Nostalgic Bookshelf

Snarky recaps of nostalgic media, including Making Out, Baywatch, Blyton and Baby-Sitter's Club
5
Jul 2018
Making Out #6: What Zoey Saw by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Making Out #6: What Zoey Saw by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Title: Making Out #6: What Zoey Saw by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant

Summary: Zoey broke up with Jake after she fell in love with Lucas. Claire used to go out with Lucas, but now she’s with Jake. Are Zoey’s feelings for Jake really gone? Is Lucas totally over Claire? Their hidden desires are about to explode, all because of…What Zoey Saw.

Initial Thoughts

My god, the front of book summaries are kind of terrible and terribly dramatic, too.

Recap

Story opens with a letter from Mrs Passmore to Zoey started on the day she was born. She plans to write in it every birthday and when Zoey is sixteen, she’ll give her the letter. Mrs Passmore knows that Zoey will think it is sentimental and embarrassing, but she’ll understand one day when she’s a mom to a beautiful baby girl. Huge assumption that your not even a day old baby will want kids, but cool.

(I do love that she goes on to say that Zoey doesn’t have to be a mom when she grows up, she can be whatever she wants, except a Republican. Kidding. [I don’t think she’s kidding.])

They chose the name Zoey over Hillary because Zoey sounded more laid-back. Then it was the wrong choice because Zoey has zero chill. [Dove: But the name Zoey does not lend itself to mocking nicknames. If she was called Hillary, I’d call her Shillery, for all of the wailing she does.]

The actual present-day action of the book opens with Zoey staggering back into her room after seeing something terrible in her parents’ room: at the very end of the last book, after having a terrible time on that ski trip in Vermont (in large part because Lucas is a complete jackass to her about sex) and coming home early, she saw her mom having sex with a man who is not her dad.

Her mother tries to spin the idea that she was just watching soaps on her television in her bedroom. Zoey wants to throw the truth in her mother’s face, but then she realises that it would lead to instant divorce, the end of her family, and she doesn’t say anything.

Meanwhile, back in Vermont, Claire is skiing with Jake. Racing him, it sounds like. He’s stronger than she is, but she is smarter about the field, and her way is longer but faster. It’s the first time she beats him all day, but it’s their last run, so she says that it’s the only one that counts. Of course, the one that counts is the one she wins. That is perfectly Claire, and I love her.

Jake tells her that his rule is the winner has to kiss the loser, they fall over while they make out, and then kiss in the snow for awhile until Claire is too cold. They go back to the condo and the hot tub, which is nearly painful against Claire’s cold skin. I love that juxtaposition of cold versus warm; I was at a convention a couple weeks ago, and one of the days we spent at the pool, I hung out in the pool but hanging on the edge of the hot tub, which is for some reason set in one corner of the pool. The warm water against the cold pool was fabulous. My favourite pool ever (at least until I get an infinity pool overlooking the ocean) is one that has an indoor-outdoor section. Swimming in the heated outdoor section in the winter was beautiful. [Dove: I want all of these pools.]

Jake watches her body with admiration as she slowly lowers herself into the hot tub, and Claire once again thinks about the differences between him and Benjamin, and how even though it is nice to have a boyfriend who experiences her in more than just sound and texture, Jake will probably never know her true hidden thoughts and ideas and motives. Maybe no guy ever will again, because no guy will ever be indifferent to how she looks.

Ugh, Claire, you make my heart hurt.

She shakes off this melancholy, though, because it’s not like she doesn’t appreciate his massive shoulders and his long, corded arms.

They talk about whether Zoey left because of his talk to her about her article looking into the drugs on the football team rumours, etc.; he thinks maybe he was too harsh on her, but Claire disagrees. She then tries to tease him into a better mood by telling him he’d better not keep secrets from her, and she immediately figures out, based on his expression, that he already has. She decides to sit back and wait to see how long he holds out. Mostly because he’s really hot all wet and flushed and she doesn’t want to spoil the mood.

Back to Zoey, who is lying in bed and thinking about divorces and how much her father loves her mother and what her friends would think of it all and her own terrible heartbreaking breakups with Jake and possibly Lucas and how much it would hurt Benjamin and her father.

Sometime later, Lucas calls and leaves a message for Zoey on their answering machine because she doesn’t want to answer the phone. He asks her to call him and says he loves her, which is a pretty brave thing to do on an answering machine that anyone in her family might listen to first.

Zoey’s not sure what to say to him or even how she feels about him after her mother’s actions have shaken the core of her world. You know, Zoey is often terribly overdramatic, but I feel for her here. If you trust your parents and if you feel like a close, supportive family that will always be there the same way they are now, this could be a huge blow.

Of course, then she goes off on how she’s completely alone and she has to make all these decisions that might tear apart her family and his family (whoever her mom’s lover is) and probably there’s no explanation anyway, but she’s determined to uncover if there is a reason. And all of her confusion makes sense, as does her drive to figure out why this is happening, but I call bullshit on being alone. Nina came to you with a much more terrible secret. Benjamin trusts you to tell him the truth. You could have support from your brother and your best friend and probably Lucas, too, hell. Isolating yourself from Nina, especially, is on you.

Lucas is sitting around at the condo waiting for Zoey to call him back when Nina awkwardly makes her way into the guys’ room. Everyone else is getting ready to go out to eat, even though she and Benjamin thought about staying home in protest over Zoey’s absence, but decided that she’s a big girl and makes her own decisions and there’s no reason for them to stay away from the others.

She’s come to ask him if he’s talked to Zoey, which he hasn’t, and then asks if she can borrow one of his plaid shirts, and oh my god, despite how horrid Lucas has been in the series so far (way worse about sex than I remember him being), I do hardcore ship Lucas and Nina. [Dove: I know, right? This is the hill we’d die on in this fandom. And I have no idea why we think Lucas is good enough for our beloved Nina. I can only hope he gets better.] [Rosey: Just to be clear; I do not ship Lucas with Nina.]

Nina’s not actually sure why she’s come up to talk to him. She thought she might talk to Zoey if Lucas had gotten through, but what in the world would she have been able to say? Really, she wants the detailed, word-by-word complete story that Zoey, as her BFF, must give her, but that’ll have to wait until she’s back on the island.

Lucas asks if Benjamin is mad at him, and Nina’s surprised because he’s asking her since she’s Benjamin’s girlfriend and therefore an expert on his feelings. She’s delighted by this; also, Benjamin isn’t angry, he thinks the whole thing is ridiculous and Lucas is “kind of impatient,” which is Nina’s nice way of breaking down what Benjamin actually said, which was “all hormones and no brain.” LOL Benjamin. LOL.

They go into a conversation about whether sex is a part of regular life and dating or not and Nina is, of course, thinking that coming up there was a mistake. For so many reasons, I’m sure. When he asks her if girls like sex, she tries to put an end to it by pretending Claire is calling for her. And seriously, Lucas, Nina is the one you’re going to ask about whether girls like sex? Because that huge breakdown and regaining her power and reveal was only a couple books ago, dude.

Nina slips up and says that she knows Zoey likes sex (…do you now) because Zoey told her so. (…did she now.) Of course, this means that he’s eager to hear more from her (about what sex with Zoey is like) and get input from her about her best friend.

He asks her to call Zoey for him, but she doesn’t want to get involved…unless he’ll let her borrow the shirt, in which case, she’ll call Zoey later. Turns out, it’s Christopher’s shirt, and Lucas tells her to go ahead and take it. Smoooooth. [Dove: Again, little details like this really separated it from the Sweet Valley style episodic books I’d read. Dialogue that makes me smirk.]

At dinner, they have to split up into two tables to eat faster, and it’s complicated trying to figure out how to break down into groups of three and four, so I’m going to write a weird little math problem: Nina + Benjamin, Claire + Jake, Nina – Claire, Christopher < Aisha, Aisha ~ anywhere, everyone – Lucas. This is either the duck and the fox and the wheat or a ridiculous logic puzzle (or both).

They sit: Nina, Benjamin, and Aisha; Claire, Jake, Christopher, Lucas.

Nina, of course, does some gross slut-shaming of Claire, because it’s Claire and three guys at one table; Aisha points out that Benjamin also looks like a slut, then. I love Nina, but I really need her to cut out that sort of bullshit.

After a little teasing, Nina point blank asks Aisha what’s going on between her and Christopher; Aisha didn’t spend that day with Christopher, she had a private lesson with her friend Peter, from Estonia, who is trying to make the U.S. Olympic team holy shit, way to go, Aisha.

Benjamin explains to Nina that Aisha is trying to make Christopher jealous. Thanks, Benjamin, I think we’ve all figured out the situation can look like that. Aisha says maybe it’s that and maybe she just finds Peter cute (Nina wants to know where Estonia is). Aisha goes on to say that she’s realized Christopher isn’t the only available guy in the world. (Estonia is a little country right between Latvia and Russia, Benjamin says, or maybe Lithuania; Nina says there’s no difference. Good lord, kids, this is but one of the reasons the rest of the world think we’re idiots.)

Nina and Benjamin play gag-inducing footsie while they talk about relationships and ground rules and understandings — basically, she says, a constitution that lays out the rights and responsibilities of both parties, and this is why I love Aisha. Write a relationship constitution. Write it good, darling girl.

Nina drifts off a little thinking about whether Benjamin would want to make out, because she’s not tired of all of kissing him, and she’d like to kiss him right then, and oh, Nina, I love you.

Talk turns to Zoey and how she’s probably already forgiven Lucas and is now coming up with all sorts of romantic ways for them to make up (that don’t involve sex, natch); Nina jokes about what Lucas was doing, you know, catching up on his sex-ed homework or practicing for his new job as a Trojan tester, or, slightly earlier in the conversation but I suppose close enough to finish her tautology, test his equipment.

Back on the island, Zoey naps and walks around; it feels like everything has changed, but only a little around the edges so that it mostly looks normal but is unconvincing. And that’s a really great way of describing how she’s feeling; just a little off-footed and unbalanced and confused. I love it.

Fred McRoyan, Jake’s dad, drives by with ten-year-old Holly, who smiles at Zoey; Fred ignores her. Zoey vaguely remembers some sort of fight with Jake in Vermont, but it is of no importance now. [Dove: HOLLY! I was convinced we never saw Holly after her tiny scene in book 1.] [Wing: Well, we have at least one brief proof of life, then!] [Rosey: SHE’S ALIVE!]

Zoey gets home to a second message from Lucas and a message from Nina. She begs Zoey to call Lucas, because Lucas has promised Nina that if Zoey calls him, he’ll arrange to have Claire killed. Subtle, Nina. Real subtle.

Zoey thinks and mopes and touches the furniture her father built for her, and it is all fairly sad but also boring to recap because so much of what’s happening is taking place in her own head and we’ve already gone over the big points.

She tears down her quote wall and throws away the journal in which she’s been writing that first draft of a romance novel over and over and over again. She then goes through her baby book, which has all the letters from her mother, too, and finds, in a letter on her eighth birthday, a little aside from her mother that says she heard about the island from a man she used to know a long time ago who thought it was the perfect place to raise kids. The same man, Zoey wonders; she tries to throw out that baby notebook because it is a part of the past, but — maybe the past is still important? Maybe this affair has been going on for years. Maybe her mother moved to the island specifically to be with that man.

Zoey goes up to the attic to snoop; one time, she found her mother reading letters up there when she was supposed to be getting the Christmas decorations down. She hid them when Zoey came up, but Zoey finds them again easily. And in the middle of that pile of letters are three from Fred McRoyan to Darla Williams.

DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUUUN.

We then get that letter from her eighth birthday; besides the whole bit about why they moved to the island, it talks about sweet little Claire and her younger sister who drew mustaches on all Zoey’s Barbies. [Rosey: Nina <3]

Zoey and Darla are both at breakfast the next morning, but her dad has already gone to the restaurant. Zoey wants to not sit with her mother, but decides that would be cowardly. Well, it would certainly be passive-aggressive. Zoey wants a fight, but nothing really happens; she wants her mother to say something critical but she won’t actually engage in the damn fight. Waiting around for someone to say something that upsets you so you can yell at them about everything else that’s made you mad is also passive-aggressive and manipulative as hell. [Dove: Wing just summed up my childhood. She’s not wrong.] Neither of them want to answer the phone when it rings; Zoey picks and picks at her mother.

It’s Lucas, unsurprisingly. After the message ends (he’s cut off because he talks more than 30 seconds, damn, Lucas), Darla asks if there’s something Zoey wants to talk about. Zoey tries to put her off at first and then starts shouting at her.

Darla tells her that she can’t understand everything, she’s just a kid, and that’s a fucking shitty response there, Darla. She goes on to say that she loves Zoey’s dad, which Zoey, of course, doesn’t believe; then Zoey threatens to tell her dad, but Darla doesn’t freak out over this the way Zoey expects (wants), she only asks if that’s what Zoey’s going to do.

This deflates Zoey completely, and she has to admit that she doesn’t know what she’s going to do.

Darla tells her that she shouldn’t be too quick to judge, she might find that living up to her high ideals isn’t easy and that life is more shades of gray than black and white and that someday she’ll regret not being more generous when she discovered her mother was just human. [Zoey already struggles to live up to her own high ideals. The whole first, and a lot of the second, book are about her cheating on her boyfriend of 5 or 6 years. I know that’s different to a husband, but still.]

Lucas does most of the driving back to the island so he can avoid the couples who are holding hands and kissing. He’s glad for Christopher and Aisha, at least, but then realises that as volatile as their relationship is, they could swing over to cuddly and disgusting in a second, too.

Maine is ugly this time of year, Lucas decides, when the trees have lost their colourful leaves and the first snows haven’t fallen yet, and it will be even worse if Zoey continues to ignore him. Little bit of ableism about a driver (and a little bit of Masshole joking, too).

Christopher suddenly shouts and asks for a piece of paper; while Aisha looks for one, he recites a license plate number over and over and over. It’s those racists assholes who beat him up, he saw them in a car and got the number and saw where they turned.

Lucas, because Lucas is a complete bastard, holy shit, tries to tell Christopher that before he said he didn’t get a good look at the guys, but Christopher is adamant that he recognised the driver of that car as one of the guys who jumped him. [Rosey: Fuck Lucas.]

In case you’ve forgotten, even though Zoey was there, she couldn’t identify the assailants, but Lucas knows who’s behind the assault, Snake, one of the guys he met at Youth Authority. [Rosey: Seriously. Fuck. Lucas.]

Jake, of course, encourages Christopher to go to the cops; Christopher is skeptical because they did such a shit job the first time around. Fair point to Christopher; not only is it quite possible they won’t help him, but he might even end up shot. [Dove: But it’s so Jake to suggest the “correct” thing to do. Even though in previous books, he thought the justice system was very weak in their punishment of Lucas (back before we knew the truth).]

Of course, it’s pretty clear he plans to go after the attackers himself, which is another great way for him to end up shot, either by them or by the police in responding to a complaint. Fuck.

Benjamin and Nina take five minutes to say good-bye before they split up, even though he knows she’ll probably be at his house within the hour. He’s glad to get back to familiar turf where he can move around without guides or even his cane, most of the time.

Once he’s home, he listens to some Bach and thinks about how Nina’s music annoys him but his music does that to her, too, and it’s not a bad thing for them; he also tries to picture her. He knows she has dark brown hair and gray eyes and is average height, but that’s about it. People talk about her being pretty, but always with a “but”: she doesn’t act like it, she wants to hide it, she’s not pretty like Claire.

Benjamin doesn’t really care about that part; he loves that her heart “pounded wildly, extravagantly” when they kissed, that she made involuntary whimpering sounds when he kisses her neck, etc. She’s “hot to Claire’s cold.” So much for not comparing them, huh?

Zoey comes in to see him and he notices that she sounds uncharacteristically grim and that she’s lying about being fine. She keeps blowing off any conversation about Lucas, of course, and Benjamin is surprised by how indifferent she sounds. She also doesn’t want to go to the restaurant, and he wonders if she had a fight with their parents, even though that’s nearly as unlikely as her being indifferent toward Lucas.

Still, he’ll wait. It will either come out sooner or later or her bad mood will evaporate.

Claire and Nina have dinner with their dad, who asks if Claire and Benjamin had a good time on the trip to Vermont; Claire has to remind him that she and Benjamin aren’t dating anymore, and, in fact, she breaks the news that Nina is dating him now, even though Nina frantically tries to get her to stop.

Claire jokes about how Nina stole him and it broke her heart and then Nina gets back at her by telling her it’s Claire’s on fault because Benjamin kept saying he wasn’t ready for kids but Claire kept pushing. Their dad has no idea how to deal with these two, and it is fucking hilarious. [Dove: This is one of many truly awesome Geiger sister moments.]

Even Claire is impressed by how fast Nina puts together a comeback.

After dinner, though, Nina gets Claire alone to ask if she actually is upset that Nina’s going out with Benjamin now. Claire tells her no, but it’s partially a lie; she’d rather her previous boyfriends would “live out their lives pining miserably,” which is such a perfect Claire thing to want that it made my heart squeeze. I love, Claire.

She gives Nina grief about Claire being unable to imagine why Benjamin would trade down to Nina, but then figured out it was part of a trend. Nina takes the bait. The trend: people give up real butter for margarine, real ice cream for frozen yogurt, real steak for tofu burgers, and tell themselves it’s almost as good as the real thing, but we all know the truth. Hilarious and sharp and terrible, Claire. Nina points out this makes Claire fat and Nina nonfat, but Nina’s never thought of her as fat, just a little in her butt and breasts — and, of course, her head. Claire’s impressed by this comeback, too.

But Nina wants to have a serious conversation; Claire doesn’t want to invite her in, but she did make that promise to be there if Nina needed someone to talk to, and she’s going to stand by that promise. UGH SISTERS SO GREAT.

Nina asks why their dad never got remarried; Claire says maybe he doesn’t want to. However, Claire has given this some thought, because Burke Geiger doesn’t have many friends, particularly female friends. Which could be because he’s gay, girls, but that doesn’t come up. Nina’s worried about him being alone once they move out; Claire points out he’s only forty-one. Holy. Fucking. Shit. He has teenage daughters, one very close to graduating high school, and he’s only forty-one.

I — I’m going to need a minute. [Dove: Nope. Just gonna breeze right past that one.]

Nina wants them to give Burke the okay for him to date and get remarried if he wants, because it’s what their mom would have wanted, she wouldn’t have wanted him to be all alone. Nina and Claire both tear up, and my heart hurts for them both. Their mom has been dead for five years, and still none of them can talk about her without being sad. Claire wonders if in another five years, they won’t cry anymore.

I’d say five years was harder than four years, and I imagine ten years will be bad, too, and I’m significantly older than these girls. Poor kids. [Dove: This actually makes me feel bad about how I don’t feel bad. I lost my dad when I was nine. Five years later and it was just a fact I lived with. I was devastated at the time, but nine is very young, and I think you adapt quickly at that age. If I’d been a teen, it would have been different. I don’t like the dead parent trope for this reason (it makes me feel guilty), but I’m aware that my way of grieving isn’t everyone’s. Still, this is the default setting for fictional grief and it makes me uncomfortable. In all books, not just this series or the YA genre. Literally everything. Variation would be nice.] [Wing: It would be nice to see different ways to grieve, that’s for sure, or parents that the kids don’t always remember as saints or whatever. I hate that it makes you feel guilty, because everyone mourns in different ways and should be given that space and opportunity. I feel for their pain in part because I understand it; I want everyone to be able to see themselves in fiction somewhere.]

Claire agrees to tell her dad, because Nina will just flat tell him that he’ll be senile soon and all that other crap, which is true. She also says that Nina’s turning into a dippy-romantic person and Claire doesn’t like it. This is also true.

Zoey spends the entire day in a daze avoiding dealing with things, but now that the day is almost over, she’s feeling rushed. she can’t keep avoiding things, so she goes upstairs to make lists of whether she should “tell” or “don’t tell.”

I love Zoey and her lists, y’all.

Tell: the truth should come out; her dad will eventually find out.

Don’t tell: why should it come out; truth will probably cause a divorce; maybe it was just once and will never happen again.

Obviously, she settles on nothing and goes back to the letters. She hasn’t read them, yet, but now she can’t put it off any longer. The first one she reads is from Fred to Darla: he’s doing low-altitude parachute jumping and he’s trying to get a pass so they can see each other over the weekend; he also tells her that he doesn’t think she has to be faithful to the guy who goes running off to hitchhike through Europe without her, especially because she doesn’t know if he’s being faithful to her in the first place. She’s almost done with her college degree, and Fred worries that she won’t want to talk to a lowly soldier like him after that.

UGH. My heart hurts a little bit right now.

Nina interrupts her just as she finishes the letter and she frantically hides it, feeling flushed with guilt and resentful that Nina showed up out of nowhere. Which she does frequently, Zoey, god. Tell her if you need some alone time.

Nina, of course, wants the whole scoop of the shy yet plucky virgin who had to run away from the low-down horny dog. This lightens Zoey’s mood for a second, because she loves Nina’s “direct and completely disrespectful attitude.” They talk about it for a bit, including Nina making more jokes: Lucas wants to go where no man has gone before, he wants to carry out an in-depth poll, and he was gripping his bat hoping to bang a home run and win one for the zipper.

OH MY GOD NINA THEY JUST KEEP GETTING MORE RIDICULOUS. I love you.

They recap what happened in the last book, so I’m not going to do it; Zoey’s lightheartedness fades quickly when she remembers that it’s not the insoluble problem she once thought it was, not compared to the problem she has now.

Nina, of course, has clocked that Zoey threw away her romance notebook and her quotes and that book from her mom. Zoey tries to play this off as her thinking maybe Lucas was a little right and maybe it is time for her to grow up.[Rosey: Why doesn’t Zoey just talk to Nina about what she saw? It makes no sense, unless Zoey wants to wallow in this nobody-understands-me angst.]

Across the island, Aisha tells Christopher he can stay one more night (he’s been staying with them while he healed). Mrs Gray is sorry to see him go; Mr Gray is relieved. Christopher tells her he can’t stay, he has to get back to reality sometime.

She walks him downstairs, and he says that if it keeps getting colder, he’ll have to buy an island car. This is basically a joke to Aisha, who reminds him they live in Maine and there’s no way he’ll be riding his bike around in six weeks. Now, I know people who do ride their bikes through horrible winters. I think those people are ridiculous and wrong.

They talk a little about the ski trip and how it’d be more fun if they could ski well; he gives her a little grief about her lessons from “Peter the Estonian wonder boy” but she plays it off. He starts to leave, comes back to kiss her, and tells her to remember it when she thinks about Peter from Estonia. She stops him from living and gives him an even better kiss, including groping down his back to his ass, and tells him to remember that the next time he wants to be “a big macho jerk who treats women like they’re just numbers to be added up.”

Oh my god, Aisha, I love you so goddamn much.

Lucas is creepily staring down at Zoey’s house when Nina leaves, and he tries to decide if he’s reading to go down to talk to Zoey. He watches as Zoey takes out a white trash bag and then, because he can see into her kitchen, gets a fucking beer. Holy shit, Zoey. YOU?

Christopher startles him while he’s watching Zoey, teasing him about her dancing around naked. Lucas tells him that Benjamin does, and Christopher basically gags. [Rosey: Because EWWWWWW GAY! These books are so 90s with their casual homophobia – which remains in the 2014 reprints. While I think it’s believable that the character of 2014Christopher might be a bit homophobic, I don’t believe that other 2014characters wouldn’t call him on it. Or tease him about it?]

Anyway, he’s there to ask if Lucas knows how to trace a license number. Lucas tells him to give it to the cops; Christopher wants another way. They argue over it, and Christopher points out that what can they do, those guys will maybe stay locked up for twenty-four hours and then they’ll come looking for revenge, and it’s not like there are a ton of black guys in the area.

Lucas has to admit that Christopher’s right; he doesn’t know what to to tell Christopher, who is her friends. The other guys will die young or serve life or whatever, but they’re dangerous now. He doesn’t want to get in the middle of it. He doesn’t approve of violence. Which is fine, and a valid choice, but you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to your friends, Lucas. [Rosey: Fuck Lucas.]

Finally, he spins a story: Christopher should talk to the DMV about how someone ran into his car and drove off, but he just so happened to get the license plate number and he just needs their insurances to talk. That’s pretty subtle, I guess.

Tenth birthday letter: it’s been a bad year, Benjamin’s tumor is bad and he might die from the surgery or the tumor itself, or he might be blind, and Darla is terrified. She’s trying to be strong because she’s the mom, but it’s not working. Nina, Claire, Kristen, Jake, and that poor little boy Lucas came to Zoey’s party. Who — who the hell is Kristen? [Rosey: RIGHT? I guess she’s that kid in the back of some childhood party photos that you don’t really remember? I can’t decide if throwing her in there is weird or genius] Zoey’s dad blames himself because he didn’t take Benjamin to see a specialist earlier, even though the doctors say it wouldn’t have made a difference. Zoey writes a poem that Darla thinks is meant to reassure her and finds it achingly sweet.

This letter? Also kind of heartbreaking. Ugh, I am having feelings for this family, and not feelings of rage and/or boredom.

Everyone’s back to school on a foggy, foggy morning. Aisha and Nina joke around about how Skipper Too navigates the ferry in this weather; Aisha swears radar, Nina swears instinct and habit. Zoey zones out.

Lucas approaches, and Zoey and Lucas finally talk a little. He sort of apologises, but not really; he doesn’t want them to break up. She sort of apologises for running off; she doesn’t want to break up either. Their conversation is layered, but only Zoey knows it, and very uncomfortable.

Jake is finally ready to take the piss test for the team; his coach talks to him about not screwing up again and how he’s cut Jake some slack because he doesn’t want to see a kid’s life ruined for one mistake. Which in general I agree with, though I draw some lines about, say, rape. The coach then has a tough love talk with him and Jake tears up a little, because he never knew that the coach felt responsible in any way for Wade’s drinking and death, but he really does. God, small towns and sports. My fucking heart. [Rosey: Really though, Coach, is covering up for Jake’s drug use and drinking the way to make up for not helping Wade with his drinking?]

I know I’ve said this a lot over the past few books, but holy shit, I did not expect to feel so much for Jake on this reread. [Dove: Yeah, I know we always sort-of liked Jake, but we never adored him. But really, what the hell were we thinking. Lucas sucks. Jake rules.] [Rosey: When I was reading these books the first time round, I didn’t like Jake. He seemed so normal and boring – a good looking jock whereas we are told over and over again what a sensitive soul Lucas is. But this reread has shown Jake as being introspective and 3 dimensional, while Lucas just wants to get laid and live an easy life – don’t call out his friend’s womanizing, don’t identify the racist thugs to the cops…  Why are you shipping Nina with him? She doesn’t deserve that!]

Christopher finds out that he’d have to fill out a bunch of papers and show ID and fill out a police report in order to get the information he wants from the DMV, which is completely understandable considering how much the DMV loves paperwork. He can’t leave that trail of evidence, though. And every time he has that sort of thought, he reminds himself he’s not thinking that way, that way is for criminals, he’s out for justice. Fine line sometimes, Christopher. Fine line.

So instead he goes and hangs out in the neighbourhood where he saw the car, which includes a dead-end street. He has a box cutter on him. Are you — are you fucking kidding me right now? Jesus fucking christ. [Dove: No, Christopher.]

It reminds him of what he knew in the Baltimore projects, with a “sullen, lurking danger” just waiting for a spark just to set it off. If this was just about the skinhead neighbourhood, it’d be one thing, but this sort of description applied to Christopher’s life in the Baltimore projects is veering into racist stereotyping.

Christopher finds the car and hides to watch the street around it.  He sees the Confederate battle flag and this is a sign that it’s the right house. He’s not wrong. There’s a really great bit here, too: Maybe — maybe — if this had been the South, that flag might have stood for some twisted notion of local history. But this was Maine. As Yankee as a state could be. Here the stars and bars could only be the symbol of racism. 

I like that Team Grapplegate include the “twisted notion” of local history, but from what I’ve seen from my time living in the South, no matter how much “heritage not hate” is spewed around about the Confederate flag, at the core of the veneration of it is always, always racism. (There is racism everywhere, of course, but this is a specific detail.) [Rosey: As a Brit, I am probably missing a tonne of nuance on this issue, but the local history always seems to be about a State’s right to make their own laws… and the law they chose to go to war about was Slavery. So, how is it ever not about racism?]

Christopher sees one of the guys who attacked him, points his finger at him, and silently mouths the word “bang.”

Oh shit.

Zoey feels weird when she remembers her romance notebook is missing from her desk drawer. She struggles through her math homework and resolves to check with Aisha on the ferry. Lucas shows up, and she stands to kiss him, but he’s too busy noticing everything she’s torn down. She never even thought about anyone else noticing the change. I’ll cut her some slack here, she was in a lot of shock and anger. They talk about how Lucas really liked the quotes and they made him think.

Jeff, Zoey’s dad, interrupts them to ask if they want to come down and watch television. (So this round, I have one of the updated ebooks, and it references Modern Family. Dove, what was it before?) [Dove: Awkwardly, it was Roseanne.] [Wing: … WELL THEN. Though baby!Wing and family watched the hell out of that show. This was before we knew anything about Roseanne’s politics and racism and hate.] Zoey agrees and brings Lucas with her; Jeff promises popcorn. Lucas asks if there will be beer, and Jeff agrees that he will have beer but Lucas and Zoey will have soda. Benjamin and Nina are also watching television, and Jeff is a little wistful that he’s the only one without a date.

Benjamin and Zoey stay up watching television with him even after Nina and Lucas go home. Zoey spends a great deal of time watching her father and wondering if he knows, if he suspects. Jeff talks about how good it is to have Christopher back at work and how hard that kid works; when he was Christopher’s age, he only worked until he could afford his next set of Pearl Jam tickets and the gas money to get there. (Another updated reference, I assume.) [Dove: Grateful Dead tickets.] [Wing: That makes more sense to me.]

Zoey teases him about whether he ever wants to do that now, because Pearl Jam is still around. He does think about it, though he doesn’t think that Darla would be up for it. Jeff dryly says they both used to do stuff like that back when they had lives; Zoey jumps on this, of course. Benjamin thinks it’s before kids, but he really means before the restaurant and how he never gets to see his family anymore because he’s always there or Darla’s there or the kids are at school, etc.

Zoey keeps asking questions, including why they decided to get married. Benjamin points out that he’s done the math, he knows they must have gotten married right around the time Darla found out she was pregnant with him. Zoey goes on to ask about other girlfriends other than Darla, and he hints that he wasn’t unpopular with the young ladies. What a way to put it, dude. As Zoey keeps asking questions, Jeff twigs that there’s something else going on, but he thinks she’s trying to use them as guides for how she deals with Lucas. He tells her to do as they say, not as they did, which makes me laugh.

He admits that he thinks Darla had a guy going at the same time as him at one point, though. Some jock or marine, while he was off backpacking around Europe while she was still in school, but it all worked out for him, because he doesn’t know what he’d do without Darla in his life. 

Twelfth birthday letter: Zoey gets her period and is all adult and ladylike about it. Jeff became depressed because it was a sign she’s growing up, but Darla was proud. It’s been another rough year with Benjamin and his therapy and Nina and Claire’s mom dying. Darla hopes that Zoey will do better with her life than Darla did with her own, and at least make fewer mistakes. She loves Zoey, so, so much.

I am not okay with all the positive Passmore feelings I’m having in this book. Or maybe not positive, but sympathetic. [Dove: I’m ok. I loathe the Passmores so much, I really can’t like Darla at all. But I will say that I feel for Zoey here.]

Zoey’s radio alarm goes off a minute late and is playing a song from one of her favourite albums by Beyonce. I — I do not buy Zoey as a Beyonce fan, not for a goddamn second. Taylor Swift, maybe. (This is clearly an updated reference, and it is really throwing me out of the story.) [Dove: Melissa Etheridge back in the day. And yeah, Zoey would love Taylor, but I can’t see Beyonce being her favourite.] [Rosey: 2014Zoey did get a Taylor reference earlier too.]

She’s made a decision: the most important thing is to protect her father, who is an innocent person in this mess, and he would be hurt the worst.

She and Benjamin walk together; she’s distracted by her mission, which she knows will take courage, so much so that she gives him a vague answer when he asks about the weather and he says he actually misses that about Claire, because she, in her obsession with the weather, would give a full, complete answer. Aww, I love Claire.

Benjamin grills her on why Zoey was grilling their dad the night before; Zoey changes the subject by pointing out that Nina is up ahead. Benjamin trips and nearly falls on his face, but won’t admit it’s because he was in a hurry to get to see Nina.

On the ferry, Zoey sees Jake watching her; she’s terrified that means he knows what’s happening, because she’s completely forgotten about that whole drugs on the football team rumour she’s supposed to be investigating. As she heads over to him, she squeezes in between Nina and Aisha who are arguing over whether Justin Timberlake was cool or full of himself. Again, I do not believe this reference for a hot second. [Dove: Kurt Cobain. And the answer is full of himself.]

Zoey and Jake make some small talk about why he’s not sitting with Claire; she’s busy reading, and he’s mildly annoyed because he’s got the feeling he’s not the center of her existence. I certainly hope you’re being sarcastic here, JAKE. Don’t make me hate you the way I do the other guys right now. [Dove: I definitely read that as self-deprecating sarcasm.]

Zoey says that “Claire is the sun and moon in her very own solar system.” I’m pretty sure Zoey means that as an insult, but it is instead amazing and wonderful. You can be the center of your own world without being terrible to other people; you can be the center of your own world and still make the world outside you better. Whether or not Claire will do these things is up in the air, but there is not a goddamn thing wrong with being the center of your own world, and arguably, it is unhealthy to make someone else the center of your world and your everything.

Jake asks about her “big story,” and sure enough, she has forgotten about it. She tells him that she hasn’t had time to work on it. He asks what she’ll do next, and she’s not entirely sure, but maybe she’ll talk to the team.

She pushes this aside (to her, to him it is obviously tied together) to ask if he’s mad at her. He says he doesn’t, but he’s belligerent about it, so she pushes on and asks if he has a problem with Benjamin or anyone else in the family. He’s confused by this, of course, because this is weirdly subtle and unsubtle at the same time. If he knows, it’s completely clear what she’s hinting at; if he doesn’t, it’s weird and unclear and, honestly, enough that I would get hooked into finding out what the hell she’s talking about.

Zoey has to admit to Mr Schwarz, her journalism teacher, that she’s not making any progress on her story. She says she talked to her source, which is a nice way to refer to him except that of course Mr S knows that she means Jake McRoyan, because it’s a small fucking school. She tells Mr S that Jake said there’s no way it was happening and he would know; Mr S wants her to keep digging. She promises to talk to more of the guys, and he tells her to consider looking into who might have missed games or had poor performances lately.

Zoey’s sad that she was out of town and missed the game, so she doesn’t know who was miss–holy hell, Jake was out of town, too. Zoey’s mind starts turning, because at the homecoming game, Jake didn’t seem like himself and and and — she refuses to believe it was Jake, but can’t shake the thought, either.

Aisha gripes to Zoey about how she’s seventeen and off to college soon and clearly far too late in life to choose to be a gymnast so why would she risk breaking her neck vaulting. Claire is more sympathetic in her sharp way; Zoey is, of course, distracted. I’m actually shocked that they are doing things like vaulting, which is inherently dangerous.

Louise Kronenberger teases them about having the same conversation every day and then picks at Claire by talking about how she’s picturing Jake naked in the locker room and how she can easily imagine this crooked little scar — then, of course, she cuts herself and saunters out of the room.

Claire has a minute reaction, but locks it down fast, and Aisha is impressed, but also certain that there was nothing between Jake and Louise.

She has a few minutes before her next class, so she swings by the equipment room to say hello to Christopher. She sneaks up behind him to kiss the back of his neck, and he teases her by asking if it’s Natalie. She slaps his arm for that, even though she also claims that she knew he was kidding, because she’s sure he’s done something to deserve it. Not great language, but I am delighted that she calls him on his shit.

Anyway, Christopher is trying to track down some equipment that went missing while he was out: three basketballs, a catcher’s mask, and a croquet set. Aisha and I are both curious as to why they have a croquet set, but Christopher shrugs it off. (a) His job is to just keep track and keep the equipment in shape, and (b) still not the weirdest thing they have, which would be a jigsaw puzzle of a cat playing with a ball of yarn. Ohhhhhhhkaaaaaaaay.

Aisha suggests they get lunch together sometime, because as a student, she’s allowed off campus and there’s a Burger King and the Dashing Deli nearby. The Dashing Deli. I kind of love that name. Apparently Jeff told him that the deli’s the best bakery around and they use their rolls at the Passmores’ restaurant. Christopher suggests they have lunch there the next day; Aisha wants to do it today, but he says he can’t, though he won’t tell her what he has to do instead. She decides she might check up on him over today’s lunch, and this is not going to go well. [Rosey: Why not today Christopher? WHY NOT TODAY? Why not just blow off those other, terrible plans…]

Sure enough, at lunch Nina asks Claire where Aisha got off to; it’s not Claire’s day to keep track of her, Claire pops off, and then waits for Nina to say something gross about the food. In less than ten seconds, Nina says that someone barfed on her tray. Gross.

Claire teases Nina until she goes to sit with Benjamin, but it’s too late, Nina’s already ruined the main dish, so all she can eat is her bread and apple and drink her juice. Zoey’s been off in her own world again throughout this, but suddenly asks Claire if she thinks Jake ever used drugs. Of course, Claire knows about it and now she’s fully alert. Zoey tells her about the article and internally, Claire freaks out, but hopes she’s not showing anything on the outside.

They talk about Zoey’s new theory, and when Claire says of course he missed the game, he went to Vermont with them, Zoey points out that the game was on Friday night and they left Saturday. Which — weren’t you sad about missing the game because of your trip just this morning?! What the fuck is this continuity?

Claire tries to put Zoey off, but fails, and Zoey flat out tells her that she thinks the rumours may be about Jake. Claire says it’s not really any of Claire’s business, but Zoey won’t let it drop, because she’s going out with him, if he’s doing drugs, it has to be her business. Sort of yes, sort of no. Claire finally snaps and asks what the hell Zoey wants from her, and this is enough to confirm for Zoey that it is him. She wishes someone had told her about it before she agreed to write the story.

Claire finally gives up and confirms that it was just a one time thing and he passed his piss test (though Claire, of course, calls it a urinalysis), and there’s not much to the story at all. She tells Zoey to drop it if she cares about Jake; Jake knows that sooner or later someone will find out, but if his father ever found out, he’d feel like the worst piece of garbage. Zoey, of course, thinks he cares too much about his father’s opinion of him. [Rosey: I really don’t think Jake is the story tbh – the story is the kid who gave him the coke. And the coach, who is familiar enough with his team doing drugs that he has a whole “suspension” system set up to deal with the piss tests. But I guess it makes sense that the kids don’t see it this way and their first response is to protect Jake.]

Zoey then turns this on Claire and asks if she cares about what her father thinks of her; Claire admits that she does, but then turns it back and asks what Zoey’s going to do about the story. She doesn’t know, and she really doesn’t want to hurt him, especially because he’s part of why — but she can’t finish that thought.

Aisha follows Christopher off campus, through the downtown business are past the closest restaurants, and then into a grubby neighbourhood, where he ducks into an alley. She’s getting nervous about how it’s likely she’ll get caught following him because there’s no real cover here or excuse for her to be there like she would have had closer to school.

She stills goes up to the alley and peeks around the corner; she can hear Christopher talking to a white guy in his twenties about something that is totally clean, no serial number, and he’ll throw in a box of –points. Clearly this is talk about a gun and hollow point bullets, but Aisha doesn’t figure that out until she hears the harsh, metallic sound of a gun being worked. She’s terrified after, and almost too slow to hide when Christopher and the guy leave the alley.

Christopher has one hand in his pocket and his coat sags on that side. Christopher almost could not be less subtle here.

Another letter from Fred to Darla; he was angry and hurt and yelled at her when she told him she was pregnant and that the timing doesn’t work out for it to be his. He is sorry now, and he says that it could be his, if she agreed; they could get married right before he ships out and no one would ever know. That way, she would get a part of his pay while he was gone and she could have the baby in the military hospital for free. UGH MY HEART. He doesn’t want her to get an abortion just because she’s worried the baby won’t have a father, and he doesn’t want her to go back to Jeff because of this. He promises her that they could have a good life together and move to Chatham Island, a perfect place to raise kids and have a family, and he loves her and wants to be a father to the baby and ugh no this story is terrible I don’t like all these feeeeelings. [Dove: I have feels for Fred McRoyan. So many feels.]

Zoey skips school, and it is far easier than she expects. She comes up with a story for Lucas, which is that she was given permission to leave early and work on her journalism project. She’s skipping out to go confront Fred, of course, even though she’s worried that he’ll deny it and she doesn’t know what to say and and and and and.

Fred brings her into his office the second he sees her, even though the receptionist doesn’t really want to let her past. (Understandably, considering she’s standing there and staring. Subtle, Zoey.)

As Zoey looks at him, she realises how much Jake is like him, and how much Benjamin is not. Zoey flat out tells him that she wants him to leave her family alone, and then admits that she saw him the other day with her mom. He thought she had and regrets that she had to deal with that. He asks if it would help for her to know it was a one-time thing and that he’s sorry not that he got caught but that he’s made her feel bad about her mother, who is a very fine woman. He was in love with her, he says, and Zoey sits back down, because she wants the truth.

He tells her all about being in love with Darla back while she was in college and he was in the army; Darla had been seeing Jeff, but he went off to Europe for awhile. Fred was deployed, though, and Jeff came back, and that was that. They’ve kept quiet about it ever since, not wanting to make it awkward for their families. He starts to say that something happened to make Darla feel — but he won’t say what, and he apologises again, because what he did was wrong.

Zoey tells him again to stay away because she doesn’t want her dad to be hurt, and she promises Fred that she won’t tell Jake, either, because he’s the other person she doesn’t want to see hurt.

But oh, damn, Jake is right outside the glass partition. Jake, of course, immediately jumps to the idea that Zoey went and asked his dad if he knew that Jake had been accused of taking drugs. As soon as Zoey comes out of the office, Jake drags her into the hallway and demands answers.

You know, I normally hate stories that turn on characters just flat not talking to each other, especially when they are supposed to be close friends, but Team Grapplegate have really sold me on this. Of course Zoey wants to protect Jake. Of course she reads everything he does as related to her secret because of her guilt and worry. Of course Jake does the same thing with his secret, because of his guilt and worry.

Zoey tells him that she had to talk to his father; Jake snaps that she didn’t have to do anything. She says she had to protect her family and his family, and this, of course, has him all confused. And then Zoey says that what happened was just about Fred and Darla and doesn’t need to break up the rest of their families.

Well goddamn, Zoey, way to say something without confirming what he knows. YOU FUCKING KNOW ABOUT THE DRUG THING OH MY GOD WHY WOULDN’T YOU AT LEAST MAKE SURE WHICH THING HE’S WORRIED ABOUT RIGHT NOW.

Jake still doesn’t understand what’s going on (…I’m gonna need you to catch up, Jake), but he’s pretty smart about it and tells her that she needs to tell him what she said to his dad word for word because he only knows some of what’s going on.

And Zoey, of course, falls for it DESPITE KNOWING ABOUT THE DRUGS AND HOW THAT IS PROBABLY WHAT HAS HIM SO UPSET OH. MY. GOD.

Claire goes to watch the football practice; she wants to give him a show of support, even though she’ll be doing some of her homework while she works because, you know, practice is kind of boring. Also, there “was a magnificent, towering thunderhead, a cumulonimbus formation, to the south. The top was so high it had been sheared flat by the high-altitude winds. She could watch the sky, her greatest fascination, in between pretending to watch Jake.”

God, Claire, I love you.

Lucas also goes to practice, expecting to find Zoey there working on her story. Lucas also knows that Jake was the one using, one of the many annoying secrets he’s been keeping, because people have this annoying habit of telling him their secrets. You know, you could shut that down. You don’t have to listen. But it would be super annoying.

Claire and Lucas both see Zoey and Jake coming together from town, holding hands. (Lucas thinks of Jake’s relationship with Zoey as the Freddy Kreuger of relationships because it just. won’t. die. [Dove: lol! Thanks to reboots and sequels, that’s exactly the reference he made 20 years ago!] [Wing: FOREVER RELEVANT.]) They hug hard and then Zoey kisses his cheek.

Claire, a naturally suspicious person, starts to wonder, between this scene with Zoey and Louise Kronenberger’s jab earlier. Lucas thinks this is why Zoey’s been so distant since Vermont. Claire and Lucas both take off (separately), and Claire frets and rages as she walks, showing far too much emotion, feeling far too much emotion.

They run into each other, and from his reaction, Claire figures out that he saw it, too. Neither of them trust each other; Lucas is on the attack, Claire says that maybe they’re misinterpreting, overreacting; Lucas pops off that with everything he knows about Jake, Jake should be more careful about whose girlfriend he plays grab-ass with; Claire, of course, zeros in on this. Lucas doesn’t say anything, but Claire is smart and sharp and clever. First she flat out asks if he knows that Jake got suspended from the team (which is, of course, something she knows, too), and he confirms. Then she asks about Louise (which is, of course, something she does not know), and he confirms that, too.

Benjamin is listening to his classical music on the ferry when Nina comes and sits next to him. He can tell because she smells of coconut shampoo and an unlit cigarette. They kiss and snuggle a little, and he asks why she’s not with the girls. Aisha and Zoey are both in awful moods, and Claire isn’t on the boat. Probably off doing black mass with her coven trying to conjure the devil, who she has on speed-dial.

Benjamin realises as he sits with her and she’s brash and confident on the surface but soft and vulnerable and a little scared underneath that he wants to protect her and he wants to tell her he loves her.

Zoey’s struggling with everything that’s happened and really wishes Lucas was there to comfort her. It’s weird that he’s not on the ferry. Claire’s not, either, but she, of course, is probably at football practice cheering on Jake, which is good, because he deserves all the support. She can’t think of where Lucas is, though.

Zoey wishes Lucas was there to comfort her, but she also wants him there to drive away the thoughts of how good it felt to be back in Jake’s arms.

Claire and Lucas are actually together in her dad’s big Mercedes driving far too fast for the road. Being together is a slap at Jake and Zoey and it makes them both feel liberated. Lucas is a little worried over her speed, and she does slow down because he’s obviously thinking about the last time he went driving with her. You know, that time when they were all drunk and Claire drove into a tree, killing Wade McRoyan, and Lucas took the fall for her and went off to juvie for two years.

They talk a little about how messed up Jake was that night he hooked up with Louise and how things are supposed to be ancient history but keep coming back up because history doesn’t always stay buried and old relationships never seem to completely die, which not only echoes Lucas’ thoughts earlier but is a really good point about everything going on in this book.

Claire is angry and brings up their relationship and how he was her first serious kiss; she was his first kiss, period. She’s flirting openly with him now, even though she knows it’s tacky. She’s too angry and hurt not to do it. Lucas calls her on this, but he’s also worked up. When they head back, he asks how far she was willing to go to get back at Jake, and she teases him that maybe they’ll find out someday if he’s right that she and Jake can never last and she’s right that he and Zoey can’t.

I … fuck, I kind of ship them, too, y’all.

Aisha comes up with a plan for dealing with Christopher and after dinner, takes a parcel to Christopher, which she will use as her cover if anyone asks why she’s there so late. He’s not there, so she lets herself in with that spare key and goes looking for the gun. (Along the way, she goes through his underwear drawer and learns he wears plain white cotton briefs, which is far more boring than she expected. I agree, actually. He thinks of himself as this smooth operator, he should have something far sexier than tightie whities. [Dove: Agreed.] [Rosey: motion passed] Also, this makes her think he can’t be “too crazy … not crazy enough to use a gun.” Fuck you, Aisha.)

She never does find the gun, so she lies down in his bed to wait, because she’s going to talk him out of it, do whatever it takes to save him from himself — though, she keeps telling herself, she no longer loves him.

Christopher, meanwhile, has the gun on him while he works, of course, because Christopher is an idiot. He practices with the gun in the freezer, because, again, IDIOT. He then starts pointing it at things, because, again — do I really have to say it this time? God, Christopher, do not point that fucking gun at anything you aren’t prepared to shoot.

In fact, at one point, when he’s taken the safety off, he freaks himself out and puts it back into his pocket without putting the safety back on OH MY GOD CHRISTOPHER WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK. [Dove: This part scares the life out of me. I’ve literally never touched a gun in my life. The only time I’ve seen one in real life was when my bus drove past a heavily armed copper after the 7/7/7 bombings.] [Wing: He needs some safety lessons from my brother, Raptor, because damn it, Christopher. (Also, whenever I see someone “badass” in movies or tv shows shove a gun in their pants, I’m always waiting for them to blow off either their junk or their asses.]

When he’s ready to leave, he goes looking for Darla to ask if he can go and he finds her talking to Fred outside. She lets him take off, and he goes home. He’s worried that someone has broken in, even though he has to unlock his door. If those skinheads are waiting for him, they’ll get a surprise now, and he holds the gun, ready to fire. And, of course, there is someone inside his room.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUN

Zoey recognises the knock on the front door, and sure enough, it is Lucas. He doesn’t kiss her right away, so she kisses him instead, quickly, even though she has peanut butter on her mouth still. Zoey wants him to come sit with her in the family room because she’s keeping her dad company, but he wants to talk to her privately, which amuses her because he never wants to just talk. She jokes with him about that, but he’s serious: he saw her and Jake on the football field. She tells him it was nothing in a way that even she knows sounds suspicious. They go up to her room and Lucas talks about her letting Jake grope her, which is a huge exaggeration, good lord, Lucas. God, I want to be sympathetic toward you, but you are making it very hard. [Dove: It was a hug, Lucas. It wasn’t as if Zoey came back to school with her bra missing and her shirt buttoned wrong. A hug.] [Rosey: Seriously. Fuck Lucas.]

Zoey is just as annoyed as I am right now, and then Lucas goes straight for what he thinks is the kill, giving her details about Jake doing drugs to get fired up for the homecoming game. Zoey says she already knows, because Claire told her that morning, which disappoints Lucas, but then he goes farther, because he knows something Claire only learned that very afternoon (so not as subtle as you thought, huh Claire). He tells Zoey about Jake being with Louise, coked and hammered and fucking “Lay-Down Louise.” Good fucking lord, Lucas, you are a complete shit. How the fuck did I ever like you as a character?!

Zoey tells him to leave, and when he gives her shit about it, she actually shouts at him to leave her alone, everyone needs to leave her alone. She breaks down a little after that, and when he tries to comfort her, she snaps at him because he’s the one person she should be able to turn to (lies, what about your BFF?) really only cares whether they’ll ever have sex. That’s all anyone cares about, and she doesn’t trust anyone anymore, not even her family, and — god. She won’t tell him more, but she’s really freaking out and hurt and angry, and I feel for her.

Lucas tells her he loves her, and she snarls that she’s growing up, she starts to strip down because hey, everyone else is fucking, why aren’t they, he can do whatever he wants and then go home and forget about it. [Dove: I like how unnerved Lucas is here. He has been an absolute shit about sex. It was satisfying to see Zoey offer it, in a very broken way, and him to freak out. But mostly I feel for Zoey who’s a blender of negative emotions at the moment.]

Zoey, exhausted by all her rage and emotions, stops and tells him, again, to get out.

Fourteenth birthday letter: Darla talks about them having a big fight over her not letting Zoey go to the movies alone with Jake and Zoey accused her of being hopelessly old, which hit home. She’s worried about Zoey starting to date because guys can break her heart and she can break theirs. She’s not cruel, but sometimes she accidentally hurts people, and that’s just a part of life.

Aisha wakes up confused as to where she is; thank god she talks to Christopher before he just starts shooting. They kiss, but she feels something hard and cold and realises it’s the gun, so she pushes him away. She tells him he still has time to get rid of it. He tells her that he’s a man and a man doesn’t let himself be hurt without hurting back, be kicked and pounded without making someone pay.

Oh, god, Christopher. This is heartbreaking and terrible.

As he talks in great detail about what they did to him, the slurs and the beating and the spitting, Aisha, too, gets caught up in a cold, hard anger and wants to make them pay. If the police can’t do it, won’t do it, doesn’t Christopher have a right to exact his own revenge?

These emotions are real, and powerful, and painful, and yet they also perpetuate cycles of violence. I’m not arguing to turn the other cheek in the face of racist violence; I’m not arguing not to fight back. But this is a cycle of violence, and it is dangerous for everyone involved and everyone periphery to it, and it is a hard, difficult thing.

But Aisha knows that if Christopher kills someone, he will destroy himself as well. It will take over his life and his personality. He will have to change to deal with what he’s done.

He swears he won’t get caught, but that’s not what she’s worried about. Maybe the police won’t catch him. But he will know, and she will know, and God will know, and from the moment he pulls that trigger to kill, he will be in a living hell.

UGH I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS

That night, Zoey can’t sleep because she’s thinking too much. She can’t write, because her journal is long gone, and she can’t read because the only books she has are romances. Finally she starts reading through her books of quotations.

Then she hears her parents fighting and her dad calling her mom a whore. Jesus.

After, Darla comes to scream at Zoey, demanding to know if she’s happy with what she’s done.

[Dove: For me, Darla will never come back from this moment. I know it’s my issue, but I can’t forgive a mother (parent, but given my issues, I default to mother) who blames their child – who is a minor – for their own issues, and spitefully throws it in their kid’s face. This is the one moment where I want to give Zoey a hug and tell her it’s not her fault, and things will get better. The single moment.]

[Wing: It’s definitely easier to forgive a fictional character when you’ve not had to live through that. Not that I forgive Darla, because this is a completely shitty thing to do even when she’s raging, but I don’t feel the situation on the same level that you do. I’ve found Zoey surprisingly sympathetic throughout this book, though, and this moment still makes my feelings for her even warmer. This is a weird book.] [Rosey: It was somewhat disconcerting to feel so much sympathy for Zoey! I think part of the problem is that Darla doesn’t get as much page-time in any other book as in this one, so although we are led to believe that this supershitty behaviour is out of character, we never really see what her usual character is.]

Later that night, after midnight, Zoey has to escape the house. Benjamin hears her leaving and they hug for a long time. He joins her and together they walk down toward the beach even though it is painfully cold. He asks if she knew about what was happening, but he’s not mad when he learns that she did. She tells him about the letters; he heard some of that in the fight, about Europe and Fred and someone named Sandra.

They talk about what will happen if their parents get a divorce. Benjamin says he’ll stay with the island. He’s in his last year of high school, he knows the island, he knows the school, he doesn’t want to start over somewhere new. It’s different when he goes off to college, because he’s been expecting that change. They swear to stay close.

Final letter from Fred to Darla: He repeats that he wants to raise the baby as his own and be with her; she’s going back to Jeff because she’s pregnant with his baby, though. He begs her to write him, to choose him, to love him, and it is horrible and heartbreaking.

Nina wakes up from one of her terrible nightmares, which come less often but still come. They don’t have as much power now, though, because of all she’s doing to deal with it. I love you, Nina, and all the fight inside you.

Claire beats her to the shower, so she goes down for breakfast. Burke is already there and, because she’s Nina, she flat out tells him that he needs to start dating. He tells her that when they’re both gone, he’ll miss the cheeriness and optimism they bring to him now, because just ten minutes ago, he was thinking the bacon is crisp and life is good and now he’s thinking of drowning himself. I love that they get their snark from him.

Nina, of course, spins everything as Claire saying he needs help, because she’s Nina and Claire is Claire, and then when Claire comes in and Nina leaves for her shower, Burke is ready to have a little chat with his High and Mighty daughter. I am LOLing. [Dove: It’s a rare day when the Geigers aren’t a sheer joy to read about.]

Zoey and Benjamin leave without seeing their parents, and on their way to the ferry, they realise the restaurant is closed. The last time it happened during a normal business day was when Benjamin had his surgery.

Jake is avoiding his dad; both of them know they’ll never talk about what happened, but something fundamental has changed in their relationship, too. Jake’s always lived with an eye to pleasing his father and living up to his ideals, being the son Wade was supposed to be. (UGH JAKE STOP GIVING ME FEELINGS.) He’s done with that, now.

Lucas tries to talk to Aisha about Zoey, but she’s both in her own world and also has no idea what’s going on. She asks Lucas if he helped Christopher get a gun, and Lucas promises her that he said no. Lucas feels like this is a day for disaster.

They’re all on the lower deck of the ferry due to the weather. Benjamin wants to be with Zoey, but she’s off in the restroom, and Nina is in her place. He can’t handle all the emotions he’s had that long night and can’t deal with Nina on top of that, which makes sense. Except the way he handles it is shit. She’s lighthearted and sweet, he expects her to read his mind that he’s upset, and then he snaps at her when she doesn’t get it. This is why I hate you, Benjamin. If something’s wrong, just come out and say it, or at least say you need time to yourself. Don’t drag it out or expect people to read your mind.

Nina keeps pushing, though, mostly in a gentle, supportive way, and Benjamin ends up near tears. He keeps comparing her to Claire, but then realises that while Claire would have read his mood and given him space, that’s not actually what he needs and Nina knew it. He tells her he loves her, she says the same, and then he tells her what’s happening.

Zoey throws up in the bathroom, poor girl, and then finds Lucas outside waiting for her, wanting to give it one more try. Your timing sucks, Lucas. He wants to know what’s going on with them, and he still loves her. She is exhausted and rambling and swaying and he’s worried about her, but she just wants him to go away. When he asks if she still loves him, she says she doesn’t know anything anymore.

During morning announcements, Claire tries to hold herself calm when she sees Jake go to Zoey first and then come to sit by her. She asks him if Zoey was interviewing him about the drug story, just a little too loud to be discreet. Luckily, no one is listening because they’re all too busy griping about the SATs. UMM. Aren’t we well into the fall? Why are the seniors only just now starting to take these tests? Applications should probably be going out already, not waiting on test results.

Claire finally confronts Jake about what she saw on the football field, and he says it was nothing. She then goes off on him about him still caring about Zoey (“Snow White”) and his thing with Louise. She’s sharp and angry and hurt, and this is all terrible, but at least she’s up front about how she’s feeling in her own twisted way.

Aisha keeps trying to convince herself that Christopher will never be able to kill someone, but she’s struggling. Also, Christopher takes his gun to school, which is such a terrible idea I don’t even know where to start. Good lord, Christopher.

Aisha’s not sure what she’ll be able to do about this in case she has to do something. She wants to knock him out before he leaves with the gun, or tell the principal, or tell the police — but she’s not sure she can. She doesn’t touch on it here beyond him just being destroyed because he wants justice, but there’s also a very real chance he would be killed if she called the cops. I know we hear about it more in the USA now thanks to social media, but this has been going on for generations.

Aisha can’t find him after school, though; he’s taken the school van to pick up a new volleyball net (… you don’t need an entire van for the net) and he’s doing a couple errands on his own, too, with the coach’s permission.

Lucas waits all day for an apology from Zoey. You … you want an apology from Zoey? FOR FUCKING WHAT? Oh my god, what world is this, where Jake is the most decent guy out of the whole damn lot?! [Dove: Why do we like Lucas again? I know he gets better, I’m just amazed that we enjoy him enough later that we forgive all this bullshit.] [Wing: Seriously! I keep thinking about that fic we’ll post after we finish the recapping and god, I can tell I didn’t reread the books close enough before writing that, because holy shit, at least how I feel right now, I would not have written that. Goddamn it, Lucas.][Rosey: I’m gonna need to see these “He gets better” receipts. Honestly, I have “fuck Lucas” on a sticky note on my desk top to copy paste into recaps because it is my most used phrase.]

He does have one good point, which is that if this does have something to do with the shouting he heard coming from her house last night, that doesn’t give her an excuse to take it out on him. He lives in hostility and anger daily and doesn’t take it out on her.

He feels like she’s punishing him in a long, manipulative way for the sin of being a normal, heterosexual guy who wants to have sex with his girlfriend. Which is a fair point. Of course, he then goes off on the fact that their relationship needs to be adjusted and Zoey needs to be taught that he’s not kidding when he says there are other girls in the world who won’t treat him like crap. The point about other people being out there and maybe that being a better option is sound. The wording around teaching Zoey a lesson is fucking bullshit what the hell is wrong with you.

He runs into Claire and asks if they can go for a drive again.

Aisha takes her parents’ mainland car after Christopher. She drives erratically, still trying to convince herself he’ll never do what he wants to do, and she’s terrified that she’ll miss him by seconds or feet just because she chose to turn left instead of right.

She thinks she sees the van, it’s not him, but in her frantic chase, she hits a car and drives off without stopping. And, of course, gets pulled over. She’s worried that the cop writing her a ticket will delay her enough she can’t save Christopher. Realistically, she would also be worried about the cop harassing her, beating her, handcuffing her, and possibly killing her. [Dove: Also, that car she’s driving? Isn’t it also a Mercedes? A young person of colour in an expensive car would definitely make her interesting to the wrong person.] [Wing: Oooh, I didn’t catch what kind of car it was. That is a good point. A young black woman in a fancy, expensive car is going to put her in even more danger from people up to and including the cops.]

Over to Christopher, he’s working himself up into a rage as he drives over to the right street. He hides in the woods like before and waits. The guy comes out to feed his dog, and Christopher creeps closer, thinking of himself as a soldier closing in on his enemy.

Claire and Lucas drive south toward Portland, until she finally pulls over onto a side road that dead-ends at a bluff overlooking the sea. (That sounds gorgeous.) She wants to know why they’ve taken this drive, and he says sometimes things come full circle. She’s surprised and even a little disappointed, and though she thinks she should put a stop to it, they make-out anyway.

Christopher draw the gun and tells the guy not to move. The guy freaks out, of course, and it takes him awhile to recognise Christopher even though Christopher is flat out telling him about that situation. The guy begs for his life, and it makes Christopher feel powerful, like a god. Holy shit. The guy sinks to his knees, crying, there’s a siren in the distance, and the gun feels powerful in Christopher’s hand.

The Passmores are waiting for Zoey and Benjamin when they get home. They’re separating. Darla apologises to Zoey for yelling at her and blaming her. Jeff says they need to keep things calm, he’s going to move out for awhile, they’re going to keep the restaurant going. Zoey begs him not to move out because it’s not his fault, it was Darla’s. Jeff stops Zoey from attacking her mother and says that even though she saw part of it, that wasn’t the entire thing and he can’t let her think her mother was the only one in the wrong. A long time ago, he had an affair with a girl he met while he was backpacking in Europe and he’s seen her several times since he and Darla have been married. That’s what drove Darla back into Fred’s arms. [Rosey: So…. Why were you sceaming that Darla is a whore the other night Jeff?]

Zoey is broken over this and wants to run away, but she has no energy left for it. Darla tells him that he might as well tell them the rest, and he says that the woman became pregnant in Europe and they have a sister.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN.

Final Thoughts

These books never really have endings, do they? It’s really one long story cut across a certain page count for each book. I suppose they are soap operas for teens, really.

God, as much as I love some of these characters, they are often terrible in this book. And while Team Grapplegate handles some things deftly, there are others, particularly around how Aisha and Christopher view the world, which don’t ring true to what they would actually experience walking through the world as black people.

Still, this series is great, and it’s been long enough since I’ve read it that I’ve forgotten some of the nuances of the plots. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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9 Comments

  1. EM
    Posted 5th July 2018 at 11:20 am Permalink

    I admit that every time I read this book the timings seem odd to me. Wasn’t Wade about the same age as Benjamin, possibly slightly older? He was 18 when he died, at least 2 years prior to the events of book 1 (possibly longer if we add in trial and sentencing time, as 2 years was the time Lucas did in youth authority) and Benjamin is still only 19 in the books up until books 15 odd when he has his 20th birthday.
    Saying that, there are a fair few places when timings get muddled throughout the books.

    • Wing
      Posted 5th July 2018 at 3:44 pm Permalink

      That is a really good point that I’ve never thought about. The way it’s written makes Wade seem so much older than them before his death and Benjamin as far more their peer, but age-wise, it doesn’t really add up.

      • EM
        Posted 5th July 2018 at 10:42 pm Permalink

        There’s a fair few timeline inconsistencies through the books actually, I hate nitpicking but they bug me when I notice them.
        Still love them though, and I’m really enjoying the recaps.

  2. EM
    Posted 5th July 2018 at 11:41 am Permalink

    Also, while I completely agree with every ‘fuck Lucas’ in regards to his behaviour in the first few books, I think it’s worth remembering that at this point, he’s been out of youth authority for mere weeks, he’s had a pretty shit life up until he went there too, and he hasn’t had the best time since coming back either. His behaviour is disgusting, but he must be going through one hell of an emotional rollercoaster and I think that could explain his early shittyness to some extent.

    • Wing
      Posted 5th July 2018 at 3:45 pm Permalink

      I am going to keep this in mind as we approach the rest of the series, because I know there is one point where he was my favourite of the guys, and maybe this analysis is part of why. Though, the way these books are going, I’m not sure where my feelings are going anymore.

      • EM
        Posted 5th July 2018 at 10:45 pm Permalink

        The later books, and his friendship with Nina are where I actually started to like him rather than just roll my eyes at his and Zoeys melodramatic relationship.

    • Rosey
      Posted 10th July 2018 at 11:46 am Permalink

      Damn… That is fair. I think I forget how recent his release was because we’re onto book 6 already and he and Zoey act as if they have been together forever, rather than a few weeks. I wish that this was something that was lampshaded with his inner monologue/ diary entries etc… but at the moment we really only get the thoughts of a teenage horndog.

  3. MrToddWilkins
    Posted 1st August 2018 at 3:49 am Permalink

    I would dearly love to see you guys recap Harry Potter.

    • Wing
      Posted 20th August 2018 at 10:53 pm Permalink

      Oh my god, I’m pretty sure we would all die trying to recap those tomes.

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