Recap #140: Nightmare Hall #10: Sorority Sister by Diane Hoh

Diane Hoh Nightmare Hall 7: Sorority SisterTitle: Nightmare Hall #10: Sorority Sister by Diane Hoh

Summary: When Maxie McKeon pledges Omega Phi Delta, she figures she’s got it made. She loves her new sisters. And everyone knows Omegas throw the best parties and go out with the cutest guys. But someone on campus isn’t crazy about the sorority. That person is just, well, crazy. And he – or she – is determined to destroy the house, and everyone in it. Joining Omega won’t change Maxie’s life. It will just shorten it.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point. Right in the back cover synopsis! Although, to be fair, Hoh didn’t write the synopsis.

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

I don’t remember ever disliking a Diane Hoh book, but Deadly Attraction and The Wish in this series have shown me they’re occasionally not as great as I recall (albeit a lot better than most of the YA thrillers at the time). This book has the misfortune of coming after The Night Walker, a tight, taut, complex little humdinger of a thriller that I could barely find fault with. So it has a lot to live up to. But I’m always optimistic when it comes to Hoh (unlike Nola Thacker), and I do have memories of this at least being fun. Note: I have no knowledge of how fraternities and sororities work, because we don’t have them in Australia. Any idea I have is based solely on books and B-grade movies.

[Wing: That cover makes me think of Dawn Schafer and Abby Stevenson from the Baby-Sitters Club, which cracks me up. I’d not read this one before, so had no nostalgic thoughts going into it, but I was a part of a music fraternity for awhile at university (yes, I said fraternity), but it wasn’t a social Greek organisation, and I assume much different than whatever we have going on here.]


On Saturday morning, Maxie McKeon (dark hair) and Tinker Gabrielle (real name Belle, tall with short, almost white hair) [Wing: Wait. WAIT. Her real name is Belle and she calls herself Tinker. WUT.] are hanging out in their room at Omega House, when Omega’s president, Erica Bingham (blonde pageboy) asks them if they’ve seen her jewelry box. It’s gone missing, along with a precious ring inside it that her grandmother gave her when she graduated. The two girls help Erica look. They wonder if they should ask Candie Barre (short for Candace, auburn hair, very beautiful) for assistance. Maxie recalls the first time she met Candie, and they bonded over the fact they didn’t like their names. Maxie’s real first name is Maximilia.

As soon as Maxie stepped foot inside Omega, she knew it was where she wanted to be. Candie’s mother is an alumni and previous president, and Candie grew up hearing about the sorority, and couldn’t wait to join the sorority. Tinker initially wasn’t pledged, but was able to join when a previous sister dropped out of school.

Candie is horrified that something could get stolen. Maxie wants to keep the incident on the downlow, because news like that would spread like wildfire across campus.

Really? A missing jewelry box would be the talk of a university campus? Ten (well, seven) books in, and Hoh still seems confused about the difference between high school and college.

[Wing: Not even sure one missing item would be the talk of the sorority house!]

A messenger arrives with a package for Erica. Maxie signs for it, and takes it up to Erica. When Erica opens it, it turns out to be the jewelry box. Maxie is unsettled. Who would take a jewelry box, and then return it? Erica isn’t fussed; she’s just glad the box is back and nothing in it was taken, insisting it was a joke. That evening, Maxie catches up for dinner with Jenna Dwyer, her roommate with her in Lester before she became a sorority sister. Jenna, a budding entomologist, wants nothing to do with sororities or fraternities, and is happy that with her funky dress sense, dyed orange hair and outspoken attitude makes her a mismatch for sorority life.

Maxie thought maybe Jenna did want to be part of a group, and offered to put her name up when a girl recently left after falling sick. Jenna was horrified at the prospect, and the place instead went to Cath Devon, previously of Nightmare Hall. There’s some talk about the haunted dorm, and a mention of how Cath quite likes the people there, even Milo Keith, and how they hang out on campus together sometimes. They hated each other in The Silent Scream, so that’s nice to hear. Maxie tells Jenna about the jewelry box. Maxie’s boyfriend Brendan Rafferty arrives then, and they ask Jenna to come to a movie with them, but she doesn’t want to be a third wheel. She says she hasn’t gotten a new roommate, and Maxie’s old bed is always there for her, and tells Maxie to be careful at Omega. I can’t help but feel they’re all overreacting a bit here?

Maxie has a troubled sleep (over a jewelry box???) and wakes up on Sunday in a grouchy mood. Things get worse when she’s reminded that the Omega Moms are visiting for afternoon tea. And even worse from there when she realises she has to cancel an afternoon canoe trip with Brendan. I would think cancelling a canoe trip would be a good thing at this university, but that’s obviously just me. [Wing: Sometimes it seems like the only outdoor even they have is canoeing!] When she calls to tell him, he’s pissed. He’s a complete dick about it, reminding her that he told her when she first joined the sorority that he wasn’t going to sit around and do crosswords while she did the sisterhood thing. He’ll go canoeing with Jenna, because she’s his friend too, and hasn’t got other plans. Is Maxie not allowed to have a life outside of you, Brendan? That seems very controlling to me. Let’s see how this pans out through the rest of the book.

Maxie and Tinker go to the kitchen to help with the food, but Erica has hired a caterer, and there are white uniforms everywhere. They go to the backyard. They are joined by Erica, Candie and Cath. Cath marvels how pretty it is. She’s been there at least a week, hasn’t she been outside yet? She remarks there must be a gardener, and we learn about Tom Tuttle. He gives Maxie the creeps. There are claims he looks through the windows. A sister called Chloe Bannister comes outside and informs Candie that Graham Lucas called for her. Apparently he’s taken an interest in Candie and become a bit of a pest, calling her, sending notes and flowers. None of the male characters are coming off too well here.

Candie changes the subject to her mother. She tells stories about her mother’s days in the sorority, and warns that it will be all that her mother will talk about. She frets about her hair, because she knows that’s the first thing her mother will comment on, then eventually rushes off to fix it. After half an hour, the girls head inside, which is when the mothers arrived, led by Allison Barre. She has bright red hair cut very short and is wearing a full-length fur coat. She’s followed by Erica’s mother, Joan Bingham. Maxie goes upstairs to tell Candie that her mother is here. Candie is still worried about her hair. She just knows her mother will hate it and insist on getting her hairdresser Tia Maria to fix it.

Sure enough, once downstairs, Mrs. Barre tells Candie her hair is too long, and she can get Tia Maria to come over. She leads her daughter away, and Tinker and Maxie agree it would have been difficult growing up with her, and no wonder Mrs. Barre is divorced. As for Erica’s mother, Mrs. Bingham has nothing nice to say about anything. Erica flushes repeatedly as her mother criticises everything. Maxie feels bad for Erica. Erica suggests a walk on the grounds. But Maxie, missing her own mother, goes to see if Mildred Booth, the housemother, needs any help in the kitchen. She’s nowhere to be seen. Maxie opens the fridge to get a Coke and join her friends back outside. Instead of plates of pre-prepared food, the fridge is now overflowing with a mountain of foul-smelling garbage. [Wing: Vomit.]

Erica comes into the kitchen and sees the disaster. She insists that Maxie delay everybody while she gets the caterers back. Although Joan is complaining about being hungry, Allison is keeping everybody entertained with her sorority stories. She says it was the best four years of her life, then hastily adds until her daughter came along. She says being a sister is for life, and it still keeps her busy now. Only Tinker can tell how upset Maxie is. When the caterer truck pulls up, Maxie goes to help. She complains to Erica that if the full crew had come back, the process would go faster. Erica says there were only ever three crew members. Maxie says she spoke to an old lady in the pantry, and that woman isn’t here now. Erica insists the woman wouldn’t have been part of the catering crew.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 point. I went back and checked. Maxie indeed grabbed some chips from the pantry, but there was never any mention of her speaking to an old lady who had her face to the wall.

[Wing: Creepy, though. Also, it certainly seemed like there were more than three people earlier.]

The food comes out, and Joan complains some more about the wait. Erica is unlike the Erica Maxie knows, apologising profusely for something that wasn’t her fault. When Maxie asks why she didn’t say anything, Erica says she doesn’t want her mother to know things might not be right at Omega. Her mother has become very overprotective since her husband died, and if she knew Omega wasn’t safe, she’d drag Erica out of school and back home. Maxie is shocked that Erica thinks Omega isn’t safe. Erica points out that someone has been in the house twice in the past week, up to no good. How safe is that?

Maxie joins Brendan for dinner at Vinnies and tells him what has been happening. He first suggests it could be Tom Tuttle. Then he suggests a girl who didn’t get into the sorority and is angry about it. This makes Maxie think about Isabella Sands and Holly Duke. Both had been shocked not to get in, and were aggressive about it. But Isabella was known to spread rumours about people, and Holly was shy and withdrawn. Both had been voted as not Omega material. And this is where I should point out my dislike for the idea of sororities and fraternities. Picking who is and isn’t worthy based on a preconceived notion of how you think a person should look or act like seems quite vile and elitist to me. I’m a shy person, but I loved university. I made a lot of friends because, you know, I was in lectures and tutorials with people interested in the same things as me. Once again, I should add, this is through the filter of someone who lives in a country where sororities and fraternities don’t actually exist. [Wing: I’m sure some social sororities and fraternities do good, and I know people who made great friends through them. However, there is often quite a bit of racism, sexism, fat hate, etc. etc. etc. around the Greek system, not to mention sexual violence.]

Brendan drops her at Omega, reminding her that Jenna is still roommateless should Maxie need to get out of there. Maxie goes inside, heads to her room, and sees Candie in a state of distress. Her ring, given to her by her boyfriend (who goes to a different university), has gone missing. They look, but can’t find it. The next morning, Maxie and Candie tell Mildred about the ring. She is also reluctant to get the police involved, but she will if it doesn’t turn up. Candie leaves for classes, and Maxie goes to take a shower. Just before she is about to leave, there is a knock at the door. It’s a doctor, who introduces himself as Dr. Michael Clark. He’s carrying a black bag, and has a handkerchief held to his face (hiding most of it), covered in red splotches of blood. He bumped himself getting out of his broken down car, and asks to use the phone so he call someone before campus security tows it. Maxie lets him in. Thinking Mildred and Tom are around somewhere, SHE LEAVES TO GO TO CLASS.


Maxie only seems to be worried about leaving the doctor alone because he was injured. Sweet, Maxie, but your naivety is clearly bordering on stupidity. [Wing: WHY MAXIE WHY?] Maxie grabs lunch with Tinker, and they are joined by Candie. They ask Candie if she told her mother about her ring. Why? It’s clearly been established multiple times already that both Erica and Candie do NOT want to tell their mothers that anything bad is happening at Omega. Candie wants to know if they’re going to make Cath Devon walk the wall tonight as the final part of her initiation. It’s a situation where the sister has to walk the wall around the fountain while blindfolded.

Now, the idea of hazing and initiations really repulses me. It’s juvenile and dangerous. I’ve seen enough made-for-TV movies (Dying To Belong starring a pre-Oscar Hilary Swank comes to mind) and episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to know that participants can be severely injured or even killed.  Why is it a thing? Here in Australia, there are major investigations going on because of horrifying images and stories that have emerged about what goes on during orientation week. It was truly disgusting. Once again, why people would take part in this eludes me.

[Wing: There are a couple of things in play, I think. The first is the mindset of “I went through it, so you have to go through it too” (aka “This is how we’ve always done it”) coupled with the second, group bonding because they’ve gone through something together. As a whole, people are social creatures and building bonds is important to them. Hazing and initiations are a part of that, whether it’s a formalised one at a social Greek organisation or an informal one at a workplace or an unspoken one for first years at a new school, etc. And some of them have their place; we had an induction ceremony when we started law school and there’s a ceremony when we get our law licenses, both of which make you feel a part of something much bigger than just you. And though we didn’t have hazing, the music fraternity had initiation and initiation tasks, mostly centered around learning the history of the fraternity, getting to know the rest of our pledge class, and once all of that was completed, being brought into the inner sanctum, where there were secrets and rituals. Obviously, things can go too far, especially with hazing. And one of the most frustrating things I’ve run into in my current career is the idea that everything has to be overwritten and convoluted because that is how it has always been done.]

Anyway, Maxie hasn’t thought much about the initiation. She just wants Candie’s ring to show up. Which it does (I’m assuming later that day, but it’s not clear), delivered by the same messenger. Maxie realises that somebody is still playing a game with them. [Wing: Was the missing food later delivered to them? Did I miss that?]

Erica has decided that tonight will be when Cath walks the wall. Jenna calls Maxie, wanting to know if she’d like to go see an Elvis Presley movie. Jenna is a huge Elvis Presley fan. She’s pretty ticked off that Maxie is blowing her off for a sorority hazing ritual. I’m with her on that one. However, she then suggests she’ll ask Brendan to come along too, since Maxie has no time for him either. Even if Jenna’s not into Brendan, it’s a shitty thing for a “friend” to do. [Wing: But didn’t Brendan take Jenna canoeing, or at least say he would take her canoeing? They can be friends and hang out without Maxie without it being something shitty, especially if they’re being left alone while she deals with other social commitments. She doesn’t have to be with them always, and they don’t have to sit around waiting for her to be free.] Maxie and Candie are responsible for helping with the food for tonight, so they go downstairs to the pantry. Inside, they are startled by Tom Tuttle, because the lights were out. He insists he’s just getting a can of beans, and Mildred Booth has okayed it. He tells them he knows they look down on him and think they’re better than him. Then he leaves. The girls turn the lights on, and reach for the containers they need, only to find they’re covered in masses of big, black ants. [Wing: Ostrich would be freaking the fuck out right now. He hates ants in the way I hate other multi-legged things.]

The ants are everywhere. They start swarming over the girls’ feet. Maxie puts a hand to her head, and it comes away covered in ants. She looks up and sees they’re on the ceiling too. Ick. At one of my old houses, the ants rarely got inside, but there were sometimes swarms of them in the area where I hung the washing. Those things can move really quickly. Maxie and Candie are trapped in the pantry, as the door has somehow closed behind them. They have to pound on it, and Erica finally comes to their rescue. The girls and Mildred discuss how it could have happened. Maxie and Candie think it can’t be a coincidence that Tom Tuttle was in there just before them.

Maxie asks if anybody had been inside the house other than the doctor. Mildred knows nothing about the doctor. Erica is horrified Maxie could let a stranger in after what’s been happening. [Wing: SERIOUSLY MAXIE WHAT THE FUCK.] Maxie defends herself, but when she calls the infirmary, she’s informed no Dr. Michael Clark was expected there. She says it will never happen again. Maxie realises that the ants must have been in the doctor’s black bag. She wants to call the police, but the idea is vetoed, with Erica saying it was just a prank, and that the police weren’t going to take an ant infestation seriously. But Erica, just a couple of chapters ago you were saying yourself the place isn’t safe.

So they turn their minds to the ceremony and get everything set up. It should come as no surprise that Cath’s blindfolded walk of the wall does not end well. One moment she’s going fine, the next moment, her ankle is turning. Instead of falling outside the fountain and onto the grass, she falls into the empty fountain itself, her right arm smacking into the concrete first, followed by her head. She lies there, still as death.

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

This place deserves a lawsuit: 100 points

An ambulance is called, and Cath is taken away, with a possible spinal injury. Apparently the last time something like this happened was 20 years earlier, when Erica’s mother took part in a hazing ritual. Back then she was required to walk the railroad bridge behind campus, and fell. [Wing: THE RAILROAD BRIDGE?! JESUS.] She was in a body cast for weeks, and the incident led to new rules for hazing (which nobody listened to, obviously.) When the other girls go inside, Maxie goes to the fountain, flashlight in hand, and discovers that the bricks have been tampered with in the same place where Cath fell. Maxie goes inside and tells Tinker. Tinker thinks the most likely candidate would be someone who missed out on being able to participate in an initiation. Maxie wonders what sort of crazy person would be running around doing these things.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 points

The next morning, Maxie tells Mildred about what she found, and Mildred calls the police. Maxie heads to class, and runs into Brendan on campus. He “yanked at her wrist”, to get her to sit down with him. I really don’t like this douche bag.  He mentions he heard the sorority is in trouble with administration. Maxie says she’s on her way to the dean to explain what happened – they all have to. Well, that’s news to me! When Maxie tells Brendan about what happened, he’s aghast at the fact it was deliberate, and that Maxie has no intention of leaving the sorority. Angry he won’t support her decision, Maxie rushes away and visits the dean. After a lecture on the university’s stance against hazing (um, enforce it, then), Maxie is excused. On her way to class, she is approached by both Isabella and Holly, who are not so subtly inquiring about taking Cath’s place at the sorority. Maxie thinks they’re selfish vultures, and tells them they’re never getting in. If you think they’re sabotaging the sorority, Maxie, maybe it’s wise NOT TO PISS THEM OFF. [Wing: Maxie makes terrible choices.]

After class, Maxie goes to meet Candie for lunch. She sees Candie in what looks like an argument with Graham Lucas. Maxie wonders why Graham just won’t take a hint, especially as he knows Candie had a boyfriend. It’s not normal. She drags Candie away from Graham, as he looks like he’s about to pop a blood vessel. Meanwhile, back at Omega house, Chloe answers the door to an exterminator, presumably there for the ant problem. He’s wearing thick glasses and has thick red hair under his cap. Chloe at least asks for identification, and lets him into the house.

When Maxie returns to the house, Erica informs her that Cath is awake and doing better, there’s no damage to the spine, but she’ll be in the hospital for another four or five days. Also, Tom Tuttle has put a peephole in the front door so that you can look at who is knocking. [Wing: …so someone can stab through it into your eye. There, I fixed it for you, Hoh.] At dinner there are two groups: those eating for comfort because they were anxious about the police visiting, and those who can’t eat at all, for pretty much the same reason. As Tinker and Maxie clean up, Tinker has to suddenly rush away to be sick. The police arrive and are let in, just in time to see Erica collapse and start writhing in pain. Several other girls, including Candie, start to get sick as well. The police call for an ambulance.

The police ask what the girls ate. Mildred says spaghetti. Maxie, who isn’t sick or in pain, reveals she didn’t eat anything at dinner. The police ask for a sample of the spaghetti to get tested. They all go to the hospital, where the doctor suspects botulism, which upsets Mildred. The police are the ones who suggest that if the food was okay (Mildred insists it was all natural ingredients), then maybe the food was tampered with. After all, the police were there to investigate a suspicious incident. They ask if anyone else had access to the spaghetti. That’s when Chloe pipes up about the exterminator. One of the officers says to the other that they should test the spaghetti for insecticide. The officer later reveals that the exterminator company doesn’t have an employee by the name of the one given to Chloe when she checked. Also, one of their trucks was stolen the previous night, and mysteriously returned tonight. [Wing: Good lord, I may never let any worker into my house ever again. Hope Ostrich doesn’t mind learning how to do everything we need done. (To be fair, he already does most things.)]

Maxie decides to spend the night at Lester with Jenna. Jenna insists they go to Vinnies, since Maxie hasn’t eaten. She’s not keen, but wants to keep Jenna happy, so goes along. She wants to freshen up before they leave, so she goes to the bathroom. Looking for a washcloth, she opens the cupboard under the sink, and her attention settles on a bright red curly wig. She remembers Chloe mentioning the exterminator had hair like that. So she wonders if maybe Jenna hates the sorority because it is driving a wedge in their friendship. When she asks Jenna about the wig, Jenna says it was when she dressed as Little Orphan Annie for a Halloween party. Maxie hadn’t been at the party because she’d been attending a sorority function.

At Vinnies, Maxie sees Brendan and he comes to join them. She tells him about what happened, and he only displays concern, asking if the girls are all okay. The food comes, but Maxie can’t stand being there anymore, and says she has to leave. She tells Jenna she simply can’t stay at Lester, because she needs to be at Omega. Jenna is none too pleased, saying it’s clear she can’t compete with the sorority sisters. [Wing: I understand her feelings, sort of, but also, Maxie is clearly going through some shit right now with her sorority sisters. It makes sense that she feels the need to be with them.] Brendan drives Maxie back to Omega. She thanks him for not pressuring her to leave, and he admits that he has no business trying to tell her what to do. Finally, Brendan, you’re being a bit less of a douche. They kiss on the front porch, but are disturbed by Tom Tuttle, who makes creepy comments about the girls being sick. She sends Brendan on his way and goes up to bed.

The police return the next day. There was no sign of anything in the spaghetti. They want to test the plates, but they’ve already been washed. The doctor had ruled out botulism, and it couldn’t have been food poisoning, as they got sick too fast. The police agree the bricks were tampered with, but dismiss it as a prank and mutter about stupid initiation rituals.

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1 point

The girls come home. Jenna calls Maxie and asks if she feels like escaping the poor spirits. Maxie gets angry and says she’s not abandoning her sisters, and plans to make soup. Jenna gets angry in return, saying that Maxie could have asked her if she wanted to help, and hangs up on her. Maxie tries to call her back, but Jenna won’t respond. Don’t blame her, really. I’m not sure about these girls’ friendship. The rest of the week passes without incident. Jenna remains aloof with Maxie. By Saturday afternoon, the sick girls are feeling better enough to go to the mall. Maxie decides to stay behind, because the thought of having the house to herself is too tempting. [Wing: Maxie. Why.] She starts with a hot shower.

Then she gets a phone call from Brendan, saying he can’t attend the Tri-Delt party that night. He’s driving his friend Charlie Donovan to Charlie’s sister’s engagement party in a town three hours away. Maxie is upset. The phone rings again. This time it is Graham Lucas, asking if Candie is okay. He’s been worried. She wasn’t supposed to be home that night. He’d asked her out for dinner, but she’d told him she had a date. Maxie doesn’t have the heart to tell him that Candie clearly lied to him about the date because he wouldn’t leave her alone, but reassures him Candie is fine, and suggests that maybe he should play hard to get. She’s about to start drying her hair, when the doorbell rings. Maxie gets frustrated. But then she remembers that the university was planning to have the house painted, and there would probably be several painters around the place – all carefully vetted, of course. Thinking the visitor might be one of them, she answers the door, although if it’s not someone who belongs at Omega, she won’t let them in.

The person at the door is a dramatic-looking woman. Tall, heavyset, with cranberry coloured hair piled high on top of her head. Her face is covered in make-up and she’s wearing thick eyeglasses. She introduces herself as Tia Maria, saying she has been sent there by Allison Barre to fix up Candie. Maxie remembers Candie mentioning Tia Maria, and INVITES HER INSIDE.

DED FROM STUPID: 100 points. Good grief, Maxie. This goes beyond stupid.

Then Maxie takes Tia Maria to her room.

DED FROM STUPID: 1000 points. Give this girl a Darwin award already.


Tia Maria offers Maxie a makeover while they wait for Candie, which Maxie accepts. Tia Maria talks about everything under the sun, before turning the conversation towards the awful things happening at the sorority house, including the insecticide. Maxie asks Tia Maria how she could know that, and Tia Maria says Allison Barre told her. However, Maxie knows that Candie would never, ever have told her mother what was going on at Omega, because her mother simply wouldn’t have believed her. Maxie is certain Tia Maria is a fake. No beautician would do as garish a job on herself as this person. Maxie tries to find an excuse to get out of there, saying she needs to lock the front door. Tia Maria insists she saw Maxie lock it, and grips the side of Maxie’s head. Obviously, she knows Maxie has cottoned on to the ruse.

Maxie casually mentions no trace of insecticide was found in the spaghetti, and Tia Maria lets slip it was sprayed onto the plates. Maxie makes her escape attempt then, throwing herself sideways. It causes some of her hair to be ripped out, because Tia Maria is holding onto it. Ouch. Maxie gets up and starts to run. Tia Maria trips over the cord from the hot rollers and is sent sprawling into the chair Maxie just got out of. Maxie hurries downstairs, Tia Maria still hot on her heels. There isn’t enough time to undo the two locks on the front door, so Maxie heads to the kitchen, shutting the door behind her and propping a chair against it. Tia Maria is still too close, and there isn’t enough time to undo the locks on the back door either.

Maxie nixes the idea of hiding in the pantry, as that would trap her. She notices the laundry chute, and figures she could slowly slide down that into the basement, and escape that way. She climbs into the chute, and holds on to the molding at the top, legs dangling free, as she hears Tia Maria come into the kitchen. While dangling, Maxie hears the phone ring. Then Maxie realises one of her slippers has fallen off. It must have fell while climbing into the chute. Indeed, it gives away her location, and the chute’s swinging door smacks Maxie in the face as a hand shoots in and grabs Maxie by the wrist.

This is actually a nifty little sequence. Silly, but fun. A pity it required such utter stupidity from Maxie to get to this point. Seems that when Hoh’s characters act stupidly, they act REALLY stupidly. Maxie hears car doors slamming outside, and voices. The hand lets go of Maxie’s wrist, and Maxie hears Tia Maria shuffling away and out the back door. She hears the front door opening, but it’s too late. Her fingers lose their grip on the molding, and she slides down the laundry chute.

She sprains her ankle when she lands, and passes out. She wakes up in her own bed, with Tinker, Erica, Candie, Chloe and Mildred surrounding her, wanting to know the full story. Mildred says she’s called a doctor to come and take a look at the ankle. Maxie tells her to call the police. The police ask if she was sure it was actually a woman, and Maxie supposes it could have been a guy in disguise. The police want a list of all the people who might have known about what’s been happening at Omega. It turns out to be a long list.

Cath is released from hospital, and decides to return to live at Nightmare Hall. The girls know things must be bad if Cath would prefer to live in a haunted dorm. When both Brendan and Jenna call to see if she’s okay, she lies about how she sustained the injury, not up for a “just move out of there” argument. She manages to hurt Jenna’s feelings in the process, as usual. By Monday morning, Maxie is up and hobbling around. She passes Candie’s room and overhears her talking to Graham. When she gets off the phone, Candie gives her reasons for why she thinks Graham is the Muffin Man. He’s the right size, and he hates the sorority because Candie uses its social activities as an excuse to turn him down. Maxie tells Candie to be careful around him.

The painters arrive Monday, and construct a scaffolding at the side of the house. Their presence makes the girls feel safer, but they are due to leave on Friday. The chapter is basically pure filler as the girls discuss again who could be doing this to the sorority.

This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 1 point

[Wing: Alas, not in a way that means people were doing high-flying tricks off the scaffolding, though. … not yet, at least.]

On Wednesday, Maxie runs into Charlie Donovan, who was the guy Brendan was supposed to be driving to his sister’s engagement party. She finds out Charlie never made it, because Brendan’s car broke down. So why hadn’t Brendan called her to say that he could come to the Tri-Delt party? She then runs into Jenna, and they seem to be on good terms. Jenna is forced to admit she attended the Tri-Delt party, as she is dating a guy called Skip, and he belongs to a fraternity. Maxie decides that because Jenna has a boyfriend, she must not be the one sabotaging the sorority. Hey, it makes about as much sense as anything in this book. Jenna says she didn’t see Brendan at the party.

She calls Brendan to find out what is going on. He did call Maxie, and she realises that was who was calling while she was in the laundry chute. So he worked on fixing his car, and then studied. He didn’t see much point in telling her he didn’t make it to the engagement party. This is all so dull and easily resolved I struggle to understand why it was even included in the first place. Brendan hopes to make it up to Maxie on Friday night, which is the April Fools party at the student centre.

On Friday, before the party, Maxie wants everyone to promise to stick together, but once in attendance, everyone is off doing their own thing. After an hour, she can’t see any of her friends. She sees Graham, and asks him where Candie is, and he says, “How would I know?” She finally runs into Chloe, and says she’s looking for Candie and Erica. Chloe reveals that Erica lost one of her pearl earrings, so she and Candie returned to the house to look for it. Maxie decides to head back to Omega, because her ankle hurts and Brendan has barely spoken to her, being too busy with the party, which he helped organise. She grabs Erica and Candie’s coats to take back to them, and hops on the shuttle. She puts on Erica’s coat because it’s chilly. When she puts her hand in a pocket, she feels paper, and also something that jabs against her thumb. She pulls out a napkin from the party, and inside it is wrapped Erica’s pearl earring.

Maxie thinks it’s highly unlikely that an earring could fall off an ear, promptly wrap itself in a napkin, and land inside a coat pocket. She thinks it must be deliberate. Erica must have wanted an excuse to leave the party, and taken Candie on a search for an earring that wasn’t missing. She knows that the house is empty of any painters or the housemother. (Though I can’t remember where it is that Mildred Booth is supposed to be). Maxie comes to the conclusion Erica has led Candie back to Omega for nefarious reasons, and is the person who has been sabotaging the sorority. But why? Maxie muses that maybe it’s revenge for her mother’s accident 20 years earlier, but thinks that’s insane.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 points

Maxie arrives at Omega. Without calling the police, or seeking help, or anything, Maxie goes inside.

DED FROM STUPID: 2000 points

She is greeted by the overwhelming smell of paint. She hears movement in the living room. She looks inside. Somebody dressed in a painter’s white overalls, white cap, and white mask covering the lower part of their face is lining open paint containers all along the living room. The fumes make Maxie’s eyes burn. She decides to sneak upstairs to her room for a phone (ah, the days before iPhones), but trips near the top. When she looks over her shoulder, the fake painter is standing at the base of the stairs, looking up at her. It’s a deliciously creepy image, right out of an 80s slasher movie.

[Wing: This is amazing.]

The painter speaks to her in Tia Maria’s voice, and Maxie runs. The painter methodically climbs the stairs after her. Maxie shuts herself in her room, tries the phone, but it is dead. The painter calls through the door to her, now using the voice of the fake injured doctor. Must admit, I’m loving this climax so far. Maxie notices the scaffolding outside her window, but she’s afraid of heights. But she has no choice. She eases the window open, and has to clamber over the windowsill and dangle before dropping onto the platform. She has to climb down a pole to reach the ground. As she makes her way, she sees Tom Tuttle’s truck, and hopes that he’s home. When she finally reaches the ground, the painter materialises out of the darkness, ready for her.

Maxie screams, and this draws the attention of Tom Tuttle, who emerges from his garage apartment. Maxie yells out she’s near the utility room. But the painter melts into the darkness, and when Tom gets close, the painter whacks him across the head with a wooden board, knocking him unconscious. The painter then drags Tom and Maxie into the utility room, locking the door. The painter climbs behind a water heater, and Maxie realises she’s cut off from their view. She starts crawling across the floor, looking for a weapon. She needs to do something before the paint fumes sent the house up in flames.

However, her foot knocks a painter’s green spray bottle with its green tubing into the wall, capturing the painter’s attention, who stands up from behind the heater and turns around. Maxie makes a dash to the shelves, which have possible weapons, but the painter grabs her and pushes her up against the wall. Maxie grabs something and swings it, but the painter ducks. In desperation, Maxie pulls off the white face mask.

The person behind it isn’t Erica, but Candie. Candie shoves Maxie back to the floor. She reveals that she hates Omega Phi Delta because it’s all her mother could ever talk about for as long as she’s known her. It eventually caused both her father and brother to leave. Her mother never had any time for Candie or the family because she was always so busy organising and attending sorority events. She never loved her husband, son or daughter as much as she did her four years at Omega. Candie knows that a combination of gas and paint fumes will eventually cause the building to explode. Then her mother won’t have Omega Phi Delta around anymore to obsess over. She’ll finally have time for her daughter.

While she’s talking, Maxie notices the green spray bottle she knocked over earlier, close to her foot. It has a hose attached to its nozzle, and appears to be connected to one of the containers of paint lining the room. Maxie keeps her eyes on a ranting Candie, but uses her hands to explore the spray can, trying to figure out how it works. She turns a small knob, and the tubing begins to fill with paint. The spray bottle should fill up quickly. Maxie does the usual thing of getting Candie to admit all the nefarious things she did, such as spraying the insecticide on the plates (and she only faked being sick), and only pretending that Graham was into her, phoning her and sending her gifts, so that the sorority sisters would think it was him. Maxie says Candie started that fight with him deliberately because she knew Maxie was about to arrive to join her for lunch, and that Graham only sees her as a friend.

Um, no. This doesn’t gel at all with what’s come before. Chloe had taken a call from Graham, saying he wasn’t happy when Chloe lied about Candie not being there. Similarly, Maxie herself received a call from Graham, very worried about Candie being sick and mentioning how he’d asked her out to dinner. He obviously was calling her a lot.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 2 points

Candie reveals that mentioning the suspicious events while pretending to be Tia Maria was a mistake. What I can’t figure out is what Candie was actually hoping to achieve with the whole Tia Maria thing. As much as I liked the sequence, the end game wasn’t clear at all! Similarly, Candie says the stuff with the missing items, ants etc was just to let people know something wasn’t right at Omega. But why? Where did that get her? She hated Omega because of her mother. Yet she never told her mother about any of the horrible things going on there. Kind of defeats the purpose! Would have made more sense to blow the sorority house up from the get-go. Her motive doesn’t really contain much logic, in my opinion. (Oh yeah, Erica is lying unconscious in a cupboard somewhere). [Wing: I agree. While some of the scenes those things led to were fun, this plot feels built around what would be a fun scene to read and write, not what Candie would actually, logically do to achieve her end goal.]

When Candie fiddles with the hot water heater to start the gas leaking, Maxie jumps to her feet and pulls the spray can out from behind her. She calls Candie’s name. When Candie turns around, Maxie hits the knob on the nozzle, and sends a steady, thick stream of paint flying out of the nozzle into Candie’s face. She screams, and Maxie uses the opportunity to run to the door that leads to the kitchen, and duck inside. That’s when she hears her sorority sisters arrive  home.

Two hours later, Maxie is in her room, surrounded by her sorority sisters, and Brendan and Jenna. I’m guessing the police arrived to take Candie away? Maxie says she should have figured it out sooner, because when Tia Maria was doing her makeover, she noticed a lot of rings on her gloved hands, as if she couldn’t bear to remove them. It should have occurred to her that one of the rings was Candie’s. How convenient. I’m not sure how this adds anything to the story. Brendan tells her she should enjoy being a hero. Maxie feels secure knowing that everybody is now safe.

Final Thoughts

As far as books by Diane Hoh go, this was pretty sloppy. A lot of inconsistencies and continuity problems. While Candie’s motive was acceptable enough, her actions in regards to it were pretty incomprehensible. What did all that gaslighting and shenanigans achieve if her mother never knew about all the bad things happening at the sorority? Why did she visit Omega dressed as Tia Maria? For shits and giggles? Not a lot in this book really made a great deal of sense. Maxie’s friendship with Jenna is all over the place, and her boyfriend Brendan seems to display a lot of the signs of being controlling and abusive. And Maxie must be one of the dimmer dimwits we’ve had as a main character in a Hoh book. We know the Point Horror authors often had book titles and general outlines given to them, so maybe Hoh had to work with what she had.

On the other hand, I still enjoyed it. Sorority Sister had a strange, inexplicable charm to it, much like a bad B-grade movie. No matter how subpar it was, particularly compared to The Night Walker, it was still fun, and still better than a lot of other YA thrillers at the time. And Hoh really knows how to deliver a good climax when she wants to. Maxie being stalked through the sorority house by the Muffin Man, decked out in a painter’s outfit and talking to her in the same voices as all the fake personas they’d used was wonderfully creepy and suspenseful. If only the rest of the book had been up to that level.

Final Counts

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 2 points

DED FROM STUPID: 2000 points

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 points

This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 1 point

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1 point

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

This place deserves a lawsuit: 100 points