Recap #75: The Band by Carmen Adams
[Wing: RECAP #75! Thank you all for sticking around for this ridiculous, amazing ride.]
As far as I can tell Carmen Adams has only written two books, THE BAND and SONG OF THE VAMPIRE. [Wing: Well, she also wrote The Claw, which I recapped in 2016, and despite some lazy writing and the main character carrying the idiot ball, it was a delightful romp, so I have high expectations for her other books. Also, I realize this is where Paul recommended The Band and Song of the Vampire, so I’m glad we’re finally hitting them.] Technically that’s their order, however, they do stand alone. I know because I read them out of order and didn’t even really know THE BAND existed (or cared) until fairly recently. I am whole-heartedly convinced Adams was heavily influenced by movies like The Lost Boys and Near Dark when writing these books. While THE BAND doesn’t deal with vampires per se, it does deal with aimless teenagers trying to recruit unsuspecting victims into their dark lives through a blood ritual. They’re vampire enough without actually having to drink blood. And if you read SONG OF THE VAMPIRE and don’t get Lost Boys feels then we didn’t watch the same movie. [Wing: The Band 100% feels influenced by The Lost Boys and Near Dark. It captures that gorgeous feel of seaside horror-comedy even though it’s set in the desert, and it’s just great. AND LOOK AT THAT COVER. They’re basically the Lost Boys.]
Overall I think Adams had her finger on the pulse of teenagers a little better than her counterparts. Her characters aren’t caricatures of teenagers, they’re fairly level-headed and realistic, and she doesn’t rely on over-the-top shock to get her point across. Considering the market at the time it doesn’t surprise me she didn’t have staying power. I think she was a little bit ahead of her time just in the way these two books are written. They actually feel like they transcend time far better than any of the other 90s YA horror I’ve read (aside from mentions of crimped hair and VHS tapes, but that’s neither here nor there).
Really, both of these books are probably some of my favorites. THE BAND goes where literally no other book does: to revenants, not vampires. I’ve never come across revenants in any other book before, probably because they’re not sexy enough. At least Adams’s version of revenants are close enough to vampires that she might as well go with vampires, right? But she didn’t. She does go full tilt vamp in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE, but let’s leave that for the next recap.
For now, let’s get into THE BAND.
No one knows their game . . .
They call themselves “The Band” but they just don’t play music – they play games . . .
They want you to join them . . .
Dressed in black, always together . . .
looking for recruits.
Luring the unsuspecting
with eyes that see into the soul.
Offering friendship to all who will
come and play with them.
Beware of their game . . .
For those who are tempted to play
will play in the darkness—
FOR ALL ETERNITY.
Blue Mesa, California. BFE in the desert in the southern portion of the state somewhere. It’s actually kind of nice to have a California setting that isn’t the beach. Don’t get me wrong; I love California beaches. This is just a breath of fresh desert air. Of course it’s a small town and it gets its namesake from a mesa just outside of town that looks blue when the sun sets on it. Megan describes it as a stark contrast to her last home, Boulder, Colorado, where everything was mountainous and green and not the surface of the sun.
[Wing: This endeared Megan to me from the beginning, because I have a friend who lives in the desert, and the first time she came to visit me, she was overwhelmed by the greenery and the masses of trees, and we couldn’t stop talking about how easily monsters could hide in the trees. Though clearly, they can also hide in the desert.]
Megan – Your typical new kid who has a moving history as if she were an Army brat except she’s not. Her dad’s the one who moves them all over the place, but I’m not too sure what he does. He’s not really in the picture too much except to be a stern voice of reason every once in a while. I think he builds stuff, maybe? Or works as an engineer? Something like that.
Anyway this is her sixth school since being in school (I presume since kindergarten) and she’s a junior in high school now. She’s not a fan of the desert, although as a runner she may come to appreciate its flatness. Because of her moving she’s grown uncomfortable with unregulated social moments in school, like waiting for a teacher. It’s here that she has a harder time blending into the scene and seems to stand out more being the odd man out not having anyone to talk to. It makes her self-conscious.
One of the things that makes her great, though, is that she’s unabashedly bland (more on that later). In Adams’s book there doesn’t seem to be any kind of stigma about being a member of the band (lowercase). Megan’s played clarinet her whole life and that’s been her one constant in all her moving, that she’s always taken band wherever she goes. And she’s not portrayed as a nerd in the traditional sense (although a character does get this treatment, we’ll get to her in a minute). In fact she’s very average and it’s so incredibly refreshing. No hyper-good looks or perfect body or even striving to attain any of that. Megan just is. No emphasis on where she is on the social ladder (until The Band comes into play, capital letters).
Toby Schaffer – The love interest. Described by Megan as, and I quote, a “low key hunk.” What a great word, hunk. He’s basically super hot without realizing it. Like Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters. In fact if THE BAND were made into a movie that’s exactly how I would cast him, just with more brain cells. Because truly he’s described as having sandy hair, a wide friendly face with light freckles, 50s-style glasses and plays the oboe. Who plays the oboe in high school? But he also has a chest that “strains against his polo shirt” and arms threaded with “sinewy muscle.”
Right. Kevin, Toby, whatever. At least Toby has two brain cells to rub together. He also happens to be the main target of The Band next to Megan.
Iris Wojack – Here’s your typical nerd dressing and acting like she doesn’t have a care in the world or any sense of self-preservation. She wears little girl barrettes with her name on them along with an Elvis Lives button and a myriad list of eccentric clothes like red jeans and has multiple piercings in a single ear. She’s also really into astronomy and sits on her roof with a telescope and always seems to be carrying a huge stack of books with her, because don’t all nerds do that? And hell, if you’re going to sky watch anywhere might as well do it in big sky country. [Wing: I’m a little bit in love with her, to be honest.]
She’s a self-proclaimed oddball with a pretty sharp tongue. She has a sardonic way of describing things which some psychologists would say is a defense mechanism to hide her jealously, or something. But Iris doesn’t seem to have a jealous bone in her body. Despite her seemingly uncool exterior she was actually friends with one of the school cheerleaders until the girl got picked up by The Band as one of their recruits. So she has kind of a hard-on for that particular crew.
The Band – Ace of Base meets Depeche Mode as the Swedish twins Laura Hunter and Shane Conroy head this group of social outcasts in their hunt for willing victims to join their crew. They’re not really twins and I have no idea if they’re Swedish or not, but they’re both blonde with ice blue eyes and Megan keeps coming back to how similar-looking they are. This is actually never addressed at all, whether they’re distantly related or just happen to look similar. Not important.
Also part of this group are Joey Santino, James Frederick, and Natalie Eng. Megan refers to them as moving as a single organism and more than once she makes weird sexual references to their relationships. Like how they all seemed to “be” with each other and the concept of couples wasn’t defined. This was more noticeable at one of their parties that she attends where they seem to be all over each other. Not sure why this dynamic was there, although I get the single organism thing. Just not why it seemed to be sexualized. It’s otherwise irrelevant. [Wing: Because
vampires revenants are totes into orgies, obviously. Anne Rice influence, maybe? Don’t know where this falls in that timeline.]
They all wear black and they all drive black muscle cars and listen to music that was last popular in the 70s. They also dance kind of disco-like and they do it unapologetically with no regard for what other people think. [Wing: … I am in love with them, too. Obviously. No one saw this coming.] Megan finds this weird despite the social logic of the school she goes do. Social circles don’t really appear to be a thing at Blue Mesa High except as it pertains to The Band, because they’re so not high school and are therefore the epitome of cool. This group of youths are incredibly self-aware in the sense that they know they’re “cool” and they do what they do because of that. No one can touch them and they know it. So they’re modest.
Lucien Levant – The Giles to Megan’s Buffy, owner of an occult bookstore in LA that Megan uses as a resource for finding more out about The Band. [Wing: LUCIEN. LEVANT. He chose the hell out of that name.]
New kid Megan moves to a shit hole town in the middle of a desert in SoCal. She’s concerned about making friends, as she’s been in every other school she’s been to, and is floored when the “popular” crowd takes notice of her immediately. Herein begins her rollercoaster mood swings regarding The Band and whether or not she actually wants to hang out with them.
Megan seems to have sort of (stereo)typical teen feelings at the beginning of the book, where she wants to be an adult so bad and she wants her freedom, but at the same time she secretly likes the protection and safety her parents offer. It’s a big scary world and the unknown is scary. It’s also intriguing as hell. Oh look. That plays into how Megan feels about The Band nicely! Coincidence? Doubt it. But played well, I think.
When her dad asks her how her new school is, despite her feelings of loneliness with a hint of despair, she lies and tells him everything’s good because she doesn’t want to burden him after the move. Apparently he moved to get a better job and to make Megan’s mom happy (bringing her closer to where she grew up), so Megan doesn’t want to burden him with her real feelings unnecessarily. How kind.
Not to mention Mom is an eternal worrier to the point that Megan and her dad need to coddle her. Effectively they treat her like a child and give her watered down stories about more stressful things that have happened. Like she isn’t a freakin’ grown-up, but whatever. And the woman’s a nurse. She can handle it. There’s a lot of this back and forth type of behavior, like Adams wanted her characters to act in these rather cookie cutter type of ways, but when she started writing and she started putting them into more intense situations they developed real human feelings and started to go their own way. Then she’d have to rein them back in and beat them back into their cookie cutter shapes.
To really lean into that push and pull personality deal, when The Band, calling themselves “The Welcome Wagon” gives Megan a call and warns her away from nerds like Iris, Megan responds with snark and a fair amount of sass. Kudos, Megan! But the book’s in her head so you also get her intrigue of The Band and you get to see her both frightened and exhilarated by their attention. I guess those feelings aren’t all that unusual, especially considering the situation at the beginning. But they continue on for the entire book, probably about three-quarters of the way through, before Megan finally decides how she really feels about them. Teenagers are indecisive, right? [Wing: I’m not sure Adams’ writing pulls it off, but I do think this is realistic. Even as adults, the allure of the mysterious can be stronger than logic, and absolutely when you’re a teen. The appeal of
vampires revenants is built on this idea.]
Adams is good at mood and setting. She’s effectively painted Blue Mesa and the surrounding area as its own character and gives The Band this sinister edge that moves beyond your typical “bad kids.” A testament to that is when Megan is out running early in the morning, just around dawn, and she feels a presence like the beating wings of a huge, ancient creature. Then Adams takes those words and weaves them from that harsh, heart-thumping beat into the rumble of a Camaro, one of The Band’s cars, as it nearly side swipes Megan while passing. For the cheesy time the book came out, there is surprisingly little cheese in here. It’s moody and eerie and Adams does her job unsettling her characters while keeping them mostly realistic. [Wing: This scene is fantastic, and could make an excellent visual in a movie. Also, shades of The Lost Boys and the noise of great wings. Adams was pretty great at atmosphere in The Claw, too, though she’s really come into her own here. (Again, I don’t know in what order these were written.)]
Megan gets her first answer about The Band from Toby, who says they’re “beyond school.” Granted, that’s not much of an answer because it doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot and Megan ends up thinking some very logical questions. Like if they did already graduate what the hell are they doing hanging around high school kids? I think we all knew those kids. The ones who couldn’t let go of high school. When you’re in high school you think those kids are so cool because they’re older. And then you grow up and realize just what kind of losers they were. The Band are not those people.
Speaking of Toby (now that you have Kevin in your head when I say his name), he’s basically the Perfect Boyfriend (TM). Not only is he intelligent and endearingly nerdy yet secretly Clark Kent under his polo shirt, he’s shy and modest with an excellent sense of humor and has an excellent relationship with his sister. I mean he even let her perm his hair when she was practicing for beauty school. HOW CHARMING! Perfect Boyfriend (TM) is perfect and all. I mean I guess this is a nice departure from some popular douche or jock or your run of the mill bad boy. And I do so love that Adams didn’t go down the love triangle path with Megan and Shane. That is not a thing. Not even close. And it warms my heart because it could have been. It was even insinuated a little bit. But Adams left that alone and that’s awesome.
Toby offers up more information about The Band including that they just happened to appear out of nowhere the year before and have bought some spice to Blue Mesa. They also have a way of “spotting talent” and finding people out of the ordinary. Since The Band doesn’t actually do anything I’m not sure what kind of talent this is, but whatever. Does it matter? They’re COOL. Toby’s the one who urges Megan to get to know them even though he openly admits being afraid of them initially. Why yes. That is an excellent argument. Why not???
This is what I hate about anything that’s an acquired taste. Especially people. Oh they’re fine once you get to know them! That just means they’re some kind of twat and you eventually get used to them. No thanks. Then again I didn’t learn that until I was older so I can’t really fault some teenagers for buying into that mess. [Wing: I think this is still true as an adult, though, again back to the appeal of the mysterious. And I definitely know people who are absolutely worth keeping in your life even if they are prickly on the outside or hard to get to know or antisocial or whatever. Hell, I am that person to a lot of people.]
Another one of my favorite things about this book is how utterly ordinary Megan is and how it fits with the story. She’s not the gorgeous new thing that people are fawning owner, or the Bella Swan ordinary girl that just happens to be fresh blood so everyone’s interested. She’s not a cheerleader, doesn’t play sports, and is in the band. She’s not gorgeous, but she knows she’s not ugly either and she isn’t overly concerned about her looks. This information is also dumped on you as a reader like a third of the way into the book in a really random make-up buying scene that doesn’t fit in with anything. Like Adams was like shit! I forgot to describe the character! Let me do it here. [Wing: This is Adams’ weakness in writing; she’ll be doing great, and then there will be a lazy info dump.]
Still, I love Megan in her ordinariness. And it’s not like The Band is after just her. They’re after Toby and at least two other people from her new school so she isn’t the focal point. It’s refreshing even in the current YA environment. Takes the Chosen One syndrome off her shoulders.
While Megan is quick to pick up on bullshit she’s also quick to brush it off too. She knew when Laura was feeding her a line, but when Laura started asking a thousand and one questions of Megan she just answered them one after another without a second thought. When Megan was with Laura, Laura made her feel wanted and cared for and Megan never felt interrogated by her. Except when she got away from Laura and in hindsight Megan realized that the conversation was one-sided and she rightly knew nothing about Laura or the rest of The Band. This only proved to heighten her weirdness about them. And could also potentially explain her push and pull feelings about The Band as well. More to come on that in a moment.
Another thing that could potentially explain her reluctant draw to The Band is that in other moves it’d taken her months to make friends. Here it’d taken her days and she’d made a spectrum of friends, most of them potentially the coolest kids in town. She was riding high on that. What teenager wouldn’t? Luckily for Megan she does have that little nagging voice at the back of her head that tries to pull her back to reality and she does listen some of the time.
When Megan’s out shopping with her mom they run into Laura and Shane and Mom stares Shane down like she knows him. She then admits that she must have gone on a date with his father when she was in school even though she doesn’t quite believe that herself. So 1) Foreshadowing. Dun dun dun! And 2) Mom’s more astute than your average YA parent. She knows something’s not right here and it’s here when she starts tightening the belt on Megan. [Wing: I love, love, love this detail. It’s such a gorgeous way to handle the whole THEY NEVER AGE thing, and also is deliciously creepy and twisted, considering Megan is having some feelings of being attracted to Shane.] Where previously Megan’s comings and goings fell through the cracks now Mom’s putting her thumb down because there’s something off about Megan’s new friends. Like this stops her. Ha! What do parents know about teenagers? They slid out of the womb at thirty.
Megan starts having nightmares about The Band (who doesn’t have weird, terrifying nightmares about their new friends?) but she’s still really ambivalent about how she feels about them. Like from one sentence to the next. She wants to impress them but not seem too eager for their favor. She wants to show her independence but conform just enough not to be labeled an outcast. She convinces herself that it’s her decision to hang out with The Band and she can drop them at any time. Sounds like an addict to me. Addicted to coolness? Maybe.
Of course the cool kids peer pressure Megan to drink some of their “red wine” when they’re at a party and openly tell her she won’t fit in if she doesn’t drink. She tried to resist because she’d had bad experiences in the past, but where is her independence now? Not in that wine bottle. From which she sips. Because she didn’t want to appear snobbish and didn’t not want to get invited to another party. Ugh. Make up your mind, Megan! [Wing: Again, super realistic for teenagers (and hell, some adults). I love this, though eventually, realistic or not, Megan’s waffling does get old. Adams does great with this, but then she’ll take it too far, and that’s the point where it makes the entire thing feel like bad writing, when it actually works for a huge chunk of the book.]
She is a bit weirded out by the party because she is picking up on some kind of underlying sinister threat there. She just can’t put her finger on it. Plus Toby’s there and he’s acting really weird. They’d just gone on a date and he was super attentive and affectionate then, but now he’s aloof and listless and barely acknowledges her. Then The Band basically openly threatened one of her other classmates that was there and the guy literally ran off into the desert to get away from them. How he was threatened she had no idea, but the dude ran into a desert night. It had to be bad. PS – Dude ended up having to hitchhike back into town and it took him all night to get home. Fun party, guys!
Then there was some mind control stunt with one of The Band members and a lizard that freaked her out too so the whole night was just one big creepy thing that she wanted to get away from and thanked the curfew gods that she wasn’t obligated to stay longer.
Megan’s also getting the feeling that while The Band is digging for information on her, they’re not giving her anything about themselves because of some secret. Yet instead of hiding even the presence of the secret they dangle it in front of her, teasing her with it, and she doesn’t understand why. Neither do I, Megan. Maybe they’re just dicks. [Wing: Because that draws people in. Just like silence can make most people talk because they can’t handle it and so they’ll say too much to fill it, keeping something just out of reach catches and keeps their attention. The Band is delightfully talented at manipulation. Guess they’ve had a lot of time to practice.]
Because Megan is so desperate for their friendship (in this particular chapter, anyway) she goes shopping with Laura and Natalie and they force a bunch of black clothes on her and they insinuate that once a person is initiated into their group they leave their day lives behind and join them in the night. Sounds like something poser vamp kids would say, if you’re asking me. They also shy away from mirrors and they don’t join Megan in the dressing room when she’s trying on all these Wednesday Addams clothes. HINT HINT. [Wing: It’s such fun foreshadowing and red herring at once, because obviously, we go to vampire, but it’s not true.]
When Megan runs into Iris at the mall while she’s out with Laura and Natalie she’s equal parts embarrassed about being seen with Iris and embarrassed by her own thoughts about Iris like that. She inwardly chastises herself for having those thoughts. So at least she knows she’s being a dick on the inside. Still, there was visible tension between Iris, Laura, and Natalie and Laura basically insinuates that she can read minds. Holy crap! Three hints in a single chapter!
Iris gets Megan to meet her at the library to show her what she found and Iris points her to an entry in a book about revenants, cousins to vampires and lost souls returned to earth after an untimely and violent death doomed to roam the earth, which hits just a little too close to home for Megan. Instead of facing it like the rational side of her brain tells her to she throws the information back in Iris’s face and effectively calls her a loser who watches too many movies and is jealous of the attention The Band is giving Megan and stalks away. Real mature, Megan. [Wing: But realistic! I love how Megan just can’t accept the supernatural right off the bat and lashes out even though she knows it’s a dick move.]
As the story progresses Megan is becoming more and more like two people occupying the same body as she wars with herself about her feelings for The Band. She tries to rationalize how they act against with how she’s acting and it just rings hollow. She’s beginning to second-guess everything and sometimes it feels like her real life is with The Band. Yet there’s still something there that’s nagging at her and she can’t stop questioning what they’re doing. They know so much about her yet she knows nothing about them. She swears to find out more before this whole initiation thing goes down. She tries to convince Toby of the same, but he’s convinced it’s all harmless. Megan, not so much.
Eventually the rational side of her brain wins out (thank god) and she decides to dig more into The Band before going any further with them. They want to initiate her into their group, but she just has too many questions that she needs answers to before she proceeds. Good girl.
She finds an occult bookstore in LA run by Lucien Levant, your typical creepy occult bookstore guy with greasy black hair who’s the size of a linebacker. It’s there Megan really finds out about revenants including the fact that they dwell on the periods of their lives when they died, black is their preferred color, and they cast a spell over people, lulling them into a false sense of security, forcing people to believe that they’re comfortable, less peculiar, and even friends.
Ding ding ding! We got a winner!
Looks like all that push and pull Megan’s been feeling is her body warring with the spell The Band’s been trying to cast over her! Of course that’s not actually mentioned in the book, but I can insinuate it, right? Otherwise I just have a poorly written character and I don’t really want that. This explanation fits so nicely. I’ll just go ahead and use this.
Of course on her way back from LA Megan stumbles upon a small town where she finds a cemetery and the memorial marker with the names of The Band on it. Dun dun dun! Cherry, meet sundae. Turns out The Band was originally part of a marching band (totally not what I would think of marching band material, but whatever) [Wing: 100% marching band material in my experience.] who was run off the road in the school bus on the way back from a game back in 1972. Eighteen died and their five bodies were never recovered from the wreck. Enter restless dead. [Wing: I was delighted that it was a marching band thing, and this is a nicely heart breaking and creepy backstory for them.]
While waiting for the bus back home Megan spots The Band’s cars driving out of the cemetery at dusk. Even more duns! All the tension.
While Megan was out Mom ran into Shane again and she truly became creeped out. Apparently the boy is shit at hiding his emotions and actively tried not to look at Megan’s mom and tried to keep his face turned away so she couldn’t get a good look at him. Imagine how that twitchy interaction went. Of course this ratcheted up Mom’s worry about Megan’s new friends. [Wing: YOU’D THINK SHANE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN THAT SHIT UNDER CONTROL BY NOW.]
Somehow The Band found out about Megan’s fact-finding mission and disinvited her from Toby’s initiation and effectively kicked her out of the group. Doesn’t mean she’s going to take that lying down. And instead of not going at this alone she decides to continue to lie to Iris “for her own good” because Iris looks like a little girl who needs protecting. *eye roll* This lasts about thirty seconds. Don’t worry.
But before she goes to Iris she realizes The Band lied to her about when Toby’s initiation was so she drives out to the mesa and spies on them. [Wing: Since she’s known the entire time it would be under the full moon, she could have just checked the date! Fail, Megan.] Of course it’s this whole elaborate ceremony with robes and blood and Toby asleep on a stone alter. Apparently in order for whatever transfer is happening to work the person has to be asleep. It’s when they’re the most vulnerable and when The Band can truly take over. Fun! No sleepovers for them.
Ultimately The Band needs to recreate their numbers in order to put themselves to rest. That’s why they go around recruiting people. They get these living rubes to take the place of the dead ones so they can finally die properly. Good for them but, you know. EVERYONE dies in that exchange so sucks for the living involved. [Wing: I am left with so many questions, including whether this is actually necessary, considering what happens later, and if it’s not, what in the world convinced them it would be necessary? Is some serial killer using revenants as their murder weapon?]
One thing that really sucked about this book was confrontation. The Band catches Megan at Toby’s ceremony and they let her go without a scratch. They give her a choice AGAIN to join them. When she refuses they’re like okay bye. Don’t come back. I guess they still hoped to recruit her? I have no idea, but it seems like she knows too much for them to just let her walk away. But they do at Shane’s command. Not everyone was on the pain-free bandwagon, though. James and Natalie were basically filing their nails with switchblades waiting to cut Megan. So I guess a little bit of tension. But no reason for letting her walk away and you never get a reason either. Nice big ol’ plot hole for you. [Wing: This feels more like the lazy writing I remember from The Claw. Oh, Adams. Great ideas, but you let them fall flat far too often.]
Megan gets desperate as she tries to get Toby away from The Band and does eventually ask Iris for help. She doesn’t bat an eye and says she would rather have this whole mess to deal with than risk dying of boredom. Can’t say I blame her. They go back to Lucien, who’s been on the supernatural train the entire time, not even so much as blinking at what they tell him, and he advises that there’s another way to send them off: recreate the moment of their deaths. Of course the girls take it up a level and decide to match it up with the actual anniversary of their deaths, which is only days away. Yay! Culmination!
Iris uses her handy voice modulator (what teen doesn’t have one of those?) to call them both out of school for a few days so they can take care of business. I’m sure no one will notice. And it just so happens Iris’s uncle owns a junkyard that just so happens to have an old school bus in it. Win! Who doesn’t love a good deus ex machina?
Together they go back to the cemetery in that little desert town, find The Band’s supplies hideout, and steal some purple liquid kept in an ornate wine bottle (WHAT COULD THIS BE AN HOMAGE TO?) that The Band used to lace their wine at parties and get the drinkers all nice and compliant.
At this point Iris basically takes over the operation because she actually thinks things through and Megan just goes along with it. It’s Iris’s idea for Megan to convince the band she wants back in in order to get close enough to them to give them the laced wine. Of course, as Megan makes her way to their death anniversary party (because why wouldn’t The Band have one?) she thinks about how she’s the only one who can do this and how lonely it makes her feel.
I mean I guess she’s right? Who else would even believe her about what’s going on? And it’s not like Iris or Lucien could get close enough to The Band to get the job done. So she’s not wrong, but it’s just such a Chosen One moment that it makes me gag a little. Can’t have a supernatural YA book without one, I guess.
When she gets to the party she sees Toby and how much he’s changed and how much wearier he looks, as if The Band is taking its toll on him. I mean, they are slowly killing him so that is going to have an effect on poor Kevin, I mean Toby.
And this is where we have the most anticlimactic ending ever. The Band takes the bait with the wine and they get all loopy. When Megan shows them the bus they become entranced. Like totally hypnotized. They don’t even put up a fight as Megan herds them onto the bus and they stay silent as she drives them up to the point on the mountain where the bus ran off the road. She parked the bus, got Toby and another classmate off and handed them off to Iris, and then pulled the emergency brake and set the bus rolling. Then a sudden storm comes up, starts downpouring, then the bus, with The Band, disappears. It doesn’t roll off the cliff. Just bloop! Gone. Problem solved.
Toby comes out of the funk slowly and the book ends with Megan, Toby, and Iris playing Risk. OMFG seriously.
[Wing: I think this would have worked better if the last confrontation scene hadn’t been so flat. This has gorgeous, creepy imagery, and I love the idea that when they’re presented with a reenactment of their death, they are caught in the loop of it and can’t even fight their way free. Not that they would, because all they want is to die. Even though it’s only been a decade or two, I’d expect them to still be living up eternal youth at this point.]
Despite the problems I had with THE BAND it’s still one of my favorite old school YA horror novels. Comparatively speaking the characters are realistic and relatable, they’re not treated as overly dramatized caricatures, and the story isn’t incredibly ridiculous. It’s largely well-written and most of the elements that I point out above are all tied together. It had one hell of a weak ending, but it’s ultimately still enjoyable. To me a definite summer read, mainly because Adams paints an excellent picture with her setting to the point where I could feel the desert in my bones. It also helps that I live in one.
[Wing: I have such a crush on Adams, despite how her writing goes flat sometimes. Her author blurbs mention cliff diving, motorcycles, and training wolves, plus she writes these atmospheric, mostly delightful books. Oh, Adams. I wish you’d written more.]
[…] Totally normal and unafraid. Recap #75: The Band by Carmen Adams. […]