Recap #23: The Train by Diane Hoh

The Train by Diane Hoh
The Train by Diane Hoh

Title: The Train by Diane Hoh

Summary: Hannah and her friends are on a train trip that begins as a fun cross-country tour – until they learn that Frog’s coffin is on board with them.

His real name was Roger, but he was nicknamed Frog by his classmates, who taunted and ridiculed him.

One by one, Hannah’s friends guiltily confess the nasty things they did to Frog. And then, one by one, they are viciously attacked.

It seems Frog is out for revenge. But Frog’s dead – isn’t he?

Tagline: A one-way ticket… to terror.

Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall. [Wing: And of course Dove tries to inflict “Muffin Man” on our guest snarkers.]

A quick introduction by Dove:

Hi all, Dove here, hijacking Dade’s post.  Since Wing and I were tied up with other stuff, we put out the feelers to see if anyone else wanted to recap in the interim.  Dade, who you’ve probably already met under a different name in the comments here, was the first to reply.  So, from Wing and myself, thank you for doing this for the site.

[Wing: Thanks so much, Dade! You did an excellent job on a book that overall bored me.]

Initial Thoughts:

Diane Hoh’s my favourite Point Horror author. She doesn’t try to be trendy. She writes solid mystery thrillers that just happen to be about teenagers. (Unlike D.E. Athkins/Nola Thacker, who was cringeworthy, and ironically ghost-wrote some of Hoh’s Nightmare Hall entries). [Wing: That’s news to me. Interesting.]

I was about 12 when I first read The Train. I liked it, but I can remember writing my own fan-fic sequel in which I killed off all the survivors, because I didn’t like them very much. (My first recap and I’m already confessing dark secrets about my juvenile fiction writing career). [Wing: We embrace fanfic around here.]

Time to regress to my 12-year-old self (unfortunately not hard) to see why I felt this way.


Hannah Deaton is part of Parker High School’s Teen Tour from Chicago to San Francisco. Some thirty students from the school are taking part as an opportunity to “see the country”. Hannah feels bad for all the students at the train station who aren’t part of a group. So here’s a break-down of Hannah’s group:

Hannah Deaton – naturally wavy, chocolate-ice-cream-coloured hair. It’s suggested she’s short, and only weighs 96 pounds soaking wet. I’m in Australia, and we use kilograms. (Somebody convert! [Dove: For Dade, 43kg, and since I’m in the UK, I need stones and pounds: (8st 6lbs)]) She is scared of trains (?) because “they went awfully fast, their coaches swaying dangerously as the wheels sped over the tracks”. [Dove: This I get. Sort of. I didn’t like trains when I was a teen.  I always had the worry that someone in charge would change the destination, and everyone else knew about it and I didn’t. This particular paranoia is known in Dove-world as “the Secret Rules”. I have lots of variations of that idea, and I worry. A lot.]

Mack McComber – tall, dark-haired with a strong, rugged face. There is also a mention of muscles. He plays football. He is Hannah’s boyfriend.

Kerry Oliver – tall, olive-skinned, with long, straight black hair. Hannah’s best friend. Apparently the best-dressed girl in school. She can’t believe students can only bring one suitcase on the week-long trip.

#FirstWorldProblems: (if you need this explaining, you probably live a life filled with #FirstWorldProblems) 1 point

Lewis Reed – as tall as Kerry, stick-thin, with carroty hair. He wears wire-rimmed glasses. He is Kerry’s boyfriend.

Hannah takes the time so show sympathy (read: scorn) for the likes of Eugene Bryer, Dale Sutterworth and Lolly Slocum. Dale is fat, Lolly is stocky with sad eyes and lank blonde hair, and Eugene looks sullen. They don’t look like they’re having any fun at all, and Hannah can’t understand why they even came on the trip. She wonders what it’s like to be on the outside, always looking in. She doesn’t take the time to wonder why she’s on the inside and always looking down. She’s grateful that she and her little group don’t fall into that “dismal” category. Okay, it’s only page 2 and I’m finding Hannah rather judgmental and snobby.

Cheer on the killer: (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants him or her dead.) 1 point

Shortly after boarding, Kerry has a fit after discovering that her carry-on bag (which is in addition to her suitcase) was deemed too big, and had to be stored in the baggage car, rather than in the compartment she would be sharing with Hannah. She had all her make-up and hair supplies in that bag, and is appalled at the idea of having to walk between her compartment and the baggage car every time she needs to change her “look”.

#FirstWorldProblems: 2 points

Cheer on the killer: 2 points (assuming I can include the protagonist’s friends in this category).

When Hannah offers to share her stuff with Kerry, she is shot down because Kerry thinks Hannah only uses cheap stuff, which would give Kerry a rash. This makes Hannah flush and fall silent.

Page 8 and, well, I kind of hate Kerry already.

Cheer on the killer: 3 points

The group thankfully refuse to get Kerry’s bag for her, so she’s forced to get it herself from the baggage car. However, when she returns to the compartment she shares with Hannah, she is still without her carry-on bag. She is shell-shocked – when she was in the baggage car, she discovered that there was a coffin in there!

Hannah and Kerry debate whether the coffin is empty or not. Kerry eventually convinces Hannah to come to the baggage car and find out for sure. On the way, we also discover that Hannah is scared of small or narrow spaces. They find the coffin, and Kerry sees a tag attached to it, which reveals it contains the body of Frederick Roger Drummond, on his way to San Francisco, where his parents live.

Frederick Roger Drummond = Frog. Uh oh.

Kerry’s reaction:

How could they put it on this train? It’s just not right! Why didn’t they put it on a regular train with people who never knew Frog? Why did they have to put it on this one and ruin our trip? It’s not fair!

The whole world revolves around Kerry. Blerg. Cheer on the killer: 4 points

They rush back to The Cafe (a cafe on the train) to tell Mack and Lewis all about it, but the boys are not too concerned. In fact, Mack already knew the coffin was on board, but didn’t think it was a big deal, or that it was something he would bring up in normal conversation. At this point we’re also introduced to Jean Marie Westlake. She used to date Mack, but Hannah isn’t jealous of the prior relationship.

We learn that Frog died when he drove his car into a wall. Firemen spent forty minutes trying to free him from the wreckage before the car burst into flames. [Dove: every car crash in the PH-verse ends like this gif:]

*explodes and kills everything*
*explodes and kills everything*

[Wing: Pretty much ever car crash in USA media ends like that gif. Also, fire pretty.]

Frog was a trouble-maker sent by his parents to stay with his grandmother because he did rebellious stuff like speeding, skipping school and shoplifting. (I shoplifted a Freddo Frog from a chemist once, when I was 11. I was never caught).

[Wing: I had to look up that reference, and what a weirdly adorable frog-shaped chocolate bar.]

Mack recalls Frog’s first day of school. He was asked to write his name on the blackboard. Everybody noticed his bad hair, bad skin, bad clothes and bad attitude, and just wrote him off. They were all appalled that his grandmother had money, but Frog just hadn’t cared about his appearance. Criminal! Frog didn’t like the name “Frederick”, so he used “F”, then proceeded to spell “Roger”. He got no further than R-O-G before Mack yelled out “Hey, the guy’s name is Frog!” The nickname stuck.

Although Mack admits it was a rotten thing to do, the group all agree that if Frog had just gone along with the joke, instead of getting upset, everything would have been okay. That’s right, guys. Blame the victim of the bullying, rather than the bully. [Wing: Excellent point.]

Cheer on the killer: 5 points

Now it’s Kerry’s turn to reveal how she was mean to Frog. He asked her out on a date, before he eventually wound up dating Lolly Slocum (the stocky girl with lank blonde hair mentioned earlier). He argued with her when she said no, and was so aggressive about it, she wound up laughing at him, as she didn’t know how else to react. This is fair. If a girl says no, you walk away. As much as I loathe Kerry, I’m with her on this one.

[Dove: This is the point I started really liking Kerry. At first I thought she was supposed to be the bratty alpha-bitch — but she’s also a nice girl, and wanting to look nice is no crime.]

Lewis reveals how he got Frog kicked out of gym class. He was told by the coach to pick Frog for his basketball team, but refused because he just knew Frog would be useless, and that would make him lose against the other team, led by Mack, and they had a bet going over who would win. Lewis’ argument with the coach was so loud that Frog heard everything. When Frog confronted Lewis, it led to almost-fisticuffs, and Frog was sent to the assistant principal’s office, and promptly suspended for two days. Lewis escaped punishment, as the coach needed him to remain on the team.

Mack defends Lewis: “You could tell just by looking at the guy that he’d be a disaster out on the floor.

Mack and Lewis are revoltingly judgmental. How could you tell just by looking at someone they would be bad at sport? Still blaming the victim.

[Dove: Pro-wrestler, Cesaro, is a bit clumsy outside the ring (there’s documented evidence of his feud with the ring steps he’s fallen over more than once, he’s even fallen off the apron on Raw).  He’s also one of the best pro-wrestlers of the generation.  Which is a really long way of agreeing with Dade.]

Cheer on the killer: 7 points (for both Mack and Lewis).

Jean Marie’s story is next. She was the editor of the school newspaper. When Frog came into the office to ask to be a reporter, she took one look at him and knew she couldn’t use him. She said they only took on new reporters at the beginning of the year, which was a big fib. She knew Frog would eventually figure out the truth. She just didn’t like him.

Cheer on the killer: 8 points

When the group press Hannah about what mean thing she might have done to Frog, she insists that there is no story to tell, and runs off. Uh oh. There’s more to this story!

The big problem here is that my sympathy actually lies with Frog at this point. All of these guys have taken one look at the guy and decided he doesn’t conform to their expectations. His grandmother has money, so he “should” take care in his appearance. They take one look at him and decide he’s not suitable to play basketball or be a reporter for the school newspaper. They make it out to be all Frog’s fault that he can’t take a joke, or have some sort of psychic ability to predict how he should act to make them all like him. How are they to know his behaviour might be a way to cover his internal insecurity? He was the new guy, after all. They never even bothered to get to know the guy!

Even my 12-year-old self was able to pick up that these guys were a bunch of dicks.

[Wing: Word. This is my first time reading the book, but other than Frog’s inability to take no for an answer, I really like the guy. He reminds me of Mr. Wing, who I am now going to call Snake. For reasons. Wrestling reasons, mostly. Snake’s ridiculously charming, but moved around a lot during high school, and could have been in Frog’s situation a lot, but for the ridiculously charming part.]

Mack tracks down Hannah to find out why she bailed, and the train goes through a tunnel, sending the train into darkness, and prompting shock from all the passengers. Huh? Tunnel = dark, folks. We also find out Hannah hates tunnels too. It’s to do with her claustrophobia, I guess. She certainly has a lot of fears, though. When the light is restored, everybody is shocked to discover that Lolly Slocum has a bright red print bandana wrapped around her throat and is choking to death.

Lolly survives the attack. Hannah ponders why Lolly was never more popular, because even though she was a big girl, she made an effort with her appearance, and was generally pleasant to other people. Because fat girls can never be popular, right? The friends all assume she never became popular because she dated Frog, and Frog was a creep. A doctor agrees to go with Lolly on an express train back home. As they watch Lolly board the reverse train, Kerry wonders why someone would want to kill Lolly, suggesting she wasn’t interesting enough to have something like that happen to her. Classy as ever, Kerry.

[Dove: To be fair to Kerry, that was Hannah’s interpretation of Kerry’s words. Kerry merely asked who would want to kill Lolly, which seems like a fair question if nobody disliked her. I think it’s Hannah that’s being Judgey McJudgey-Pants here.]

Cheer on the killer: 9 points

Hannah and Kerry are late to go to dinner, because Kerry has taken too long to get ready, changing her hair four times. On the way there, Kerry has to go back and get a gold chain. Figuring that Lolly’s attacker has gotten off the train the same time as Lolly did (why?), Hannah thinks it’s fine to stay and wait in the dark, narrow corridor (despite her claustrophobia), for Kerry to return.

DED FROM STUPID: (Exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.) 1 point

The Muffin Man (killer) [Dove: Dude, I made “fetch” happen.] [Wing: Oh god, you will never let it go now.] grabs her, there’s a scuffle, and she’s knocked out. She wakes up trapped inside a coffin. After trying desperately to escape, she passes out.

Next thing she knows, Hannah is out of the coffin and safe. One of the tour’s chaperones (Ms Quick), Hannah’s friends, and the train conductor are there. The kids all insist it wasn’t a joke – and the adults basically believe them! (With a bit of prodding). Pick my jaw up off the floor. [Wing: Trope avoided.] Of course, Hannah is left to ponder – where is Frog’s body? There’s not enough room in a coffin for two people!

Why is nobody else bothered by this little factoid? [Wing: RIGHT? That would have been my first thought. Also, Pretty Little Liars took this the believable step further and had the girl locked in with the dead body.] Anyway…

Hannah theorises that Frog might not be dead at all. After all, it was fairly common on TV for a character to be supposedly burned to death in a fiery crash, only to turn up alive later (Taylor in The Bold & The Beautiful!). Now he could be back, getting revenge on those who were awful to him. Except she can’t figure out why he would attack Lolly, if that were the case, as she dated him.

[Dove: While we’re here, I just want it noted that Kerry really takes care of Hannah in this scene, she cleans her hands, which were ripped up as she tried to claw out of the coffin (just like that creepy urban legend), and keeps saying she’s sorry it hurts. It’s actually a nice display of friendship.]

The next day, Hannah goes to see the doctor in Denver while her friends go out and explore the town and get breakfast. The doctor gives her a clean bill of health, and Hannah declines the offer of a trip back home because she doesn’t want a crazy person to force her off the trip.

[Wing: I’m just going to go ahead and explode now, get it out of the way, because the rest of this damn book … BURN EVERYTHING.]

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: (Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.) 1 point

Hannah catches up with her friends after their breakfast, but is worried when Mack doesn’t return with them. There’s some searching, but Mack eventually shows up, claiming he got lost. Hannah doesn’t believe him, and manages to overhear Mack telling Lewis he took off after a person he could have sworn was Frog. Why wouldn’t he tell the whole group? [Wing: Have to protect the delicate womenfolk, don’t you know.] Anyway, after coming to the conclusion it couldn’t possibly be Frog, he got stuck in a shed, which is why he was so late.

Hannah insists Mack was actually locked in the shed, and that Frog is really alive and out to get them all. She insists it must be the case, as the coffin is empty, and Frog is crazy. He faked his death so that nobody would believe it was him when got revenge on all of them for doing nasty things to him.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 points

When it’s again argued that Frog wouldn’t have attacked Lolly, since they were dating, Jean Marie conveniently remembers that she overhead the two of them having a fight in a clothing store. Frog was insisting that he wanted to go to a particular thing/place, but Lolly didn’t want him to, resulting in a near-screaming match.

Hannah exhaled deeply. She knew what Lolly and Frog had been fighting about. That fight was her fault.

Uh oh.

My, that’s awfully convenient: (“Oh, gee! You mean Billy-Bob has the exact information we need? What are the odds?”) 1 point

McGuffin, ahoy!: (An attempt is made to casually reference something that is clearly going to be a plot point at a later date. And it fails to be casual.) 1 point

[Wing: I don’t think we’ve had a McGuffin count for awhile. Nicely done.]

Kerry and Jean Marie head off for a shower. Hannah locks herself in her compartment. Ms Quick comes by with a detective. Ms Quick reports Lolly arrived home safely. The detective asks Hannah if she has any idea who would try to choke Lolly, or stuff her inside a coffin. Hannah doesn’t mention Frog, for fear she would be put in a padded cell.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 points

The detective isn’t very helpful, and suggests it could be a joke.

A sigh of disgust escaped from Hannah. He couldn’t seriously think it was a joke, could he? Why did adults always think that bad things involving teenagers were just “jokes”? As if everyone Hannah knew was running around stuffing people into coffins, just for laughs.

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: (When the protagonist experiences something genuinely frightening, such as finding a corpse, or that someone has been in their room while they were home alone, and it is treated as an attention-seeking prank. Or, when something is done that is written off as a prank or a joke, but is actually pretty damned spiteful.) The book acknowledges the trope, but it’s done without any irony, so 1 point.

[Wing: I am certainly going to start stuffing people into coffins for the laughs.]

After the adults leave, Hannah decides to finally rest. She turns out the lights, climbs up the small ladder so she can unlatch the top bunk from the wall, and climbs onto the bunk. Only to discover that Frog’s corpse is in there with her. Horrified, she escapes the compartment to find someone, but in her terror runs to the wrong end of the train car. She gets half-way back before Kerry and Jean Marie find her. Seeing that she’s hysterical, they get help. Mack, Lewis, Ms Quick and the conductor all arrive.

Of course, when they check, the upper berth is empty.

They all insist it was a nightmare (not a prank), but Hannah knows it was for real. She knows that somehow Frog is really alive and stalking the train. I like how Diane Hoh never tries to suggest that something supernatural is occurring, such as a zombie corpse being on board. In the hands of a lesser author (cough, R. L. Stine, cough), they would be trying to convince us that a burnt-to-a-crisp dead body was carrying out an elaborate revenge plan. Instead, knowing that nobody believes her, Hannah resolves to stay alert and on guard, while keeping up appearances for her friends. She figures sooner or later, Frog will show up.

Finally, at this point, I begin to like Hannah. She’s remaining tough in a scary situation in which nobody believes her.

They go to watch a movie with the rest of the class. In the darkened theatre, a highly-alert Hannah hears a whizzing noise, followed by an “Uh!” When the movie finishes and lights come on, lo and behold, Lewis is pinned to his seat, thanks to an ice pick that has penetrated the seat from behind, drilling into the flesh near his collarbone.

It’s only a minor wound and quickly treated. [Wing: As ice pick wounds generally are, of course. While I get what Hoh is trying to do here — inexperienced killer throwing an unusual weapon in the dark — the pacing is really off. All sorts of drama built up around Hannah locked in the coffin and the fallout from that, then racing through these other attempts. I mean, KILLER STABBED LEWIS WITH AN ICE PICK, and we are basically expected to shake our heads at his good luck in not dying and move on.] After this attack, Hannah announces her intention to check the coffin to see if Frog is really in there or not. As much as I don’t like most of these guys, they are pretty good, supportive friends to Hannah, and agree to go with her. Of course, the horrid Kerry has to whinge a lot first.

Cheer on the killer: 10 points

They get to the baggage car, and have only just started to lift the coffin lid, when the conductor catches them and the lid is hastily dropped. After accepting an excuse, the conductor lets them go. However, Hannah is satisfied. She managed to score a quick look inside the coffin, and recognised the tattoo of a rat with wings and bared fangs on Frog’s wrist.

My, that’s awfully convenient: 2 points. That tattoo’s never been mentioned before! And Hannah’s the only one who knew he had one?


So Frog is where he belongs, but that doesn’t answer the question as to where he was when Hannah was trapped in his coffin. The group needs to discuss things. Hannah refuses to go back to her compartment – which Kerry whinges about, of course. I really wish The Muffin Man had put an ice pick through Kerry’s throat, rather than Lewis’ shoulder. Sheesh.

Cheer on the killer: 11 points

“Kerry,” she said slowly, deliberately. “Frog may be where he belongs, but there’s someone else out to get us. And whoever it is knows which compartment is ours.”

Kudos once again for not going the easy route and trying to make out that this could be the work of a corpse, and letting us know in no uncertain terms we have a flesh-and-blood killer on our hands. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when clueless protagonists are all-too-ready to believe supernatural stories and legends. Here, the kids actually have level heads.

[Dove: Agreed, that’s why the new ones are so hard to believe. Defriended — it’s far more likely that a ghost is IM-ing the dude than he’s being Catfished? Hoh is good at this stuff, and she delivers supernatural too, which is something I crave.]

The group decide to spend the night in the Observation Lounge, and nothing untoward occurs. Hannah, Kerry and Jean Marie insist on taking showers before breakfast, and the boys agree to wait outside the washroom for them. Hannah thinks she hears Jean Marie finish her shower and leave. However, after she ends her shower, she can’t see Jean Marie. Outside the washroom, Lewis and Mack insist she never left.

When the detective (who is still on board) checks things out, he tells them all that it was a joke, as there are panels above the showers that lead into the ducts above the train cars. He figures Jean Marie hopped up into the ducts, and let herself into another compartment elsewhere.

(Strange place to have plastic panels. The people who built this train must have liked to watch girls shower).

Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 2 points

However, he’s thankfully quick to believe the kids when they insist Jean Marie would never do anything like that, because it would be a really shitty thing to do. So everybody starts searching for Jean-Marie. Hannah is proud of Kerry when she doesn’t once complain about having to search the train while her hair is still wet. Wow. It’s page 126 and this is the first time Kerry hasn’t complained about something. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to drop a house on top of her.

During the search, they hear a shrill scream, and Hannah sees a “bright blur of hot pink” sail past the window. Uh oh. Jean Marie was well known for wearing a hot pink bathrobe. Hannah pulls the emergency brake, the train stops, and Ms Quick soon confirms that Jean Marie was thrown from the roof of the train, and is now dead. She was dragged up through the panels by the Muffin Man to the roof.


Upset at the death and the uselessness of the on-board detective, Hannah flees back to her compartment. Where she is greeted by Lolly Slocum. Wearing Frog’s outfit. So… how do I summarise the various nefarious (band name! I called it) ways Lolly fooled everybody?

Once on the train back home, Lolly fooled the doctor, snuck off that train, and got back on this one. She used the panels in the roof (which are in all the rest rooms) to sneak into the ducts/crawlspace, and hid there while carrying out her revenge plan. The message from her parents was actually from Lolly herself. She tied the noose around her neck herself. She cracks a joke about Hannah’s imprisonment in the coffin, and Hannah responds with a horrified “You?”

DED FROM STUPID: 2 points. Stop being a f***ing idiot, Hannah. Who the f*** else did you think it could have been? You’re in the midst of the big Killer Reveal!

That was Lolly made up as Frog every time somebody thought they saw him. She was in Drama Club, but too fat to act (that’s the suggestion), so got stuck in hair and make-up. So that’s how she pulled off such a good impersonation when Hannah saw Frog in the bunk. (But it doesn’t explain how Lolly managed to replicate the dead body smell as well… )

Hannah then wants to know why Lolly is doing this.

DED FROM STUPID: 3 points. Stop being a f***ing idiot, Hannah. Why do you think? You had previously already established that you were being targeted because of the way you treated Frog. Although it’s not actually him, it’s still the girl who dated him. Not a far leap to make.

Lolly’s response reflects what I’ve felt through much of the book:

Lolly snorted, her eyes cold. “Are you kidding? Roger is dead, Hannah! Dead! Gone forever! I loved him. And you were all so rotten to him. He didn’t deserve that, Hannah. He was new and scared and he’d been dumped by his parents. He didn’t deserve to be treated like pond scum.”

I’m not saying I identify with Frog, but the book was obviously limited by its length and the fact that Frog was only “on-screen” during recollections. I was told, rather than shown, that he was a creep. Instead, the only impression I got was that Hannah and her friends made a snap judgement, decided they didn’t like him, and were horrid snots to him based on that first opinion.

[Wing: Again, I agree. In fact, what we see is a guy trying hard to make friends, and failing because of snap judgments.]

Anyway, Lolly reveals she killed Jean Marie because Frog was in love with her, and only dated Lolly because he couldn’t have Jean Marie. Lolly, lost in her hatred over Jean Marie, and not paying attention, allows Hannah the opportunity to escape. She finds her friends and the detective, and drags them back to her compartment. However, there is no trace of Lolly. Instead, the window has been smashed, and a suicide note has been left behind, suggesting that Lolly threw herself out the window, to her death.

[Dove: I find people who date someone just because they can’t have the one they really want to be loathesome. Ultimately, I agree that people made snap judgements on Frog and that sucked for him. But his attitude towards dating/women is sketchy at best. He harasses Kerry for saying no to a date. He dates Lolly because Jean Marie doesn’t want him, and he also (later) appears to have a crush on Hannah. And I think it’s sad that Lolly’s motivation is “I heart my scumbag boyfriend who treated me like shit”. It sort of feeds into that subtext that is freely available in all media (outright stated in an episode of Ally McBeal) that we fatties do not deserve love, and if someone does love us, no matter how damaging that love is, we need to be pathetically grateful and fight for it constantly.]

[Wing: To be fair, we don’t actually know that he only dated Lolly because he couldn’t have Jean Marie. That’s what Lolly tells us, but its her story filtered through Hannah’s understanding of people, and both are unreliable narrators. I agree that his inability to take no for an answer from Kerry is super sketchy, though.]

Hannah, suddenly recovering from her earlier stupidity, remembers Lolly’s remarks about hiding in the crawlspace. However, a lengthy search turns up no trace of Lolly, and Hannah eventually concedes that Lolly has committed suicide. As the train nears its final destination of San Francisco, Hannah agrees to see the sights before catching a plane home (an option open to any student who no longer wishes to remain on the tour).

However, this is only page 146 in a 164-page book…

The teens head to a place called Rockview. It’s a house on a hill that overlooks the water, complete with a restaurant and gift shop upstairs, and an arcade downstairs. Hannah gets separated from her friends, but takes the opportunity to go outside and get a closer look at the view of the sea.

A stone wall protects tourists from tumbling into the rock-filled sea below, but Hannah notices a section has crumbled, guarded by a rope. It comes complete with a sign that says:

Hannah continues to hang around, peering over the protective wall to look at the sea.


The place is isolated, and she has the walkway to herself. It’s wet and dark outside now.


Even if I didn’t already know Lolly was going to pop up for a final attack on Hannah, Hannah herself should realise it’s probably not a good idea to hang around a cliff-face with a broken wall when it’s deserted and dark outside.

I mean, come on. Really?

Lolly shows up, gets Hannah in a headlock, and pulls her into the roped-off area. Hannah at first thinks Lolly has a knife to her throat, but it turns out to be a canister. Of Frog’s ashes.

He was cremated, and the remains given to Lolly. Lolly ordered the coffin and is having it sent COD to his parents as a reminder of their son who they didn’t care about, and figures they’ll be pissed they have to pay the shipping invoice.

So… he was never in the coffin. Another place for Lolly to hide when they all looked for her after her apparent suicide.

Lolly has Hannah backed up against the crumbling wall. While Lolly continues the killer monologue, Hannah reaches behind her for a loose rock, whacks Lolly with it, and jumps to safety. The force of the blow makes Lolly drop Frog’s ashes. She throws herself against the wall to try and save the ashes… and plunges to her death.

And all is well.

Wait… Kerry wants to know why Lolly tried to kill Hannah when Hannah never did anything to him.

So Hannah must come out with her story.

Hannah was having a big party, and her father hired Frog to help with the yard work. He did so for a week, trimming, mowing, weeding and pruning. Each day he would comment on how just about everybody was coming to the party. Feeling sorry for him, and knowing he was working hard, Hannah INVITED HIM.

She felt sick, knowing she couldn’t take the offer back, and knowing Frog would definitely come. She was so worried about what her friends would think, and that Frog would ruin the whole event. So on the night, when he rocked up, Hannah fibbed and said she had the flu and the party’s cancelled. She said she’s sending everybody home, but they both knew she was lying. Furious, Frog took off… and crashed into a wall at high speed.

Cheer on the killer: 12 points

Oh, Hannah, I had slowly come to like you, but you’ve undone it all now.

Once again, we’ve been given a snippet of Frog’s personality. He GOT A JOB (none of our protagonists do). He WORKED HARD FOR A WEEK. But that STILL isn’t good enough. No, Hannah thinks he’s going to ruin the whole party if he shows, and rather than display an ounce of backbone, worries too much about what others think about her, and concocts a mean lie that inadvertently leads to a boy’s death.

Hannah resolves to never forget what happened. The others agree, including Kerry, although she’s more concerned about going shopping in San Francisco.

Cheer on the killer: 13 points

Final Thoughts:

Even though I didn’t like the characters, Diane Hoh kept me invested in the story. This is well-plotted, and doesn’t “talk down” to its readers by trying to incorporate trendy teen speak or trying to make us believe there’s an “undead revenge” plot going down. The pacing rarely flags, and the killer has a believable motive.

I just wish there had been more showing, rather than telling, in terms of Frog being a “creep”. 95% of the time, I felt sorry for him (his treatment of Kerry aside). If my 12-year-old self could see the protagonists for the selfish, judgmental jerks they really are, you know there’s a problem. (Kerry has got to be one of the more odious Point protagonists around). Nevertheless, this is still much better than your standard Point Horror. I should probably find a “bad” one so I can rip it apart more. [Dove: Stick around long enough, and I’ll lumber you with “Fatal Secrets”!]

[Dove: I may have wasted my rant above, but Lolly’s motivation hurts my soul — getting back at the people who made Frog’s life hell, that works, but it was undercut by the fact that Frog didn’t love her.  It would’ve been better if he’d just tried to make friends — maybe made Hannah even more uncomfortable by wanting to bring his “loser friends” to the party, rather than he’s a complete dick, who’s awful to his girlfriend and wants to bang the hot popular girls.]

[Wing: And that’s not at all what I got from it. He didn’t laugh at a joke made of the name he used instead of a first name he already didn’t like, he was going to play basketball with the guys but ended up kicked out of gym instead, he tried talking to people and got shot down, he got a job and got screwed over by the boss’s daughter — the Kerry thing is the only place I can actually point out that yes, that was shitty behavior. All we have is Lolly saying Frog only dated her because he couldn’t have Jean Marie, no other confirmation of that, and as I said, Lolly is unreliable. Further, you don’t have to love everyone you date, especially in high school.]

Final Counts:

Cheer on the killer: 13 points
Ded from stupid: 5 points
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 2 points
My, that’s awfully convenient: 2 points
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 points
McGuffin, ahoy!: 1 point
#FirstWorldProblems: 2 points