loves it, and tells her he never realised how serious about acting she was, how talented, and now he’s even more nervous about his audition. It’s actually kind of sweet.
Briana: Mac-zausted, Mac-cited, and Mac-king a Deli-C run for carbs. #machale #hamletauditions
Oh, Briana, NO.
Briana takes forever to dress for her audition, and ends up in a black lace thrift store dress she borrows from Willow’s closet, with boots and black tights. She takes the long way back to the auditorium, and runs into Skye Henderson (blonde hair pulled into a shiny ponytail, eyes perfectly lined with shimmery bronze shadow, cheek kisses in greeting) — she’s also an actor, and, of course, Eric’s ex. Skye brings news that Dr Spidell, their drama teacher, died, which is a shock.
When they get to the auditorium, there is an easel set up in the corner of the lobby with a bouquet of roses at its base. Briana is a little freaked out, because it wasn’t there the night before. The center photograph is of a blonde girl wearing pears and a black sweater, and, shock of all shocks I’m sure, the sign says that the MacHale circle theater is dedicated to Sarah Charonne, with this line: The curtain may have closed too quickly on her young life, but she will always have a place in the spotlight of our hearts.
Briana very cheesily and dramatically touches the glass frame while she looks at the photos from past productions, including one from the 1985 production of Hamlet. Sarah was Ophelia, but Briana recognises her own mother in the background, not in the starring role, and she wonders why her mother never told her that she’d been in a play with Sarah, that she’d been in Hamlet. [Dove: Don’t get excited. As soon as that sentence is over, the author forgets all about it. It’s not a sub-plot.]
[Wing: The dead girl’s body being found is really not anything other than a bit of description. It doesn’t even really play into the Muffin Man’s actions.]
The headmistress, Dr Conger goes onstage; she’s accompanied by an overweight red-faced older man and a guy in a black sweater, skinny jeans, and sunglasses. He’s a total fucking hipster, and, I’m guessing, their new drama teacher. Sure enough, he’s Breckin O’Dell, there from New York City where he worked off and off-off Broadway shows. Dr Conger is also there to tell them they’re opening auditions to students from Forsyth High, a public school on the opposite side of town, and the MacHale students are furious over the thought of hanging out with public school kids. (Pretty much a direct quote.)
#FirstWorldProblems: 1 (+1) (If you need this explained, you probably live a life filled with #FirstWorldProblems)
Never has the format of this trope counter been more appropriate.
Tristan, who has shown up to report on the auditions, tells Briana all the Forsyth kids look smug, and she snarks that they look “snug” because of the way their principal’s stomach strained against his shirt buttons. Because fat people are poor and exist for rich girls to mock, right? Fuck off, Briana.
Cheer on the killer: 1 (+1) (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.)
Zach Mathis, one of the Forsyth boys, mocks MacHale to Mr O’Dell’s face, calling it “MacHell.” Mr O’Dell kicks him out and says that he won’t have anyone taking his spotlight until he gives it to them. He then tells everyone else that he is a professional and he demands professionalism. Briana gets an idea she thinks is too good not to share, and quickly tweets “‘Townies make me frowny.’ – William Shakespeare, playwright, snob” just before Mr O’Dell looks at her, and she freaks out.
After he gives a bit of a speech about how things will go, Andi Schaefer, a junior who runs stage crew (curly hair pulled back so tight it made her eyes bug out like a “permanently surprised guinea pig”) asks if she will still be the assistant director. She spends some time chewing on the corner of her iPhone, and Mr O’Dell mocks her a little for it. Then Tristan does the same on Twitter. Everyone is terrible in this book.
Cheer on the killer: 2 (+1)
When Mr O’Dell asks if anyone has anything else to say, Skye immediately asks to audition first. Mr O’Dell loves that someone is willing to be the first victim. Skye does a monologue from All’s Well That Ends Well, and her performance is honest and genuine, and makes people laugh when they’re supposed to laugh.
Mr O’Dell calls Briana up next, and she freaks out. Tristan gets called out by Mr O’Dell and takes off, leaving Briana to apologise for the disruption and explain why he was there in the first place. Then she goes into her monologue, and recalls the two eyes she saw in the woods, the fear that crept into her when she thought she was being watched, and it seems to go very well. Mr O’Dell tells her good when she’s done, and she purposely doesn’t look at anyone else, because she doesn’t want to know what the others think.
After Eric’s audition, Mr O’Dell ends the auditions for the morning, and names the people he’s bringing in for callbacks that afternoon. Briana is one of them, as are Skye and Eric. Eric takes off as soon as his name is called, but Skye asks Briana to get lunch with her. They’re on their way to the campus cafe when Briana sees a tweet from @hamletsghost: Seems @alleyesonbree had fun at #machalehamlet auditions. Finding humor in tragedy is a talent…. Can she keep it up?
What a waste of characters on unnecessary ellipses. [Dove: @hamletsghost is CUSICK!]
Briana worries about who could be @hamletsghost, and eventually deletes her earlier tweets. She gets this in response: Delete all you want, but I enjoyed your earlier Tweets @alleyesonbree. FYI, the real show hasn’t started yet. #getafrontrowseat
I am pretty sure that you couldn’t italicise tweets when this was written, but whatever.
Briana responds: Thanks for the heads up @hamletsghost. No fear, Shakespeare … ready for showtime.
Why is everyone wasting space on unnecessary punctuation?
Briana and Skye talk about auditions during lunch, and Skye, too, tells Briana she didn’t know that she was good, though from her it’s more of an accusation than it was from Eric.
I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1 (+1) (Because girls can’t be friends, AMIRIGHT? For some reason, this girl, who is utterly desirable in the looks department, hates the ever-loving fuck out of our protagonist. And, despite claiming to not care, our protagonist makes digs about her all the time.)
Eventually, Briana takes off, claiming that she forgot something in the dorm, because she’s so stressed by Skye’s assumption that she will get the Ophelia role and get back together with Eric because they’re playing lovers.
Skye: Eating lunch alone since @alleyesonbree ditched me. Anyone around to keep me company? #riledup #tragedy #auditions
Briana goes looking for Eric in the auditorium, but even though some of the others are back already, he is not. She tries to talk to Andi, who is pacing back and forth onstage, the corner of her cell phone jammed into her mouth as usual. Andi doesn’t respond, but falls to the ground, foam and blood sputtering from her lips. Briana calls for help, but no one really hears her at first. Eventually, some of the Forsyth kids come to help.
Camille Chatterjee calls Dr Booth, and then Skye runs onstage and starts yelling at Andi. They’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with her when Dr Booth arrives, and Skye says that Briana was the one with her first. Dr Booth picks up Andi, which doesn’t seem like a medically sound response. Dr Booth tells Mr O’Dell that Andi just fainted, students do it all the time, and he’ll take care of everything. O–kay?
The callback auditions are very different from the first round. He would stop them mid-sentence, ask why they’d read a line a certain way, make them switch parts mid-scene. It’s all very interesting, and so of course it is summed up in just a few lines.
After, Briana and Eric talk about what in the world that was during auditions. Briana is drained by everything she did onstage, but Eric is furious. Skye runs up to them in the middle of his rant. Some of the Forsyth kids go past, Skye mocks them, Briana notices one of the girls and wonders if they could be friends if they are both in the play. She’s Kennedy Clifford, Skye says (though how she knows is not clear), and she thinks O’Dell really liked her.
Eric dismisses Skye kind of casually, and when they’re alone again, he asks Briana to get dinner. He also says that he finds it endlessly annoying the way Skye needs to be reassured all the time that she is a good actor. They walk through the woods, talk a little about auditions, Briana sees orange plastic in the trees and realises the “eyes” she saw the night before were really just reflectors.
Eric takes her deep into Forsyth, where MacHale kids don’t normally visit, near where Sarah Charonne’s body was found. He introduces her to the Trusty Ax, which has rows of motorcycles parked outside, and is therefore a place I want to eat there immediately.
Their server is familiar with Eric (and Skye) and though she doesn’t get named, she’s Kennedy’s mother. After Eric orders their food, they talk a little about how he used to come there with Skye, and how they used to perform sometimes because she didn’t want anyone “real” to hear them, didn’t want anyone on campus to see them while they practiced. Fuck off, Skye.
Eric thinks MacHale should encourage them to get off campus to meet people in Forsyth, not bring the Forsyth kids to campus because the administration is making everything such a big deal. Eric is one of those privileged boys who thinks his sheltered life is boring and everywhere else must be much more interesting. [Dove: I honestly can’t work out why she likes Eric. This is one of his more likeable interactions with her. And I want to punch him in the throat.]
[Wing: Yeah, I don’t really understand why either. Pretty much all of the private school kids are terrible, not that the Forsyth group is much better.]
Tristan tweets looking for her to talk after the audition (because of course he wouldn’t just text or otherwise message her directly), and she decides he must be the person behind @hamletsghost.
There’s some nice stuff between Eric and Briana, talking about how auditions work, and how change can be hard, etc. Then Eric turns back into a typical spoiled MacHale kid when another server comes up to them — he turns out to be the guy that got kicked out of auditions.
Then they see Mr O’Dell at the bar. They consider going up to him, but decide not to, and then end up leaving shortly after. Right before they can, @hamletsghost tweets about her, pointing out that she’s auditioning to be Eric’s girlfriend. She still thinks it’s Tristan and shows it to Eric, who is a little bit insulted that she’s upset at the implication that they’re together. She claims she’s not, and they are super happy and flirty for a moment, until a bunch of Forsyth kids come in and ruin the mood. They had back to campus after.
Briana falls while they walk through the woods and manages to lose both her phone and one of her contacts. Eric helps her up, then finds her phone for her, but the contact is gone. Her phone doesn’t work at first, and Eric tells her to put it in a bowl of rice to fix it. [Dove: This totally works. I put my iPhone through the washing machine. After two days in a bowl of rice, it was working again in a clunky fashion. After about a month (no longer in rice), it was working perfectly.]
[Wing: Yeah, the rice thing is a pretty standard response to an electronic device getting wet. It absorbs the moisture.]
Briana is skeptical, but then wants to see what she tripped on. It’s a tombstone from the nineteenth century. Because of course it is. That’s nice and creepy. He walks her back to her dorm, they flirt a little more, and then Eric takes off. Briana puts her phone in rice, and Ms Robinette, their house mother, asks her to spread the word about a house meeting. Ms Robinette has been crying, but when Briana asks what’s wrong, she won’t tell her and justs asks her to gather everyone.
Gee, I wonder, is Andi dead?
Zach: Hey @alleyesonbree, we met at the Trusty Ax earlier. Wanna do coffee and talk theater sometime? Seems I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands….
Zach managed to track her down pretty quickly, didn’t he?
Briana heads into the common room for the meeting, and we get a quick rundown of everyone who is around for Winterm: Gina Maestre (freshman, back early to work on her sculpture), Allison Ellis (student government senior), Elizabeth Curtis (student government senior), Laura Russo (runner, goes out for a 10-mile run every night), and, of course, Willow (perched on the window seat in a vintage ivory silk slip and oversized fedora, taking Instagram selfies). Briana sits with Willow, asks whether it is normal for Tristan to make a fake Twitter account just to mess with her, and then the start talking about clothes and the auditions, but then Ms Robinette calls for their attention.
Sure enough, she’s gathered them together to tell them that Andi (Andrea Schaefer) died. Apparently, she poisoned herself — she accidentally ingested battery acid from her phone. This makes some of the freshmen girls giggle, and Ms Robinette shuts that shit down fast, as she should. She then asks them not to talk about it on social media or with any reporters. Ms Robinette invites them to come get some tea, but no one leaves the room with her. Briana thinks everyone is acting strangely callous about Andi’s death, and she’s right, but also, she’s strangely emotional about it when she barely knew the girl, certainly wasn’t her friend, and was mocking her a short time ago.
The biggest take away is that Willow says Andi isn’t important enough for someone else to poison.
The next morning, Briana tries to check Twitter on her laptop first thing, but the internet is down. She feels untethered without the internet or her phone, but hasn’t even yet tested her phone to see if it works. Instead of getting dressed, she pulls on a sweatshirt and takes off for the dining hall. No mention of putting on a coat or boots, and since this is MAINE in the middle of WINTER, I feel like this is trope counter worthy.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 (+1) (Because why stick to what was said last chapter? Or even last sentence. Make it up as you. If your lead character says it, it MAKES IT SO!)
There are two computers in the dining hall that no one ever uses, and that is her plan for the morning. As she walks over, she runs into Mr O’Dell running out of the woods. She realises that he has a presence that makes her not want to look away from him (not because he’s attractive or even interesting, but just so deeply there), and she wishes she had the same.
She babbles at him for a bit, it’s very awkward and cringey, and finally asks him when he’ll put up the cast list. He tells her it will be that afternoon, and asks her to tell the others, which she really can’t because of her lack of phone and also contact information for everyone. He takes off before she can tell him that, though, and instead of continuing on to the dining hall, she instead heads for Burnside, the upperclassmen boys’ dorm (and a proud reminder of MacHale’s Scottish heritage). It’s the farthest building from the center of campus, all the way on the other side of the pond. She asks one of the guys where to find Tristan, and gets his room number.
Tristan has been sleeping still, but welcomes her into the room. There’s a tree on one side of the room, its leaves drooping. (Who brings a tree to their dorm?) The other side (Tad’s side) is a mess. Tristan’s side is perfectly clean.
First thing Tristan wants to discuss is Andi’s death, of course. He says it’s boring, but also sad, and now it makes things depressing. He then moves on to talking about Briana and Eric. She changes the topic, asking him if @hamletsghost could spread the word about the cast list. He doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about RE @hamletsghost, but he posts from his own account.
Eventually, Briana gets around to actually asking him about @hamletsghost, and he tells her he has no idea what it is, and he would never do anything anonymous. She shows him the latest Tweet (Double, double, toil and trouble … Wrong play, but when #forsyth and #machale mix, that’s what’s I expect to be on the way.), and Briana is freaked out that the user icon has been changed to a photo of the full moon.
He challenges her to figure out why she always has excuses to go after the things and people she wants, and she’s a little grumpy about that, because it is easier said than done. They talk a little more about auditions and @hamletsghost, and he invites her to come into town with the group, because he’s decided that she’s one of them now.
Skye: Good luck with the cast list today, Eric … not like you’ll need it. Celebratory dinner 2night? #ihearthamlet
Kennedy: Hope that Zach gets the hint that this semester, I’m keeping the drama onstage only.
Zach: @alleyesonbree I assume the non-response to my coffee invite means you’re not interested. It’s cool.
Briana’s phone is finally working again, and she feels a little guilty about missing his first tweet for awhile and then never responding to it, but not guilty enough to actually respond. She’s out with Willow, Eric, Chad, Tad, and Tristan. She and Willow are sitting in Hope’s Cookies, Eric, Chad, and Tad are playing old-school arcade games in Peace-a-Pizza, which is next door, and Tristan is looking for old records in the thrift shop.
They gossip about a bunch of stuff, but eventually Tristan, Willow, and Briana start talking about costumes. Tristan wants them to be sexy, and Willow talks about a feminist analysis of the play that she read and how Ophelia is a window into the sickness of society, and that is her undoing; she can’t shake society and society ends up killing her. Which is a pretty standard feminist reading, and one I’m glad to see worked into a story, so kudos for that, Davies. She wants to do sheer for Ophelia, and a 1930s player for Hamlet, tank tops and suspenders and no jackets really. I love it, actually.
@hamletsghost: Darkness cloaks many of Shakespeare’s tragedies, but one thing is crystal clear: the cast of #machalehamlet. Ready to play a part?
Apparently, the cast list is up, and then Briana gets a text from Skye telling her that maybe she’ll do better next year. It’s kind of snarky, and Briana knows that Skye got the part instead of her. She takes off on her own, and runs along Scholar’s Walk. She forgets to step off it, but doesn’t really care, because there’s no way she could have worse luck.
She gets to the cast list, and learns that actually, Skye is just the understudy for Ophelia, and will do a matinee or two, but Kennedy, from Forsyth, is actually cast in the role. (Another weird thing to note is that Mr O’Dell is playing the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Is that normal, for a director of a high school play to give himself a role?) [Dove: Don’t ask me, I’m English. We don’t do extracurricular activities.] [Wing: We learn later that it’s kind of weird, but not unheard of for a director to be weird.]
Mr O’Dell stops Briana before she can escape, and talks to her a little about why she didn’t get the role. He says she wasn’t an honest Ophelia during her auditions; that when he looked at her onstage, he saw a high school student who had something to prove, and her stakes weren’t high enough. Ophelia’s stakes are madness or sanity, life or death, and Briana’s were all about whether she was good enough, whether she can make people like her. He makes a good point, though he’s kind of weird.
Then he asks her to help him elevate the show beyond a simple high school show and into a theatrical performance — by being the social media director.
Briana refuses and leaves, hoping to keep her dignity intact. Any bets on how soon she’ll take that back?
Leah: @alleyesonaree OMG, Are U OK? LMK if U Want to talk!!
Briana: Thanks, but it’s all good! Seriously, I’m pretty psyched to have some space in my schedule smile.jpg
Skye: Can’t wait to get my matinee on with Eric. Want to rehearse later tonight?
Skye: Eric, are you not checking your Twitter feed again? Do I have to call you?
Again with people tweeting instead of just picking up the damn phone (to text or call directly, either one).
While everyone else is off to rehearsal, Briana sits down to read The Magic Mountain, a book she is required to read over break, but is having a hard time getting into it because it is about a guy who visits his cousin in a tuberculosis sanatorium and ends up stuck there for seven years; it’s supposed to be an allegory about modern life, and she thinks it hits too close to home, because she knows what it feels like to be surrounded and watched with nowhere to escape. That is a bit dramatic, Briana, considering you leave campus all the damn time.
She then tries to dye her hair red, but it comes out orange, and she is pleased, because it isn’t pretty and she’s tired of trying to be good enough.
Tristan tweets about a new article in the school paper/blog, and she goes to read it. It’s mostly a complaint about allowing the Forsyth kids to be a part of the show, and specifically talks about Briana losing the part and being stuck on campus all because of the Forsyth kids. Which isn’t true, because clearly Skye would have been cast if the Forsyth kids weren’t around, and at best, Briana would have gotten understudy. Not sure if even that, though.
Briana is angry at Tristan, for good reason, because she thinks he’s stirring up drama and has now stolen the last of her dignity. She texts him to come over and starts to cry while she waits. She’s crying pretty hard by the time he shows up, and confronts him about the article. He says he wrote it for her, and did not make her look like a loser, but like a hero — he claims he’s giving her the spotlight.
Tristan also talks about his theory as to why the Forsyth kids were included at all: the school still feels guilty over the Sarah Charonne murder. Which doesn’t really make sense, because she was a MacHale student, even if she was also involved in Forsyth, so … none of this is actually logical. Still, he’s a teen trying to figure out why adults do what they do. It makes as much sense as anything else. [Dove: Is it because — this is revealed later — that a Forsyth resident was suspected of the murder? Also, fuck Tristan. He wrote the article so he could bitch about the locals taking up space in his world.] [Wing: I have no idea. There is nothing beyond bare minimum surface logic to this plot.]
Briana also has to figure out what she can do over Winterm, because everyone has to participate in some kind of activity. Nothing sounds appealing to her, and she keeps coming back to the social media director. She realises it is the only way she can actually be involved in the play. So basically, it didn’t take long at all for her to change her mind.
Briana goes to find Mr O’Dell, and has a run in with Skye who basically tells her to leave because he runs strict closed rehearsals, but Briana doesn’t let that get to her. He talks at her about being true to her art, about how she showed real emotion, but it was Briana’s emotion, not Ophelia’s, and it all could be interesting, but really just comes across as trite. (Intentionally, I think.) He wants her to be the voice of Hamlet on Twitter, not tweeting quotes, but to find the voice of the play, the behind-the-scenes gossip, the drama, what Hamlet would think of all of it, and to spread it out, to break the fourth wall and make the audience a part of the theatrical journey. It is all really, really cheesy and trite at this point.
Tristan: Calling @alleyesonbree to her room for an #itcouldbeworse gossip session. Crying encouraged, carbs included.
Briana doesn’t see the tweet until she’s already back at her room, and she tries to get out of it, but Tristan and Willow suck her into it. Tad and maybe some other people are around too. They hash some things out, Briana lies a lot about how excited she is, and then demands Tristan give her the password to @hamletsghost, but he still claims it isn’t his account. She doesn’t really believe him.
Eric turns up with a bag of gummy bears for her, but she’s miffed that he didn’t turn up right after the cast list came out, when she really needed someone. She still congratulates him on his part, and he joins them, putting the gummy bears on his piece of pizza. That is disgusting.
Tristan tweets about it from Briana’s laptop, and she’s not upset, but pretty impressed by what he says. (Seems the #machalehamlet may owe his cast list success to one sweet secret. Wouldn’t you like to know what it is?) [Dove: I really feel like Tristan’s cleverness is an informed attribute.] [Wing: Agreed.]
They talk about what they’re doing that night, and Eric invites everyone to a party in Forsyth. Tristan and Eric clash again about Tristan’s snobbery regarding the locals, and no one else really wants to go. Briana realises this is her chance to be alone with Eric, and jumps at the chance.
Eric, who was super down on Hamlet before auditions, is now really into it because Mr O’Dell wants to make it more contemporary, Hamlet as a high school student, his father as a corporate CEO — it’s all pretty great, he thinks, and I would be interested to see that version. [Dove: I’m not a massive fan of Shakespeare, but I do love retellings in contemporary settings.] [Wing: I love Shakespeare, and also love contemporary setting retellings.] He, too, tells her what a great thing she can do as social media director, and how Mr O’Dell wants to work all the lies and secrets and misunderstandings in an actual network of secrets, with them using phones and tablets onstage.
As they make their way through the cemetery, the find a tombstone that says “Breckin O’Dell”. Eric says it must be a common name, which — really, Eric? REALLY? [Dove: Name one person named Breckin who isn’t Breckin Meyer. Go!] [Wing: *dying*]
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1 (+1) (“I didn’t see anything” or “I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything about the accident”, because either would lead us to the bad guy, and we’ve still got twelve chapters to go.)
They talk even more about the play, and how sad Briana is, and how hard it is to be rejected, and how Eric is there for her, and it’s all really boring. Finally, they get to the house, but it looks quiet and not like there is a party at all. Kennedy answers the door, and is disappointed that he brought someone. Because of course she is, this is clearly not a party.
There’s some bickering at each other, both Briana and Kennedy trying to flirt with Eric, and then Zach shows up. He really wants to talk to Kennedy. She slams the door in his face, tells them that he’s sometimes overemotional and it’s a problem, but he’s not dangerous. They go watch a movie version of Hamlet, and Briana thinks about tweeting it, but decides not to, because at MacHale, nothing counts if it’s not tweeted, and she doesn’t want this night to count. But it’s clear that Kennedy does.
Skye: Ready to get in character, starting at the costume closet. Follow along on #machalehamlet to see some exclusive behind-the-scenes images.
Tristan: Digging up some major dirt on the players in #machalehamlet. You’ve been warned….
@hamletsghost: How to describe the end of the first week of rehearsals? Some might say … electric. What do you think @alleyesonbree?
We’re a week into the two week Winterm, and @hamletsghost has been tweeting all sorts of things about the stars of the show. (Kennedy and Eric meet before official rehearsals, Rex Andrews, who is playing Polonius, has been making out with Leah, and Skye is raiding the costume closet.)
Skye and Briana have weirdly been hanging out together, though Briana isn’t really sure why. Briana still thinks that Tristan is @hamletsghost.
Mr O’Dell gives everyone his version of a pep talk, which is mostly more meta theater thoughts, and then Skye and Briana sneak back to the costume closet, which is a large metal cage up a small staircase with ten steps. Briana hears a scream, then sees a falsh of light, and everything goes dark. When the lights come back, Skye is slumped on the landing, her body twisted at an awkward angle, her script scattered around her. Everyone runs backstage, Eric calls for help, Briana realises that she’s the one screaming endless, relentless noises. Eric tries to talk her through some breathing to calm her down, and it works. The emergency crew shows up and evacuates the building because there’s some sort of electrical problem.
Briana realises that @hamletsghost tweeted about things being electric that morning, and feels sick. She tries to tell Eric, but he guides her outside. He then asks her what she saw, and he’s acting like he is suspicious of her. She freaks out and runs off, and no one knows if Skye will live or die.
Briana: The entire #machalehamlet cast hopes that Skye gets better as soon as possible. Love and thoughts are with her.
Tristan: Let’s play a game! Any guesses on who @hamletsghost will kill next? My guess is it won’t be @alleyesonbree….
Briana is furious that he would make that kind of joke insinuating that she had killed Skye. (Who maybe isn’t even dead.) Briana deleted everything she’s ever retweeted from @hamletsghost, but it’s already been retweeted by other people, mostly people she doesn’t know, and she’s gaining a ton of followers (87 just since Skye’s fall). (That is not really a ton, but okay, Davies, whatever you want us to believe.)
Willow checks on her, then tells her that people are asking a lot of questions about her, and she realised she doesn’t know much about Briana at all, even though she’s never thought of her as the mysterious type. Willow talks her into dying her hair a different colour, but before they can, they’re interrupted by Sabrina Stokes, a sophomore on stage crew, who brings news that Skye is dead.
Willow convinces her to keep going with the dye, because it gives them something to do, but once they’re done, Willow is going to a party. Briana finds that strange, but Willow really wants her to come with her.
(Before they leave for the party, Briana sees another tweet from @hamletsghost, this time saying she should be the new Ophelia understudy.)
Willow tells her to try to keep things calm, because people will be upset about Skye, and when Briana questions her, says that sometimes she thinks Briana plays up the victim thing and not everything has to be all about her. I’m not sure why Briana actually goes to the party with Willow after that, but she does. Willow leads her down into the basement and then to a large metal grate which used to be part of the heating system and now drops straight into the tunnels. She’s also acting weird, telling Briana she’s on her side and that she shouldn’t be afraid of this, which is a strange emphasis. Briana, you probably shouldn’t go with her. But of course you are.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 2 (+1)
Unsurprisingly, as they’re walking down the tunnel (which is more like an old storage room; apparently all the buildings are connected), Briana’s head is suddenly covered by fabric, and then she’s led to another space. There are a bunch of people from the play, as well as Tad and Chad. They’re apparently holding a vigil for Skye. There’s some accusations, both toward Briana and from Briana toward Tristan, who she still claims is @hamletsghost. There’s some more arguing, and then Briana realises that a lot of people think she killed Skye. She storms off, but Tristan comes after her.
He tells her that he isn’t @hamletsghost, and he doesn’t think she is, either, but that she needs people to think she is, and she needs to be a great actress for the next week. He also says that he knows he’s being a bad friend, but he’ll make it up to her. He’s doing some research, and he can’t tell her his theories yet, which is all just bullshit. Just fucking talk to each other!
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 3 (+1)
There’s some more cryptic bullshit, and then Briana shuts off and makes it back to her room before she gets busted by any of the faculty. Her laptop is nearly dead, still, but instead of charging it, she slams it shut, locks up the room, and takes herself to bed. Considering how important it is for her to see what’s happening on Twitter, that is ridiculous. Charge your goddamn laptop.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 4 (+1)
Briana: Trivia time! Who, on campus, has, in the words of Hamlet, “a vicious mole of nature in them?” (A certain streaky-haired #machale supersleuth, mayhap?)
Tristan: Really @alleyesonbree? Tweeting insults is a little bit low, don’t you think? Or are you saying you’re ready to get dirty?
Briana: No, I’m saying that you should spend less time chasing rumors and more time studying Shakespeare. That’s all.
Oh, wait, apparently the power was out the night before, which was something I missed. It’s back on in the morning, and she checks into Twitter. Mr O’Dell calls her room before she can leave to shower, which is weird because even their advisors know to text or email about appointments, because no one uses the campus phones. He asks her to come by his office before rehearsal, because “the show must go on.” Briana “didn’t even try to guess what he was talking about” which is also complete bullshit. What else would he be talking about at that point but replacing Skye? Jesus fucking christ, kid. [Dove: I read this as her STILL sulking over the fact she didn’t get Ophelia and being all bitter and not allowing herself to hope. However, it also reads as her being epically thick.] [Wing: Fair enough.]
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 5 (+1)
When she gets to the theater, Mr O’Dell is up on the platform doing his meditation (and apparently that is where his office is too — the layout of this theater is weird). Briana hesitantly climbs the stairs, the last steps Skye ever took, and then joins him in his office. He then quotes Macbeth and SAYS THE PLAY’S NAME EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE IN THE THEATER. So much for superstition. He rambles on about how death is the greatest role and now Skye will be remembered forever just like Sarah Charonne. Finally he gets to the point, which is, of course, to give the understudy and matinee to Briana.
After, Briana runs into Eric, who snaps at her about Skye and is absolutely rude. I know he’s hurting, but I’m not sure why everyone jumped to thinking that Briana is a killer, especially because Skye could easily have fallen down the stairs in the dark.
Leah: Going to miss Skye so much. So happy to remember her at a chapel vigil.
Kennedy: Very, very sad day for Forsyth and for MacHale. My thoughts and love are with the remaining member of Riled Up.
There’s a campus vigil in the chapel, but Briana doesn’t go. She’s reading through the play when Willow barges into their room, demanding to know what she’s done. Her phone isn’t on, though, which also angers Willow, and Willow shows her the latest point from @hamletsghost (As Shakespeare says, death is a fearful thing. At least for those still living … Any ideas who may be next to feel no fear?). Briana defends herself, saying she didn’t write it, she wouldn’t write it, and even offers to let Willow look at her computer. Willow is staying in someone else’s room for the night, and Briana is hurt, especially when Willow tells her not to take things out on them.
Briana goes to confront Tristan, but instead hears that he’s missing and he left his laptop behind, which he would never do. Briana is still convinced that Tristan is @hamletsghost.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 6 (+1)
You won’t even consider anyone else. Damn, Briana. Your unwillingness to actually pay attention to anyone else around you, and your self-centeredness, are really annoying.
Cheer on the killer: 3 (+1)
Scott Eichner: Man, wish I’d sat this Winterm out. Heard the new girl @alleyesonbree is on a rampage!
Brian Hansbury: Hey @alleyesonbree, how do I get you not to kill us when we come back to campus?
Even people she doesn’t know are starting to tweet at her about being the killer. This is goddamn ridiculous. We’re at three days later, Tristan is still missing, but no one believes her about it. Willow has been staying elsewhere ever since the vigil, and Briana is pretty flat and unemotional about everything. Plain worn out, I guess. [Dove: Is nobody in charge of this school? Have no adults noticed that Tristan is awol?] [Wing: APPARENTLY NOT. Three goddamn days later. I do not believe that.]
Her mother turns up as Willow is leaving, and of course calls Willow Briana’s best friend, which creeps Willow out because they’re not all that close. Willow is icy toward Briana, and pretty much a jackass. Briana and her mother argue a little, but eventually Briana gives in and goes to lunch with her, though she demands they go to the Trusty Ax, because she doesn’t want to run into anyone from school. Zach is their waiter, and her mom is super rude to him, then tells Briana that she’s not fitting in well at school because she’s focusing too much on the people who live in town. Jesus, everyone who is involved with MacHale is just fucking terrible.
Cheer on the killer: 4 (+1)
While they’re arguing, people pull a body from the river — Tristan, of course.
Zach: Hey @alleyesonbree, can we talk? Meet me at the Nautilus at eight?
The Nautilus, called “the Nauseous” by MacHale kids, is a run-down diner. Briana has never been there before, but manages to get off campus by lying about being with her mother. She meets up with Zach because she wants to know why Zach was looking for Tristan the night of that weird party. Apparently, Tristan talked to Zach about a story he was working on, about the Sarah Charonne murder and the complicated relationship between MacHale and Forsyth. He even spoke with Kevin McGinty, the auto mechanic who allegedly killed Sarah. How in the world did a high school reporter get in to talk to him? Or was he never arrested, even after the body turned up? None of this is clear at all. [Dove: I feel like there are no adults in this town, and anyone over the age of thirteen is allowed to do whatever they want.] [Wing: Basically.]
Zach goes on to say that Tristan uncovered the fact that there was another person of interest in the murder, a Forsyth kid named Matthew Lampert, who disappeared after graduation and so everyone assumed he killed himself, but really he may be alive and going by the name Breckin O’Dell. SHOCKING. Zach uncovered the fact that he was fired from a production of Macbeth after someone died, and now it seems like a pretty big coincidence that now Skye was electrocuted during this play. Briana wants to take things to the police, but Zach says they have to catch him on their own because the police won’t believe them. Because yes, a couple of teens are much better prepared than any adults. *facepalm*
Briana: The show must go on. Final countdown to #machalehamlet opening night.
Matt Jasinski: Who’s going to be left in the show once @alleyesonbree kills everyone?
They’re in the middle of tech week, when lighting and costumes and everything are added, and it can be tedious work. Everyone is on edge, and apparently all still think Briana is a murderer, which again doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. [Dove: Once again, WTF? Adults? Police? Is anyone but the kids doing anything about this? I’d even take making useless statements such as, “the death was ruled accidental…”] [Wing: RIGHT?!]
Rehearsals run three hours later than planned. Mr O’Dell orders Briana and Eric to hang back and rehearse together, and says he’ll talk to their house monitors about them missing curfew. He’s not actually going to stay while they rehearse, though; he claims he’s off to trivia night at the Trusty Ax.
Once they’re alone, Eric snaps at her some, and then they actually do settle down to rehearse. Eric starts onstage alone, doing a monologue, and Briana waits in the wings. While she’s listening for her cue, she sees someone in the wings on the other side, and takes one of the prop swords, which are not sharp but are heavy (not usually that heavy, though). She hits someone in the head, and it turns out to be Zach. He tries to say that Mr O’Dell is doing something and she needs to look backstage. She runs out to get help from Eric, and completely believes that Zach is the killer. Jesus fucking Christ, can no one look past other teenagers for anything in this story? [Dove: ZACH IS WORKING CLASS, HE MUST BE THE KILLER! FORGET LOGIC, LET’S JUST CONSIDER HOUSEHOLD INCOME!] [Wing: *DYING*]
Cheer on the killer: 5 (+1)
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 7 (+1)
One week later, Willow keeps apologising to Briana, as she’s done since the police took Zach away. They haven’t been able to prove anything yet. @hamletsghost hasn’t tweeted anything recently. Classes have started at MacHale, and the play is about to open that night. Willow is really trying to be friendly, but Briana is still angry that a week ago, Willow thought she was a killer without even trying to listen to her. Much like you just did to Zach, Briana, but clearly you aren’t going to think about that.
The show begins, but Kennedy stumbles backstage, pretty sick, though Briana thinks it is just stage fright and sends her to get some water. Briana focuses on tweeting behind the scenes things, but a few scenes later, one of the stage crew members tells her that Kennedy is too sick to go on and Briana needs to get into costume.
Briana rushes off to find Willow to get a costume, and sees Kennedy trying to get up to go onstage, but she just can’t manage it. Briana feels guilty about going on in her place, but she’s the understudy, and it’s not like she poisoned her. Someone tells her that Willow is up in the wardrobe cage, so Briana runs up there to look for her because she needs her help to find the right costume.
Instead, she finds a piece of plywood, painted gray, with the words “Kennedy Clifford” written in drippy red ink that looks like blood. She realises that Mr O’Dell is staging the ultimate tragedy and killing his performers; he is @hamletsghost, which is interesting because he literally cast himself as a ghost in the play.
She can hear Mr O’Dell checking on Kennedy below, and she tells him that all she did was drink a sip of the prop juice to make sure it was gluten-free. Just as Mr O’Dell asks if she drank the prop wine, she turns over and starts puking. Mr O’Dell looks furious, but has to get ready for his cue, and tells people to make sure that Briana is in costume and ready for her cue. He goes up to the catwalk, where he will perform as the ghost, just a voice not visible on stage, and Briana hears him muttering about this being the last time he works with students. Briana holds very still as he passes the cage, but just as he starts walking again, Leah calls up that she found Willow and asks if Briana is still up there.
Briana sneaks up behind Mr O’Dell and pushes him off the catwalk. He falls twenty feet to the aisle below and lands with a thud. Everyone is silent for a moment, and then the screaming begins.
[Dove: Because that’s a great move. While the entire school thinks you’re a murderer, attempt to murder someone. In public. With no apparent provocation. GENIUS.]
[Wing: AND IT WRAPS UP SO EASILY AT THIS POINT. All these people who just spent ages thinking she was a murderer? Absolutely don’t think she’s a murderer after she LITERALLY PUSHES SOMEONE OFF A CATWALK.]
Briana: “The course of true love never did run smooth.” — A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In the epilogue, Briana stands alone on the stage. She’s prepping herself to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream came together under her direction. So apparently now she is a director? They’ve chosen the play because it is lighthearted and fun and everyone hopes it will be a healing one to unite MacHale and Forsyth. Breckin O’Dell (or, you know, Matthew Lampert) is in a mental hospital, because of course you have to be crazy to kill.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1000 (+1000) (Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)
The police found proof of @hamletsghost on his computer, and he actually confessed to his crimes, bragging about the body count, proud that he orchestrated a tragedy that actually mattered.
Zach is leading the mixed group of actors from both schools, Eric and Kennedy are together, and apparently Briana and Zach are now together. He comes up and asks if she’s nervous; she tells him he should say excited, and they make out for awhile.
And this is how it ends: We were standing in a shaft of sunlight, not the spotlight. There was no audience; no followers. And I wasn’t sure how our story would end — whether it would be a five-act up-and-down drama or the equivalent of a lighthearted one-act. I didn’t have the script. I wasn’t even sure what part I was playing. All I knew was that I loved the role.
Well that is certainly a twee and trite ending. Oy.
Well. That was certainly a thing. There are parts that are kind of delightful: the ridiculousness and fun of high school drama; the brief look at town versus gown and the complications of that (though it’s only skimmed over and wrapped up far too easily); and the attempt at the claustrophobia of boarding school. But then there is a lot of holding the idiot ball and willfully ignoring evidence or other theories about what has happened. People are real quick to blame students for killing other students and no one ever seems to consider an adult except for Tristan and maybe Zach, which is ridiculous. And there is no feeling of any real stakes.
[Dove: I feel like this had the location and backstory to be a good story. And somehow we ended up with a bad one. Everyone was either stupid or horrible (some both). I was really hoping that this story would be investigating the Sarah murder back in the day and bounce between the two timelines (like Beach House). Instead, standard PH, idiot ball holding, and general horrible people.]
[Wing: That is a great idea. I wish that the Sarah murder had more to do, and — you know what? We should take a similar setup and write our own damn version.]
Cheer on the killer: 5
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 7
I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1
McGuffin, ahoy!: 1
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1000