Summary: It’s the biggest event of the year at Toomey High-Prom Night. But Margaret and her friends wont be going. After all you need a date to go to a Prom…
All they can do is envy the lucky girls who will be there. Popular girls like Stephanie and Kiki always get dates…
Then Stephanie is found murdered. And Kiki has a nasty accident. Is someone trying to kill off the competition?
Margaret is determined to find out the truth-even if it kills her…
Tagline: She’d kill for a date
Ah Prom Night, I remember absolutely LOVING this book as a child for so, so many reasons-first of all Prom. I never even had a school disco so the whole concept of Prom was just delightful to me. I did have a ‘Leavers Do’ at the end of 6th Form, we invited our parents and had a sit down meal before having a party then heading to the school’s members only pub (In my school once you got into 6th Form you automatically became a member to a private pub opposite the school which obviously led to so much underage drinking….my school was weird) But that was the only type of celebration we had except for birthday parties. Proms were a foreign concept to me but they sounded so glamourous, grown up and such a huge part of high school, like in a lot of American YA books I read and ‘teenage’ films I watched everything centred around Prom, popularity and, of course, electing Prom Queen and King. Plus ‘Carrie’, PLUS Crowns. I love crowns, I have quite a few, whenever I have a bad day I pop one on and have a cup of tea. I feel better in no time. Growing up in a city I think I romanticised ‘small town America’ thanks to Point Horror books so the fact that this book was, based on my memory, in a small seaside town was another positive. These days I can’t function if I’m not in a city. Also I remembered this book starting with an actual murder so the stakes felt a lot higher from the get go. When I read this book as a kid I loved Margaret, her mum, her friends and I adored Mitch the hot, popular yet sensitive jock (I was 11) So I wonder how it holds up all these years later? Tuesday Out!
[Wing: Welcome back, Tuesday! I loved your recap of Freeze Tag, and I am so excited about this one. I’ve never read the book before, but I did attend a prom or two in my day. (Or six. Three in high school, two during undergrad, and one during grad school.) Also, I grew up in small town America (though not a small seaside town — I wish!), so let’s see how this goes.]
Content: Non-explicit but unexpected (to me, at least) animal death.
I forgot it opens with a prologue! Oh this is just exposition and not done well. Four young girls aged about 12 sit around a campfire. Hoh goes into an odd description of their spindly legs and trust filled faces and faith in the future. I don’t quite get the tone Hoh is going for here, she’s trying to emphasise that these four are close friends but its very heavy handed. One of the girls (none of them are named setting us up for the ol’ bait and switch later on) remembers how they all took a blood oath only the way she describes it is just more exposition and hammering home the fact that these four girls are the best friends to ever best friend, plus this isn’t how a 12 year old would speak its very affected and artificial:
‘Remember the night we took the oath? My mother asked me what happened to my finger, and I told her I cut it peeling an apple. She would have pitched a fit if she knew we’d all deliberately sliced our fingertips and then taken an oath of friendship’
They all agree that they have kept the oath and been there for each other no matter what. Girls its been like 2 years lets calm it down a bit, you still have puberty to get through. [Wing: … Why in the world were you taking blood oaths at ten? I have so many questions.] The tallest girl jumps up waving her fist in the air yelling about their motto ‘One for all and all for one’ Hoh, there’s this thing called plagiarism? You might want to look into it and if you are going to rip off a motto maybe avoid one of the most famous and quoted? Kthanxbye. Lordy I am salty tonight. Anyway the girls all laugh and hug and generally do that thing were you are just so happy to be with your friends that the world seems like it will be beautiful forever as long as you’re all together. And that is the prologue. In the words of the great philosopher Celine Dion its all coming back to me now. I loved the visual and imagery-The balmy beach, the campfire, four best friends just enjoying each other but I have never liked how it was written. Hoh is trying to create an atmosphere here but its not working, the language it too grown up for the context. Also, where is the murder? [Wing: It made me want to be hanging out at the beach with my best friends, so there’s that, but I don’t think it added all that much to the book itself. These prologues rarely do; I think they’re often an attempt at being dramatic and raising the tension, but usually they just leave me bored.]
In downtown Toomey, New Jersey (Oh so it wasn’t a small town? Huh) a small boutique called ‘Quartet’ which seems to sell only Prom dresses was a ‘frenzy of activity’. You know a shop selling exclusively Prom Dresses does not sound like good business sense, from what I know Proms are what once? Twice a year? What happens in the off season? Can these dresses also be used as bridesmaid dresses? Are there other types of dresses, like event dresses but not Prom level event? I have really mythologised Proms to epic proportions, thanks PH. [Wing: Literally laugh out loud over this paragraph. I’ve never seen a store sell only prom dresses, though a lot of formal dresses can be worn for different events. For school dances, you’d wear similar styles of dresses to Homecoming (usually in the fall) and Prom (usually in the spring), and maybe some of the smaller dances throughout the year (like the Valentines’ Day dance or whatever) though those tend to be slightly less formal. However, these sorts of dresses are often also worn to weddings or as bridesmaid dresses, etc. Formal wear would be more of how I would have described the boutique, but Hoh’s building a world here, I guess.] [Tuesday: How….How many dances do y’all have!?] [Wing: Too many, clearly.]
The boutique is run by a beautiful woman, Adrienne Dunne. Adrienne’s beauty is mentioned numerous times throughout the book so I’m going to go ahead and say every time I recap Adrienne imagine the most beautiful person you can imagine ever in the history of imaging. Adrienne not only runs the store but also designs and makes all the dresses even though the store has four owners, three of them apparently are silent partners. [Wing: Adrienne killed them all, didn’t she?] [Tuesday: That would be the best twist ever] Adrienne sounds like a badass. Adrienne is calm and collected as she weaves her way through excited and confused young women all trying to find the perfect dress, while wearing a ‘stunning pink suit’. Helping out are two young girls, Margaret, Adrienne’s daughter, and her best friend Caroline. They didn’t expect the boutique to be this busy and are totally overwhelmed, not to mention
Then, too, they were discovering what a knife in the heart it was to help other girls search for the perfect dress to wear to senior prom. The prom that Margaret and Caroline did not expect to attend’
Yeah, that would suck. [Wing: Seriously. That’s harsh.] Both girls are described as attractive-first and foremost they are tall and thin (Fatties can’t be hot remember!) with great skin. Margaret is described as having the most beautiful doe shaped deep brown eyes with naturally long, thick, upturned eyelashes. Margaret is also described as being witty, intelligent and in a perfect world ‘President of her class’ except she is not rich or popular or pretty even though she sounds beautiful to me plus she loves to read (apparently popular people don’t read?).
Margaret doesn’t date much because she hasn’t found anyone she felt like saving her evenings for and doesn’t mind spending time alone or missing Prom as she had Caroline and their friends Jeannine and Lacey to hang out with. I would totally be friends with Margaret she sounds smart and independent.
Caroline is described as also tall and thin (Can’t be attractive without being thin amirite!? I may be cranky because I’m on a diet right now…) but as having a thinner face with sharper edges, her hair is a cross between bronze and ‘muddy water’ and her eyes are green and grey which she hates and she’s saving up for turquoise contact lenses…Caroline, noooo. [Wing: Oh god, turquoise contact lenses. I’m also having a hard time picturing a color between bronze and muddy water. Hoh, you’re starting to sound whimsical like Cooney.] Caroline is kind of self loathing but green/grey eyes are awesome (mine and all my sibling’s eyes are a mix of green/grey/blue, heterochromia rules Caroline!) and her hair sounds great, a brunette and bronze mix is totally on trend right now. [Wing: Wait, it is. I’m off to look for pictures!
Okay, so this is the first image that came up for me. Is this what everyone means? Because I like this whole bronze and brown thing then.] [Tuesday: This is gorgeous! I want this hair colour]
Adrienne apparently tries to ‘beautify’ Margaret by giving her little tips ‘Margaret Honey, you have such a pretty face. A little blush, a touch of mascara, what can it hurt?’ which Margaret rejects every time (Yes Margaret you rock! Own your look!) Adrienne please don’t tell your kid what to do to her face saying ‘you’re pretty but you need XYZ’ is basically telling her she not good enough. But Margaret and Adrienne are described as super close and Margaret has so much respect for her mum for running her own business and being a widowed single mum, their relationship is delightful and very real. Caroline, however, ‘eagerly devours’ these tips and hints but most times gets it wrong, like today.
Some of the clientele in the boutique are ‘The Pops’ the most beautiful and popular girls in school. [Wing: THE POPS. THE POPS.] [Tuesday: So, did they name themselves? Is that a thing? And why such a lame name? Couldn’t they be The Heathers or The Stephanie’? Kids those days have no imagination.] Head Pop Stephanie decides to be a little bitch to Caroline for no reason other than that Stephanie’s defining character trait is that she is a bitch. Stephanie makes a cruel remark to Caroline about her hair which everyone hears leading Caroline to hide in the back room in embarrassment. Fuck you Stephanie? Why? Just why? Caroline is only trying to do her job what is the point of being a bitch? I will never understand being cruel for being cruel’s sake, who has the energy to be that unnecessarily nasty? My girl Margaret stands up for her best friend and when Stephanie threatens to take her business elsewhere Margaret is all ‘do it, my mum has the best designs and you know it but please go buy a subpar dress elsewhere’ Stephanie shuts up and carries on shopping. I love this girl, defending her friend and mum while still retaining the custom? Nice work. Stephanie’s friends: the gorgeous Liza and the beautiful yet friendly Beth gently reprimand Stephanie. Caroline comes back with her hair in its loose style, head down and carries on working, Margaret is super mad on her behalf and doesn’t understand why Stephanie has to pick on Caroline for trying to improve her (in my opinion awesome) hair. Margaret is reading my mind, we would be such BFF’s we could just chill and read books and put bullies in their places #TuesdayandMargaretforLyfe. [Wing: I want all the adventures.] [Tuesday: Lets do this.(Insert awesome guitar solo and sounds of screeching tires)]
Scott Noonan, a sophomore who drives the delivery van for the boutique [Wing: … wait. Wait, wait, wait. This boutique also delivers clothes?! Clearly my local boutiques need to step their shit up a notch.] [Tuesday: Adrienne was so ahead of her time!] arrives with hearts in his eyes for the one and only Caroline who considers him way too young and thinks she can do a lot better for a prom date. Caroline, don’t be a Stephanie. Margaret likes Scott who is enthusiastic, treats her mother with respect, romantic (he sometimes brings Caroline a single rose when he comes back from his deliveries) funny and awkward with blue eyes, freckles and bushy red hair. Scott sounds adorable. Margaret knows how much Caroline wants to go to prom and doesn’t get why she won’t go with Scott but Caroline is adamant she can do much, much better. Margaret gives us a breakdown on the best guys and who they were talking: Kiki Papas, another Pop who only bought her clothes in ‘The City’ (I’m guessing New York? [Wing: Since this is New Jersey, most likely.]) would go with David Goumas, Beth would go with Lucas Nelson, Stephanie would go with poor Michael Danz, and Liza would take a college guy as her date instead of her previous date Mitch McGill which Margaret couldn’t fathom as Mitch McGill was ‘so cute’. Liza and Kiki had been Queens previously so it was between Stephanie and Beth as to who would be Queen this year…are there no other candidates? [Wing: Also, prom queens tend to be seniors, so how many times have these girls gone through their senior year?] [Tuesday: Wow. Prom has so many rules] The Toomey High rule is that a girl can only be queen once during her school life so Liza and Kiki can relax and enjoy the dance.
Margaret wants Caroline to realise she will have to lower her sights so Caroline reminds Margaret that a lot of younger guys think she is attractive and would take her but Margaret deflects that they see her as the tall older sister type, cool to toss a Frisbee with but not cool enough to date, plus my girl Margaret doesn’t seem that fussed about going to prom.
Ending this stream of thought Stephanie is convincing Liza that a red dress doesn’t suit her even though it’s obvious Stephanie wants the red dress for herself. Liza is pretty chill about it and goes to pick a turquoise dress, Margaret hears Caroline gasp as this is the dress she has had her heart set on since Adrienne finished making it and even though chances are she won’t get to wear it, Margaret knows how much it will hurt Caroline to see someone else in it so she gets a sponge and claims the dress has a water stain so she can hustle it upstairs off the shop floor. Margaret is a Bomb Ass Friend. [Wing: Seriously, Margaret is kicking friendship ass so far.]
Margaret’s other friends Lacey (short, stocky with blonde hair in a Dutch-boy bob) and Jeannine (tall and thin with frizzy red hair and a narrow face) arrive and seem unhappy about the not shopping for Prom dresses. See I was totally right Prom is EVERYTHING. [Wing: Yes, yes, let’s go with that. Seriously, though, it was a pretty damn big deal at my high school, and I had a ton of fun all three years. (Back then, only juniors and seniors could attend, except that if you were younger, you could go with someone older. Sophomore year I went with a guy friend of mine. Got a dress about a week before the dance, because it was all a last minute thing. It was awesome.)] [Tuesday: This just makes me even more jealous]
The Pops all pick their prom dress (Stephanie in the red of course). As they are paying for their dresses and arranging the alterations Stephanie makes another snide remark about Jeannine and Lacey not going to Prom, what is this girl’s problem? Jeannine mutters about physical violence and honey I am all in. As she is paying Stephanie starts going at Caroline and Margaret again. Stephanie get a hobby! Margaret is, again, more upset on Caroline’s behalf and tells Stephanie that she has a giant spot on her forehead, Stephanie leaves angry.
Margaret is closing the store for the night and is halfway home when she has to go back to get her Chemistry book, as she pulls into the store’s car park she sees a pile of something on the floor on closer inspection she see’s that its three dress, the Pop’s dresses and they had been ripped, torn stamped on, covered in grime and oil and left in the alley. Margaret feels sick at the violence aimed at the dresses not to mention the time and care her mum put into designing and making them. Margaret also realises that someone had to get into the store to get the dresses. [Wing: Were the dresses being altered? Why didn’t they take them with them? But beyond my confusion, this is really sad. It sounds like Margaret’s mom is designing each dress and making it by hand, and that is a ton of work and art destroyed.] [Tuesday: Yes there were minor alterations needed, I totally blanked on that, sorry guys!]
Margaret decides to take the dresses home with her but gets Caroline and Scott who are at the library together to come with her. At first Caroline is delighted when she finds out they belong to the Pops but Margaret puts her straight and Caroline is immediately contrite. Adrienne is, of course, upset and they all go straight to the store to see if it was broken into. Turns out the lock on the upstairs window to the design room known as ‘The Sweatbox’ (which is cluttered and filled with old dress designs and a broken ironing board passed on from Adrienne’s grandmother who taught her how to make dresses, I love this little detail) is broken so that’s probably how someone got in and out. [Wing: Ugh, I don’t know if I’d ever feel safe in teh design room again. Also, breaking in an upstairs window, that’s dedication.] [Tuesday: And yet, as we find out later, utterly unnecessary.]
Margaret sees a dress her mum is still making which she has fallen in love with and get a stab of pain that she won’t be going to her senior prom, this makes Margaret disgusted with herself as she had never been to one before and survived, but a little voice niggles that this is her last prom. I get it, there is always a sense of finality when it’s the last anything and Prom is such a part of the American high school experience I can totally understand Margaret wanting to go to at least one but it’s a nice bit of character development, Margaret is very down to earth and we see this trait throughout the whole book. [Wing: I love seeing her be torn over this, because she is very practical and pragmatic and yes, big picture, it’s not the end of the world, but it is treated as such a rite of passage here that I can understand why she would be drawn to it no matter her practicality or pragmatism over how it will effect the rest of her life.] [Tuesday: Hell I’m drawn to it and I’m 15 years and an entire ocean away from it. Stupid parents not letting me be American.]
Adrienne calls the police and Margaret starts thinking…Its suspicious how it was only three dresses and its not like they couldn’t be replaced turns out Stephanie, Liza and Beth’s mother are the three silent (Lazy) partners [Wing: Oh, damn, and here I was hoping they were dead. Maybe they’ll end up dead yet? I am having rage feelings today for reasons unrelated to this book, and I think my response is reflecting that. Ah well.][Tuesday: Let the rage reign, mi amiga] so they all have money to get new dresses and Adrienne has a bigger impetus to replace them. Margaret is more concerned that it is these three specific dresses and what it could mean. Adrienne will have to work overtime to remake the dresses and will need Margaret around the store more. Realising that between working late to cover for her mum, studying for finals, the senior picnic, the yearbook committee and the prom committee Margaret is glad she wont have to worry about attending prom. I love how busy she is. The character so far has been wonderful she is intelligent, level headed, loyal to her friends and family plus she has hobbies and commitments and doesn’t sit at home worrying about not being popular. I love how independent and normal she it.
Damn we are not even a quarter of the way through I am dragging this out. [Wing: I’m even worse about that when I’m enjoying a book than when I’m hating it, and the characters here are pretty great.]
Ok onward! Its the Senior Picnic and the whole senior class is there. Margaret has gotten bored of softball and wandered off to climb the old Lighthouse, a favourite hang out of hers, she hasn’t asked her friends as they all think its creepy. The lighthouse is described as having a rusted, metal, spiral staircase, the platform is old wooden slats and the railing is too weak to lean on it sounds dangerous and gorgeous. And the view sounds beautiful. [Wing: Margaret, I’ll hang out at the lighthouse with you. It’d be my favourite place, too, the creepier the better.]
She loved the taste of saltwater on her lips. Some days the water was grey-green (see Caroline! Those colours are fabulous!) sometimes grey-blue. On cold, wind whipped days, it was always grey-white, the whitecaps taller than Margaret
So cold and beautiful.
[Wing: Not an accurate image, but the creepy beauty reminded me of this lighthouse, Point Reyes in California.] [Tuesday: Actually gasped at this picture, now I want to dig out my jumpers, grab a hot chocolate and explore] [Wing: Dove, Raven, and I were there earlier this year, and it was haunting and amazing. Highly recommend.]
Margaret is chilling at the top of the lighthouse listening to the waves crash against the rocks making noise like a thunderstorm when someone speaks, Margaret turns around to see Mitch McGill, he stands next to her watching the ocean while she watches him. Margret has a huge crush on Mitch or rather she find his face awesome to look at but wouldn’t ever entertain the thought that he might be interested in her, Margaret I’ve read the book and he is. Boom.
Mitch knows her full name and starts the flirting right away and Margaret is stunned that someone as hot as Mitch would know who she is, so far Mitch is ok-my inner 11 year old is all aflutter and he is still as perfect and nice and handsome as I remember. Mitch don’t screw this up. Mitch starts talking to Margaret about the break in it turns out his brother was one of the policemen on call. Margaret is wary as Adrienne doesn’t want anyone to know about the break in, Margaret mentions the prom dresses then chastises herself as she is worried Mitch might ask her about who her date is and she would have to admit she’s not going, for all her level headedness my Margaret is still a 17 year old girl getting shy in front of her crush. Love her.
Mitch volunteers he can’t afford to go to prom this year and Margaret says she thought he was going with Liza, Mitch is noncommittal and it sounds like he hasn’t even talked to Liza in a while. Margaret starts to think that he didn’t ask Liza and she can’t help it but she feels happy. Margaret decides to head back to the picnic as it’s a bit dangerous on the platform plus she’s scared of saying the wrong thing to Mitch because she wants to discuss the break in but feels weird as they don’t really know each other. Mitch says he will walk with her which delights Margaret. Margaret wants to know how Mitch knew she was Adrienne’s daughter as she and her mother don’t look alike and she wasn’t wearing her Quartet Broach (Four instruments together on a small broach handed out for free at the store, everyone has them) Mitch randomly volunteers that his brother said Adrienne was gorgeous and Margaret agrees.
It no longer pained her that she looked more like picture of her father than she did Adrienne. For years, she just assumed that when she was old enough, she would look exactly like her mother. They had the same colouring. But the summer she was thirteen, she had suddenly spurted up to her full growth and grown into her adult face. The truth was inescapable, she had inherited her mothers eyes. But that was all. She had been furious the whole summer and most of the following school year. She couldn’t remember exactly when it had stopped making her mad. One day she had told herself that if she looked exactly like her mother, she might meet someone like her father. Then he might want to marry her and she might say ok. Then, one day when she’d thought everything was great, he’d get drunk because although he was cute and charming and tons of fun, he had never really grown up. He would try to race a train at a crossing, a real juvenile thing to do, and he’d lose. Then, like her mother, she’d be left alone, without any money, to raise the child they’d had.
[Wing: JESUS. That is a lot. Margaret, my heart just grew three sizes for you.] [Tuesday: It’s so sad but gives us so, so much.]
I adore this. There is so much character development here like how Margaret finds her own way to accept herself but it is in a really in keeping with her character. You can see how she is still angry at her father for dying and the way he died and for leaving her and her mum to struggle yet she isn’t bitter and it doesn’t consume her but it informs her character, Margaret isn’t really juvenile she is very sensible and level headed and suddenly we, the reader, understand why. Well done Hoh.
Margaret asks if Mitch has met her mum and he hasn’t so she wonders how he knows she is gorgeous and he says that his brother also said that the daughter (Margaret) had the prettiest eyes he had ever seen and since Mitch can see that his brother was right about Margaret’s eyes he must be right about her mum. [Wing: You sly dog.] He wants to meet her mum sometime, Margaret questions is it because she is pretty but Mitch assures her it’s because she is apparently really nice. This is the weirdest compliment I have ever read like yes its lovely that he thinks she has the prettiest eyes his brother and now he has ever seen-but the whole your mum is hot thing? Plus why is his brother discussing active cases with his high schooler sibling? [Wing: This is a really good point!]
There were easier ways Hoh could have got Mitch to compliment her eyes. It feels like Hoh is really trying to set up that Mitch is a Good Guy ™ Dammit Hoh! From the sublime to the ridiculous! So Margaret is all giddy about this admittedly odd compliment but is telling herself he just feels sorry for her because of the break in, except he is being so nice and bending his head close to her to listen to her and blocking the wind from her and asking her all these questions about her family and hobbies and complimenting her softball skills and saying how impressed he was with her on the pitch then asking her if she is free in the summer to play on his softball league team when
She was about to respond with something truly inane like ‘I just adore softball’, something Margaret Dunne would never, ever have said if she had been in her right mind, when they heard the scream
I adore this girl! Plus that was a decent cliffhanger and totally out of the blue. Ok Hoh you’re pulling it back.
Now we get the anonymous narrative which is pointless as we know Stephanie dies, its on the blurb. However this is quite a well written and suitable tense and scary chapter so I’ll let it slide. So Stephanie or ‘the girl in yellow’ follows ‘someone’ the Muffin Person (gender not specified) to the lighthouse as the Muffin Person claims they saw Stephanie’s boyfriend going up there with another girl. Stephanie is understandably pissed as it turns out Michael has been cheating on her for a while but she won’t dump him as it is too close to prom for her to find another date and she is a shoe in for Prom Queen. See? It’s ALL about Prom.
We get a little of Stephanie’s inner voice and she is just as shallow as she appears, moaning about her hair and her dress. It’s irritating that we get such good character development with Margaret but Stephanie is such a stereotype, I know she’s a minor character but can’t we have one redeeming quality so we feel a little bad for her when she dies? They get to the top of the lighthouse and surprise, surprise Michael and the mystery girl aren’t there. Instead Muffin Person asks Stephanie to break her date with Michael so Muffin Person can go in her place. I would love it if Muffin Person was a guy, please be a guy! Stephanie is rude and dismissive and calls Muffin Person crazy which really pisses Muffin Person off. [Wing: Pisses Wing off, too.] Yeah Stephanie take a look around and try, for once, to be nice? Acting like an asshole and hurling insults at the top of a dangerously unsafe lighthouse is not the smartest of moves. Stephanie continues with the name calling hurling ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’ at Muffin Person which has an effect…yeah that would piss me off too so far all MP has done is ask you to break up with your long term boyfriend they have been cheating on you with so they can go to prom with said boyfriend in your place, totally standard favour #sarcasm. Stephanie continues with the crazy insults and, babe, read the body language and shut up!
Stephanie finally, FINALLY realises she is in danger and tries to run around Muffin Person only to slip against the railing which breaks. Stephanie falls but manages to grab the platform hanging on for dear life. Muffin Person goes to help her but changes their mind saying that since Stephanie wouldn’t help them they won’t help her as it wouldn’t be ‘right’ not to mention Stephanie called them crazy multiple times-interesting view of right and wrong there MP. Muffin Person steals Stephanie’s yellow hairband (because why wear yellow unless you’re going to wear matching accessories?) then kicks at her fingers until she lets go and falls onto the rocks below. [Wing: Why steal the hairband? That’s sloppy, MP.] [Tuesday: Yeah I never got the headband stealing, then again they’ve already committed murder what’s a little robbery?]
Hoh does give a great description of how MP changes from a worried bystander into an emotionless predator who realises that without Stephanie, Michael wont have a prom date leaving him available. On leaving MP notices a trinket which has fallen out of their pocket but decides to leave it. [Wing: … WHY? AGAIN, SO SLOPPY.]
We then get a first person narrative of the Muffin Person who cant believe what just happened. MP decides to hide until the crowd arrives then join them and copy what they do. MP justifies their actions and I’m enjoying how there are hints at sociopathy or possibly a Schizoid Personality Disorder-not to be confused with schizophrenia, SPD is a disorder characterised by secretiveness, emotional coldness, apathy as well as a rich, elaborate and exclusively internal fantasy world. MP has and does demonstrate a few of these traits which is a break away from the old CRAZY IS EVIL ALWAYS AND FOREVER. At least there is a hint of something deeper and a real mental health issue going on. [Wing: Though if those mental health issues are Hoh’s reason for why MP is doing these things, it’s still falling back on that trope.] [Tuesday: Very true, I’m just grateful this isn’t one of those CRAZY IS CRAZY IS EVIL type killers, at least Hoh is trying to hint at or give some sort of explanation for the MP’s actions and the reason’s behind it, don’t get me wrong there is still so much ableism thrown around but not as much as a usual PH book so I’m going to take any explanation I cant get.]
Margaret and Mitch are walking back to the picnic when they hear the scream, Mitch thinks it’s the softball games but Margaret decides to check it out claiming it came from the lighthouse, Mitch goes with her. Caroline appears from the woods with flowers in her hands, she has been with Lacey and Scott-you know for someone who claims not to like Scott, Caroline sure seems to spend an awful lot of time with him, I digress. They get to the top of the lighthouse and Margaret notices the railing is broken, Mitch realises its the same place he had been leaning until Margaret told him it was unsafe. Remembering everything Margaret has said to you already eh Mitch? Looks like Scott’s not the only one with hearts in his eyes.
Looking down they see a puffy yellow jacket and even though they are high up they start to feel nervous. They run downstairs and towards the rocks where they find Stephanie’s body. Stephanie’s foot is trapped between a few rocks stopping her drift out to sea. Hoh effectively describes the damage like how her bones have all been broken, how her once beautiful face is destroyed and the reactions of the other teens seeing her. Its sounds horrific. [Wing: Full body wince reading it. Nicely done, Hoh.] [Tuesday: The descriptions are so visceral in this book.]
The waves are crashing against the rocks pulling and pushing the body, they are all worried about her being swept away. They call the police and Mitch asks Margaret to keep Michael away from seeing his girlfriend’s body. Mitch keeps reiterating that Stephanie would never have gone up the lighthouse. Mitch tells Margaret he will stay with the body but she needs to tell Michael about Stephanie. Margaret is dreading it which is totally understandable she barely knows Michael and its awful news to deliver but my girl puts her own distress aside and tells Michael in the calmest, gentlest way she can calling over his friends to support him when she can’t. [Wing: Margaret, how are you so amazing? Oh, right, when Hoh is doing good writing, she has amazing characters.] [Tuesday: When Hoh is on she is ON.]
Michael, like Mitch, claims Stephanie would have never gone up the lighthouse alone. Margaret asks the Pops is that true, and Beth and Liza confirm that Stephanie hated the lighthouse and wouldn’t go up there except once as a dare when she was a kid. Kiki reminds Margaret that they were Stephanie’s BFF’s and she should butt out which Margaret understands is fair, but she thinks that even though they weren’t friends she is still as horrified and scared as everyone else. [Wing: Dudes, she found the body! Cut her some slack here.]
Margaret starts to connect the ruined prom dresses with Stephanie’s death. Lacey is the only one who won’t cry because she always hated Stephanie and isn’t going to pretend she cares she’s dead, Margaret appreciates the honesty, but since she actually saw how Stephanie died feels differently. I get that, when I was in my last year at Uni one of the girls on my halls had a friend visit one night who then accidentally OD’d, there was only 5 of us to a floor so they needed a couple of us to confirm identification and lucky me got picked. Now, my friends and I didn’t know the girl who OD’d very well except to say hello to once or twice but myself and my friend, who also helped with the ID, were affected for a very long time and after seeing how someone passed, feeling a sense of loss and grieving for someone you either didn’t know or didn’t know well is natural. I am really enjoying the moments of realism Hoh is putting into this story. [Wing: Oh, wow, I can imagine that lingers with you after. What tough thing for you to have gone through.]
[Tuesday: Thank you, the friend who helped with the ID still can’t talk about it. It happened a couple of days before our finals-FYI revision and insomnia are not a great mix. Yeah it was a very strange and sad time especially grieving for someone we didn’t really know-I think we were actually grieving our own loss of innocence that someone out own age could die. Then there were the rumours (At one point we were Satanists or Uber Christians who killed the girl because she was transgender-the only issue we had was making sure we used the correct pronouns in our statements, she presented as female in life so we wanted her to be presented as female in death) and the ‘death junkies’-Students who just wanted all the details or the ones who all of a sudden wanted to be your BFF so they could say they knew the Death Girls (Yes, there was a super lame nickname) Creeps. Actually the worst person was my boss (a rude, lazy, eternal student) she told me I was a ‘super lucky bitch’ and we would get First’s automatically, um ok that’s a myth and second of all show some damn compassion, a family has just lost their kid, friends have lost a loved one, I would have took a Third if it meant it never happened. God she was a beast. End of the day the girl thought she knew more about drugs than she actually did and accidentally OD’d, no drama, no murder, no Satan just a sad cautionary tale. Wow, this is the most I have ever talked about it sooooo end of Tuesday’s therapy session.]
[Wing: One of the reasons I love having this site and the podcast and guest recappers is how real we can get about our feelings and our needs and our mental health. I know it can be hard to be so open, and I’m grateful you all are willing to share with me and with all our readers.]
So the ambulance turns up and Stephanie’s body is removed from the water. Hoh does a great job of describing everyone’s reactions and the shock and pain they are feeling. The police turn up to take statements; only Mitch and Margaret heard the screams. Margaret questions why Stephanie was alone, apparently Stephanie was incapable of doing anything alone so it’s super odd she would go somewhere she admittedly hated all by herself.
Margaret finally admits to herself that Stephanie didn’t fall and was most likely pushed, and she wonders if it was Michael who does seem genuinely devastated or if it was a stranger which is a terrifying thought. The police find a Quartet broach Margaret says she would have noticed it when she was up there earlier as they are from her mum’s shop so it must have been left by someone else. The police confirm that Stephanie would only wear real gold and everyone is dismissive about the broach. Margaret is the only one who thinks it could be a clue. [Wing: So the police in this town are coming across as failtastic.] The police ask Mitch if he saw the broach he says no but now everyone knows that Margaret and Mitch were together alone up the lighthouse and are shocked, Shocked y’hear! Ok y’all need to calm down it’s not like they eloped up there. [Wing: They’re all just eager for the lighthouse porn to drop.] [Tuesday: Aren’t we all?]
The police leave with a stern warning about accidents, but Margaret can’t get rid of the thought that someone killed Stephanie. They clean up after the party and head home, Mitch tells Margaret he was planning on asking if he could drive her home but needs to support Michael, he asks if her number is in the book and if he can call her later. So far Mitch is aces in my book; he seems to genuinely like Margaret and is very respectful towards her. Margaret has a completely normal reaction of shock and numbness, and I am so glad this book has totally appropriate reactions from its characters, it is much more realistic than Mitch and Margaret making out moments after finding a body like some other PHs. [Wing: I now have this terrible mental image of this happening.]
Adrienne is waiting for Margaret and its a good scene of motherly love and Margaret’s grief and loss of innocence, in a sense. Hoh has really subtly provided hints that everyone is, for the first time, realising their own mortality. Margaret mentions Mitch, and Adrienne is ecstatic, such a mum reaction. Margaret is glad of the distraction. Adrienne is ready to have Margaret married off, Margaret tries to tell her it’s totally innocent and doesn’t tell her he might be calling in case he doesn’t. Ah I just love Margaret; I’m appreciating how down to earth she is. Mitch does call (YES YOU GO GIRL) and they talk for a long time about their plans for the future (Margaret wants to go into Graphic Design, Mitch wants to do Law) [Wing: NO MITCH RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN.] and anything that doesn’t involve what happened at the picnic, finally Mitch brings it up and confirms Margaret’s suspicions that it was a murder. It must be great having a blabbermouth cop for a brother. They found shoe polish on Stephanie’s hand and paint under her nails they realised she was hanging on but was kicked off the lighthouse. [Wing: Well damn. That’s some good use of clues.] [Tuesday: PH Police doing actual Police work? Who’d have thought it?]
While Margaret is processing this, Mitch asks her to prom as he got a graduation gift of money off his grandparents, she’s blindsided trying to process the murder and being asked to prom for the first time by someone she has genuinely liked for a long time. That’s a lot and look I’m loving Mitch’s character so far but he is so, so awkward his conversation segues are something else. [Wing: Seriously, he could have done that before he started talking to her about, you know, murder.] [Tuesday: Mitch is so awkward. So. Damn. Awkward.]
Margaret says yes and then Mitch asks her if she has always been called Margaret which he thinks is a serious name and wonders if she ever had a nickname like Maggie or Meg, Margaret thinks that she would really like to be called Meg who she imagines would be fun, flirty and pretty. I always felt weird about this because I think Margaret is a lovely name, plus so far Margaret has been an awesome character but at least Mitch asks her what she would prefer to be called-throughout the book Mitch continually asks Margaret’s consent for some might say trivial things, it might see like a small thing but it’s refreshing to read a PH book were the male character doesn’t try to take charge of every situation and act like an ass. Mitch is very respectful of Margaret as a person and an equal and it shows. [Wing: I agree. And the little things are just as important as the big things when it comes to respecting her autonomy; I particular love that he doesn’t just give her a nickname she doesn’t like, but makes sure she’s cool with it. Names can be super important to people.]
[Tuesday: Yeah I’m fussy about my name, I have a single syllable real name and it’s like nails on a chalkboard when someone adds and ie or y onto it, like no that’s not my name.]
Margaret says she wouldn’t mind if he called her Meg and it’s her choice, though I’m sure if she decided to stay Margaret Mitch would have respected that too. I’m still going to call her Margaret. Mitch double checks that Margaret really wants to go with him and wants to know what colour her dress will be (I’m guessing for the corsage, see I know my Prom shit! [Wing: You are truly on top of things. It might also be for him to coordinate his suit; sometimes the guys will match or coordinate the tie to whatever their date is wearing.] [Tuesday: GUYS WEAR MATCHING SUITS!?] [Wing: I feel like I’m blowing your mind here, and I love it.] Margaret is stunned that Mitch would think she would cancel, after all he is The Mitch McGill. They hang up and Margaret knows she should race downstairs and tell Adrienne but she can’t, all she can think about is Stephanie.
And we get another of the Muffin Person’s internal monologue all they can hear is Stephanie’s screaming, they are worried about Margaret who asks too many questions and had ‘cute guys’ talking to her. They keep reminding themselves that its all about Prom because IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT PROM!
The next day at school everyone is talking about Stephanie’s death but more importantly Lacey, Jeannine and Caroline are talking about who Michael will ask to the prom, Margaret is disgusted and they chide her for secretly wanting the same thing. Margaret announces that Mitch asked her and all her friends act like pricks basically telling her she was only asked because Liza said no. [Wing: WOAH, DAMN, WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT FRIENDSHIP, GIRLS.][Tuesday: This made me so mad, why are they acting like dicks?] Margaret leaves.
Later in the boutique Caroline comes to talk to Margaret. Caroline says that she never liked Stephanie so she shouldn’t be made to feel bad for not mourning her, Margaret counters that Michael has only just lost his girlfriend of 3 years and should be allowed to grieve without girls trying to bag him as a prom date. Caroline says she is happy for Margaret just sad they wont spend their last prom night together, Margaret wants to say that Caroline could go to prom is she would just ask Scott but she wants Caroline to ask Scott because she likes him not because she just wants a date so keeps her thoughts to herself. Adrienne comes in and says she can’t find Stephanie’s dress, she was going to donate it to the school theatre department instead of reselling it. They search the shop but the dress has disappeared. [Wing: Wait, was it repaired already?] Later Mitch and Margaret have a long chat on the phone but they don’t talk about the missing dress or Stephanie. Hoh is really building up a good relationship between these two they talk a lot and are getting to know each other as friends first, it is very refreshing.
The next day is Stephanie’s funeral it’s very sad, but Margaret is sickened at the sight of her friends crying with Michael only a day after they told her they didn’t care that Stephanie was dead. Margaret sits down and takes off her shoes which are too big, Mitch comes over and notices her shoes (important detail!) he tells her that the police think there is a connection between the murder and what happened at the boutique, Margaret says the connection is the prom, Mitch thinks it over and says only someone insane would kill over a prom and a normal person would never do that (No Mitch! No!). [Wing: MITCH. And you were doing so well, too.]
Mitch offers to drive Margaret to the store, she goes to tell Caroline who was originally giving her a lift. Caroline is fine with is as her, Lacey, Jeannine and Michael’s ‘other friends’ are going to the wake. Mitch isn’t going to the wake as he’s not great in crowds which Stephanie knew and understood so she wouldn’t expect him there. That was a nice little tidbit about Stephanie. Margaret is again disgusted that her friends are so obviously trying to get Michael to ask one of them to prom. Margaret wonders if any of her friends were wearing black shiny shoes at the picnic but then chases that thought away, she might be angry with them but they are still her friends.
Mitch again confirms that Margaret stills wants to go to prom with him-Hoh is doing a great job of developing Mitch’s character throughout the book he seems to be a little bit shy and insecure as well as very down to earth. Margaret totally is still going but doesn’t want a fuss, she is happy to go in his truck, Mitch laughs and says she a cheap date causing Margaret to question if she is screwing things up and if Liza would have expected a limo, she lets her insecurities and Lacey’s earlier comments flood her brain for a minute, Mitch interrupts hers thoughts telling her the police are going to interview Michael as they argued the day of the picnic. Margaret has heard rumours Michael had a girl on the side and thinks the police should find her and question her.
Mitch parks outside the store and tells Margaret that she is the first and only girl he has asked to prom and he just wanted her to know that, Margaret says he is the first guy she has said yes to then they kiss. I am 100% on board with this relationship. Mitch tells her he will see her at the Prom Committee meeting tomorrow, Margaret says he isn’t on the committee but Mitch has joined because she is on it. Mitch has got it bad.
Margaret heads into the store, it’s a busy day at work and Mitch calls to ask if he can pick her up when she finishes, he’s gone to the wake after the crowd has left to support Stephanie’s family and will be there till late. Adrienne is on a date at a restaurant across the road so Margaret is grateful as she doesn’t want to be alone. Scott then calls and is mad at Margaret saying she made Caroline cry because she is going to prom with a Pop. [Wing: Why the fuck are you telling her this, Scott, and not Caroline if she’s so damn upset and they’re supposed to be close friends? Why is she that damn upset in the first place? Sure, feel your feelings, negative feelings happen, but be happy for your friend too.] Margaret feels unnerved and wonders if she is being a hypocrite by accepting Mitch’s invitation when in the past she has mocked the Pops.
Margaret goes into the kitchen to have a sandwich, she pours a saucer of milk for a little alley cat as she takes the rubbish out, she sees the little cat is now dead. [Wing: WAIT WHAT.] [Tuesday: Ah, yes, this is on me I’m sorry, I should have put a warning that the cat dies, I’m sorry guys I wanted to get to the Dumpster of Death and Fire, killing the cat was not cool.] Margaret puts the cat in a bag and goes to put it in the big rubbish bins, as she opens the lid she is grabbed from behind and lifted into the dumpster, she struggles but can’t get out of Muffin Person’s grip in the last second she kicks her shoe off hoping someone will notice it and realise she is in there. The lid is locked shut. It’s hot, smelly and terrifying and there are rats running all over her. There is a small hole at the side and Margaret tries to get near it to call for help but MP is shoving newspaper into it and setting it on fire aaaand I have just realised where my fear of small spaces came from. [Wing: This is all so terrifying and disgusting.] Margaret screams for help and tries to get out of the flaming dumpster which is quickly filling with smoke, the fire is burning her arms and legs and spreading quickly, the smoke is choking her so she can’t scream anymore. Margaret hears someone calling for Meg, realising it is Mitch, Margaret tries banging on the lid but in the dark she cant see, she cracks her head and as she falls slices her knee open on something in the dumpster. All I can think is tetanus shot. Overcome by the smoke Margaret’s last thought is that she wanted to go to prom.
Muffin Person chapter. MP is mad that Michael isn’t going to the prom out of respect for Stephanie so MP has decided Mitch will be their date, they asked Mitch at the funeral but he declined because oh my god who asks someone out at a funeral? Plus he already has a date. So Muffin Person threw Margaret in the bin and set it on fire but decided against leaving a broach this time. Muffin Person thinks that with Margaret dead they will be Mitch’s date then does a rhyming thing, obviously Hoh’s trying to make MP seem ‘crazy’ but it’s just weird and a 70’s stereotype.
Margaret wakes up in a full hospital room her mum, friends and the police are there but she is off her face on pain meds, she can’t really make any sense of what happened and slips back into her drug haze. When she wakes up properly her mum and Mitch are in the room. Adrienne goes to get food while Mitch and Margaret talk, Mitch explains he saw Margaret’s shoe and knew she was in the dumpster he got her out just in time, any longer and she would be dead. Mitch is obviously affected by what happened. Margaret tells Mitch how the shoe was the only thing she could think of to do and he is suitably impressed. [Wing: As everyone should be, that was really quick thinking!] [Tuesday: Coz Margaret is a boss.]
Ed, Mitch’s brother, comes back with her mum and all her friends and Margaret tells them what happened, would she be allowed to give her statement in front of everyone? The doctor says Margaret will be fine to go to the prom in two weeks, Caroline thinks she shouldn’t go but Jeannine and Lacey are all for it. Caroline storms out in tears. The next day Margaret is surprised by the appearance of the Pops, she thinks they look weird with Stephanie in the middle. They brought magazines and flowers and say they are checking up to make sure she will still be able to go to the prom with Mitch…Yeah that’s not weird. Things are awkward as they have nothing in common except Mitch. The Pops sort of hang around while Margaret flicks through a magazine Beth gives her, the Pops tell her she doesn’t need to go to the prom committee meeting and they will look after Mitch for her but Margaret assures them she will be there. The Pops talk amongst themselves when Margaret finds a picture Beth has drawn of herself as Prom Queen, Beth catches her eye in a panic so Margaret hides it. The Pops leave but Beth comes back to explain how just once she would have loved to have been made Prom Queen and the picture was a stupid doodle, she throws it in the bin and Margaret promises she won’t say anything but starts to wonder about how much Beth wants to be Prom Queen. Mitch comes in and says he didn’t send the Pops to visit, they have cute banter and they really do make a good couple.
Margaret is released the next day and promptly informs her mum she is going to the Prom meeting, Adrienne is understandably against this telling Margaret that she has never been so scared as when Mitch burst into the restaurant yelling that Margaret was trapped inside a dumpster that was on fire. Margaret gets this but doesn’t want to be scared into not living her life, she promises to call from the school often and will be with Mitch the whole time. Again Hoh has written a good, realistic scene. Kudos. [Wing: UGH, I just love Margaret so much. She’s smart and resilient and determined and absolutely great.]
Muffin Person POV, ok so they are super angry that Margaret isn’t even nearly dead and even more angry she will still be going to Prom with Mitch, MP has decided that Mitch is the best option, and they will go with him.
Mitch picks up Margaret to take her to the Prom Committee meeting, all her friends are there but Caroline is ignoring her. Kiki is now in charge of the Prom committee and driving everyone to drink. Kiki wants Caroline to get candles and has changed the Prom Theme. [Wing: Wait, aren’t they only a few weeks from prom? That is not the time to change the theme, KIKI!] Kiki is a terrible leader; she has no money for the candles and just wants to focus on her hair and David. Margaret is checking everyone’s shoes for shoe polish. Margaret tries to talk to her friends about being invited to prom AND sort of, maybe, actually dating for the first time but they keep avoiding the subject, Margaret gets why and thinks she would be the same in their shoes but can’t help wishing her friends could be a little bit excited for her. I’m mad at her friends A. Margaret is dating someone she really likes for the first time ever B. She has been asked to Prom for the first time ever by said someone and C. She has just survived an attempted murder, cut her some damn slack!
Caroline again asks Kiki for money for the candles. Kiki keeps calling Caroline Connie on purpose. What a bitch. Kiki says she doesn’t have the money as the teacher who was supposed to be chaperoning is out of town at a wedding. Convenient. Kiki has to go to the teacher’s office to get the money, Caroline makes her go as she’s sick of waiting around. Everyone takes a break, Caroline refuses to sit with Margaret and claims she needs to get something from her locker. After a while everyone heads back in the gym but Kiki still hasn’t returned.
Kiki hurries to the office thinking about how hard it is to be popular but she’s glad she has David and her friends, they are all going to the same College and Stephanie would have too thanks to a pact they made as kids to always be together. [Wing: I do not understand this mindset. I intentionally chose a university that none of my other friends planned to attend (and in the end, only one other person came too), not because I hated my friends, but because I wanted a new experience, not just high school all over again. And I really enjoyed high school! I just didn’t want it to last forever. Still don’t.]
[Tuesday: Same, my close school friends and I all went to different universities but we all stayed close plus I made an amazing circle of friends at uni who I’m also still close to. Hey Pops? If you’re worried about your friendships not lasting past High School then maybe you’re not as good friends as y’all thought?]
Kiki starts to cry thinking that she will never see or speak to Stephanie again and she would give anything to have her back. [Wing: This is truly heartbreaking.] Kiki gets the heavy money box out of a drawer when she hears footsteps, thinking its David she isn’t worried until someone smashes the heavy box into her face breaking her nose and splitting her lip open. Ooh that sounds very painful. Muffin Person whispers that Kiki or rather Katherine, Kiki’s actual name has something they need, a prom date and takes off with the money.
Everyone gets bored of waiting. Beth and Liza get worried and urge everyone to go looking for Kiki, they find her unconscious in a pool of blood in the office being tended to by two maintenance men. Lacey, again proving herself to be utterly lacking in empathy, says that they still need the money as prom isn’t going to be cancelled just because Kiki got her face smashed in. [Wing: Well damn.] [Tuesday: Lacey is sociopathic.]
Kiki is taken to hospital muttering about wanting to go to Prom when Margaret finds another quartet broach and points it out to Mitch and the police but they think this is a simple robbery gone wrong. Margaret thinks it could be someone who wants Prom cancelled or ruined. Liza tells Lacey she needs to calm down and that they can’t worry about the money until Kiki tells them what happened, Lacey then starts flirting with David…wow his girlfriend has literally just been taken to hospital wtf is wrong with you? I know this is setting Lacey up as MP but she’s just way too obvious and off putting, stop it, Lacey, this behaviour is gross. Margaret calls her out on it but Lacey is unrepentant. Adrienne suddenly pulls up she sees the ambulance and is scared Margaret had been attacked again; Margaret is fine, but wants to know why her mum is there, Adrienne reveals that the police managed to find the milk carton and the cat and found that there was poison in the milk, whoever threw Margaret in the dumpster tried to poison her first. [Wing: WELL DAMN.]
The police are waiting at home for Margaret to be interviewed, the poison was from insecticide. The silent partners and Caroline’s mum all use insecticide. [Wing: … I’m sure they are not the only people in town who use or have access to insecticide, goddamn.] The police ask about access to the store and its pretty easy to break in, Adrienne leaves the keys hanging by the register anyone could slip one off the hook, have it copied and return it without it being noticed for a while. [Wing: … then why did they break a window lock?] Margaret tells the police that she thinks prom is the connection but they dismiss it. After everyone leaves Mitch stays for a long time, they sit outside talking; Mitch tells Margaret that he will take her to school and home again and that a lot of people are looking out for her, Margaret says Caroline usually takes her but Mitch says he is bigger than Caroline, Margaret agrees even though she thinks it sexist she can’t help but feel safer with Mitch. Mitch tells her that the police are going to look out for her as:
‘And Eddie knows how I feel about you ‘ Mitch said after he kissed her goodnight ‘so he won’t let anyone else ease up on this case, okay?’
Well that’s great, Mitch, but what about those other girls who don’t have an in with the Toomey Police Department? These words are what finally help Margaret get to sleep that night.
School is grim everyone is tense and nervous, Margaret has become popular because she is another victim. Kiki, still in hospital, doesn’t remember her attacker and isn’t going to prom. David still has no date so Lacey, Caroline and Jeannine make sure they surround him with ‘support’ while checking Adrienne still had lots of dresses left in case he asked one of them. Margaret’s super mad at their callous behaviour and tries to avoid prom talk, the prom is still going ahead as Stephanie’s mum replaced the funds and asked that they have it Stephanie’s memory. God that’s sad. [Wing: Heartbreaking.]
Mitch drops Margaret off at work and Adrienne is worried; she can’t find Beth’s dress and thinks Beth is in danger. Adrienne says that Kiki’s mum dropped flowers off at the store today, Adrienne asked her if she uses insecticide, and she said she did but had to buy a new bottle as Lucas, Beth’s boyfriend, came to pick up flowers and the insecticide disappeared. Is Lucas our Muffin Person? IS THIS A SAME SEX COUPLE!? OH MY GOD YES LUCAS AND MICHAEL YOU DO YOU! Or does Lucas just really want to fulfill Beth’s dream of becoming Prom Queen? Oh wait that sounds more like a PH book.
Adrienne tries calling Beth, but she is out getting her hair done and they don’t know where. Caroline and Margaret decide to drive around looking for her but don’t tell Adrienne. Caroline goes to sort out a contact lens and they are off. Caroline drives around thinking that it’s fun sort of like a detective game, Margaret says that playing detective was fun when they were children but now people are actually getting hurt. Margaret goes over everything in her head and bursts out that she just can’t believe someone is hurting people over something as silly as prom. Caroline says she can totally understand it, she doesn’t agree with it but she understand whys someone might feel angry or ‘crazy’ enough to kill to go to the prom, she goes on to say that:
It’s not just the insanity that’s obvious, that’s all. We studied people like that in psychology class remember? The kind who keep their sickness hidden. They’re very clever. No one knows how sick they are until something horrible happens. Like now. Because the rest of the time, the signs aren’t right out there in front of us. We have all these weird ideas about insanity, images of screaming, shrieking people running round in the streets. It’s hardly ever like that. It’s a lot more subtle, especially with someone who kills people
So much wrong here. Mental health problems do not equal murderer. Dammit Hoh! Plus this is setting up Caroline as the Muffin Person because it seems like she is talking about herself. Margaret asks why she knows all this stuff and Caroline says she is interested in this sort of ‘stuff’. Moving on.
They go to three hair salons Beth isn’t in them, they decide to go to one last salon. Caroline confides that even though they are going to the same college everything feels like it’s changing and what with Mitch going to the same college she feels she will lose Margaret as a friend. [Wing: Oh, damn, that is a sad fear and it makes me like Caroline more.] [Tuesday: I didn’t like Caroline, she was a sucky friend and I couldn’t understand why they were BFFs.] Margaret says that everything changes eventually and change is good, suddenly she sees Beth leaving the salon and getting into her car. Caroline slams on her brakes and hits the back of Beth’s car. Caroline tells Margaret she isn’t wearing her contacts and makes her promise she won’t tell the police or she will lose her license, Big Bro Cop Eddie pulls up, was he following Margaret? Ah no he says he’s been looking for Beth after Adrienne called about the missing dress. Eddie tells them Beth is fine she just bumped her head. They get out the car and see Beth’s trunk is open, inside the trunk is Beth’s dress, Liza’s dress, insecticide, the money box, Stephanie’s dress and her yellow headband. Beth faints in shock. [Wing: Subtle red herring there, MP.]
Margaret gets home and Adrienne is relieved it’s all over, but Margaret has doubts about Beth having the strength to throw her into the dumpster. Adrienne wants to know where they have both been all day, and Margaret tells her they were trying to find Beth but says it took them forever to find the right salon. Adrienne said she told Caroline the exact salon Beth was in. Margaret is super confused especially when Adrienne says she told Caroline just as she was putting her contacts in, Margaret corrects her that Caroline was taking them out but as a contact wearer herself Adrienne knows the difference. Adrienne thinks that Beth might be innocent as all they have is a trunk full of evidence…I don’t know Adrienne a trunk full of evidence seems pretty solid to me plus didn’t you just say it was all over??
Margaret calls Scott and starts doing some digging, apparently the night the dresses were destroyed, Caroline said she was at the library but went home to change her contacts again. Margaret wonders why Caroline would lie about her contacts and drive around all day instead of going straight to Beth and hitting Beth’s car with all the evidence right there is pretty convenient. Margaret starts to think about Caroline, how they have been friends for since the fifth grade but before that Caroline moved around a lot and had no roots, friends or stability until she moved to Toomey. Margaret wonders if all that instability could make someone mentally ill. I’m glad she didn’t outright call Caroline crazy or insane but questioned things. Hoh has been fairly good at trying to give reasons instead of flinging the crazy label around which is a nice change for a PH book. Margaret pretends she feels safe enough to tell her mum to go on her date, Adrienne calls to make sure Beth is still in the hospital before she goes. Margaret is seriously suspecting Caroline but assures her mum she is fine and will call Mitch to get him to pick her up from the store. As soon as her mum leaves she calls Caroline. Which is awesome, she is facing the problem head on instead of suspecting everyone and everything.
Muffin Person POV they are so angry that none of the Pops’ boyfriends are going to the prom but MP wants Mitch instead. We get a long ramble about exactly how they stole the keys to get the dresses, committed all their crimes etc its pointless as we already figured out how they did it thanks to Adrienne’s lack of security. MP decides to kidnap Beth and go after Margaret. Not sure how that’s going to happen since Beth has a police guard but ok.
Margaret is on the phone to Caroline who explains that she lied about knowing which salon Beth was in because wanted to spend time with Margaret as they have been pretty distant lately and yes she was putting her contacts in when Adrienne saw her but she took them out straight away and if Margaret wants to check they will still be in the bathroom. Margaret realises she is telling the truth and Caroline figures out that Margaret suspects her and is on her way over to…argue? Fight? Sort things out? Margaret goes to the sweatbox to iron while she waits for Caroline when Beth appears in the doorway, Margaret asks how she got in and Beth replies ‘She has a key’
Liza appears from behind Beth. When I first read this, this was a great twist, Liza is referenced enough to be part of the story but not enough that you suspect her but looking back there are certainly clues for example calling Kiki Katherine, nicely done Hoh.
Liza tells Margaret that Beth is going to push her out of the window then, overcome with guilt, jump. Liza thinks Beth is the perfect patsy to frame and reveals how she planted the evidence and watched, laughing, when Caroline crashed into Beth’s car and revealed what was in the trunk. Beth yells that she’s crazy (Shut up Beth!)and killed Stephanie and hurt Margaret and Kiki. Margaret is scared that Liza has the strength of madness (No Margaret! We were so close!) Liza shoves both injured girls towards the fire escape window, they hear voices from below; it’s Mitch and he is talking to someone called Brandon, Liza’s brother. Liza threatens the girls into silence, I’m not sure how since she is unarmed and there are two of them but maybe Liza really does have the strength of ‘Madness’ Insert massive eye roll here.
Mitch is talking to Brandon and a guy called Greg, his friend from college. Mitch assumes Greg is here to be Liza’s date but Greg denies it, he took her out once but she is a ‘loose canon’ and there’s ‘something out of whack there’ he spread the word so no one will ever date her again. Greg you are an absolute Bellend, Liza why couldn’t you have pushed this prick off the lighthouse? Brandon agrees (So much for family loyalty) saying that Liza has always had everything she ever wants and never learned to deal with the concept of the word no or of life not going how she wants and so she acts out. Brandon I hate to break this to you but Liza is doing a lot more than act out. Mitch tells Brandon that she asked him out at the funeral which he thought was odd.
Margaret, Beth and Liza have heard every word. Margaret is SHOCKED Liza doesn’t have a prom date. Brandon continues that Liza has told him five different guys she is going with and he finally thought she was going with Mitch. Mitch tells them he’s going with Margaret and is picking her up at the store, Liza tells the girls she has locked up downstairs so Mitch will think she has left already and drags them back inside the room. Margaret still can’t believe Liza doesn’t have a prom date, priorities Margaret priorities!
Beth yells at Liza calling her crazy saying that no one asked her so she went on a rampage. Well Beth I can see why you and Stephanie were friends. Liza says that they would have asked her but everyone thought she had a date. Liza tells them that Stephanie fell and it was an accident but Stephanie wouldn’t break her date with Michael so Liza had to kill her. Liza admits she was Michael’s secret girlfriend, Beth is disgusted. Liza picks up a pair of scissors and does the irritating rhyming thing to signify ‘crazy’. Dammit Hoh.
Margaret asks about the broaches and Liza says that Margaret wasn’t one of her real friends so didn’t deserve one. [Wing: … okay then.] Liza says that the Pops abandoned her even after they made a blood oath swearing to look after each other. See The Pops made the blood oath! I always thought it was presented that Margaret and her friends made the blood oath but Margaret’s too cool for that, to be honest. [Wing: WELL DAMN. Actually did not expect that! Nicely done, Hoh.] [Tuesday: First time I ever read this book my mind was BLOWN.]
Margaret tries to sympathise with Liza and talk her down, but Liza says that she is going with Mitch not Margaret but can’t remember where she put her dress. Margaret tells her its downstairs and she should go and get it, Liza is about to leave when Mitch starts knocking on the door shouting for ‘Meg’. Liza remembers she is in the middle of trying to kill the girls. Hoh kind of threw in subtly that the Muffin Person or Liza has had some small memory issues in the Muffin person chapter-again another attempt to show she is ‘losing her mind’ so this isn’t massively out of the blue but it’s a tired trope of losing your memory equals rhyming words equals losing your mind equals crazy and it’s a bit lazy, I see what Hoh is trying to do and how she is trying to build up the pressure Liza has been feeling until she hit her limit but it could have been done better.
Margaret says that it’s just a stupid dance and not worth this, but Liza is beyond obsessed with prom. Liza is furious that the Pops were going to go without her. Beth counters that they didn’t know she wasn’t going, after all she bought a dress and told them she was taking a college guy, if they knew they would have made sure she had a date and would never have left her behind, but Liza is enraged and screams she doesn’t need charity. Liza says she wants to be prom queen but Margaret reminds her that she has already been prom queen therefore can’t be queen again. This really pisses off Liza [Wing: Seriously, Margaret, there is a time and a place for your logic. This is maybe not that.] who lunges at Margaret with the scissors, Margaret kicks the ironing board table at Liza, it collapses underneath her and she cuts Margaret with the scissors, Beth…does nothing. Liza is stunned and Margaret wraps the iron’s cord around her wrists, this girl is so badass. There’s banging downstairs and Margaret opens the door to find Mitch and Caroline. Then I’m assuming she calls the police.
It’s Prom Night. Margaret looks stunning, she’s let Adrienne go full pageant mum on her and it shows. Mitch can only say wow. They have a romantic dinner and are dancing at the prom. Caroline is there in the turquoise dress with Scott (I knew it!), Lacey and Jeannine are also there having a great time. Margaret asks Mitch why he didn’t tell her Liza has asked him to prom but he didn’t think it was important, unfortunately Liza did. Beth didn’t go as it was too weird without her friends and another girl was crowning prom queen, so there were other candidates?
Suddenly there is a hush, Liza is standing in the doorway, Mitch explains she is out on bail as she is being charged with manslaughter and waiting on a psychiatric exam but she is supposed to be confined to her home. Liza is wearing an oversized black dress, harsh, heavy, clown like make up and a crown she had made from cardboard and foil. The description is heartbreaking. Liza works the room flirting and telling each boy they should have asked her and dismissing their dates, she gets to Mitch and Margaret. Liza asks Mitch to dance with her, her parents turn up, but she won’t leave. Mitch looks at Margaret and she nods her acquiescence, he takes Liza onto the dance floor and dances with her one final time. Margaret, Caroline and half the room get teary eyed. At the end of the dance Liza thanks Mitch then asks her parents to taker her home. [Wing: This probably should have been the ending, really.] [Tuesday: As an adult I agree, beautifully heart breaking image of Liza getting her dance, however as an 11 year old I loved the extra bit about M and M (see what I did there?) going to the same college and hinting that they stay together beyond the summer #MITCHANDMARGARET4EVERTRULUVNEVAHDIES]
About an hour after Liza left the party gets back to normal. Margaret dances with Mitch thinking about Liza:
Margaret, dancing in Mitch’s arms had no idea what would happen with them. Maybe they would go their separate ways when college began in the fall, but as long as she lived, a part of her would always love him for what he had done for Liza. Liza would spend the rest of her life paying for what she’d done. One little dance didn’t seem like too much to give her in comparison.
I always loved that that bit about her always loving him for his kindness towards the girl who caused so much pain. There is a sense that Margaret if not forgives Liza at least understands she is mentally ill. Mitch asks if she will play softball with his team this summer, Margaret says that she will only if her friends Mitch says they are all welcome, to be honest I think Mitch would do anything Margaret asked. The book ends with them dancing.
I unashamedly love this book. Margaret is such a great character, she is well written and totally relatable. The relationship between Mitch and Margaret blossoms beautifully even if he is almost too perfect. I kind of forgot what assholes Margaret’s friends were though and the ending with them all at the prom seemed too pat, I wanted some resolution to their arguments and at least someone to talk to Lacey about what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour. This book had real murders, attacks and the twist was great.
I feel that Hoh actually tried to give a real motive and tried hard to explain Liza’s actions rather than just label her crazy, there was a lot less ableism as usual thrown around. It was obvious that Liza was very ill and needed professional help however as Hoh built up the instability Liza was displaying in her chapters it was hard to believe that her family, who knew she has some sort of issue, wouldn’t have noticed anything was wrong plus, the fact that Liza was hinted at being a sociopath in the first MP chapter, was able to plan out her later crimes as well as maintain her pretence at school and in the run up to the final attack suggest a high level of premeditation that was at odds with how Hoh was presenting Liza in the end, as a very ill, broken doll of a girl who had had a complete breakdown and was much more sympathetic that first presented. I’m so sorry this recap is so long! Hoh put so much detail into this book it was hard to figure what to leave out as things became relevant later on. The ending stuck with me a long time after I read the book when I was a kid and it was the main thing I remembered, it’s just a really sad image. So yeah I really enjoyed it. Nice work Hoh!
[Wing: No worries about the length! It’s a really interesting book, and I enjoyed the hell out of both it and this recap. I’m still not super pleased with the use of mental illness as the reason for everything, but it’s handled better than I expected (and better than a lot of other media), so there’s that, at least. And Liza getting her dance is heartbreaking in all the best ways.]