Recap #12: Arcadia 4: The Attic by T.S. Rue
Title: The Attic by T.S. Rue (Part 4 of the Nightmare Inn/Arcadia series)
Summary: Tessa and her three best friends are planning a weekend of total fun. They even get a special deal at the New Arcadia Inn. But taking it is their first mistake, for this is the Nightmare Inn. And checking out the screams coming from the attic may be their last mistake.
Tagline: Afraid of the dark?
Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.
Counters: Dove and I have started counters for the tropes we run into over and over again. You can read all the definitions in this sticky post. I’m going to try to define them the first time they are used in each post, too, if I can remember.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?!
I know I read this when I was younger, but basically all I remember is that THERE’S A GIANT FUCKING SPIDER IN THE ATTIC. Which you can tell from the cover. So basically, I remember nothing.
Tessa Gilbert: Protagonist.
Brittany Graves: Tessa’s BFF, a tall, slim redhead with angular looks and a brittle personality. (That does not sound all that much like describing a BFF.)
Sierra Gams: Tessa’s BFF, she has long, flowing black hair and softer looks, and can be just as calculating as Brittany. (Tessa’s BFFs, everyone.)
Allie Burkhart: Not Tessa’s BFF. Basically a small, blonde stranger who recently moved to their town, and Tessa’s mother, who works with Allie’s mother, asked Tessa to invite Allie along on their trip to Arcadia. Awkward.
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 1
(All my friends are a bag of dicks = Something strange and evil is happening. Since I hate all of my BFFs, it’s bound to be one of them.)
[Dove: Allie is already my favourite.]
[Wing: Oh, you just wait and see.]
We open with a description that makes me want to be there with them:
As she stepped off the bus, Tessa Gilbert took a deep breath of the brisk fall air. It was late afternoon, and the sun had begun to set. The trees on the side of the road were just starting to change to their autumn colors, and the leaves were painted a fiery red by the sunset. Tessa smelled smoke in the air, and knew that someone nearby had started a fire in a wood-burning stove.
I love autumn, and leaves turning colours, and wood smoke. Of course, Tessa’s descriptions of the people make me dislike everyone but Allie. Including Tessa. This is already going well. Three paragraphs in, and I already hate all but one of the characters.
The bus has dropped them off basically in the middle of nowhere, and Brittany is angry. She and Sierra keep snarking at each other, and Tessa tells us she knows why, but doesn’t actually tell us why. Bad breakup? Oh, wait, not in this kind of book. Probably a love triangle.
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 2
Allie, who hasn’t talked during the ride, opens by saying she once read a book about a hotel full of ghosts. I’m going to pretend she read The Shining, ok? Ok.
The girls bicker and fight over where they are and why they chose the Arcadia (Answer: Cheap). Allie thinks she sees a big, black fuzzy thing in the trees. The others ask if it was a bear.
Hint: Not a bear.
Then some guy shows up carrying a whip, and the girls are terrified. This is an unnecessary cliffhanger chapter break. He’s obviously not going to kill them, and they’re waiting for someone from the Arcadia to come find them. Hmm.
(Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn = Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss Dove and Wing the hell off.)
Sure enough, he asks if one of them is Tessa.
He had long, silver-gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, and had turquoise and silver jewelry rings and bracelets on. He was wearing jeans, a denim shirt, and a leather vest. The thing in his hand looked like a long, black piece of cord with a metal clip on the end.
SEBASTIAN! Welcome back, Sebastian! (Note: See Arcadia 1: Nightmare Inn, Arcadia 2: Room 13, and Arcadia 3: The Pool.)
[Dove: SEB! And, obviously, where is my ISUZU TROOPER, BITCHES?]
Sebastian is there to lead them back to Arcadia, on a path through the woods, which understandably freaks Tessa out a little. Brittany and Sierra give her shit over this, and I would accept this as friendly banter, except all the three of them have done is fight and complain. Sebastian acts weird when Brittany teases Tessa about a fuzzy black thing in the woods getting her, then calms down when they admit no one got a good look at it. The “whip” is really a leash for Fluffy; she got out earlier. Tessa relaxes, because he’s just looking for his dog.
Hint: Not a dog.
SARAH! Sarah is working the counter, her red hair all aflame, as it always is. Awesome. Yay, Sarah. Welcome back, Sarah! (Note: See Arcadia 1: Nightmare Inn, Arcadia 2: Room 13, and Arcadia 3: The Pool.) Sarah sends them up to their room with Nick, the cute bellboy. (Note: See Arcadia 3: The Pool.) Brittany keeps pretending like she’s grabbing Nick from behind. This is supposed to look like she’s all yay!boys, but mostly just makes her look like she wants to rape him. Awesome.
[Dove: The Arcadia: a job for life. And death.]
[Wing: I think I’m exhausted. I just found that hilarious.]
Brittany flirts with Nick, asks him to come find them after he’s off shift. Once he’s gone, Sierra throws a fit, because Brittany already has a boyfriend, what is she doing, and Brittany throws a fit, because Sierra will probably tell him, instead of lying to cover her friend.
I. DON’T. CARE.
Once again, Tessa tells us that something has changed between Brittany and Sierra, and she knows what it is. This time, though, she tells us, and, of course, I was right: she caught Sierra making out with Brittany’s boyfriend. Shocking. And for all they were just judging Brittany for flirting with other guys, hypocritical.
Really? REALLY? Two chapters, two needless cliff-hanger endings?
There she saw something that chilled her to her bones.
Her makeup bag fell to the floor.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” A scream tore out of her throat.
And then the next chapter opens with another scream. I want to scream. Or drink a lot. Where is my alcohol? WHERE IS IT?
Of course, she saw a spider. I hate spiders. And this one was dragging a little sac behind it. Probably an egg sac, they think. I am going to boil my skin in bleach after this book, aren’t I? And bomb my home with spider killer forever.
Allie suggests it is food for the winter, and goes from calling the spider it to calling the spider her. That bodes well, I’m sure. They actually call her on this, and she says the spider feels like a she. FEELS LIKE A SHE.
[Dove: I’m now dating Allie.]
Sierra and Brittany check out the spider, and then fight over whether to kill it or not. I’m with Brittany on this one: SQUASH IT SQUASH IT KILL IT WITH FIRE.
Allie suggests they just move it. Allie, I don’t like you anymore.
[Dove: We’ve just bought a house together. Where we collect spiders.]
[Wing: … I hate you, Dove. You and your new partner and your house of spiders.]
While Sierra and Allie remove the spider without killing it, Brittany and Tessa go sit by the fire and actually discuss Brittany’s worries that Sierra likes her boyfriend. Tessa does not tell her what she knows. Brittany then becomes just as hypocritical as Sierra, because not only does she want to flirt with Nick, she wouldn’t mind hooking up with him, and if anything happens while on holiday, it doesn’t count.
I would hope you all die, but that would mean giving FLUFFY the GODDAMN GIANT SPIDER what she wants, and NO.
[Dove: You just said “she” in relation to the spider.]
[Wing: Fluffy is obviously a she. Even Seb called her a she. But they don’t know he was talking about a spider and I do.]
Before heading to dinner, Tessa sees a man walking what looks like a dog in the distance, illuminated by the moonlight.
Hint: Not a dog.
While they are waiting (forever) for the elevator, they hear something (or somethings) scampering in the attic overhead. Raccoons, raccoons doing wind sprints, squirrels — they have lots of suggestions. HOW ABOUT GIANT SPIDER?!
Anyway, they keep waiting and waiting for the elevator, which never comes, despite this being the slow season and the inn only having three floors. Finally, they decide to take the stairs, but not the stairs right next to the elevator. Oh, no. That’s too logical. They’re going to take the stairs at the other end of the hallway.
DED FROM STUPID: 1
(Ded from stupid = Exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.)
They get to the stairs and shut the door behind them before they realise there are no lights on in the stairs.
DED FROM STUPID: 2
This is going well.
The door is locked, they can’t find a light switch, they keep moving around even after saying not to so they don’t knock anyone down the stairs. Welp.
DED FROM STUPID: 3
It’s also colder in the stairwell than it was outside. Gee, I wonder if it is colder now because it is after dark and there’s a door open somewhere. No one seems to think about that, though. Finally, Tessa decides to try to find the stair rail.
Tessa reached out into the dark. It was an eerie feeling. She couldn’t see a thing, and it felt as if she was reaching into pure nothingness. She was afraid she was going to lose her balance, slip off a step, and tumble down the stairs. Finally she felt the metal railing. It was freezing, almost as cold as an ice tray in her freezer. Still, Tessa gripped it tightly and took a step forward. Her foot touched the next step.
“Okay, I found the rail,” she said. “Everyone follow me. And make sure you hold on tightly.”
I actually really like the description, because reaching out into darkness is scary. But then Tessa acts like they can just see where she found the rail and easily follow her.
DED FROM STUPID: 4
While there’s a bit of light coming under the door on the second floor, that door is locked too. Now they’re terrified they will be locked in forever and will freeze to death. Oooooooorrrrrrr … maybe you could knock on this door, because there may be someone around?
First floor, same thing. They head for the bottom floor, the lobby. It’s then that Tessa realises she hasn’t heard from Allie in awhile. Allie answers when she calls for her, but her voice is weak, and she actually sounds like she’s suffering from the cold, not just complaining about it. (Tessa’s words.)
[Dove: *snuggles Allie*]
The lobby door is locked, too, and again, they freak out about freezing to death. You girls have never faced anything dangerous before, have you? Finally, finally, they start pounding on the door. Sierra is the first. Sierra, you’re the best. After awhile, they hear someone turning the door knob, but the door never opens, and when they try it again, it’s still locked. No one responds to their pounding and shouting this time.
Tessa still feels cold air, and thinks maybe they can get out through the basement. Then this happens:
She turned and stared into the blackness. Behind her Brittany and Sierra were still banging and screaming. Tessa remembered how empty the lobby had been earlier in the evening. Her friends might bang and shout for hours without being heard. Tessa kit for the rail again. She was sure the basement was the answer. She found the railing and took a step down.
Tessa screamed as she stepped into thin cold air! There was no step below her – she was plummeting into the black nothingness!
I was torn on whether to give this one a point, because it’s actually not a terrible cliff-hanger, except that it is only Chapter Four, Tessa is our narrator, and I have my doubts about any actual deaths in this book in the first place, considering the rest of the series, so … yeah. It gets a point.
Brittany and Sierra are still screaming for help at the door, and when Tessa starts screaming for help, too, they don’t notice. Allie does, and tries to help, but Tessa, who is hanging from a cold railing, tells her to just get help, she doesn’t have time to explain what’s wrong. Umm. Tessa. Falling, help! That’s faster than telling her to get the others.
DED FROM STUPID: 5
And even after Allie gets the others, Allie is the one who grabs Tessa; Brittany and Sierra act as anchors behind her.
“Keep pulling!” she urged. “It’s working!” (Allie continued to hold her wrist.) Tessa was gradually able to climb up the railing. Finally her foot touched the concrete landing and she heaved herself forward to safety.
Wait, what? Do you really think we need to know that Allie keeps holding on, Rue? THAT MAYBE WE THOUGHT SHE LET GO EVEN THOUGH TESSA IS CLIMBING TO SAFETY? WUT EVEN IS THIS?
Finally, Nick hears them and lets them out of the stairwell. Convenient. They’re all cold, but Allie is so cold her lips are actually blue. Uh huh. Apparently, Nick just took the elevator down from the third floor and it came right away, and none of the doors are supposed to be locked because they are emergency exits. Duh.
Nick apparently believes that part, but not that there were no lights or that Tessa nearly fell because there were no stairs. Before he can check, though, Sebastian calls him away to help guests get their luggage out to the car. Sebastian doesn’t give them time to tell him the story before he tells them dinner is being served. Brittany leads the charge (girl gets hangry when she doesn’t eat, apparently), but they all go to dinner. The only other people in the dining room are two elderly people and some employees in black and white uniforms. I don’t remember them wearing black and white uniforms before. Dove?
[Dove: Pretty sure Sarah was wearing a white blouse in Arcadia 3: The Pool, but before that? No.]
While the others pile their plates up with chicken and veggies and bread, Allie gets one small chicken wing and a single slice of bread, and says she never eats much. Generally, in books like this, that makes her a cool girl. They mock Brittany for eating a ton of food (FUCK YOU, DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE); there’s almost a fight when Brittany says she skipped breakfast because she heard a rumour about Sierra that made her sick.
[Dove: Oh, hey, we get to use our “cool people don’t eat” tag for the first time since Trick or Treat.]
[Wing: Oh, dude, yeah. I thought about using it because Allie doesn’t eat much ever, but she’s also not cool. But you’re right, I missed this part. Yay.]
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 2
They finally talk about their scare with Sebastian, who explains everything away:
- Master light at the desk, hence no light switches in the stairwell.
- No basement, should be wooden barrier to protect people.
- Cold because stairwell goes all the way to the roof, and people always leave the door open.
- Colder than outside because outside is actually much colder than when they were last outside.
Sebastian is using my exact logic. Should I be worried?
As Sebastian tries to leave, Allie asks him about the noises in the attic.
“The attic, did you say?”
The girls nodded.
“Whatever you do,” he warned, “don’t go in the attic.”
This might work as a cliff-hanger chapter end if he walked away, but the conversation continues in the very next chapter as if nothing happened. They tell him they heard sounds of a big animal, he promises to have someone look into it (right) and tells them again that the attic is off limits to guests. Sooooooooo — your employees are leaving the door open all the time? That sounds unlikely. He’s intense and weird enough he freaks out the girls.
“Wow, what was that all about?” Brittany asked.
“I don’t know,” Sierra replied with a grin. “Maybe there are ghosts up there or something. What do you think, Allie?”
Allie shook her head as if she was taking the question very seriously. “I didn’t think ghosts could have footsteps. Maybe people leave their dogs up there.”
Brittany twisted her face with false fright. “Maybe it’s dog ghosts! The ghosts of all the dogs that ever lived here.”
“The ghosts of Fluffy’s ancestors,” Sierra added with a smile of her own.
This is actually a cute exchange between friends. Finally. It’s not really enough to make me understand why they are BFFs, though.
Allie wants to go into the attic to check, and Sierra and Brittany egg her on (I really think they should just have a snarky poly relationship with Brittany’s boyfriend, I kind of like them together until I remember the dramatic love triangle crap); Tessa advises her not to go. Boo, Tessa. Boring.
Up on the third floor, they think they hear someone screaming, but nope, it’s just a bed being dragged across a floor. Nick and Martin (Hi Martin! Welcome, Martin!) are moving a bed, and Brittany goes to flirt. Tessa plans to flirt with Martin, until she gets closer and realises he’s ugly. Ok then.
They then tell Martin about the sounds in the attic (… you’ll tell everyone you meet, but you won’t go check? It’s like you’ve seen a horror movie or something, but there’s so little going on otherwise, I want it to happen anyway), and he says there’s nothing there but old things in storage, though sometimes he hears animals on the roof.
Then, while taking a shower, Tessa recaps the damn book for us:
The hot water soothed her ragged nerves. It had been a strange day. First that long bus ride to the middle of nowhere, then following Sebastian to the inn, then hearing the strange noises and being trapped in the stairwell. Maybe that hadn’t been as serious as it had seemed at the time, but for a few moments Tessa had been almost certain that she would die if she lost her grip on the rail. And overshadowing the whole day was the tension between Sierra and Brittany. Altogether, it had been a tiring experience. Not at all what she’d expected from a weekend in the country. Some vacation it was turning out to be!
It is chapter six, and you managed to summarize everything in one paragraph. LESS RECAPS, MORE ACTION!
[Dove: This book was brought to you by Vince McMahon. Buy the network. Become obsessed with twitter. RECAP! RECAP! RECAP!]
When Tessa is done, she goes back to the room to find both Sierra and Brittany aren’t paying attention to anything and Allie missing. She gets all snappy, but Sierra and Brittney are right; they are not Allie’s baby-sitters. And Allie isn’t really missing. She’s standing in the hallway.
“Shhh.” Allie put her finger to her lips. “Listen.”
Tessa listened, but didn’t hear anything.
“For what?” she asked.
“I thought I heard it,” Allie said.
That’s where the chapter ends. ONCE AGAIN, the next chapter picks up in the middle of the same damn conversation. WHY THE CLIFFHANGER THEN, RUE? WHY?
And then we get some snark. It’s not great snark, but I’ll take it.
“Is there any particular reason why the two of you are standing out here in your pajamas, staring at the ceiling?” Brittany asked.
“Allie thought she heard something,” Tessa said.
“Oh, really?” Brittany rolled her eyes in obvious disbelief. “Something new?”
“That Martin guy said there was nothing up there,” Sierra said.
“He could have been wrong,” Allie suggested.
“I think he’d know better than you,” Brittany replied. “After all, he works here.”
“Well, so what’s the big deal?” Sierra asked. “We know it has to be a raccoon or something.”
“If it’s the same thing I heard before, it doesn’t sound like a raccoon,” Tessa said.
“Oh? And I suppose you know what a raccoon sounds like,” Brittany said.
“Not exactly,” Tessa said. “But I can imagine what it sounds like, and that wasn’t it.”
“Wait a minute,” Sierra said. “You’re arguing about a sound you haven’t even heard. I mean, not since a couple of hours ago.”
Allie stepped to the wall and rapped on it with her hand. “Now what?” Brittany asked. “Don’t tell me you think it’s going to knock back? Are we going to communicate with the thing in the attic?”
Yes. Yes, now we are communicating with the thing in the attic. Awesome.
[Dove: That’s probably the best exchange I’ve ever read while doing any of these recaps.]
[Wing: Right? Sometimes these girls are just snarky fun. And then I keep reading.]
Allie decides she wants to go up to the attic and see if anything is there. Her reasoning is actually not terrible. When Tessa points out that she heard something, so why would she want to go up there, Allie explains that she only thinks she heard something, and she wants to know for sure. It bothers her that she doesn’t know. I can’t hate on that.
Even better, when Tessa tries to talk her out of it because Brittany and Sierra already think Allie is weird, and Tessa is worried that they will think she is even weirder if she goes into the attic, Allie says she doesn’t care what they think, which is AWESOME. Tessa internally applauds this, which: HYPOCRITE. You just used that as a reason she shouldn’t go, and now you think she’s stronger inside than she appears on the outside because she’s not worried about what your friends think of her? HYPOCRITE!
Tessa decides to go with Allie. The stairwell near their room isn’t modern, like the one they took earlier. This one is old and wooden, with a thin oak banister and peeling, yellowed flowery wallpaper. However, this one has lights, so, bonus, I guess.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Tessa asked.
“Are you scared?” Allie asked.
“In a word – yes,” Tessa admitted.
Allie looked back at her and smiled. “So am I, a little. But I still can’t see what the big deal is. I mean, this isn’t a horror movie. There can’t be a monster up there.”
“I know,” Tessa replied, but she still felt uncomfortable.
On the one hand, I love that they both acknowledge they are afraid, and that horror movies exist in this world. (I’ve talked about my dislike of horror stories that pretend the horror genre doesn’t exist in the world of the horror story before.) On the other hand, this sort of feels like a red herring. SURELY THERE ISN’T A MONSTER IN THE ATTIC MAKING THE WEIRD NOISES WE HEAR. NOPE, NO MONSTERS HERE. NOT AT THE END OF THIS WEIRD STAIRWELL THAT IS MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF THE INN. NOPE.
Red herrings: 1
(Red herrings = Fairly obvious, but in Point Horror, there’s basically a neon sign above them stating “sinister as fuck”.)
The attic is dark and musty and filled with junk. You know, fairly typical horror movie attic. When Allie uncovers a window and lets moonlight spill into the room (which, um, it was a thin, gauzy curtain — it wasn’t keeping out that much moonlight in the first place [Dove: Wing, shut up, you know logic doesn’t exist in these books. I think your expectations are a little high.]), Tessa sees “something that made her pulse race”. And I’ll admit, the description made the skin on the back of my neck crawl.
“Look!” Tessa pointed a trembling finger at the bedposts for the four-poster bed. Strung between two of the posts was an enormous spider’s web, the biggest one she’d ever seen. It was almost four feet across, and seemed to glow in the moonlight.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?
Allie goes all weirdo nature and talks about the beauty of the spiderweb, how intricate and perfect it is, how it could never be that big outside because the wind would destroy it, and I’m actually with Tessa here: CREEPY AND SHUT UP AND LEAVE NOW.
They finally leave, and Sierra and Brittany mock Allie for being weird when she’s in the bathroom and then bicker over the boyfriend YET AGAIN. Boring. They’re sharing a bed, though, so once again, I propose a threesome to deal with this love triangle.
Tessa and Allie are sharing a bed, and when Tessa lies down, she finds Allie engrossed in a Steven King book. Dove and I now love Allie, for the record.
[Dove: Back off my woman, Wing!]
[Wing: You wouldn’t even know about her if I hadn’t recapped this!]
“Is it good?” Tessa asked.
Allie looked up from the book. “Great. I really love him. Have you ever read any of his stuff?”
“I’ve tried, but to tell you the truth, it gives me nightmares,” Tessa admitted.
“I think he has the most amazing mind,” Allie said. “I mean, I can’t imagine how he thinks these things up.”
[Dove: *proposes to Allie*]
[Wing: BOO YOU HOR.]
All hail King, horror master.
That night, Tessa has a nightmare of being trapped in the stairwell again, and then being surrounded by big tarantulas, and, ok, running and running to get nowhere and dealing with tarantulas is a pretty damn terrifying dream. I am suitably creeped out, though I’m not sure this works unless you already fear spiders. Dove? Thoughts?
[Dove: Nope, that’s creepy. All those legs, loads of ’em. To be chased in the dark by tarantulas is not on my bucket list.]
[Wing: Well finally, you’re not on Team Spider.]
Her nightmare wakes up everyone, and no one wants to go back to sleep after; eventually they decide to play truth or dare. I see no way in which this will go wrong. (To be fair, one of the ways is the truth coming out about the love triangle, and that’s actually one of Tessa’s goals in playing, so … power to her? Pretty passive aggressive, though.)
After a couple of softball questions about what they really think about other people in the room, Allie (who says she’s never played truth or dare before, asks Brittany this:
“Okay,” Allie said. “If you had to kill one person in this room, who would you pick?”
Brittany looked surprised. Even Tessa was a little shocked. Allie’s question was both blunt and brutal, which of course made it perfect for truth or dare. Since she was a beginner at the game, though, the other girls were a bit stunned that Allie had come up with it.
Yeah, that’s a pretty damn good question.
Unsurprisingly, Brittany says she’d kill Sierra, and there is, of course, all sorts of tension after. Brittany then turns on Sierra, and for the first time, someone chooses dare. This is not a surprise, because obviously Brittany was going to talk about the love triangle. Also unsurprising (man, only Allie was anything shocking here), Brittany dares her to go into the attic. Before she goes, there comes a knock at the door, and the chapter ends. Of course it does.We had a break, now we must have another unnecessary cliffhanger.
It’s Nick, but Martin is with him. This is also not surprising. Nor is the fight that Martin and Tessa get into when Martin barges into the room and refuses to leave. Well, that’s just awesome. I’m giving it an abuse point, because that’s some harassment right there, even though they don’t have any sort of relationship.
I beat you because I love you: 1
(I beat you because I love you = Abusive relationships in any way, shape or form.)
Martin is the person on duty every night at the inn, so this is also an abuse of his power. I would like us to have a real death, and I would like it to be Martin.
After that uncomfortable harassing aside, the guys leave, and Brittany again demands that Sierra go to the attic to fulfill her dare, and she has to bring back a candlestick from the bookcase near the door. Tessa gets a moment alone with Sierra and suggests she just tell Brittany the truth rather than taking the dare, but Sierra pretends she doesn’t know what Tessa means, and goes upstairs.
They wait about five minutes before Tessa starts to worry that it is taking her far too long. Of course, after her nightmare, there’s no way Tessa wants to go back into the stairwell again. I kinda don’t blame her here, but on the other hand, this is supposed to be one of her BFFs she’s actually really worried about. Dream or no dream, if you’re that worried, GO CHECK ON HER.
Allie is the one who offers to go check the attic (yeah, Tessa, you are looking like a pretty crap BFF, I’m giving it a point)
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 3
but before she can go, Sierra turns up again, freaked out because something touched her leg while she was in the attic, right inside the door, and she couldn’t grab a candlestick because she was too scared. It was both soft and hard, and she didn’t see anything, so Brittany absolutely doesn’t believe her. Brittany and Sierra bicker, Tessa tries to end the game, but Brittany refuses, now demanding that Sierra take truth, so she’ll have taken a turn. Sierra wants nothing to do with that, and says she’ll go back up to the attic because otherwise, Brittany will never let them sleep. This time, Allie goes with her as far as the stairs to make sure she goes into the attic, then Allie returns to the room to wait.
Ten minutes later, Tessa is getting worried again. She tries to goad Brittany into going up and checking on Sierra, which is rich because Tessa herself won’t go. And then we get this:
“Look,” she said, “I don’t have to go up there. And neither did Sierra. It was truth or dare. If Sierra didn’t want to go up there she could have told the truth.”
In a strange way, Tessa knew Brittany was right. Tessa would never have tried to steal Brittany’s boyfriend the way Sierra had, but if she had, she might have told the truth about it – to avoid going into the attic.
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 4
I’m giving it a point because I don’t have anything else to give it. We should have a hypocrisy counter. Tessa! You know what happened! Not only have you not told Brittany, you haven’t even told Sierra that you know and think she should tell Brittany. I hate you all.
Well, not Allie. Allie is a King fan. Spider-sympathiser or not, Allie I like.
Brittany then suggests that maybe Sierra is hiding to get back at them for making her go up there, and Allie offers to go look. Tessa wants everyone to go, though she’s not expressed any willingness to go back to the attic, or even into the stairwell, until this point, so whatever.
And for all that Tessa is worried, they’ve already waited ten minutes, and then all that arguing, and then five more minutes, so, bare minimum, twenty minutes since Sierra went upstairs on what should have been a five minute run, tops. Yeah. You’re clearly worried about her.
[Dove: Oh my god, this is like the chicken, corn and fox riddle. Just fucking go already!]
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 5
After a lot of waffling in the stairwell, and Brittany starting to go back to the room more than once, they finally check the attic, only to find no Sierra. Then Allie says she never actually saw Sierra go into the attic, just open the door, so really, Sierra could be anywhere. When they turn to leave, the attic door has closed behind them, even though Brittany is sure she left the door open. It is, of course, now locked.
Tessa and Brittany try to force the door open, with no luck; Allie goes exploring, and finds one of Sierra’s shoes abandoned. Allie points out it couldn’t have been there long, because there’s no dust on it. Sierra’s been gone maybe thirty minutes now, Allie. OF COURSE IT CAN’T HAVE BEEN THERE LONG.
DED FROM STUPID: 6
No dust, but a moist, sticky, silvery film that Tessa says feels like cotton candy.
NO, TESSA. NO IT DOES NOT. IT FEELS LIKE A SPIDER WEB FEELS, AND YOU ARE SO AFRAID OF THEM, YOU WOULD KNOW THIS. COME ON NOW.
DED FROM STUPID: 7
Brittany then freaks out and decides Sierra has locked them in the attic because Sierra wants Brittany’s boyfriend and will do anything, even kill Brittany by trapping her in the attic.
Allie and Tessa are actually pretty reasonable here. Tessa points out that while boyfriend is a great guy, no one would kill Brittany for him; Allie’s logic is that Sierra wouldn’t leave her shoes at all, because it’s too cold, but especially not just one shoe.
Allie’s carrying matches, though she never offered them up when she and Tessa were upstairs before. Convenient. She lights one of the (also convenient) candle stubs left in one of the candlesticks, and something goes scampering away from them. They’re creeped out, and to help (right), Allie says it doesn’t move like a four-legged animal. Thanks so much for that, Allie.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?
Anyway, they each take a candle, because as Allie points out, whatever it is is afraid of fire, and they’ll feel safer. As they go looking for Sierra and a way out, they find another, even bigger, spiderweb. Awesome.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT SPIDERS?
And then they find a skeleton of a dog. Great. Awesome. I’m done.
(Unfortunately, Dove won’t let me be done.)
[Dove: *cracks whip*]
Allie points out it still has its collar and leash on, but doesn’t check for a name or any other information. Allie wants to keep going, but Brittany can’t, she’s too scared, so they go back to the door, light all the candles, and sit and wait for daylight.
As they sit there and try to stay awake (Allie falls asleep first), they watch the candles burn lower and lower, and Tessa idly wonders what they will do when the last one burns out. For people who are supposed to be really scared, they sure aren’t doing much to make sure they have light. There are plenty of things around the attic. Figure out a way to build a little bonfire that will keep the monster away. Good grief, people. SURVIVAL SKILLS. LEARN THEM. LOVE THEM.
Then Tessa wakes up, also in the dark. So … did she dream the candles went out? Did she get scared in the dark and then fall asleep and then wake up to be scared in the dark again? It really makes no sense.
Maybe I’m asking too much from this book.
Anyway, Tessa is awake, or awake again, or whatever, and Brittany is gone. Allie is huddled up and terrified; she says she saw it. Tessa checks on the candlesticks, and there are candles left, but they’re not burning. But earlier, we watched them burn out. What the hell is going on here?
Tessa tries to get answers out of Allie about what she saw, what took Brittany, why the candles are out, but Allie is so scared she has no words, and she won’t move, won’t even look up at Tessa. Finally, Tessa decides to find something to break open the door so she and Allie can get out of there and get help. This wasn’t, you know, a thought you had earlier, when you and Brittany tried to break open the door with your own bodies?
DED FROM STUPID: 8
Tessa decides the bedpost will work, even though it’s covered in the spiderweb. While she looks for something to knock it down, she finds Sierra’s other shoe, and then a human-shaped cocoon. Though it is wrapped up in something silken (TESSA, SPIDERWEB, OMG GET WITH THE PROGRAM), Tessa recognises it as Sierra.
There’s a cliffhanger chapter break here, too, but I’m not giving it a point, because it actually works as a dramatic break.
Tessa drops the candlestick and the light goes out, but she can see enough in the moonlight to notice that Sierra’s skin is gray, her cheeks hollow, and her eyes sunken; she looks unnaturally emaciated. She’s not breathing. She’s dead.
Woah. We get an actual death. I’m not even sure what to make of that.
Tessa panics and can’t remember how to get back to Allie. Except last time, Tessa was really close to the door when she saw the spiderwebbed bedframe, so … I don’t know. The attic rearranges itself at will? (Not that kind of story.)
While trying to get back to the door, Tessa stumbles over Brittany, who is also dead, though not wrapped in spiderweb and still warm, a little bit of blood leaking from the corner of her mouth. Then Tessa sees a flicker of light from the candles she left around Allie, and really, shouldn’t she have been able to see that in the first place?
No, no, I must stop wanting logic from this book. I’m almost done.
Allie is still not talking or moving, so Tessa takes another candlestick and goes to find a way to escape the attic, promising to come back for Allie. Apparently, they’ve only explored half of the attic, and it is very long, so there’s a whole second half to still explore. Tessa even considers going out a window, but it is a straight drop down. While she’s stumbling around, she finds a trapdoor. It isn’t locked, and she could easily get down into a regular hallway. She almost does, but then remembers Allie. She’s tempted to leave anyway, long enough to get help, but finally talks herself into saving Allie because Allie saved her in the stairwell.
It takes Tessa a long time to get back to Allie, and along the way she keeps looking for the flicker of Allie’s light. See? My logic up there was sound, damnit.
When she finally gets back to Allie, the candles are out and Allie is on the floor, half covered by a huge, black furry thing that is weaving a silk cocoon around Allie, just like the one she found around Sierra.
Finally. FINALLY. Tessa knows what it is. OMG, Tessa, KEEP UP.
It was huge and had eight legs, each perhaps two feet long.
It was a spider, a huge, giant, tremendous spider.
WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT SPIDERS?
Tessa goes running for the trapdoor, but when she gets there, Martin’s got his head stuck up through it. She tells him about the giant spider that killer her friends, and he is not sympathetic at all. Of course he isn’t. He’s going to trap her in there because she made him get out of their room earlier.
Moral of the story: Girls, don’t set and protect your boundaries, or the guy will punish you for it. WTF IS THIS SHIT.
I beat you because I love you: 2
After sitting and mourning for awhile, instead of trying to, I don’t know, find a freaking weapon, Tessa ends up in a standoff with the spider. It starts to come closer, one slow step at a time (oh, I see, it is a dramatic spider), and she finally decides a weapon might be a good idea, and sets about turning a curtain rod and curtain into a torch.
This only works a little; she burns the spider, and wounds it some, and then acts like a Final Girl:
Too weak to stand, Tessa sat against the wall, rubbing the tears Out of her eyes with the palms of her hands. She was exhausted – from lack of sleep, from hours of terror, from the thought of her dead friends.
But she couldn’t help feeling glad. Somehow she’d survived. She’d never given up. There was a strange, miserable pride in that.
But then the spider comes for her once again. She absolutely does not want to be a meal stored up for the long, cold winter; just before she pushes backward through the window, she notices there is a collar around its neck. I am shocked. Shocked I tell you.
No resolution on Tessa’s body landing outside the inn, even though there are other guests around. Instead, the book ends with Sebastian coming to take Fluffy for their morning walk.
[Dove: So, to summarise this book: four girls go to an inn, nearly fall down stairs and go to the attic? Still, it’s a better plot than Twilight.]
[Wing: Four girls go to an inn, nearly fall down stairs, go to the attic, and THREE OF THEM ARE EATEN BY A GIANT SPIDER WHILE ONE FALLS OUT THE WINDOW TO HER DEATH.
I think you are missing the importance of ACTUAL DEATHS here, Dove.]
I actually didn’t hate this, mostly because, even though the characters were often annoying and had that horrible friendships why are you even friends aspect to them, there were moments of fun friendship and snarking. Also, actual deaths. As in, they all died. That is AWESOME.
Finally, the bad guy motivation kind of sucked when it came to Martin’s little revenge, but since he was not the main bad guy, the motivation of the spider was actually great. It’s a monster. It needs to eat. I get it. Kill or be killed, dudes.
All my friends are a bag of dicks: 5
DED FROM STUPID: 8
I beat you because I love you:2
Red herrings: 1
Actual final thought: WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?!
Now I’m off to cleanse myself with bleach and fire.
I’ve just been searching online for this book after being reminded of it, but having no idea what it was called having read it at school about twenty years ago!
Thank you for having done this review, I can now be sure I didn’t just make it up. (And whilst it was pretty terrible, I’ll always give it kudos for being a teen-horror book that killed off all its protagonists. You never got that in Goosebumps)
Nothing will ever top the preceding book, The Pool. Piranhas.
Nothing beats piranhas.
You’ll love the film Piranha 2: The Spawning then: Flying piranhas! 😀
I’m really mad that Allie didn’t turn out to be a werespider. What was the point of making Allie a stranger who is kind of weird and has an affinity with spiders if it wasn’t going to lead to something awesome like werespiders? Curse you, Point Horror!
That is both a terrifying and amazing idea! They really missed a trick with that one.