Title: Nightmare Hall #15 Truth or Die
Author: Diane Hoh (Nola Thacker)
Summary: It begins as a game.
When first-year student Parrie Moore meets the other girls at a party, joining them in their harmless game of Truth or Dare sounds like fun.
And at first it is. The dares are silly pranks that make them all laugh.
But gradually the dares become stranger, more dangerous. The game is taking on a life of its own.
Parrie is frightened. But it’s only a game . . . or is it?
*Note: That ^ is not the cover I remember, and I hate it. THIS is the cover I had as a kid, with the see-through window that opened to another part of the picture, although by this point they might have been one solid cover. Much more nostalgic.
Well, first things first, we have a Thacker! *sarcastic jazz hands* That means I’m not holding this to the same standard I would were it actually Hoh writing. I generally find Thacker’s writing to range from “meh” to “I’m going to build a time machine to go back and punch you in the throat as you’re writing this.”
I like the premise, even though it’s not one I’m a total sucker for; it reminds me of a writing prompt I saw on reddit and am actually currently writing a story based on. So, I hope there’s nothing in this book that I accidentally plagiarize for my own. Anyway, there are a lot of “truth or dare gone wrong” stories out there, even in current day, and this one doesn’t stand out at all. Unfortunately.
Regardless if this one is good or bad, I’m happy Wing welcomed me into the Nightmare Hall recapping fold. I remember loving these books, although after reading the recaps of them here, so far I’m questioning my teenage judgment. I doubt this is going to be the book that makes me gasp, “My God, they are as good as I remember!”
[Wing: I had the window covers, too, and I loved them so damn much. And many thanks to JC for stepping in when I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of this one. More JC recaps is always a good thing!]
We open with a villain prologue, because this is Nightmare Hall, and apparently that’s their thing. In this one, an unnamed “she” is arguing with someone in italicized print, so I’m guessing she’s arguing with herself. And I swear to God if this turns out to be some sort of split personality thing, there will be hell to pay. I think Wing and I both threaten to burn everything when we’re pissed, so I’m sure she’ll be right beside me with her own matches. Or Zippo. Or flamethrower. Hello, Fellow Fire Friend!
[Wing: YAY A FIRE FRIEND! I am excited. And also, yes, burn split personality stories to the fucking ground, at least in Point Horror.]
Italicized Villain tells She to pretend it’s all a game, and they know that She thinks other people are stupid, and She does all kinds of things to see if people will notice or stop Her. She thinks that Italicized Villain is right; She thinks people can be controlled, that they would rather fit in than be embarrassed. That they would rather die than let people think they’re stupid. And that’s what makes them really stupid. So stupid they deserved to die!
Is . . . is it too soon for a Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: +1
[Wing: NEVER TOO SOON. Just as Stine.]
We meet Parrie Moore, who is looking in the mirror and lamenting how “nice” she looks. Everything about her is nice; ordinary; average. She considers dying her hair purple (was this really such a wild thing to do in 1994?), wearing different colored eyeshadow on each eye, or wrapping her head in a scarf and donning dark sunglasses like the starlets on the checkout line magazine covers. Anything to be less ordinary and “nice.”
[Wing: She spells her name Parrie! You’ve already got something along the lines of what you consider interesting, Parrie. Lean into it.]
But she knows she won’t do any of that, because she’s the one who always fits in; the perfect audience for more wild and outspoken friends. But now she’s at Salem University while all her friends are at State, and she doesn’t know where she fits in, or who she is without her crowd of friends. And I kind of get it more than I want to. I mean, the fitting in part. I’ve spent enough time alone to know who I am with or without a group around me.
Then Parrie starts talking to herself in the mirror, quietly even though her roommate is out, because she doesn’t want anyone to overhear and think she’s “eccentric and strange.” Holy shit, we avoided using the “crazy” word. I almost feel like these books need a “congrats, you could have been so much shittier but chose not to!” counter. Almost. Anyway, Parrie is trying to give herself a pep talk about making friends at a party she’s about to go to, but the “girl in the mirror” keeps making faces at her, including sticking out her tongue. It’s too soon to tell if this is just one of Thacker’s weird affectations, but again, I swear if this is a split personality story, I will personally hunt Thacker down.
The party in question is the Annual Formal Tea thrown by a wealthy alum who likes to come meet all the nice young ladies and relive her own golden years at Salem. “Traditional dress” is required, which Parrie’s roommate translated as “wear a damn dress, you fucking pleb,” which is why Parrie is dressed like one of the porcelain dolls my grandma used to give me and my cousins every Christmas – green velveteen Laura Ashley skirt, white sweater with green scalloped trim, ribbed white cotton stockings, and suede flats. Oy.
[Wing: Good lord, are these students 12 or are they adults? I know there are schools and groups that actually do have dress codes, but come the fuck on.]
As she leaves her dorm room, Parrie tells herself that going and making new friends can’t be that hard, and what can it do? Kill her?
Ha. Pointless foreshadowing for fun and profit: +1
Am I using these counters correctly, Wing? [Wing: There is no wrong way! They are ridiculous because the books are ridiculous and we, too, can be ridiculous.]
Parrie makes her way to one of the formal parlors in the Quad, and observes the tea party. A woman shaped like the tea urn is pouring tea, and from that description I have no choice but to picture Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. [Wing: This book really could do with a musical number.] Parrie is awkward and socially anxious, which I totally identify with, and practically yelps when people speak to her asking if she wants canapés, or sugar for her tea. I do not identify with the yelping at simple questions.
Parrie sloshes tea onto her hand and yelps again, loudly enough for people to turn and look at her, so she retreats to the corner in shame. A girl tells her to take it easy, that stuff is a lethal weapon; another girl counters that’s it’s not if you don’t drink it. Parrie apologizes for some reason, and the first girl asks why she’s sorry; second girl answers that maybe Parrie drank the tea. A few girls laugh, and Parrie realizes they’re not actually laughing at her, and relaxes. There’s some banter about Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s tea party from yet another girl, this one Asian. No specific ethnicity, just . . . Asian. Because it’s not like Asia is a huge continent with many, many countries or anything. Also, all the other ladies have been called girls, but suddenly we’re using “woman” to describe only the Asian girl. I’m not quite sure what to make of this, but I found it a little odd.
[Wing: That’s odd in a couple ways, I agree.]
There’s a fourth girl, who’s revealed to be a soccer player. She makes a joke about her table manners, claiming that, “Soccer players eat their dead.”
Are . . . are we really making light of the Uruguayan rugby team (which some people have mistakenly remembered as a soccer team) whose surviving members were forced to eat their dead teammates to survive after their plane crashed in the Andes? Are we really? Mmkayyyyyy.
[Wing: Not all that useful, but wait, what, it was a rugby team? I’ve always heard it as a soccer team when it’s brought up in media (usually for a joke just like this). Huh. Today I learned.
Quick bit of research, and I bet people get it confused with the plane crash that killed some of a Chilean soccer team that happened in 1961.]
There’s a fifth girl, whom Parrie does a double-take on because she could be her twin. They smile shyly at each other, and then Parrie sucks it up and introduces herself. The first girl is Carol Hausdatter, she’s very tall with cat’s eye glasses and dark skin. So, is she Black? I wish Thacker would just come out and say so. She had no problem saying “Asian.” The second girl is Jean Reagan; she has icy blue eyes, icy blonde hair, and sharp features. The Asian girl is Grace Oshida, so I’m guessing she’s Japanese. She has “shockingly short” hair and seems to like big earrings. The soccer player is Lil Martinez, so holy shit, is this more diversity in Point Horror? She has a compact, powerfully graceful build and sun-streaked reddish, ragged hair. Parrie’s twin is Mallory Stern.
[Wing: Is this the most diverse Point Horror book? Or, well, Nightmare Hall at least. Damn. Do they all turn out evil? I wouldn’t put it past this book, but I honestly don’t remember what happens.]
They’ve also introduced themselves by which dorm in the Quad they live in, but that’s just so much more name soup, so fuck that mess. Is there a name soup counter? Because good lord. [Wing: Damn, that would be a great counter. There is now! So Many People So Much Name Soup: 1]
They all make some tea puns and joke around, until Lil claims that if this is what rich people do, she’ll pass as it’s kind of dull. Carol’s eyes (which are green) sparkle, and she proposes they make things a little more interesting with a game of Truth or Dare. Then she dares Lil to switch the sugar bowl with the salt bowl. Which isn’t really how Truth or Dare works, but okay. This is more like Dare or Dare.
Lil hesitates, and Parrie is surprised to find herself egging Lil on and teasing her about being chicken. Then Jean starts chanting “Truth or Dare, Truth or Dare!” at her, which again, is not how Truth or Dare works, what the fuck.
(For those who don’t know, one person asks another “Truth or Dare?”, that person chooses which they want to perform, then the asker either asks them a question they have to answer truthfully or gives them a dare they have to perform. If they don’t want to answer the “truth” question they’re asked, then they’re forced to perform a dare instead. The game in this book is basically the opposite of this.)
Lil starts blushing, but concedes that she’ll take the dare.
Lil takes off toward the tea table; Parrie is incredulous that she’s actually going to do it; Mallory very seriously says that Lil is nuts. And while lowered inhibitions, lack of impulse control, and bad judgment are very much symptoms I get during manic episodes, this is clearly not what Mallory means, so fuck her.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: +1
[Wing: Oh, mania, it’s so much fun. /s]
The girls look on while Lil bumps the table; slides the salt bowl away from rolling apples and oranges; then swaps the salt and sugar, moving the sugar bowl behind a flower arrangement. Parrie & Co. are in awe of this amazing dare follow-through. They watch as half a dozen girls gag on their salted tea, and then totally lose their collective shit when Tea Lady tries to prove there’s nothing wrong with her tea and takes her own sip of salty tea. When she examines the bowl and determines it’s the salt bowl, the entire room bursts into laughter.
Hmm. I don’t think everyone in the room would find it that funny. I’m thinking there would be some isolated laughter and giggles, but most people wouldn’t even notice or care that much. But yeah. Such hilarious, much LOL.
Parrie & Co. make an unrealistically big deal about how great Lil was, then Carol comes in as a killjoy to announce that it was amusing in a childish way, and asks them if they’d even be able to play the real game of Truth or Dare. [Wing: Do you mean one that actually is Truth or Dare, Carol? Because I don’t think you do. Though … will you be including tigers?] Parrie, who was giddy from relief at finding a group to hang out with, is suddenly uneasy and asks what Carol means.
Carol either thinks extremely fast on her feet, or she had this whole thing planned out already. She proposes that they all write their deepest, darkest, most dangerous secret down on a piece of paper, folded with their name on the outside, then stick them in a lockbox. Jean interrupts to ask why she should trust a stranger not to open it up and read the papers, and Carol says that they’ll put the key in an envelope and sign their names across the seal so no one can tamper with it. Oddly, no one points out that the keys to those lockboxes are all the same, and Carol could always buy another box of the same model and use the key she gets from that one to open the first one. Or even just send away for a replacement key from the company.
After the dangerous, horrible secrets are locked in the Truth Box, they’ll all write dares on pieces of paper and draw for them. If anyone fails the dare, their secret will be taken out of the box and read to the group.
Yes, this is all totally normal. Just gals being gals. No cause for concern, Parrie.
[Wing: AND STILL NOT HOW TRUTH OR DARE WORKS.]
When Grace asks what the point is, Carol replies that the point is for fun. This doesn’t actually sound all that fun to me, but I guess these girls have never read a Point Horror book before. They all agree to it, even Parrie after a few minutes of inner waffling. She thinks that these girls have good friend potential, even “weird Carol” in her own way. Personally, I think Carol has cult leader potential, but to each their own.
Some undetermined number of days later, Parrie is approaching Grace’s dorm room, feeling nervous because she feels like she’s barging in even though Grace asked her to come by so they could walk to Carol’s
cult recruitment Truth or Dare get-together. Parrie notices all the doors have been decorated to match the occupants’ personalities, including one girl who has covered the door in a long roll of paper that has “Graffiti Here” written at the top. That seems inadvisable, but okay. Grace’s door has a large poster of a dog with a bird on its head, surrounded by three cats.
[Wing: I love the idea of the Graffiti Here paper! We only had white boards on our doors.]
Grace answers the door holding one shoe and looking for the other. Parrie points it out on top of a bookshelf, and Grace explains that at home she has to put her shoes up high so that Bingley, the dog on the poster, won’t get them. He’s the bestest boy, but he just won’t be trained out of chewing up shoes. I love him already. Although during Grace and Parrie’s conversation about Bingley, Grace suddenly starts referring to him as “she,” so, uh.
Continuity? Fuck that shit!: +1
Grace goes on to say that she wants to be a veterinarian, or maybe an animal behaviorist, and she thinks animals make more sense than people. Oh. Am I Grace? I might be Grace.
[Wing: We’re both Grace then. Animals totally make more sense than people.]
Parrie asks if Grace has known Carol long, and Grace responds by saying that she thinks Carol is the type of person you never really get to know, no matter how long you’ve known her. She’s not sure if she trusts her, and Parrie is shocked by this, because apparently it never occurred to her not to trust the literal stranger who wants to hold on to her deepest, darkest secret in the world.
Parrie and Grace are the last to arrive at Carol’s room, and we’re told that Jean’s hair is long enough to touch the floor behind her when she’s sitting on the floor. That is some next-level long hair. Even when mine is down to my waist, it wouldn’t touch the floor like that.
Carol has a lockbox and a large green vase next to her. She tears six sheets of paper out of a notebook and hands them out to each girl, along with a pen, and tells them to write their secret on the paper, and then if they chicken out of doing their dare, their secret will be taken out and read.
Parrie looks around as the others write. Carol has a little smile on her face; Lil sighs loudly; Jean frowns; Grace sits frozen and silent; and Parrie just wonders what secret a girl like Mallory could have. She wonders what to write, because she doesn’t think she has any interesting secrets, and then a memory hits her and she flinches, wondering how she could have forgotten that, then wishing she could go on forgetting it. Because we’re not told what Parrie’s secret is, this counter feels right:
Red Herrings: +1
They all drop their secrets, labeled with their names on the outside, into the lockbox, then seal and sign the key. Next up they write their dares, which is a task Parrie finds easier, and drop them into the vase to each choose at random. Jean asks what happens if they choose their own dare, and Carol tells her that would be their own tough luck. (No word on whether or not anyone ever does choose their own dare, btw. There’s a ~17% chance of any one of the girls choosing their own dare, but we’re never told if anyone does.)
Lil’s dare is to wear a formal all day long, from the time she gets up to the time she goes to bed. She shrieks, wondering where she’s going to get a formal. Jean has to go all day without speaking unless called on in class. She laments that people are going to think she’s so bizarre! I mean, that sounds like something I could do pretty easily, but okay. I guess Jean is a chatterbox, even though we really haven’t been shown that or anything. Carol has to eat garlic for every meal and can’t brush her teeth until the next day. Clearly someone is familiar with your namesake from The Perfume, Wing! [Wing: Worst. Evil. Twin. Ever.] Grace has to ask “that babe guy you’ve been watching” out on a hot date, and she demands to know who knew she had her eye on Kenn Rivers, while Mallory shrieks that she could never do that! Wow. You know it’s the nineties when the mere thought of asking a guy out gives all these girls the vapors. Mallory has to sing everything she says for a whole day, which actually sounds mortifying.
Parrie thinks she got the worst one, though – she has to go into a guy’s room on campus and steal a pair of his underwear. [Wing: These dares are ridiculous and yet mostly in a way that I love — except Parrie’s. Parrie’s is a privacy violation and I fucking hate it.] This is the point where having guys friends would come in handy, but Parrie doesn’t have any friends, so. Carol says this week will be interesting (I guess they have all week to perform the dares, although once again we’re not told that), and Parrie gasps that it’s going to be a killer! Then we get this:
Looking back down at her dare, she didn’t see the exchange of glances that followed her words.
But Parrie would remember her words later on with a shudder.
And she wasn’t the only one.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: +1 (2)
Pointless foreshadowing for fun and profit: +1 (2)
Once again, some undermined amount of time later, we meet back up with Parrie, Grace, and Lil. Grace has asked Kenn out, and he accepted even though she doesn’t think she’s his type because her hair is shorter than his, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Lil is still wearing a formal she borrowed from Jean; it’s two inches too short and the world’s brightest pink. Jean did not strike me as a pink girl, but okay. They’re all lurking outside one of the boys’ dorms so that Parrie can go on her panty raid. Or whatever you call it when you’re raiding dudes’ underwear.
Apparently everyone is at a dorm meeting, so it should be a simple matter of trespass and theft. However, the RA makes her show ID and sign in at the desk. Whoops. She does, then heads upstairs to try to find an unlocked, empty room. (She also notices that boys don’t decorate their doors like the girls do, and every guy dorm I’ve visited would seem to bear this out. I don’t know about the girls’ dorms, though.) She finally comes to an unlocked, silent door, and walks into a disaster area, because men be slobs! (To be fair, Grace’s room was also a mess.)
She decides not to take underwear from the floor, because yeah, obviously, what the fuck. Don’t handle some stranger’s dirty drawers. I mean, not that you should be stealing anyone’s underwear at all, but . . . anyway. Moving on. Parrie wonders where boys keep their underwear, because Parrie is now determined to make me squint and cock my head at her like a confused dog at every turn, then she spots a chest of drawers and starts pawing through it. She grabs a pair of blue Calvin Klein briefs, holds them up, and exclaims, “Underwear! Ha!”
Then she hears an amused voice behind her say, “You’ve correctly identified the item. But why are you laughing at it?”
And it’s at this point that I realize this line got embedded in my brain, and I have used it in my own teenage writing and everyday life from 1994 onwards. It still makes me laugh.
[Wing: Yes, yes, laughing. I love it. I mean, I still hate the dare, but this is a pretty fun way for it to go.]
Parrie is, of course, humiliated. She tries to leave, but a boy in a bathrobe with a towel slung over his shoulder is standing between her and the door. He’s amused by the whole thing, and Parrie stumbles all over herself trying to explain that she needs his underwear. When he asks “with or without me in them?” she blushes, he laughs and introduces himself as Bryan, she introduces herself and tells him she needs the underwear for a game of Truth or Dare.
Now. In real life, this might play out in a more sinister manner. But in this book, I’m still laughing about this meet-cute. I want them to get married and all their friends tell this story during their toasts. I want Grandpa Bryan and Grandma Parrie telling the grandkids, little Tinley (an actual name a former coworker is planning to name her soon-to-be-born daughter) and Kaydyn, the story of how they met. I find this way funnier than it probably should be.
[Wing: And you’ve already written a more interesting story than a lot of the books we’ve recapped here.]
Cut to Lil and Grace outside, wondering what’s taking Parrie so long, when they see her walk out with Bryan. As they walk down the street, before they turn the corner, Grace and Lil spot the pair of briefs dangling from Parrie’s hand. I would pay money for her to be walking casually down the street with the underwear on her head, but I guess this is okay, too.
[Wing: Well Parrie got over her awkwardness real damn fast.]
Cut (again) to Parrie, Grace, Lil, and Mallory, some (sing along, now) undetermined amount of time later, in the movie theater watching the horror movie that Grace is taking Kenn to. She wants to know all the scary parts so that she’s prepared to shriek and cuddle up to him without actually being scared. The name of the movie is Return of the Blood Avenger, so I think it’ll probably be more gross than scary, but do what ya gotta do, ladies.
The title of the movie leads to talk of revenge as they walk through campus, and Parrie wonders if revenge is actually a thing people do. Again, our girl clearly does not read Point Horror. Lil says she gets revenge on the soccer field; Parrie points out that that’s not revenge, it’s standing your ground; Mallory asks how you define revenge, then.
Grace points out Nightingale Hall – Nightmare Hall, which has been closed down for a month after a storm blew the roof off. No other building on campus was damaged. The workmen keep seeing things in the building, and she says that’s a case of revenge if she ever saw one – the girl that died there, Giselle, must be coming back for revenge. Mallory asks if she really believes in ghosts, and Grace suddenly turns on her fiercely. They stare each other down until Grace looks away.
Lil suggests they get something to eat, and Grace snaps out of whatever her sudden mood was so quickly that Parrie wonders if she imagined it.
The . . . next morning? I’m really guessing at the passage of time here. Anyway, the phone ringing wakes Parrie up, and when she stumbles into the bathroom to answer it (no lie, the phone is hanging on the wall next to the sink for some weird fucking reason), a menacing, husky voice says, “I dare you . . . I dare you . . . I dare you to tell the truth. Tell the truth or pay the consequences,” then laughs cruelly and viciously.
Parrie freaks out and slams the phone down, where it begins ringing again. She picks it up and demands to know what they want, but this time it’s just Bryan calling to ask her out that weekend. She doesn’t tell him about the phone call, and convinces herself it was just Lil joking around, because it seems like something Lil would do. Uh, sure, okay. We’re fifty pages in, and it’s the first remotely menacing thing to happen, so it better not just be a joke, Thacker.
Jump to . . . sometime, and they’re all in Carol’s dorm room again, while she and Jean yell at each other. Carol accuses Jean of being a coward, while Jean yells that Carol is “Crazy, twisted, brain bent!” Never heard that last one before. Oh, and:
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +1 (2)
They’re fighting because Carol suggested another round of the game. Parrie had been under the impression it was one and done, and Jean immediately started yelling “NO!” at Carol. Mallory looks puzzled; Lil looks eager; and Grace has a look of detachment that Parrie thinks looks familiar but can’t place. She will say this a few more times throughout the book, and it never amounts to anything. Ugh, Thacker. (Also, it feels like it deserves a counter, but I can’t figure out which one, since they’re not my creations. I’m going to mash a few together and call it: Continuity? Fuck that pointless foreshadowing McGuffin.) [Wing: Literal laugh out loud here, and it is officially a counter, just in case you want to use it again in the future.]
Parrie “hears her own voice” (this happens a lot; I’m moving past this being a “split personality” thing and leaning toward Thacker trying to make Parrie as passive as humanly possible) calling for a truce, then realizes she’s waving Bryan’s underwear in the air like a white flag. What does a blue underwear flag mean?
This cuts the tension and makes all the girls start laughing instead. They pass around food and drink, but Carol still won’t let the game go. She points out that the first round was fun, silly games. I guess the term “weaksauce” wasn’t around yet, but that’s what the first round was. Total. Fucking. Weaksauce. Carol points out that Grace and Parrie both got dates with cool guys, and convinces the other girls that their dares were also good, silly fun, and it would be fun to do it again.
Carol will absolutely be a cult leader one day, mark my words.
Parrie wonders why Carol wants to play so badly, then thinks about how cold her eyes are, like a cat toying with a mouse. Then she wonders if Carol made the “I dare you” phone call, even though she’d been so sure Lil had. Boy, she sure convinced herself of that quick, didn’t she? Or maybe not; I have no idea how much time has gone by. They could all be in grad school by now for all I know.
Jean agrees to another round of the game, which I guess is all that was holding them back, and Parrie wonders if she should just ask who made the phone call. She doesn’t know who would be dense enough that they wouldn’t understand a call like that could be frightening.
Parrie. Whut. It . . . it was obviously a threatening phone call. Like, just . . . whut.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: +1
Parrie spends some more time trying to puzzle out who made the call and why, but it’s not very interesting and frankly I’m starting to give less and less of a fuck about her. *shrug*
Parrie spots the look on Grace’s face again, and remembers it now – it was the same look she’d had outside Nightmare Hall “that night” (what night? fuck you!) – a look like she’d seen a ghost! Oh. Okay. How did Parrie forget that? For us, it’s been ten pages. I was under the impression it was literally the night before, in-story time.
God, this is one of those books full of manufactured suspense and not a lot actually happening, isn’t it. [Wing: This is prime Thacker when she ghostwrites Nightmare Hall, and I don’t understand how her books can be so terrible here and yet Graveyard School was a delight.]
On her date with Bryan, Parrie talks to him about the game. He at first thought it was a sorority initiation, but realizes they’re just doing it for fun. Then Parrie says that although she and her friends dared each other to do stuff when they were kids, she’d never actually played Truth or Dare before. Uh, I got news for you, Parrie – you still haven’t.
Anyway, they have some cute banter, and I’m still rooting for them to be together and tell everyone in sight the story of how they met, whether the other person wants to hear it or not.
Parrie thinks about the “nasty” dare written on the paper in her pocket, and worries that Bryan somehow knows about the “weirdly awful” dares that turned up the second time around, simply because he asked if she wanted to play some more. Calm down, Parrie. I don’t think he’s a mind reader.
Jump forward to . . . whenever. Grace and Parrie are eavesdropping on a couple of girls who seem to be a hyper-exaggerated form of Valley Girl (“It was to gag! To die!”) talking about a stink bomb that went off in a chemistry professor’s class when he mixed some chemicals together. This was Carol’s dare, which she carried out with flying colors. And which, apparently, Parrie thinks of as a “weirdly awful” dare, if her inner monologue during her date can be trusted.
A stink bomb? Are we twelve? Weak. Sauce.
Lil’s dare was to put hair dye in someone’s shampoo, which is a bit mean, but I also don’t think would work. You have to leave dye in for usually around 30 minutes or so. Just lathering and rinsing wouldn’t really do much, would it? Anyway, she put the dye in a “swim jock with an attitude’s” shampoo, and the chlorine in her hair apparently interacted with the dye to turn it green. Um, what color was it originally supposed to be? Lil has no idea if it’s permanent dye or not, and blithely wonders what the girl is going to do. I mean, she could probably just dye over it? The chlorine might be an issue, but I’m sure there’s a hairdresser out there who could fix it somehow.
Parrie wonders what’s wrong with everyone else that they don’t care about how awful these dares are, then wonders if she’s just overreacting. Eh, maybe a bit of both? These dares are at the low end of terrible. They still feel like middle school bullshit to me. Or . . . am I terrible? Maybe I’m a bigger asshole than I thought. [Wing: Well… Kidding. Though I guess I can see how some of it might go terribly wrong, in general they’re just obnoxious toward other people, which shouldn’t really be the point of a dare.]
Grace laments her yet-to-be-performed dare: she has to let the air out of the tires of Professor Giulliani’s classic T-bird. She moans that he’s a madman, and if he catches her he’ll kill her with his bare hands. You know, because of the CrAzY.
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +1 (3)
Parrie empathizes with Mallory’s plight – she has to find her way home in the dark from Bottomless Lake. Parrie clearly has issues with the dark. Parrie has to wear a raincoat over her nightgown all day, because college girls definitely wear nightgowns, and not like shorts or pajama pants and a t-shirt to sleep in. Grace says that Jean got the easy one; she only has to answer a personals ad. Grace thinks it’s no big deal, and the worst that’ll happen is Jean has to spend the evening with a nerd. Parrie is embarrassed because that was the dare she came up with.
Seriously, these are the dares that Parrie called “weirdly awful”?! I feel like there were more risky dares in the Babysitters Club book where they went to summer camp.
[Wing: Probably! Also, how is Parrie’s dare weirdly awful at all? She already walked around campus holding a strange man’s underwear. Wearing a raincoat over her nightgown is nothing.]
Grace hates the game and wonders whose idea it was. Parrie says that she’ll quit if Grace quits, and reminds her it was Carol’s idea, to which Grace gets the funny look on her face again and asks, “Was it? Was it Carol’s idea?”
Red Herrings: +1 (2)
The next night (it literally says that! we have a sudden sense of time! I almost fell over, I was so shocked!) Parrie knocks on Grace’s door while wearing her raincoat over a nightshirt (so, no lacy Victorian nightgown, boo). The roommate informs her that Grace isn’t there, even though she left to do her dare three hours ago and should have been back by now. She thinks of going to Carol’s room, but then remembers she and Lil are currently dropping Mallory off at the lake. Apparently she can get back to campus anyway she likes, including hitching a ride or calling a cab. What. The. Fuck. What kind of dare is this, besides stupid and trying my patience? There’s no risk here! She’ll have a flashlight! She can get a ride home! What is the daring portion of this dare?!
[Wing: Well, does she actually have a way to call a cab? I’m a little confused on that part.]
I guess it was scary enough for Mallory, because she’d begged Grace not to make her do it, screaming at her that she was scared and hadn’t Grace ever been scared? Grace shrugged and told her not to do it, then, and tell the truth instead. And furthermore, being scared won’t kill her.
Mallory had hissed at Grace not to be too scared doing her dare, then, and stormed out of the cafeteria, leading Parrie to marvel that she didn’t think Mallory had it in her. Grace told her that people aren’t always what they seem.
So, that was three hours ago, and Parrie thinks Carol and Lil won’t be back from Bottomless Lake yet. Uh, really? Because Mallory was going to meet them to head out in that little flashback, so three hours should be plenty of time to drop someone off somewhere. Whatever, Thacker. Whatever.
Parrie goes to Jean’s room, where she’s already back from her date, because her dare had been to go on a date, not marry the guy. And my shortest internet dates have run around an hour, so I’m not surprised she’s home already if it didn’t go well.
Parrie has a feeling something has happened to Grace, so she tells Jean she’s going to the professor’s house to find her. Jean asks if she’s crazy; she’ll mess the whole thing up! So, what are we using “crazy” as a stand-in for today? Stupid? Ignorant? Irrational? Contrary? At any rate, I’m giving it the counter.
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +1 (4)
Jean reluctantly decides to come with Parrie, and they make their way to the neighborhood where professors live, because in this universe the profs want to live within walking distance of nosy, annoying students and coworkers. The car isn’t in front of the house, and they realize it might be around the back, in the driveway. Because I guess the driveway to this house is in the back. Not an unheard-of set up, but not the most common one, either.
The car isn’t in the driveway either, but they can hear an engine running and suddenly realize there’s a garage. Yeah. It’s usually the building at the end of the driveway, ladies. *facepalm*
The garage is locked, and a running car in a locked garage is Very Bad News. Parrie starts calling for Grace, and Jean shushes her and again asks if she’s crazy and does she want to get caught? So, in this case, we’re apparently using “crazy” to mean “concerned about your friend.” Fuck off, Jean.
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +6 (let’s make this an even 10)
Grace answers and tells them the garage is locked and the car is locked and running, and she can’t breathe. That is honestly terrifying. But there are any number of ways to disable the car without getting inside. Unfortunately, girls aren’t generally taught about car stuff as a rule, so I can buy Grace not knowing to cut the fuel line, or pull the fuses if she’s able to get under the hood.
Parrie wants to go for help; Jean doesn’t want to get in trouble, because Jean’s personality is as icy as her eyes and hair. Since it’s only a padlock locking the garage, they devise a plan wherein Grace finds a screwdriver inside the garage, climbs up to this little boarded-up window, Parrie stands on Jean’s shoulders and breaks the window, Grace is able to squeeze the screwdriver out to her, and Jean breaks the padlock. Then they all take off running because lights have come on in the professor’s house. Someone shouts at them as they run away. Excitement!
They stop at the All Night Market to get some snacks and a drink for Grace, because Jean thinks if they get stopped it’ll just look like they came out to get “stuff for the munchies.” If you use the phrase “the munchies” to the cops, they’re definitely going to think you’re stoned, girls.
As they walk back to campus, Grace tells them that she’d gotten to the house and had let the air out of two tires when someone came into the garage, started the car, and walked out again while she was hiding. After about fifteen minutes, she realized they weren’t coming back, and discovered both the garage door and car doors were locked. Uh, okay, how long does it take a garage to fill up with carbon monoxide? Because this seems like way too long to just sit around waiting instead of being like, oh maybe I should try to leave.
[Wing: Even if that wasn’t long enough, surely it was before her “friends” showed up to help her.]
Anyway, Jean is disbelieving and harsh at the idea that someone would have deliberately tried to kill Grace. You know, because it’s totally normal to let your car warm up in a locked garage. No way at all you’ll choke on fumes when you open the garage door to get in your car. Fucking hell.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: +1 (2)
Parrie wants to know who would do that besides one of them; Grace starts to agree, but Jean protests that it was Professor Giulliani; he must have seen Grace, seen the tires, and decided to teach her a lesson. Really, Jean? A deadly lesson?
Then Grace protests that the prof is crazy, but he’s not that crazy.
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +10 (20)
They debate which one of them could have done it, then suggest some weirdo might have followed Grace. I would give credit for not saying some “crazy person” might have followed her, but too much damage has been done at this point. Fuck you, Thacker.
[Wing: B U R N I T A L L]
As they part ways at the Quad, Jean tries to convince herself and the others that the prof just absentmindedly started his car and forgot about it. She says she needs to believe that. Because . . . reasons?
The next day, Parrie goes to Professor Giulliani’s Western Civ class, where he’s his usual dickish self; runs into Bryan in the student center; sees that the prof’s T-bird has four perfectly fine tires; gets jumpy when Bryan mentions dares because she’s convinced he knows about everything they’re doing; then gets coffee with him. Carol approaches her when Bryan gets up and commends her for rescuing Grace. Parrie realizes she doesn’t like Carol, and is shocked at herself because she’s never disliked anyone before. Seriously? I disliked people in preschool; you’ve really made it eighteen years without disliking anyone, Parrie? Are you a goddamn Disney Princess? Fucking hell, this girl.
Carol tells her to be at her room at seven o’clock, and Parrie knows it’s for another round of the game.
We’re more than halfway through, and like one phone call and one scary thing have happened. Whoo. I don’t know how I’ll sleep tonight with all this suspense and excitement. *unenthusiastic spirit fingers*
[Wing: Is that just sticking your middle fingers up? Because that’s what I’m picturing and it’s great. Unenthusiastic spirit fingers this, assholes.]
At the meeting, Parrie looks around and wonders why they’re still playing the game, wonders if anyone else sees how silly and how sick it is, then thinks that sooner or later someone is going to have to lose – or die trying not to. *yawn*
If you were on the edge of your seat wondering how Mallory survived walking home alone at night, she went to the Ranger Station and told the ranger on duty that she’d had a fight with her boyfriend, then the ranger drove her home. Welp, sure glad we wasted a paragraph on that.
[Wing: But was the ranger cute?]
Carol passes out sheets of paper to write their new dares on, and Parrie thinks that she could stop right now, just walk out. But then what if the others make a dare about her, and instead of having friends she becomes the outcast?
Of course she keeps playing.
The dares are as follows: Lil has to steal someone’s midterm paper as they’re on their way to turn it in; Jean “fittingly” has to follow an unpopular RA home and scare her, and I have no idea why that’s fitting, but Thacker told us it is, so . . . so say we all, I guess; Carol has to borrow the RA’s cat and lock it in the room of a girl who’s deathly afraid of cats while she sleeps, and not only is this a shitty, shitty thing to do to someone with a phobia, it’s also a damn good way to get the cat injured or killed; Mallory has to replace someone’s birthday candy (because that’s a totally normal thing) with chocolate laxatives; Grace has to mix up everyone’s laundry in the dryers on the busiest laundry night; and our girl Parrie has to spend the night in Nightmare Hall. Which is a thing she insists she just can’t do.
Once again, all these dares (except maybe the cat one) are so much middle school summer camp weaksauce.
[Wing: The midterm paper is also very shitty toward the person who wrote the paper, but yeah, these are pretty pointless. Also, we’ve already had people spend the night in Nightmare Hall, haven’t we? So not all that unique or difficult, either.]
Cut to Parrie, Lil, and Grace running on the track. Lil takes off ahead of them, and Parrie and Grace discuss quitting the game – Grace wants to in theory, but she won’t; she suggests that the whole “locked in a garage with a running car” thing might have been an accident, and demands to know who would have wanted to do that to her. And I feel like we’ve covered this ground before, so I’m moving on.
Lil laps them for like the eight hundredth time, and Grace comments that she’s insane; how can she keep running and running like that?! And while obsessive tendencies are a part of many mental illnesses, I get the feeling this isn’t what Grace is getting at, so . . .
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +30 (let’s just go ahead and call this 50)
Parrie counters that that’s what jocks do, and Grace argues that it’s like she’s driven; she’s like a game junkie or something. Leading Parrie to muse that “Lil is insane . . . a game junkie” and that maybe the Truth or Dare game had totally warped her and sent her around the bend – made her turn it into a game of Truth or Die! Hey, that’s the name of the book! Oh, and also:
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +50 (100)
Sorry, what was the logic here? Playing a sleepover game made Lil go crazy? Is that right?
Parrie starts asking how much Grace knows about Lil, and she doesn’t really think she’s crazy, does she? Then Grace says no, but Parrie’s going to make herself crazy, and Parrie starts wondering if she is going crazy and if she’s going to lose her friend because she’s acting irrationally, irresponsibly, insanely. And yes, it’s a very common fear that your friends are going to give you the side-eye and treat you differently, even abandon you when they find out about your mental illness, but yet again, I don’t think that’s actually the point Nola “Hack” Thacker is making here, so behold my irritation in counter format:
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: +100 (200)
[Wing: FUCK EVERYTHING. I was incredibly fortunate that my nearest and dearest have been mostly supportive (my dad, in particular, doesn’t really understand mental illness, and we’ve had many long conversations about how he doesn’t have to understand it, he just has to accept that we are dealing with it), but there are plenty of people who had shitty people in their lives. And even I’ve dealt with casual acquaintances being terrible about it.]
In the locker room, Lil finally comes in, but begs Parrie to start running with her again. Parrie points out that she’s already run three miles and won’t be able to walk tomorrow; Lil tells her she hates to be alone and she knows Parrie does, too. She follows Lil out to the track, which is now abandoned because it’s getting dark, loses sight of her, hears someone running behind her, and it turns out to be a skinless ghoul who grins at her and tells her that Parrie can’t get away from it; she wouldn’t daaaaaaaaaaaaaaare.
Parrie screams and wakes up, because of course Thacker gave us a terrible, terrible dream sequence. Of course she fucking did.
She wakes up still in her running gear, so I guess everything before the locker room actually happened. Groovy.
More waffling about the game; more thinking about how it’s making her crazy; more being too afraid to spend the night in a haunted house but being too afraid not to. Good, great, wonderful, glad we sorted that all out. *slams head into wall*
[Wing: I love how Thacker never wastes any time and uses her pages to give us brand new information. Great pacing in this book. Very exciting and tense.]
Cut to whenever the fuck later, and all the girls walking toward Nightmare Hall for Parrie’s dare. Carol asks if she’s afraid of the dark, and Parrie wonders how she knew; had she somehow read the secret in the lockbox? Yes, Parrie, I’m sure that’s it, and not the fact that you’re nearly literally pissing your pants. Mallory admits that she’s afraid of the dark, giving Parrie all sorts of warm twinsies feelings. Mallory says she has bad dreams, and Jean cuts in to ask if she has a guilty conscience.
Nightmare Hall is still closed to repair the roof, and all the residents have been moved to other dorms for the duration, leaving the house empty. Jean says Parrie doesn’t actually have to stay in the room where the girl died, but she has to stay upstairs. The others will take turns waiting below for Parrie to flash her flashlight in the upstairs window every hour on the hour.
Hey, I’ve seen this episode of Tales From the Crypt! There were zombie sorority girls whose house spelled out D.O.A. (Delta Omega Alpha); Wil Wheaton was in it; and, uh, it didn’t turn out too well for the majority of characters who were supposed to be spending the night in the creepy old house. I love that episode. It’s ten times better than this book; can I go recap that instead?
[Wing: I’d love for you to recap that in addition to this book.]
Okay, moving on.
Parrie finds a miraculously unlocked door, and discovers that the inside of the house is just like a regular-ass house that’s been empty for a month. Despite this, she thinks about how afraid she is as she makes her way upstairs, and hopes she doesn’t accidentally decide to spend the night in the dead girl’s room. She flashes her flashlight out the window and then snoops through peoples’ things for the next hour, wondering if this is how a spy feels. Sure, Parrie. I guess you’re the James Bond we deserve. Then she settles into an armchair with a book that she proceeds to read by flashlight. She’s brought extra batteries, so why not waste them, I guess.
The alarm on her watch wakes her at two; she flashes the light; wonders who’s down there watching for it; thinks again about how scared she is; then falls asleep. You know, how you do when you’re terrified. She wakes up half an hour later when she hears a footstep on the creaky stair, then hears another sound right outside the door!
Dun-Dun-Dunnnnn!: +1 (3)
Parrie calls out, but no one answers. The door starts to creak open, and she positions herself behind it. In glides a figure wrapped in ghostly white, with no head. Okay. It moans “Parrieeeee,” and if we thought Parrie was going to freak out, we were wrong. She steps forward and taps it on the shoulder, asking, “You called?”
I feel we missed a prime Addams Family “You rang?” moment here. Just one more black mark against Nola Thacker. Lurch rules.
Oh, right, the ghost. The sheet falls to the floor as Jean shrieks that Parrie nearly scared her to death, like that wasn’t what she was trying to do to Parrie. So, if the ghost was Jean wearing a sheet, why would the ghost be headless? You can still make out a head when a person is wearing a sheet.
Somehow an entire half hour must have gone by, because Jean points out that it’s time to signal Carol now. Parrie does, then asks if Carol was in on Jean’s little prank, but Jean isn’t listening because she’s heard something. Parrie thinks it’s another prank, but then she hears something too; something unlike the normal house noises she’s been listening to for hours on end. Except it’s not what she’s hearing; it’s what she’s not hearing. The house is supernaturally silent. Man, if only. I’d give anything for Sam and Dean to come liven things up a little.
The Winchesters don’t show up, but another ghost does. This one is apparently floating off the floor and glowing. So, this, then?
Parrie has a death grip on Jean; Jean is terrified and shrieks that they didn’t do it; the ghost demands that they tell the truth and then whispers “Truth or dieeeee.”
Jean wrenches free, and Parrie can’t tell if Jean lunges forward or if the ghost drew her forward to its fatal embrace. At any rate, the ghost has Jean, and Parrie screams and passes out. Because wimmin be faintin’!
Some time later, the other girls try to wake Parrie up, but she’s firmly on the cusp of consciousness. They feed her coffee with milk, which she finds disgusting, but still doesn’t wake all the way up. [Wing: I find coffee pretty disgusting anyway, but coffee with milk or creamer is a pretty standard way to drink it, Parrie.] Grace shakes her, and Parrie complains that they keep trying to make her sick. Then she suddenly remembers what happened, and shoots up, because I’m sure that’s how consciousness works.
The others think the ghost she saw was just Jean, but she snaps at Carol to stop being condescending, because Jean saw it too, and it kept telling them to tell the truth. The girls all fall silent at that revelation, and then Lil discovers that the back of Jean’s head is all bloody. Carol insists they all get their stories straight before getting help for her, because Carol is a cold-hearted snake.
Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: +1
[Wing: Look, if I get it stuck in my head, you have to listen to it too.]
As they prepare to get help for Jean, Parrie mutters that the game has gone too far and they have to end it. Then as she looks around at the others, she thinks that maybe it’s just beginning.
There are only forty pages left in this book; I’ve given up on anything beginning, Parrie.
Parrie sleeps the day away til ten that night; talks to Grace on the phone; Jean apparently has a concussion, but she’ll be fine. She’s in the hospital, so at least the head injury is being taken seriously, negating the need for a counter here. She’s still unconscious, so hasn’t been able to tell anyone what happened yet. And Parrie is acting weird about the whole thing, leading me to suspect she’s the villain and we’ve got an unreliable narrator on our hands.
But then Parrie starts thinking about how much she actually hates Carol, and how this whole thing was Carol’s idea and she’s probably the one behind it all. She also thinks again about how horrible, dark and vicious the dares have been, and how they almost took on a life of their own, and I’m still waiting to read that book instead of this one. [Wing: The premise of these books almost always sounds great. And then we get to the actual execution.]
She wonders what power Carol has over the others, and why they can’t see how terrible she is, then thinks yet again that she’s not going to play the game any more. She feels she’s a lone player in a game of life and death, and the only way to stay alive was not to play.
My, we’re being awfully dramatic considering how boring these “threats” have been so far.
After a day of skulking around avoiding the other girls, Parrie tracks Bryan down at the library to tell him everything that’s been happening. They walk to a topiary garden, and at this point I desperately want Stephen King to jump in here and make these topiary animals come to life and start terrorizing people. Please, God, just let anything happen here!
She tells him everything; there’s a paragraph break and suddenly we’re in third person omniscient instead of third person limited. This is just a pointless bit to make us suspicious of Bryan, and it doesn’t go anywhere.
Red Herrings: +1 (3)
Parrie visits Jean in the hospital and asks if she remembers what happened, if she remembers the ghost. Jean laughs bitterly and says oh yes, she remembers the ghost. And then she stops talking.
See, shit like this makes me think Parrie is the villain, and Thacker is dabbling in split personalities. (She’s not. But I don’t know if this is what we’re meant to think, or if I’ve read so many of these books where this was the case that I’ve started to expect it. Is this a me thing, or a you thing, Thacker?)
The girls, sans Jean, meet in Carol’s room again. There’s some arguing about the game getting out of hand, and Carol insisting they see it through to the end, claiming with one more round they might get to the bottom of things. She asks if Parrie wants to quit; wants them to read her secret, and Parrie shouts “No!” and says she’ll play another round. Way to stand your ground there, girl.
Carol tells us “this is what we’re going to do,” but then the chapter ends and we don’t get to find out what we’re going to do. Yes, yes, Thacker, draw the “suspense” out some more, why don’t you.
Parrie goes to Grace’s room, because we’ve taken another jump into the future, and they go meet the other girls to walk across campus for the Truth or Dare game. Now we find out some of what they decided to do – they each wrote a location down and drew at random. The location they got was Lookout Point, so that’s where they’re heading now. What they plan to do once they get there, we’ll have to wait to find out! So exciting! *dies from boredom*
They reach their destination and Carol pulls out the Truth Box and the vase from the bag she’s been carrying. She says that after this round, they can all have their secrets back. Oh, happy day! They all write their final dares and drop them in the vase; Lil draws first and her dare is to tell the truth.
Again, this really isn’t how Truth or Dare works, but if it’ll get us to some sort of action, I’m okay with it.
Lil settles in to tell the story of ten years ago, when she was eight years old and at summer camp for the first time. Dear God, I can think of half a dozen Point Horror/Fear Streets with this same plot, fuck me.
Lil was super excited about camp, and got so good at swimming that she was moved to the advanced class. She and the other advanced swimmers thought they were hot shit. There was another girl, a klutzy girl, who wanted to join them, but she wasn’t much good at anything, and the other kids made fun of her, dressed as ghosts to scare her, short-sheeted her bed, and put salt in her cereal. [Wing: So, uh, basically the same level of dares they’re doing now.] She always laughed along with them and just kept trying to hang out with them. Oh, honey. She finally passed the advanced swimming test (fucking hell, how long was this summer camp? Three years?) and they tolerated having her around, but didn’t really accept her. She still wasn’t very good, and was afraid of the high-dive.
Lil and some other girls formed a secret club that Klutz Girl wanted to be part of, so Lil told her that they had a nasty initiation and she’d tell her what it was later. But she and the other girls couldn’t think of anything bad enough to keep her out, so they kept putting her off. Finally they started joking with each other that they should make her dive off the tower at midnight. They decided not to tell Klutz Girl about this, but another girl overheard and told her. She went around telling her own bunkmates that she’d been given the challenge, and then the next day she was found dead in the lake. It looked like she’d made it to the top of the tower, then got scared, lost her balance, and fell, hitting her head on the tower.
Everyone blamed Lil, because they assumed she’d issued the challenge to Klutz Girl. But she and her secret club friends got together and figured out who’d actually issued the challenge and let Lil take the blame for her death.
[Wing: Reminds me so much of Camp Fear by Carol Ellis, which is by far the superior book.]
At this point, Mallory loses her shit, screaming “NOOOOOO!” and grabs Parrie around the throat and drags her over to the railing by the cliffside.
Surprise? (No, not really. It’s always the quiet one that the protagonist fails to suspect even once when she’s suspecting literally everyone else.)
Mallory yells at them that it was a joke, and it was all their fault that Jennifer died. Oh, look at that; Klutz Girl has a name after all. Mallory hisses that Carol was Carolyn back then, and she was the worst, always looking down her nose at other people, and Mallory wanted her to be blamed for Jennifer’s death.
Lil counters that everyone blamed her, and her parents had to move her out of town because she was treated like a criminal for a crime she didn’t commit. Mallory yells that she was just as bad as the rest of them, and calls her Jillian. Because Lil is the obvious shortening of Jillian, yes sir. Mallory tells “Sarah Grace” that she remembers her, too – the girl who was nicer to animals than to people. Grace exclaims that she was shy and homesick! Well, so was Mallory. So there?
Mallory reveals that she recognized Grace first, but then realized they were all in on it, even Parrie! Um, wait a minute there, girl. Carol tells her that Parrie wasn’t a part of it; she’s just as innocent as Jennifer was. Mallory scoffs at the word “innocent” and points out that Parrie sensed something was wrong with the game, but just kept playing even after Mallory tried to warn her and get her to stop the game. Uh, you made one phone call, hon. Let’s not oversell this.
[Wing: This is such a fucking mess of an ending.]
The wood railing Mallory has Parrie pressed against starts to give way; a new voice yells at them to stop; then Parrie grabs the vase that I was sure was several feet away from her at this point and slams it into Mallory. The railing gives way, and Mallory goes over; Parrie grabs her and asks if it’s true; Mallory shouts that yes, she told Jennifer about the initiation and went there with her and saw her fall; all the girls and Bryan (the new voice) haul them up to safety.
Time jump to fuck knows when, and the gang showing up at Parrie’s dorm room. I guess roommates, like parents in PH, are never around. Are they in Europe, too?
Anyway, Parrie’s not exactly happy to see them, but she lets them all in to explain themselves. Oh, god, this is the exposition chapter, huh?
Grace tells us everything we already fucking know between what Lil and Mallory already said, then we’re somehow supposed to believe that these five girls all coincidentally came to the same university. Seriously. It wasn’t planned. God help us. Lil recognized Mallory their first day of class, and thought it was the perfect opportunity to force her to admit the truth.
This plan is so fucking stupid, oh my god.
They planned the Truth or Dare game to make Mallory admit the truth. They talked about it, and this was the best plan they could come up with. Sweet baby Jeebus.
They shortened their names down, and changed their appearances somewhat, although the passage of time had probably been enough on that front. Although Lil recognized Mallory immediately, so maybe not. They pulled Parrie into the game for camouflage, and started off with swapping the sugar for salt because that used to happen to Jennifer all the time and they thought it would plant a seed in Mallory’s subconscious. But then she’d locked Grace in the garage (Mallory had had a cab waiting for her at Bottomless Lake to take her to the prof’s house) and they realized she’d recognized Grace at least, and maybe all of them. But they weren’t positive, so they kept playing like a bunch of fucking dummies. Oh, apparently Mallory made herself into a ghost with some stuff from the drama department, because why not. And even though Parrie had nothing to do with any of it, they kept thinking that she could quit if she really wanted to.
I bet there’s something to say here about peer pressure, and the pressure to conform, but this book isn’t handled well enough to make that point.
[Wing: Oooh, that might have been interesting. Shame it didn’t actually come through.]
Parrie keeps calling herself a wimp because she kept going along with it all, because she wanted friends and she was afraid they’d find out her darkest secret – that she once purposely lost her little sister at the mall, then got locked in a store when she went back to look for her. It’s why she’s afraid of the dark. Literally nobody is shocked by this, asking “That’s it?”
They’d all written the same thing on their secret slips, except Mallory’s was blank; they’d all written Lookout Point and folded their papers in a particular way. Sure, yeah, okay.
Grace says that maybe they can start over and be friends, and Parrie is doubtful. Everybody gets up to leave, and Parrie calls Grace over. She says that she doesn’t know about the others, but eventually she’d like to try to be friends with Grace, one-on-one, not as part of the group. Grace would like that too. After she leaves, Parrie calls Bryan, and as much as everything else is annoying me, I’d still like them to be together and tell the story of how they met at every opportunity.
This is the first Nightmare Hall book I’ve reread in probably about twenty years, and I gotta say, I’m disappointed. I knew not to get my hopes up with Thacker ghostwriting, but this was even more boring than I was expecting. I couldn’t even rage about anything because I was just so bored.
Also, this needed a better editor. I don’t know if the Kindle version fixes the typos (I had a print copy), but there were multiple typos, including at one point Lil being referred to as “Liz.” Cool.
This would have been more fun if it were worse, but as it is, it’s just a solid MEH.
[Wing: I’m going to guess the Kindle version (if it even exists, because it doesn’t on Kindle Unlimited at the very least) doesn’t fix it. They’re usually even worse. Much like this book was even worse than I remembered even the worst Nightmare Hall being. So much potential, so little fun. But your recap is a delight!]
Mental health with tact and sensitivity: 200
Red Herrings: 3
Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 1
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 2
Pointless foreshadowing for fun and profit: 2
Continuity? Fuck that shit!: 1