Title: Weekend by Christopher Pike
Summary: The weekend in Mexico sounded like a dream vacation. Four guys, five girls–and a gorgeous ocean-side mansion all to themselves. It should have been perfect.
Except nothing was going the way they’d planned. There was the girl upstairs who was fighting for her life. The phone lines that went dead. And the explosion in the garage that could have killed them all.
But not even that prepared them for what happened next. Because while they were getting some sun, someone else was getting revenge–and the terror wouldn’t stop until the weekend was over.
Tagline: A weekend of sun and fun in Acapulco turns into a nightmare when nine teenagers trapped in a mansion realize that they have been lured there for a deadly reason.
Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. Also doesn’t mean it’s ever successful at killing/pranking/whatevering.
I remember really enjoying this book when I was younger, despite the weird metaphorical story that threads through it. We’ll see how it stands up.
[Dove: I read the first chapter dozens of times in my teenage years, I never got any further than that. Then Wing forced me.]
[Wing: Considering you forced me to read Room 13, we are nowhere near even.]
[Wing: Updated 29 Jan 2017: One of our readers recently introduced us to the Teen Creeps podcast, which also recaps teen genre books. Where applicable, I will link their episodes from our recaps so you have another viewpoint on the books. We are not affiliated with their podcast. Teen Creeps does Weekend.]
We open with our narrator, Shani Tucker, sick and headachy in the backseat on a long road trip into Mexico; the day before, they drove from Santa Barbara to San Diego after school, and now, on Friday’s Senior Ditch Day, they’ve spent eight hours on the road into Mexico. Shani finds it strange that they haven’t seen anyone else from their class on the road, because their hosts supposedly invited the whole gang. I’m not sure if that means just their group of friends or their entire senior class. It sounds like both options at different points. Awesome. No clarity here.
Shani’s with a couple of friends, and they start talking about other friends on the way down for the weekend, so it’s a good time for a roll call.
Road Trip Car
Shani Tucker: Narrator. She’s also the navigator, despite sitting in the backseat. That’s … not generally how it works on road trips, but whatever. Shani doesn’t trust Lena or Kerry.
Kerry Ladd: According to Angie, she frets a lot, has a temper, and is not the most considerate of friends. I can see where this is going. Kerry hates Lena because Lena stole Kerry’s ex. Because boyfriends are property that can be stolen AMIRITE? Kerry stutters at odd moments.
Angie Houston: She’s the driver. She has long, straight blonde hair. She’s dating Park, and that’s about all we know of her really.
Lena Carlton: One of the hosts for the weekend. Lena hates Kerry. Shani describes Lena as a shrewd terror who can’t be trusted. Lena and Robin are sisters, and are the same age, but are not twins. They were both adopted by Mr and Mrs Carlton as infants.
Robin Carlton: One of the hosts for the weekend. Robin is supposedly Shani’s best friend, and everyone comes to Shani to ask how Robin is doing. Robin’s kidneys are gone, she’s on dialysis, and though Shani doesn’t tell us what happened, she thinks that someday, she’ll have to tell people that Robin is dead and they killed her. Before the accident, Robin was quite a singer (“would have rivaled Linda Rondstadt”, way to date this), but now her voice is all but gone, at least according to Lena.
Boys’ Road Trip Car
Sol Celaya: Kerry’s ex, stolen by Lena. Shani describes him as crude, but also sensitive. He’s careful to treat Kerry kindly even though he’s dating Lena now, but Shani thinks that is making it worse, because it makes Kerry think she has a chance, when really Sol is wrapped around Lena’s little finger (dirty) and has been from the day of the “disastrous pep rally”. More on this later.
Bert Billings: Well into chapter two, all I know is that Bert is with them and he is very agreeable. No idea who else he is. Finally, toward the end of chapter two, we learn he is big and dumb and likes everyone and likes being used. I’m pretty sure he’s the senior class boyfriend, everyone has a turn with him.
Park Jacomini: Angie’s boyfriend, he pretends to be an intellectual, and he’s their class valedictorian, but he’s mostly known for being a natural peeping tom. He’s also one of the people who is closest to Shani in the world. Shani, I’m not sure what to do with you. Park used to date Robin, but left her for Angie because he couldn’t handle her dying. Yeah, because her pain is all about you. He’s also known for playing practical jokes.
Flynn Powers: New boy, arrived in February from England, at the semester break. That seems like a weird time to break a semester, but whatever. Clearly Shani is besotted with him, because she gives him more description than anyone else: he’s a dream, with curly brown hair, dark green eyes (Dove will approve), a walk “as smooth as liquified charisma (WUT?), and a hypnotic, accented voice that could literally put Shani in a trance. “Literally” now also means “figuratively” (I weep for the world), but back then it didn’t. If Shani actually means he puts her in a trance, THIS IS NOT ROMANTIC, SHANI. UGH. She goes on to tell us he has the largest hands, beautifully formed and eloquent, and that everyone, even the guys, said his hands could have been stolen from Michelangelo. I … I am having a hard time reading that as anything except for Flynn Powers (which, FLYNN POWERS?!) seducing the entire school with his skillful hands. Apparently, all the girls in school want him, and Shani is “trying to get to the front of the pack” (because everything between girls is a competition, AMIRITE?), but he doesn’t seem much interested in any of them. Lena thinks he’s gay. Lena, we need to have a chat about bisexuality. Even though Shani just told us all the girls want Flynn, she then says Kerry does not, because she’s trying to get Sol back. Awesome. Can’t even keep continuity for two paragraphs.
[Dove: The largest hands. The. Largest. Hands. Like… this? John Cena’s hands are large. He says his hands are too big to play video games. Which is a not a tick in the “impresses Dove” column. However, having green eyes balances it out.]
[Wing: … I am now having dirty thoughts about Cena. Why do you do these things to me, Dove? Why?]
[Dove: No matter how dirty your thoughts, fairly sure Nikki Bella’s had dirtier. Love her.]
[Wing: Well, now I’m having dirty thoughts about both of them.]
Shani, Kerry, and Angie discuss ways Shani can seduce Flynn (FLYNN POWERS WTF); Shani jokes around that she’ll just jump him, but then tells us that she’s the most sexually inexperience girl in her senior class. (There is pretty much no way she could know that for sure, unless their senior class is just one big orgy all the time.) Actually, because I find myself liking Shani, I’m going to share a quote:
“If I thought there was a chance, I would do it,” Shani said, not taking herself seriously. She had to be the most sexually inexperienced girl in her senior class. She hadn’t even “gone all the way” through a Playgirl magazine. Getting dates had been no problem, but the guys would only kiss her cheek at the end of the night, or else shake her hand; she had that kind of reputation. Perhaps she should talk to Lena, have a filthy rumour started in connection with her name. Not that she was obsessed – she was merely very, very interested in sex. What she really wanted was what all of them wanted: a relationship. Unfortunately, she had taken physics, and had received a good grade, and had won a scholarship to the University of California at Santa Barbara, and had listed “psychiatrist” as her ambition in the yearbook and had read too many of the classics, and had the repulsive habit of sounding intelligent, all of which was enough to make any adolescent male ego insecure. But in reality she had hated physics, and had got an “A” only because she had studied hard. She was not that smart, not that secure. Often, she felt lonely. Often, she watched Flynn from the other side of the campus, and wondered if he couldn’t change all this.
“Accidentally lose your bikini top while swimming beside him in the waves,” Angie said. “Better yet, lose your bottoms. It’ll take a lot to catch that guy’s cool eye.”
To her own amazement, Shani realised she was actually considering the idea. She was afraid to say hello, but accidentally stripping seemed within her reach.
What, a main character who admits that she’s very, very interested in sex? A main character who works hard for her grades even when she hates the subject? A main character who admits she is lonely, but isn’t obnoxious about it? I … I like Shani, you guys, even despite her mentally badmouthing her friends.
Shani has brought along her yearbook to have more people sign it. I can’t decide if I think this is logical or annoying. Possibly both. We then get notes from Park and Sol.
Park, across a full-page colour picture of the varsity football team:
Of all the girls I’ve known these four blissful years, you have been – with only a handful of exceptions – the closest one to my soul and body. If not for you, and two or three others, I would not be where I am, king of the class, the one voted least likely to end up on welfare. I owe all my magnificent accomplishments to you, and another girl or two.
I hope that when you become a psychiatrist that you don’t discover that you’re nuts. You see, I understand you – your dark lusty longings – and that would mean that I’m nuts, too, along with perhaps my close female friends. However, if in the middle of analysis you uncover deep Freudian inhibitions, feel free to come to me for relief, for the sexual freedom I have given to other girls of your like predicament, a few here and there.
All my love, all that Suzy and Bunny and Clairice have not drained, I give to you. And once again, if in the lonely years to come you should ever need – or simply desire – an intimate pal, be sure to think of Pretty Park (and friends) and make an appointment to visit us.
Love you (amongst others), Park
Sol, across a picture of their pudgy, smiling principal, in a thick, black cato pen:
I hardly know you and I don’t think you’re that interesting a chick, but you’ve got something I want and you know I’ve got something you need. If I let you see me, we don’t go nowhere fancy and I expect my money’s worth right from the start. I don’t want to hear about your feelings and your goals cause I have no feelings and I can tell already you ain’t going nowhere. If we get together, it will be for one thing only. My number’s in the book. Look it up.
Wait a sec, this isn’t Debbie’s book? Hell! Pay no attention to what you just read, Shani dear. It sure has been grand knowing you and I just know deep in my heart that you will go far and better the world for all of mankind. I really feel that you are an ‘extra special person.’ I have found our friendship profoundly satisfying, and I will treasure your memory in the many days to come. God bless you!
Hey, by the way, Shani, how’s about you calling me this summer and us getting together and going to a drive-in. I’ll buy you popcorn, with butter. We can rock my van’s shocks.
Love your legs, Sol
So, on the one hand, I kind of love this as a way to show the characters’ personalities. On the other, why just two of the boys? Why not everyone? On the third hand (just go with it), neither really sounds like a teen guy, but … whatever. Moving on.
Shani then reminisces about the disastrous pep rally. I’m so glad this PH is moving along at a nice clip with very little recapping of the past during the first chapter.
First, Shani describes Kerry:
It wasn’t that Kerry was ugly. Though on the short side and a few pounds overweight, she had a pleasant face and a fine figure, plus a genuinely striking smile, which she – sadly – flashed all too seldom. Lost somewhere between blonde and brunette, her short shaggy hair needed styling. But with a good cut and the right clothes – which neither she nor her parents could afford – she could have competed with almost any girl at school.
Except for Lena. Except for a perversely timed rip.
Well, that doesn’t sound dirty at all, nope. And also, poor and fat, means she’s grumpy and mean and hates pretty, thin, rich girls AMIRITE?
Shani takes forever and uses a lot of unnecessary description, but long story short, this is what happens: Kerry, Angie, and Robin were song leaders. I had to look that up, and apparently, song leaders are like cheerleaders in that they perform at games, pep rallies, etc., but are more focussed on dance than stunts and cheers, though apparently their new homecoming routine involves bouncing through the air and spread-eagle stretching.
Ok, you know what, I’m getting tired of summarizing this ridiculously long story, so I’m just going to let Shani tell it to you:
Along with Angie and Robin, Kerry was a song leader. In honour of the homecoming festivities, they had developed a new routine to perform at the pep rally to be held at lunchtime in the gym, the day before the big game. It involved the usual bouncing through the air and spread-eagled stretching. Lena was well aware of the specifics of the routine. Though not a member of any cheering squad – she had passed such adolescent displays, so she said – she contributed, through her sister, extra twists. One of Lena’s exotic suggestions was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the twist that tore the panties.
Because the song leaders’ uniforms were warm, and Santa Barbara was sunk in a rare heat wave, the girls wore regular clothes to the morning classes, leaving their uniforms in their gym lockers. While on her way to the locker room at the start of lunch, Kerry was stopped by Lena, who wanted to chat. Under normal circumstances, Kerry would not have had the slightest inclination to “chat” with Lena, and now that she was in a hurry to change, she was less anxious. Nevertheless, Lena succeeded in delaying her to the point where Kerry was cutting it close. To top it off, as they parted company, Lena accidentally spilt her Coke on Kerry’s shorts, the soft drink soaking through to her underwear. No big problem, though Kerry was mad. She was going to change into her uniform in a minute anyway. The only difference now was that she probably wouldn’t be able to wear her underwear. When Kerry reached the locker room, she rushed into her song clothes, not having a chance to take note of any irregularities.
The pep rally started like so many other boring pep rallies. The punchy football coach strutted to the microphone and mumbled a couple of slow lines about how smart – football-wise – their team was this year, and introduced a few key players that everyone already knew. Shani was sitting in the front row of the audience with Park. They cheered loudly for good-natured “Big Bert” – an unusual member of their unusual gang – but otherwise they were hardly listening. It was only when the song leaders came on that she sat up and took notice. Of course, three of her friends were in the group, but perhaps she also had a premonition of danger, for her stomach had begun to ache like it did when she was worrying deeply. Park also stirred to life. His girl friend, Robin – whom he supposedly loved very much – was the leader of the group. He had his camera primed and was clicking away the second they launched into their routine. Even then, Shani had felt that he had taken an unusually high number of pictures of Angie.
In the middle of the skit, Kerry flew spreadeagled over Robin’s shoulders and Shani thought she heard a rip. But at first she decided that she must have been mistaken, for no one else appeared to have heard anything. Then a low murmur began to spread through the audience, a sound that quickly built to loud whistles and hoots. This was an example of how fast gossip could spread, for, although she was sitting in the front, and although the song leaders’ dresses were short, Shani could see nothing unusual as far as Kerry was concerned. Neither could Park – Shani asked him twice what was going on. But a few people, probably only a handful in the entire crowd, had thought they had caught a flash of Kerry’s bare bottom. Afterwards, of course, there were dozens of guys who swore they were one of the chosen few. The fact that they were all liars made no difference. Ironically, Kerry was probably the last one in the gym to know there was a problem. The record they performed to continued on, though it was practically drowned out in the commotion, and Kerry continued to swirl and twist and bend, not noticing any draught. Shani finally got the word through the grapevine of what was supposedly happening, and then it seemed ages to her before Kerry found out. In reality, from the moment of the rip to the instant of her bewildered halting, possibly twenty seconds had elapsed. It was Angie who finally stopped her and whispered something in her ear, probably just a line to get Kerry to leave the gym as quickly as possible. Angie even escorted her to the door. As they crossed the basketball court floor, the audience granted them a brief respite. But the second they were out of view, they flew back into ecstasy.
Shani left her place in the stands and hurried to the girls’ showers. There she found Kerry slumped on the bench that ran in front of the lockers, Angie standing nearby. The place was otherwise deserted. Kerry was more confused than upset. She did not understand what the big deal was. Her dance pants had ripped and she had flashed her underwear. So what? Shani agreed with her that there was nothing to worry about. She was lying. She didn’t tell Kerry that those flesh-coloured panties she’d been wearing could be mistaken for bare flesh, at a distance. That they had been mistaken for Kerry’s backside, by more than one person.
As Kerry began to change into her street clothes, muttering about how she hoped the confusion would get cleared up quickly, the three of them made an interesting discovery. Someone had replaced Kerry’s nylon dance pants with blue cotton paper pants of the same size. No wonder they had ripped. Normally, Kerry would have immediately spotted the switch. But she had been in a hurry before the pep rally, and hadn’t detected the difference in the fabrics.
This does double duty of showing you how long-winded Shani is and gives you all the details without the need for me to summarize. Which I could do as this: Kerry’s dance pants were switched with cotton paper pants and she accidentally flashed the school. Done.
Right after this, Sol broke up with Kerry and started dating Lena. Shani says she was disgusted with him for deserting Kerry in her hour of need (which, rock on, Shani, that is a great response), but he claims Lena made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. So … Lena is mafia now? Sol’s relationship is for sale? I don’t even know what to do with that.
[Dove: Have you met Lena? I would not refuse her.]
[Wing: This is because you are the good twin. An evil twin knows how to refuse anyone.]
Robin’s accident happened less than a month after Kerry’s humiliation, and Shani often wonders if that is a coincidence. My guess? No.
Suddenly Angie spots Sol’s van up ahead, and he’s standing there with Park and, as Shani describes him, the “guy with the smoothest walk this side of England.” Shani. Um. Honey.
You know what? I’m going with it. She’s checking out his arse. You get down with your bad self, girl.
I should also note that Shani has been downing Rolaids as if they are candy, and she thinks she might have an ulcer.
And finally, finally, we are done with chapter one.
Yes. All of that was one chapter. I am nearly 3300 words into the recap, and we are through chapter one. /drinks
Oh, wait. Chapter two gives us Park as a narrator. I’d forgotten there were narrator switches. Cool.
The boys have had a flat tire, and Bert and Flynn walked down to get help. Except wasn’t Flynn just standing by the van with Park and Sol? Continuity? Out the window.
Anyway, we learn that Sol is a chain smoker with feet like a caveman (he’s standing barefoot on blistering pavement to mock Park, which is weird). Park goes on to tell us that while Shani thinks Sol is a modern day Fonzie, tough on the outside but with a heart of gold, Park thinks Sol is tough to the core. He was brought up in L.A.’s barrios and told Park he stabbed his first person, a member of a rival gang, at age twelve. Sol’s dad finally got Sol and his little sister out of the barrios through hard work, and “Sol ended up in laid-back Hoover High like a wolf among sheep”.
I have conflicting feelings on this. On the one hand, I am super tired of PH stories about rich white kids. Also, I kind of love Sol. On the other hand, he’s pretty much the only main character of color, and of course he’s a Latino from the barrio who’s a member of a gang, because that’s the only way Latino men exist, AMIRITE? And I am calling out the white kid describing him as an animalistic predator. Not ok, Park. Not ok.
Park also says that Sol can be kind, and he is very intelligent, but as he says this, Park also talks about Sol’s “knack for using English concisely”. Soooooo, he’s now speaking like his rich white classmates, and that’s supposed to mean he’s speaking better English? Loving the casual racism. (I can’t remember if it ever gets addressed in the text itself.)
Basically, Sol and Park are friends because they’ve bonded over surfing. All of this to set up Sol as a dangerous Latino gang banger who has now been kicked out of his dad’s house, is sleeping in his van, is low on money, and went off by himself in Tijuana for awhile. Park thinks he’s filled the spare tyre spot with “illicit substances”. Because that’s how Latino boys make their money, AMIRITE?
Sol actually calls Park out on leaving Robin when she was in such a bad way. Good. Park then turns it around because Sol left Kerry in a bad way, but Sol says being humiliated by a bad joke is much different than dying. Which is a good point, but still shitty for him leaving her at the same time.
Park then describes Sol:
Sol patted his cheek lightly. Up close, Sol’s features were thick and fearsome; however Park had to admit he was probably handsome. Strangely enough, he looked part Slavic – his mouth especially, which was large and sensual. Also, his dark hair had a hint of red, and fine curls that girls loved to run their fingers through. But his sharp black eyes, his calculating expressions, and swollen, tattooed biceps were clearly from the wrong side of the tracks.
I’m pretty sure all the boys in the senior class really are bisexual, the way they keep recognising the hotness of the other guys. Also, fuck you and your wrong side of the tracks, Park.
(That being said, well hello there, Sol. Tattoos, curls, dark hair, cut arms — Wing likes.)
Sol and Park both think Flynn looks familiar, but can’t really figure out why. Sol doesn’t really care. Park obsesses. My theory stands.
And then comes the part that even baby!Wing knew was fucked up, dude.
Park turned. Approaching from the weed-choked desolation of a nearby eastern hill was a tall Indian, clothed in a tan tunic tied at the waist with an orange sash. His long stringy hair was the same colour as his robe, bordering a deep red beardless face that disallowed an accurate age guess. He seemed to have come out of nowhere. The uneven ground and dry shrubs at his dusty, sandaled feet did little to slow his floating gait. A hundred feet directly over his head, a blackbird circled. A minute, and he would reach them.
“Who is he?” Park whispered.
“He’s Indian, maybe… He has that look. Maybe he’s a holy man.”
“Not like at church. A sorcerer.”
“Like Don Juan?”
Ah, the magical
negro Indian spirit guide, complete with animal familiar. No racist storytelling here, folks, none at all. (Also, wasn’t Don Juan known for being hypersexual and a womanizer and not for being a sorcerer? I … am confused.)
[Dove: Yeah, I had no idea Don Juan was a sorcerer at all. I just went straight to womaniser.]
[Wing: I’m writing this off as Christopher Pike fail.]
[Wing: Updating this 12 May 2017 to say that a reader let us know in the comments that this reference is to Carlos Castaneda who wrote books about don Juan Matus, allegedly a shaman who taught Castaneda all sorts of things. There are some disagreements over whether these are meant to be fiction or autobiography. This does sound like it is more than likely Stine’s reference. I’m not sure I believe these teens knowing it, though. Thanks to Yawar for the comment!]
I will sum up the magic Indian spirit guide telling the magic story: basically, he says they’ve brought both help and hate with them, and he keeps talking about a dove, an eagle, a robin, and a snake, and poison. He also talks about a sister and a brother and points in the direction one of his birds went, which is the same direction from which Flynn is approaching them. Hmmm, I wonder if this means Flynn and a “robin” are brother and sister.
Long story short(er), after all this, a rattlesnake attacks them in a way that seems very un-rattlesnake like, by stalking Park when it really wants Sol, I don’t even know, but finally, Flynn rescues Sol by shooting it with the small black pistol he’s been carrying. He says he can’t usually hit a Coke can at five feet. Uh huh. So you risked shooting at the driver when you’re a crap shot? I don’t believe you.
[Dove: As I said to you over the phone, in PH, that scene would’ve taken a paragraph, including dialogue. In this book it goes on for pages.]
[Wing: I know. Every time I think this recap is too wordy, I remember how many words are used in the actual story.]
Ah, I see, it’s only now that Angie’s car turns up. That was really not clear from the beginning.
Oh god, now a description of Shani from Park’s perspective:
With the possible exception of Lena, Shani was the prettiest girl in the school. She was too thin, and her breasts were nothing to grab – Sol had tried once – but her hair was as black as the old man’s raven, toppling in a curling cascade to her butt, and Mother Nature had granted her facial structure every break. Her innocent, pondering profile often reminded Park of Natalie Wood’s. Junk food had no part in her diet. Consequently, the glowing skin he’d appreciated even in grade school had passed, unmarred, into young womanhood. But her claim on the hearts of Hoover High’s male population was due to her eyes. They were a shade of dawn’s darkest, clearest blue, like large, round mountain lakes an hour before sunrise. Yet with all this, Shani saw herself as nothing more than a bag of bones with a boring personality. True, she did bore him on occasion, but then, he had known her a long, long time. Kissing her was like kissing his sister, and he didn’t even have a sister. He supposed that leading her home early by the hand in kindergarten with her pants soiled – his free hand blatantly clasping his nose – had ruined the romance at the beginning. Whenever he reminded her of the incident, every other week, she would get terribly embarrassed. Despite all this, he had once tried to seduce her. Afterwards, she hadn’t even realised that he had made the effort. She was a good girl.
He also describes Angie, and it makes me want to stab him. Again. I’ve spent a lot of time this chapter wanting to stab poor little rich white boy Park:
Angie was attractive also, but in a more traditional, less exotic fashion. A bleached blonde, she had a tan in midwinter and brown legs longer than his own. He didn’t know what colour her eyes were, but they were nice. Yet they never had that much to talk about. Only when she had her clothes off was she really interesting. Not that she was dumb – she had a “B” average and planned on going to college – but there was nothing in her personality that stood out. She was like a collage of her friends: a bit of Shani’s charm, an ounce of Kerry’s nervousness, a glimmer of Robin’s sweetness, a slice of Lena’s craftiness, all lumped together with no definitive result. He doubted she loved him – though she had murmured the three words – so he did not feel absolutely terrible about not loving her. He liked and respected her; that was enough. Love, he had decided, was something he was incapable of.
Because girls are only good for one thing, AMIRITE?
Anyway, Kerry has something like Fix a Flat, which will inflate a tube and seal any small holes. How useful. Bert finally turns up again, stinking of beer, and with a story about tearing a snake in two. And, finally, we finish chapter two. Nearly 4900 words of recap, two chapters. Dove is going to love this.
[Dove: You made Dove read a book she repeatedly rejected as a child. Dove is so cross that she’s talking about herself in third person.]
[Wing: Room. 13. Nowhere near even.]
Now that the tyre is fixed, they set off again. This time, Kerry’s in the van with Sol and Bert, and Angie and Park are in the backseat of Angie’s car, with Shani driving and Flynn in the passenger seat. I’m sure this is going well for her. (We learn Flynn is from Plymouth, England.)
They travel for about another hour (so much for the house being near the cantina), and finally arrive at the Carlton Mansion:
Mr. Carlton was not one for pinching pennies, and he had spared nothing on his resort home. Shani had forgotten the number of rooms Lena had said it contained, but she remembered having laughed at the size of the number. Largely panelled on the outside with redwood, the mansion itself was a haphazard three storeys of spaciously windowed boxes bolted precariously to one another, as if the architect had been fretting over a drawer full of incomplete Rubik’s cubes while designing it – very modern. In this heat, the practicality of twin chimneys at opposite ends was hard to imagine. Tall, prickly cacti guarded the long white driveway, and shady trees that couldn’t have done all their growing since the house had been built, cooled the front porch and roof. Off to the left, separated from the house proper by fifty yards, was a carport and garage housing a boat and two foreign cars. However, it was the ocean beyond that was the real visual treat, six-foot green glassy waves sliding on to a white carpet of sand that would be their class mattress for the next couple of nights. Park and his surfboard must be in bliss. The waves were sufficient to rip off any bikini bottom, but Shani was having doubts.
I like the cacti and the shady trees and the ocean, but I’m not so sure about the incomplete Rubik’s cube design. Ah well, I do love beach houses with plenty of windows.
Shani then describes Lena in a way that (a) makes me think Shani wants to sex her up, and (b) makes me want to sex her up.
Lena was a bombshell, her hair a frightening red, bushy and wild and always in her face, through which peered brown cat’s eyes and a heart-shaped mouth that made the guys think of nothing but sex when it smiled slyly. Kerry swore Lena’d had silicon injections, and if size was any testimony of guilt… But no, that was just sour grapes. However, Lena had fabricated her walk; it hadn’t been there last year. Her butt winked with every step. The bikini she now wore flaunted her endowments to indecent advantage. There wasn’t a clue of tan lines. That meant she had been sunbathing nude. Despite Angie’s presence, Park was drooling. If Lena went swimming in the waves in that tissue paper when everyone arrived, Sol would have his hands full stemming the riot.
Lena was ferocious. When she wanted something, she got it – Lena’s First Law. She could be subtle or overwhelming. If sweet suggestion didn’t work, she would just as soon shoot a cannon off in your face. Shani had never heard her apologize or admit a mistake. A legion of female followers paid obeisance to her at school. If they had a problem, she had the solution. She would do anything for a friend, as long as she was loyal – Lena’s Second Law. If you crossed Lena, your astrological chart suddenly got a black hole in it. But she was not petty. The opposite of Kerry, she never spoke ill behind your back. If you were a jerk, you weren’t worth her attention. But if verbal abuse was necessary, she would blast you in your face in front of everyone. Even Sol was afraid of her.
Outspoken women with attitude who love sex are kind of my weakness.
There’s some snarking, Shani tries to broker peace between Lena and Kerry (unsuccessfully), there’s a weird bit of an exchange between Flynn and the nurse who is leaving, and then we finally meet Robin, who is pretty much the core of this story and this group:
Robin was sitting on a burgundy sofa reading a book. As they entered, she smiled and rose to greet them. “My friends,” she beamed, spreading her arms.
Robin was jaundiced – even the centres of her once emerald eyes were stained a sad yellow. The sheen and curls had fallen from her brown hair. Perhaps in concession to the spreading grey, she had it cut very short. There wasn’t a spare ounce on her emaciated frame. Her pretty blue blouse and smart white skirt hung on her like old sheets. As she approached, it was as though she were treading through a thick liquid, with effort being required for every few steps. Shani told herself that this could not be her dear friend. She had deteriorated rapidly in these last four weeks.
Robin was the best of them. Since they had both been adopted, it should have been no surprise that Lena and Robin bore no similar personality traits. Nevertheless, it was hard to believe they had grown up together in the same house. Robin never asked for anything, never complained. Not that she worked at being a saint. An inborn lack of egotism had her naturally more interested in others’ cares. However, she was not perfect. A follower, prey to everyone’s idle influence, she seldom asserted her personality. Fortunately, Lena – a leader at heart -never tried to dominate her. But Robin’s greatest fault was her laziness. Though no moron, her grades at school had never risen above a “C”. What Robin could do today, she put off till next year. Yet maybe that bad habit was passing. From what Lena said, she appeared to be trying to get the most out of her time off the dialysis machine. Maybe because she might not have a next year.
Of all the people in the world, Shani loved Robin the most.
I actually really love Shani and Robin’s friendship, and I wish more of the words of this book were dedicated to it and less to the romantic tangles among this group of friends. Robin is wearing a tiny gold eagle pendant on a silver chain. Gee, I wonder if that is a subtle metaphor. Where in the world have we heard about a robin and an eagle before?
Robin’s recently been told that she’s at the bottom of Stanford’s transplant-candidate list. Lena explains why:
“More than ninety per cent failed,” Lena corrected. “But you would be amazed at the number of people in her predicament. Stanford figures she had one transplant, and rejected the organ, and is therefore not a prime candidate. In other words, they feel that they gave her a chance, and now they have to give someone else a chance. Plus, she has another strike against her. You might have seen in the news, there’s been a big backlash against rich people being able to buy organs and get transplants sooner than poor minorities. All those human rights fanatics are watching the Carlton name closely to make sure Robin doesn’t get any special favours. Stanford’s got paranoid, and Daddy’s offer of a big donation hasn’t eased that paranoia. It’s all a bunch of b.s. Robin will probably be the last one to be given a second chance. I swear, sometimes it doesn’t pay to be rich.”
While I do feel sorry for Robin, gee, Lena, cry me a river, you poor little rich girl. /eyeroll Robin rejected an organ. It makes sense that other people will have a chance, people who haven’t rejected an organ. Hot as you are, I want to stab you right now.
Shani offers up one of her kidneys, because she’s had herself typed and she and Robin are the same type. However, unless Robin has a blood sister or brother with a matching tissue type, there’s no hope in getting her off the dialysis machine in the next few years. Gee, I wonder if some strange boy who randomly turned up at their school, has been spending time with Robin, makes the nurse curious, and was in just the right place at the right time for the magical Indian’s brother and sister comment might be Robin’s brother.
Of course not.
After some snarking between Lena and Kerry, the chapter ends. Good grief, this recap is wordy. So is the book.
In the next chapter, we learn that the printer put the wrong date on the invitations to the rest of their classmates, so only their group of friends are there on Friday, and everyone else has arrived on Saturday. That doesn’t seem suspect at all. Nope. Not at all.
The boys surf (because girls don’t surf AMIRITE), they have dinner, and then they all lounge around trying to figure out what to do. Now. This is a bunch of seniors. At least the boys have talked about liking drinking. Pretty sure the girls drink too. And yet, they throw around ideas like charades and Monopoly. NO. YOU ARE SENIORS HANGING OUT ON SENIOR SKIP DAY IN A BEACH HOUSE YOU HAVE ALL TO YOURSELF AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE ANYWHERE. THOSE OF YOU THAT DRINK, WHY AREN’T YOU DRINKING?
They end up playing a game where they assign each other names and the person has to guess based on asking questions. It doesn’t really matter the names, except that Robin is Princess Leia and Flynn is Luke Skywalker. SUBTLE SUBTLE SO FUCKING SUBTLE. Also, Flynn has been waiting on Robin hand and foot, bringing her food and drinks. At one point, she asks for water, and he brings her apple juice instead. This prompts Shani to remember Robin drinking beer. Gee, I wonder if that was how she was poisoned.
[Dove: OMG! THE MYSTERY! THE INTRIGUE! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??????]
[Wing: I KNOW RIGHT! SO MYSTERIOUS AND SNEAKY!]
(Oh, well, one more thing. Sol guesses his name easily because his little sister’s favourite show is Mr. Rogers. She is ten. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. WRONG, PIKE. SO WRONG.)
Turns out, the magical Indian gave Robin the dove necklace. SHOCKING SO SHOCKING. Robin and Lena get into an argument about him, and even though Robin says he’s not a sorcerer, she’s also frustrated with Lena because Lena only believes in what she can touch, not the unseen parts of the world. After some bickering and some pushing from the guests, Robin finally agrees to tell them the story the magical Indian told her:
“Once, not so long ago, there were two birds, Dove and Eagle. They were as one, very close, and would talk long and deep together. They made a vow to one another that they would always be together. But one terrible day, a storm came, and they were separated, and Dove flew alone, always searching for Eagle, but never finding him.”
“Now it came to happen one day that Dove met Raven, and they became good friends. Raven was clever and strong, and helped Dove live. And Dove respected Raven, for she could do many things that Dove could not. But Dove could sing, whereas Raven could not. Often, Raven pleaded for Dove to sing to her, and Dove always would.”
“After being many days together, Raven told Dove of a new and exciting place she had heard of. She wished to go to this place, for Raven was very inquisitive, and she persuaded Dove to come with her, though Dove did not really want to go. But coming to this place, they found nothing but desert and got lost – or so it seemed – and became very thirsty. Flying high, Raven spotted a pond, and said, ‘Let us drink here,’ and Dove followed.”
“Now, this pond belonged to Snake, and Raven knew this. Long ago, Raven had promised to bring Snake tasty food in exchange for its rattle, for more than anything, Raven wished to be able to make music like Dove. But Raven did not intend for Dove to be killed, for Raven in truth liked Dove. Together, Raven thought they could kill Snake, and she would get its rattle. But Snake had no intention of giving up its rattle. And Snake really wanted to eat Raven, for it thought Dove was thin and frail, and wouldn’t be tasty. Both intended to cheat the other.”
“While Dove was drinking from the pond, Raven waited for Snake to appear. And all of a sudden Snake came sliding out with its teeth wide, and surprised Raven, and Raven was barely able to escape into the air, calling for Dove to do so, also. But Dove staggered and could not fly. What neither Raven nor Snake had realised was that the pond was poisoned from Snake having drunk of its waters. Now Snake curled its tail around sick Dove, trying to lure Raven closer. Alone, Raven did not feel she could kill Snake. And Raven was afraid that if she tried, Snake would bite Dove with its strongest poison, and Dove would die.”
“Suddenly, Eagle appeared, landing between them. Eagle was very powerful and could easily kill Snake. But when he went to try, Snake tightened its grip on Dove and said, ‘If you come closer, I will bite Dove. Kill Raven for me, and leave her body, and I will give you Dove.”
“Eagle turned to Raven, and Raven grew frightened. She said, ‘Dove and I are friends. She would not wish for you to kill me.’”
“But Snake said, ‘If Raven was Dove’s friend, why did she bring her here for me to eat?’”
“Raven said, ‘That is not true.’ But Raven feared Dove would feel that she had been betrayed, and would allow Eagle to kill her for Snake.”
“Eagle thought for a moment, and said, ‘I will let Dove decide if you are a friend, Raven, and whether I should buy her freedom with your death. But I have decided this: if Dove should die, both of you will die.’ “
Robin stopped, resting her papers on her lap. “I’ve read enough,” she said wearily.
So … there’s that. I don’t really have anything to say about that, really. It speaks for itself.
[Dove: *preens* Odd how there’s no bird called “Wing” in there, right?]
They head off to bed, everyone sleeping inside, except for Bert, who decides to crash on the beach with the waves and the stars. I like Bert. Shani is just getting in some good fantasies about Flynn (have I mentioned lately how nice it is to have a lead character actually admit she wants sex and have sexual fantasies? It is AWESOME), when the phone rings, and Shani listens in to a conversation between Lena and the nurse. The nurse is worried about who Flynn really is, that he’s under an assumed name (what, Flynn Powers doesn’t sound like a real name to you?), and that he might mean harm for Robin, but refuses to tell Lena anymore. OMG STOP WITH THE HIDING OF THINGS AND ONLY GIVING PARTIAL INFORMATION. IT IS NOT HELPFUL OR DRAMATIC.
Shani then thinks about what happened to Robin, but not really; apparently, she can neither fully forget nor fully remember. Well. That is convenient.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1
(Means “I didn’t see anything” or “I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything about the accident”, because either would lead us to the bad guy, and we’ve still got twelve chapters to go.)
Chapter five (yes, we’re only on chapter five) is a flashback to last November.
Shani is drunk at a party Angie threw, and is waiting impatiently for the bathroom. Neither Robin nor Lena are there; Lena is already circling Sol, and Angie asked her not to come because Kerry will be there. I’m surprised Lena listened. Even though at this point Park and Robin are still together, Angie keeps trying to get Park to go swimming with her alone. Just as Park has agreed to go with her (and Angie seems pretty sober and Park is very drunk and possibly stoned, too; way to try to rape him, Angie), Lena and Robin show up.
The description of the party goes on forever (shocking), people in and out of the bathroom, Shani falling asleep and waking up, people dancing and singing and changing records and on and on. They keep trying to get Robin to drink, she says no, she’s driving. They keep trying. I want to stab them all. When someone says no, they mean no. Fuck you all. Finally, Sol gives Robin his beer, and Robin drinks it all down, basically in one gulp. (Since she’s never even tasted beer before, I call shenanigans on this, but whatever.) Shani says the room feels tense and she has a weird feeling, like death is coming, but she doesn’t believe in premonition. You sure, Shani? That sounds like one. Robin falls asleep after one beer, but they just put her in the bedroom.
[Dove: As a non-drinking, I’m pretty sure I would hurl if I necked a pint of beer in one gulp. Just saying.]
[Wing: I drink A LOT, as readers know, and I can’t even neck a pint of beer in one gulp. Well, unless I’m doing some sort of trick drinking to teach boys that girls can drink too. Then I can do anything.]
Sometime later, Kerry wakes Shani, saying she’s sick, she’s got cramps, she thinks there was something wrong with the beer. Park isn’t sick, but when they check on Robin, she won’t wake up. Park and Shani take Robin and Kerry to the hospital, while the others look for what could have happened, but Angie’s already washed all the cups. They find a half empty bottle of insect killer. At the hospital, Kerry has her stomach pumped and is doing better; apparently, she only ingested a little of the poison. Robin, on the other hand, ingested a lot more, and it’s not clear whether she will survive. If she does, her liver will certainly be damaged. As we know, this is what happens.
The police never find out who did it; everyone’s memories are clouded because of being drunk, Robin has full on amnesia, and most of them are hiding secrets anyway.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 2
But Shani was often to ask herself, No matter how drunk you were, how could you take a bottle covered with insect sketches and labelled in bold black letters, CAUTION POISONOUS, and pour it in a glass a person was to drink out of, unless you wanted to kill that person ?
And yet you are still friends with these people? You go on holiday with them to a remote location?
DED FROM STUPID: 1
(Means exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.)
Chapter six opens the next day, with the boys surfing. (Because girls don’t surf, AMIRITE?) It’s a Park point of view again. He’s surfing, worrying about sharks, and the description of the beach is actually really nice and makes me want to go surfing. When they finally come back to the house, everyone’s off doing their own things: building a pit for a bonfire (since there’s no grill), collecting rocks, drinking, and Robin is going through dialysis. Sol basically threatens Park into going to talk to her. Park finds Robin talking creepily to a blackbird. Yes. The bird metaphor is so subtle.
Then we cut over to Shani’s point of view, not getting to see what Park and Robin talk about. Shani’s not feeling well, but is trying to have fun. Park also wasn’t feeling well. Sol also wasn’t feeling well. Gee, I wonder if someone has done something to make them all sick. When Shani goes to check on Robin, she sees the magical Indian on the beach, and considers going to say hello, but instead goes to check on Robin. She gets turned around in the house, and ends up in an elaborate recording studio. She finds a recording of Robin singing the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Glee has ruined this song for me forever. (The Glee version is fine, I just hate Glee because of reasons. A lot of reasons.) Lena catches Shani in the recording studio listening to the song and is angry and suspicious.
[Dove: You don’t get to hate Glee. You didn’t hang on until the “school shooting” episode. *throws fit of rage akin to Paul*]
[Wing: I CAN DAMN WELL HATE GLEE IF I WANT TO. It is not my fault you kept watching like an idiot.]
We break back to Park and Robin talking. They talk about her health a little, but mostly about their relationship, Park and Angie, and how much Robin and Park still care about each other. Robin “lets it slip” (in a way that sounds totally intentional) that Lena doesn’t think Robin’s poisoning was an accident.
And then we get to the part that almost made me quit reading the book as a kid, and every time I reread it, I am furious:
“I was telling [the bird] about my mother.” She saw his confusion. “My real mother. I think about her a lot, nowadays. Must be the little girl in me. I’m sick and I want my mommy.” She took a deep breath and scratched her short hair, her melancholy returning. “I wish I could find her. She gave me my body to begin with, I guess I feel she could somehow help me with getting a part fixed.” She wiped at her eyes. “What am I saying? For all I know, she’s dead.”
BIRTH MOTHER /= REAL MOTHER. I hate, hate, HATE that phrase, “real mother”. Authors who use it generally are not adopted and have no experience what it is like. BLOOD /= FAMILY. I HATE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW, PIKE. SO MUCH. (Yes, I’m adopted.)
[Dove: When I got to that part, I did find myself wishing I was in the room with Wing when she read it. Willing to bet she PAULED THE FUCK OUT.]
[Wing: *PAULS THE FUCK OUT AGAIN*]
Park and Robin’s conversation is interrupted by an explosion powerful enough to shatter every window in the room, and we get a dramatic break in the middle of a chapter. WUT? I’m giving it a point.
[Dove: Was the garage adopted too?]
(Means cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss us the hell off.)
Cut to Shani trying to call her mother, but the phone is dead. All of the phones are dead. This upsets Shani, because they’re isolated in a foreign country and no one else from their class has arrived, and now the phones are out. She isn’t sure if she’s being paranoid or if there’s a pattern. SHANI. WTF. GO WITH THOSE INSTINCTS.
Shani sees Flynn trying to break into a filing cabinet in Robin’s room. Shani actually does not confront him, which I still find surprisingly logical, and instead goes to find Park and Sol, because they will know what to do. Her logic only lasts a second before she decides she needs more facts because his crime is insignificant. Oh, Shani, you were doing so well, too. At least she admits she doesn’t want to get him in trouble because she likes him; she even realises that his picking locks makes him more interesting. Shani has a thing for bad boys, I see. Instead of getting help, she goes to search Flynn’s room, because that’s certainly not going to lead to him finding her or anything. She finds his passport, and his real name is Michael Ryan Richardson. (What, you thought FLYNN POWERS was his real name? WTF. [Dove: I know he’s Flynn Powers, but I just keep calling him Flynn Ryder.]) [Wing: I think of two things. One, where is Scott Evil, because yes. Two, Max Power.] She also finds his gun, and we get this:
It was a small black pistol, and she couldn’t help noticing that it was loaded. He was a fox and he had an enchanting voice and style running out of his beautiful hands, but guns were for killing, and that was too much for Shani.
I just … I don’t … I’ve got nothing. Is this story written like a fairy tale? That’s what the descriptions feel like.
Flynn Michael finds her in his room with his gun. I AM SHOCKED, LET ME TELL YOU. Shani drops the gun, and there is a delay before the explosion occurs. It couldn’t have been the gun, she thinks.
Back to Park. Oh god, this chapter is taking forever. As usual. Long story short, the carport and garage have been blown up, and we get quite a description:
The damage was beyond comprehension. The carport and garage and everything that had been inside them were gone. A dark cloud sparking with red lightning mushroomed towards the sky, obscuring the sun and temporarily plunging the landscape into a grim twilight. Through ashen mists, a torn black crater emerged, littered with rubble. Charred, dusty debris rained down. He doubted there was now anything he could do that would make any difference. The convulsion had simultaneously ignited and extinguished its flames. Besides, there was nothing to burn.
[Dove: Yep, I’m still going with the garage was adopted too and reacted appropriately to this “real mother” bollocks.]
[Wing: The garage and I have bonded.]
[Dove: I moved in with Allie from Arcadia 4: The Attic, and you are dating a garage… I have no words that adequately explain us.]
This description is both ridiculous and kind of awesome. I don’t think I can tell whether this is good or not anymore. Help me. I’m falling prey to this book.
Flynn Michael, Sol, Lena, Angie, and Kerry join Park, and he knows Robin is still hooked to the dialysis machine, so that just leaves Bert unaccounted for. Bert, who had been with Sol in the garage. Bert, they figure out, is dead. Lena says there is no propane tank or gas or dynamite in the garage, nothing that would cause an explosion like that. She goes to get Robin.
One theory they have is that there was a natural gas cavity beneath the garage and the barbecue fire ignited it. Park thinks that’s possible, because there is a nearby oil field, but he really thinks Sol had something in the back of the van that he picked up in Tijuana. Park decides to call the police, but first he’s going to call Bert’s parents to tell them their son is dead. How fun.
He has a similar reactions to Shani when he finds the phones dead: middle of nowhere, none of their classmates have arrived, phones are dead, and now their transportation is destroyed. He feels sick from sorry and hurries to the bathroom, and this chapter finally ends.
Shani takes off for a walk up the nearest hill, because she needs to get away from everyone for awhile. She doesn’t take any water, only wears trainers and not hiking boots, and basically is completely unprepared for hiking in the desert. What, Shani, you want to make it easier on the Bad Guy?
DED FROM STUPID: 2
Robin is getting sicker and sicker, despite having regular dialysis. Kerry is blaming Lena, because Lena is in charge of Robin’s treatment. Lena is perplexed. Shani takes this time to finally consider who had a motive to poison Robin and/or isolate them now. I’m going to share her logic in-depth.
Shani closed her eyes, massaging her aching temples. Another reason she had gone for her walk was to have the necessary solitude to figure out who in their group was both a friend and potential murderer, an analysis she should have completed last November. For maybe they were preparing to kill again. Bert may simply have been the first.
Lena: Definitely the number one suspect. She had both the guts and motive to poison Robin. The Carlton fortune and a greedy heir was the stuff of prime-time serials. Was she filtering her sister’s blood, or merely sending it in useless circles through the plastic tubes? The peculiar absence of the other kids could be easily explained by Lena having manipulated the invitations. Had she brought all of them who had been at the party here to exterminate them, lest a sudden memory on the part of one of them come back to incriminate her?
Angie: At the party, she had had the most immediate ulterior motive. Her frustration at Robin’s ‘dropping by’ had been obvious. Was it simply chance that Park was now her boyfriend? Angie spoke seldom, but she was no dummy. She was fully capable of planning for a future romance. Also, for what it was worth, she had been closest to the garage when it blew up. She was right up there on the list.
Kerry: Humiliation was powerful motivation for revenge. If Lena truly loved her sister, what better way to hurt her than to kill Robin? However, even though Kerry had a sharp tongue, Shani did not feel she was capable of murder. Nevertheless, she had to be placed near the top of the list. Kerry was fully capable of hate.
Sol: He had a violent past. During the investigation following the party, the police had hammered on him the most. If he hadn’t acted alone, he had at least been used, for he had given Robin a (poison?) beer. But he had absolutely no motive. He adored Robin. She put him at the bottom of the list.
Park: They had grown up together. It was impossible for her to be objective. Nevertheless, Angie’s skinny-dipping offer wouldn’t have been sufficient enticement for him to spike his girlfriend’s beer. And, once he had realised her condition, he had taken the wisest possible course of action to save Robin. On the other hand, he had been plastered that night, and horny… She would not cross him off her list.
Bert: He would have been incapable of using Insect Death for its primary purpose; he couldn’t have hurt a fly. In spite of what some said, he hadn’t been dumb enough to accidentally pour poison in a beer mug. But maybe he had seen something at the party no one else had. Maybe that was why he was dead. She wished that she could put him on a list – for wonderful, living people.
The final two, Flynn and Robin, were difficult. He had a dozen strikes against him, yet he was the only one who couldn’t have poisoned her. Still, she didn’t trust him farther than she could throw a piano. She didn’t know why she hadn’t told Park about the gun. She would do that first thing when she got back. Flynn followed Robin closely. He wanted something from her. He deserved a list all his own.
Obviously, Robin had not poisoned herself. But she could have arranged for their present isolation. Sweetheart was her middle name, yet poison affected every organ, even the heart. Did she want revenge? She was deathly ill. Maybe she had fallen into a confused mental state where she wouldn’t mind destroying the innocent if it allowed her to get to the guilty. And she had a sorcerer for a friend. A remark Angie had made about the destroyed garage and carport came to mind: “Like they had been struck by the wrath of God.” The old man had been in the area. Two days ago, she hadn’t been too hip on the supernatural, but now she was game for just about anything. Supposedly, sorcerers possessed powers. Wasting the carport and garage may have been merely a minor demonstration. His story could be seen as a parallel to their situation. Eagle had granted Dove the decision of who was to live, and who was to die. Had the old man granted Robin similar authority, and had she made a deal for her life?
That is actually not bad logic, to be fair. However, before she can go farther with it, she somehow senses that the magical Indian is nearby. Is this magical realism? And then we get even more magical Indian being magical to help the white protagonist; she asks him if Robin is going to die, he starts to hum, and she has a fucking vision. Dear god, while I actually do like this story a lot, it is highly problematic. Basically, she turns into a bird in her vision and flies over to see Robin, who is asleep, and Shani is one of the people in the room with her. I don’t even know anymore.
Once she comes out of her vision and heads back to the house, she leaves the path to get away from a rattlesnake and ends up lost and falling down a slippery hill and nearly sliding into another snake.
Flynn Michael comes to her rescue, kills the snake with his gun (again, what is up with this guy, his pistol, and snakes), and she confronts him with what she knows about his secrets. Even though she tells him again and again that she doesn’t trust him, he still asks her to keep his secrets and to trust him, that everything will become clear that night. AND SHE’S FUCKING GOING TO DO IT.
DED FROM STUPID: 3
They kiss for awhile, until Shani ends it because she doesn’t really know him. AND YET YOU ARE GOING TO TRUST HIM? WTF?!
[Dove: Because of teh sexay. Duh.]
[Wing: I am going to murder everyone and then get away with it, obviously.]
Of course, he then threatens her when she asks what will happen if she tries to stop him. GIRL, YOU ARE DUMB.
DED FROM STUPID: 4
She tells him he’s snake; he corrects her. He’s eagle. I want to stab this metaphor.
Chapter eight and back to Park’s point of view. I don’t like his point of view, but at least he’s not being stupid over
Flynn Michael. (No, he’s being stupid of Robin and Angie, which isn’t much better, but at least they’re not lying about who they are and he’s going along with it. /headdesk) He’s in Robin’s room while she sleeps, waiting for her to wake up because he wants to tell her that he wants her back. He’s going to break up with Angie (probably you should be doing that first, Park, otherwise it looks like you’re stringing Angie along until you make sure Robin will take you back), and even give up Harvard for Robin. Which is sweet, I guess, but the way he talks about it reeks of rich white privilege and I just want to smack him.
Shani shows up, they talk about who they trust and don’t trust, whether Robin’s poisoning was an accident or intentional or something else entirely, Shani relives her vision from her own perspective but doesn’t see the bird she was when she checks the window (STABBITY STAB STAB), and then they join the others. No one wants food, no one is feeling well. YOU GUYS ARE IDIOTS. (They think it is the flu. LET’S SEE, THE WATER CAN’T BE DRANK UNLESS IT IS FILTERED, SHANI KNOWS
FLYNN MICHAEL HAS BEEN BRINGING ROBIN HER FOOD AND DRINK SO SHE WON’T GET SICK(ER), GEE I WONDER IF SOMEONE MESSED WITH THE FILTER.) Also, there’s an early season hurricane. CONVENIENT.
When people start passing out, Shani blames
Flynn Michael, but he seems to have been drugged, too.
Shani slowly wakes up, and they’re all handcuffed in the studio Shani found earlier. (That is not horrible foreshadowing.) There’s also a container of rattlesnakes and a contraption to free them without anyone having to touch it. AT LEAST IT ISN’T SPIDERS. A voice tells them they must have the truth of that night, when Lena tells it to go to hell (I do like Lena sometimes), the snakes start to be released, but Park quickly fixes the situation. They start discussing what happened that night. Park accuses Sol of having drug ether in his van, but Sol comes clean: he had major fireworks. Three hundred pounds of major fireworks. Damn, son.
[Dove: Sol, just move to England. You don’t have to be stealthy about that shit. They’re not illegal here. Also, the attitude towards him for having fireworks I will come back to later…]
[Wing: Actually, under the Fireworks Regulations 2004, it looks like firecrackers were banned, and M80s, the fireworks in question, are a class of large firecrackers. They are also banned in Canada and the US. I realise I’m citing Wikipedia, but I didn’t feel like uploading pdfs as actual references.]
[Dove: Reader quiz: which one of us is a data analyst and which one of us is a researcher?]
They talk their way through the night Robin was poisoned, learning more and more. A number of them were alone in the kitchen at some point, but they narrow it down to Kerry having poured the glass of beer that Robin ended up drinking. While Kerry and Lena are arguing over whether Lena has a motive to kill Robin, Bert shows up. Of course, he just makes things worse. He breaks down the door into the room, which is awesome, but then when he tries to use it to cover the snake cage, he breaks it and frees them. Good job. Luckily the snakes are too busy fighting each other to attack the humans. CONVENIENT.
DED FROM STUPID: 5
They get free thanks to Bert’s help, though Lena gets pretty badly bitten. They freak out, take her to a bedroom, and try to make her bleed more so she’ll bleed out the poison.
Flynn Michael goes to get the snake bite kit and Robin, returns with Robin and the rifle. He sets himself up in front of the door, loads the rifle, and starts shooting warning shots into the wall. Awesome. Flynn Michael tells them that he’s poisoned them all, and if they don’t get the antidote soon, they’ll also have kidney failure. Shani calls him Michael, he admits that’s his real name, and from then on he’s Michael in the text. I’m sticking with Flynn Michael.
First we get Bert’s survival story. He dropped the tequila bottle in the garage, tried to clean it up, got tired of waiting for Sol, and went surfing again. He got sucked far away by the riptide, and by the time he made it back to the house, the garage was gone and he wasn’t sure it was the right house. Finally he let himself inside, found them, and we know the story from there.
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1
[Dove: They had a fucking prayer reading for Bert. That’s playing this trope to the hilt.]
[Wing: That is a really good point, actually. I can’t believe I missed it.]
Flynn Michael then turns to Park, wanting to know why Park pushed so hard for Robin to drink the beer that night. Park admits he hoped she would fall asleep so he could swim naked with Angie. Robin is hurt by this, and asks why he wouldn’t swim naked with her. While this is a valid thought, I would like to remind everyone that some guy they barely know, who has been using an assumed name, has a rifle pointed at them while Robin’s sister has been poisoned by a rattlesnake. Robin, maybe you should be more concerned with that.
Park says there’s something else he needs to tell Robin, but he refuses to say it to anyone but her when they’re alone, and
Flynn Michael lets it go, for now at least. Flynn Michael turns to Angie next. He saw her throw a burning stick into the garage earlier, and she’s been lying about that. He thinks she’s lying about what she did to Robin, too. Finally, Angie admits she was the one who put the paper dance pants in Robin’s locker. She didn’t realise Kerry was using the locker too, because hers was broken, and just thought Angie had a spare outfit.
Lena is next. She refuses to play his game, and doesn’t even believe his antidote is real. Robin begs her to cooperate, and then begs
Flynn Michael to help her, because he claimed to be Robin’s friend. We get this delightful description:
Michael’s cruel armour cracked at the edge. Swallowing thickly, he fidgeted in his chair, relaxing the grip on the rifle. But it was a brief lapse, a brief moment of sanity. Then a ruthlessness seemed to stir inside, like the memory of a bitter vow once sworn to for good or ill, and his eyes blazed.
FUCK YOU SHANI. FUCK YOU SO HARD. Just because he is threatening you and acting dangerous doesn’t mean he’s crazy. Just because he has a moment of looking kind again doesn’t make that his “sanity”. I hate you so much.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1
(Means essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)
Flynn Michael explains Lena’s trick to the others. She’s the one who drugged them to pass out and set up the snake trap. She bought rattlesnakes with their venom sacks removed, and so she’s not dying of snake venom, just Flynn Michael’s poison. Awesome. Lena explains herself, but really only to Robin, the sister she loves. (And I’m enjoying the depth of the love between the sisters, even though they’re adopted. Too often, authors fuck that up and call the adopted families not “real” families, which is bullshit. I’m even going to give a pass on the whole “real blood sister” bit, because not having the same blood is a serious issue here, when Lena can’t donate her kidney to Robin.) Though Lena uses some ridiculously formal language (it was I) [Dove: I noticed that weird formal speech too. Just assumed she’d been planning on getting caught all along and was channeling her inner Bond villain.] [Wing: Muahahahahahahahahaha.], her plan isn’t too terrible. She got everyone to the house, she made sure the rest of the class didn’t show up, and she figured out how to get the truth from them. She thought having the pressure would force them to remember, and it was. Even she started to remember things she hadn’t when talking to the police. When Bert showed up and ruined it, she got mad and released the snakes, and is regretting it now.
[Dove: WAIT! We need a new count!]
Flynn Michael asks Kerry who poisoned Robin, not back then, but this weekend. Kerry says he did, but he claims he made sure to bring her all her food and drink because he didn’t want to poison her. Then he asks Kerry why she put the insecticide in Robin’s cup back then. She says she didn’t, they argue, Flynn Michael shoots the wall again, and finally Kerry admits, when Robin asks her, that she did put the insecticide in the cup, but it wasn’t meant for Robin. It’s fairly convoluted, but basically, she got mad at Lena for trying to take Sol (because guys are property AMIRITE) and always making sure she goes first, she put the insecticide in a glass, but didn’t mean for it to go anywhere, put beer in it when Sol found her in the kitchen, trying to cover the smell, and then felt like she couldn’t say anything as it got passed around.
She sat there and watched Robin drink every last drop, then faked her own illness so Shani would check on Robin later that night.
Robin is heartbroken and angry, and at least part of that anger is at
Flynn Michael. She screams at him that she didn’t want to know, and I can’t really blame her.
Kerry then admits she messed with Robin’s dialysis machine, too, to make Lena look like a bad caretaker and sister. Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, you are an idiot.
[Dove: Kerry, not the greatest friend in the world. She’ll kill you, just to make your sister look bad. Because of BOYFRIENDS.]
[Wing: Well, not just boyfriends. But mostly boyfriends.]
[Dove: Because BOYFRIENDS … and underpants?]
Flynn Michael sets aside the gun. He also has Sol’s knife, and he puts it against Kerry’s throat and tells Robin he will kill Kerry if Robin wants him to. Because that’s a healthy sign of devotion right there. /headdesk
Robin is furious and broken and terrified, and it’s a really horrible (if kind of ridiculously dramatic) scene. Finally, Shani asks Robin to sing, just like in the ending of the magical Indian’s story. Robin can’t sing, but she takes the tape recorder from
Flynn Michael (conveniently, he failed at using it and hasn’t been recording at all), and plays her cover of “Blackbird” for them. After it’s done, Shani tells Flynn Michael that she knows who he is: he’s Luke Skywalker and Robin is Princess Leia. Sure enough, the others start to see it too. It’s about damn time you people caught up. Flynn Michael is Robin’s twin brother. Flynn Michael then goes off on this long speech. I’ll sum it up: birth father died before they were born, birth mother was young and poor and heart broken, Carltons showed up, wanting to adopt and too impatient to wait, basically paid off birth mother so they could take Robin. Later, birth mother wanted to contact Robin, Carltons freaked out. When Robin was poisoned, Mr Carlton turned up to demand a kidney from Flynn Michael. Flynn Michael and birth mother refused, not because they don’t want Robin to have it, but because of the demanding. Flynn Michael decides to go meet Robin, to see if she’s worthy of his kidney, and this is actually a pretty dick move. Are you worthy?! Whatever.
Long story, dramatically written, too much formal language, later,
Flynn Michael decides to give Robin his kidney, and suddenly everyone is absolutely fine that he threatened them, shot at them, locked them into a room, and has been lying to them from the beginning. What kind of forgiving — no. FUCK YOU, YOU IDIOTS.
[Dove: I love the way he’s all “Only the pure of heart are worthy of my kidney”, while failing to acknowledge he’s unwilling to save a dying girl if she’s not nice to him. Morals, AMIRIGHT? (Did I use that AMIRIGHT right? *worried*)
Finally, I have to say this: My kidneys! My kidneys! My kidneys! MY POOR KIDNEYS! MY FREAKIN’ KIDNEYS! ]
[Wing: BEST. REFERENCE. EVER.
And yes, you used AMIRIGHT right.]
DED FROM STUPID: 6
Then they remember that
Flynn Michael poisoned them. Except he really didn’t. Or, kind of. He put a gross water filter in the water tanks that feed the house. They’ve all been drinking unfiltered, infected water. Awesome.
[Dove: As someone who has watched Cabin Fever recently… Nope.
Also, I was coming back to the bit about Sol being irresponsible for having all those fireworks in the van. Yeah. The Epilogue explains that there are still some snakes on the loose, and Bert the Moron goes shooting up the house with a gun. IN THE HOUSE. A GUN. I’m not saying this absolves Sol, but why is it when the white idiot does it, everyone’s all “lol, that Bert, what a card!” and when the Latino guy does it, he’s a reckless fool who cares for nobody’s safety?]
[Wing: Hahahahahaha. Right? Also, they forgive
Flynn Michael pretty damn fast for shooting at them, even if he had no intention of hitting them (which they didn’t know). So, yeah. There’s that. God forbid the brown dude wants to make some fucking money and this is how he’s decided to do it.]
Epilogue opens with Shani and Park driving up to see Robin. (Park’s in Robin’s car and is driving super fast, despite already getting one speeding ticket. /headdesk) [Wing: AGAIN, white guy can drive recklessly and it’s fine, Sol hides fireworks in the van, he’s a terrible person.] Robin is doing well after her transplant, they’ve all graduated, and everyone is mostly healed from being sick, though sometimes they still have moments. Only Kerry is still sick, and Shani thinks it is because of her guilt. Bert and Angie are dating now. Sol is working for Mr Carlton. Park has given up Harvard and plans to marry Robin. Lena actually called Kerry, and though she won’t tell them what they discussed, she thinks Kerry will start to get better now. There will be no criminal repercussions, because they all have secrets and Robin doesn’t want anyone to tell. But you certainly considered having
Flynn Michael kill her, so…yeah. Flynn Michael is going to stick around to go to university there, and he and Shani are together. They all start to celebrate with some beer (because that sounds like an AWESOME idea, but a bird flies in and lands on Robin’s shoulder (WTF KIND OF HOSPITAL IS THIS? BEER? OPEN WINDOWS? BIRDS FLYING IN? Robin is recovering from major surgery); when the bird tastes the beer, it spits it back out. No beer for them.
You are all idiots.
DED FROM STUPID: 7
[Dove: I was really sad that the beer wasn’t poisoned and it ended with everyone dying in Robin’s room.]
[Wing: MUCH. BETTER. ENDING. And I did enjoy this book.]
Despite the florid writing and the dramatic scenes and the ridiculous dialog and the racism and that nasty mental health bit, I still really love this book. Teenagers stranded somewhere alone is one of my favourite tropes, and the characters are really a lot of fun when the writing gets out of their way. I still love that the girls unabashedly like sex, which is such a nice change from PH. The descriptions can be a bit much, but I do like some of the images a lot.
B+ would (and will) read again.
DED FROM STUPID: 7
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 2
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1
I … think I forgot to do counters. Maybe Dove will come through and fix it when she reads this recap. Oops.
[Wing: You’re a dick.]