Title: Jake Finds Out
Front Blurb: Zoey fooled around behind Jake’s back with Lucas, who used to go out with Claire. Claire’s falling in love with Jake, but she’s got a secret only Lucas knows, and she’s dreading what will happen when… Jake finds out.
Back Blurb: They’ve all grown up together on a tiny island. They think they know everything about one another… but they’re only just beginning to find out the truth.
Jake finds out, and life on the island will never be the same. First Zoey, his old girlfriend, betrayed him. Now Claire, his new love, has hurt him too. Somebody’s going to pay…
Things are moving awfully quickly for Claire to be Jake’s new love. Also, that “somebody’s going to pay” line makes it sound like Jake is about to go on a spree killing, which would be a very different kind of story.
[Wing: ETA February 2: I have no idea why a version went out in January without any comments. It has been deleted and this is the real version. Sorry for any confusion.]
[Dove: Sorry I’m late, I was due to comment on this last night, but instead I was really ill.] [Rosey: I am even later than Dove. For no reason!]
Content Note: Brief reference to child sexual abuse and the trauma from that toward the end.
We open with Zoey writing about who’s her boyfriend; she’s torn between Jake (long-term boyfriend, great guy, nice guy, right guy according to her friends) and Lucas (wrong guy, very wrong guy, killed Jake’s brother wrong guy…).
She actually lets herself believe, though just for a moment, that Jake won’t care that she and Lucas shared a kiss “that stopped the moon in the sky and made my knees rattle.” Even if you weren’t kissing the guy Jake thinks killed his brother, pretty sure he’d care that the love of his life (oh, Jake) is kissing someone else and not telling him about it.
Oh, also, Lucas’ dad is about to send him away because Lucas brings shame on the family. So everything is going well on Chatham Island, clearly.
My friend Aisha thinks I’m being an idiot and that bad things will come from my being with Lucas. But I can’t really believe that my loving Lucas could ever result in anything bad. I mean, it’s love, right? And love conquers all. At least, I think it’s love. Does probable love conquer all?
Oh, you adorable, naive girl. (Also: AISHA YAY AISHA.)
Delightfully, the next bit of journaling is from Aisha herself. She’s grumpy about Christopher, who thinks they’re destined to be together because they’re the only two black kids on the island (not counting her little brother). Aisha doesn’t think that’s a very good reason to get together, and she’s not wrong.
But mostly, she’s annoyed by him because she’s too rational to be swayed just because everyone thinks he’s right for her, and unlike Zoey (whose life is a mess because of how she deals with boys — again, not wrong), Aisha isn’t going to change things just because a guy with a cute butt comes along. Adorable.
Nina: Doesn’t have a boyfriend, claims she’s never really wanted one, which is bullshit considering all that secret swooning over Benjamin in book one. (You can do so much better, Nina. SO MUCH BETTER.) We get a little bit more of Nina’s Three-Part Comic Tautology Rule: boys are as necessary as a training bra to a python, an inflamed appendix, and an electric blanket in hell.
(Applegate and Grant write such fun characters with often entertaining dialog. I really love their work, especially here.)
Nina does go off on a little spiel about how Benjamin is arrogant and self-centered and just refuses to realise she’s not just his friend but a cute girl who has only ever been interested in him. Now, while I think she could do so much better, I think she’s being too hard on Benjamin here. Tell him how you feel if you want him to know! Good lord. People aren’t mind readers, and you can’t expect them to know what’s going on inside your head and heart if you don’t tell them. (I can’t believe I just defended Benjamin. Damn it.) [Dove: Also, she’s not wrong. Benjamin is arrogant and self-centred.]
Claire: (My beloved.) Claire’s not sure whether Benjamin is still her boyfriend or if he hates her, and she’s not sure how she feels about him anymore. Or about a lot of things, since she remembered that she was the one driving when Wade died.
No one knows the truth except for Claire (now), Lucas, and Mr Geiger, but Benjamin suspects.
Claire’s torn about whether she should tell the truth. If she does, she could really hurt her father, who was only trying to protect her, and she knows Jake will never look at her the same, just when she’s realised how much she likes him.
But if she doesn’t, she doesn’t know what kind of person she is.
Not only does she have those big questions hanging over her, but she’s also not sure if she loves Benjamin, Jake, or if there’s lingering feelings with Lucas. She’s all full of turmoil.
Claire. <3 <3 <3
Chapter one opens with Lucas and Zoey hanging out in her bedroom, and she’s feeling embarrassed because she didn’t bother to clean up before she invited him in, and so there are panties and bras spilling out of dresser drawers and things scattered everywhere.
They talk a little about the quotations she likes to put on her wall on yellow Post-it notes and flirt a little (he’ll picture her sitting at her desk when he thinks about her at night — except for when he pictures her in her messy bed, though he tries to keep those thoughts under control), and then they simply hold hands and gaze upon each other’s glory (oh Lucas) before they make out a little.
Until they’re interrupted by Benjamin, who has come to warn them that Jake is downstairs in the family room. You know, Jake, her boyfriend. Whoooops. Benjamin kept him from just coming up by convincing him that she’s waxing her legs. Oy.
Before they can figure out what to do, Jake comes upstairs and Zoey forces Lucas to hide, though he’d much rather they get things out into the open (good plan). There’s too much junk under her bed for him to hide there, a detail that delights me, and so he crams himself into her closet.
Jake teases her about wanting to feel her freshly waxed legs, but Zoey shoots him down. This is nothing new for them, I’m sure we all remember from the last book, but Jake’s not phased, because he’s actually there to pick her up for dinner. They’re going out with his parents to The Tavern, which is super fancy, apparently, because Zoey freaks out about not having anything to wear, and promptly sends Jake over to her closet.
Good lord, how have you not been busted already, kid? You are terrible at this! [Dove: Zoey is one of those book-smart, clueless people, isn’t she?]
He digs through it, but doesn’t manage to grab Lucas. How the fuck big is this closet anyway?! Zoey finally gets in between him and the closet, gets her dress (with a little help from Lucas himself), and then shuts the closet door as she kisses Jake.
Zoey: Making Terrible Decisions Forever.
After Jake goes back downstairs to wait for her, Lucas and Zoey have an argument over her keeping secrets and kissing Jake (who is, I remind you, STILL HER BOYFRIEND, you have no stones to throw here, Lucas). They they have a talk about whether they are a we, and they are, and it is all cheesy and kind of delightful.
Right up until he starts judging how low-cut her dress is. Come the fuck on, dude, if she was wearing it out on a date with you, you’d love it.
Sure enough, once she’s done changing, he gets choked up over her and how beautiful she looks. I don’t remember paying much attention to this the first time I read the books, but Lucas and Jake are really being set up against each other in some interesting ways. The good guy jock is the one filled with rage, the bad boy “killer” is full of soft emotions.
They make out awhile again, and it feels great for Lucas (whose head we jumped into after he came out of the closet), almost good enough to wash away the knowledge that just a few minutes before, she was kissing Jake with that mouth. By the transitive property, that means you’ve kissed Jake too, Lucas!
Or, you know, really, it means she’s kissing both of you, back and forth, in quick succession right now.
Over to Claire, who is carrying groceries home when she sees Benjamin walking ahead of her. She slows down so she won’t catch up to him, and thinks about how handsome and serious he looks, how he moves “with the easy confidence of a sighted person” which is kind of a shit way to describe it, and how he thinks he knows the truth.
That prompts her to catch up with him, and he says he was wondering if she was trying to avoid him, because he heard her stop by the kite shop. She has a distinctive walk and she’s wearing thongs. She can’t sneak around in thongs. Not entirely true, but mostly; they do make a fairly sharp sound most of the time. [Dove: In England, a “thong” is a g-string. Not shoes. I figured out what it meant contexually (assumed it meant heels, which is wrong, but shoes in general was right), but it took a couple of reads to figure out that Claire’s butt cheeks weren’t rubbing together.]
Though Claire doesn’t come right out and say it, one of the things she likes about Benjamin is that her beauty plays no great role in their relationship, and it’s one of the few she has that she can say that about.
He tells her he’s coming over to talk to her and to have Nina read to him, and they head down to the tumbled boulders that line the shore around there. Claire pays more attention to the weather for a moment, a front coming in from the southwest, and she hopes that there will be rain and maybe even a small storm.
Benjamin brings up his theory, but Claire twists around him with her words, wiping his “subtle superior smile” away, which is one of the things I dislike about him, how fucking smug he is around everyone, as if none of them could possibly be as smart as he is.
She tells him that she doesn’t remember, still, but she’s been thinking about it, wondering if he’s right, but maybe it was her driving that night, maybe it was Wade himself. And then she lets it go, because she doesn’t want to overdo it. Talking to Benjamin is always a chess match, especially when she wants to deceive him, because she can’t mislead him with an innocent look or a pretty smile.
And then we get this delightful little exchange:
“If you did remember, and what you remembered was that it was you, and not Lucas, who was driving the car, would you tell?”
Claire stared straight into the distorted reflection of her own face. “Yes, Benjamin. Of course I would. What kind of person do you think I am?”
A ghost of a smile formed on his lips. “I don’t know, Claire. Do you?”
Nina sees Claire and Benjamin coming back from the rocks and is grumpy, both because of her crush and because he’s blown her off for 15 minutes. She gets paid by the hour, and she’s going to charge the Passmores for those 15 minutes. As she fucking well should, since he was intentionally late like that.
She then does some math on how much it would cost him to spend another 10 minutes making out with Claire downstairs (about 83 cents, in case you’re curious, more than worth it), and then sprays on some perfume.
Of course she’s snippy when Benjamin finally makes it to her room, and they settle down to read some poetry, which Nina hates because she can never get the rhythm right and Benjamin always corrects her. Fuck off, Benjamin! (Nina flips him off not just once, but twice, once with both hands, because it makes her feel better, even though she knows it’s mean. I love Nina.)
Nina has to read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “The Indian Serenade,” which she fears is a love poem and she wonders if he’s having her read it because he’s trying to tell her something. Oh, Nina, he’s not that suave.
She reads through it and thinks that he’s paying more attention than normal; as she reads about the narrator’s heart beating fast, her heart races. She’s delighted that he’s amazingly subtle (for a guy) and doing this on purpose. Oh, Nina, no.
When she’s done, he tells her that she’s getting better at reading poetry, she put real feeling into that one. You, Benjamin, are a bag of dicks. You may not know how she feels (though if he’s as perceptive as he’s supposed to be about people and their reasons for doing things, I’m not sure I believe he doesn’t know), but she’s still reading your fucking homework to you. It doesn’t really matter if she puts the emphasis on the right syllables or if she fills someone else’s words with emotion.
They talk about how she identifies with it more than some of the others, and he teases her a little because it’s a love poem and he didn’t know she felt that way about anyone. She thinks it’s the perfect time to tell him, but in the end, she just asks him what he wants her to read next.
As much as I don’t like Benjamin, my heart goes out to Nina here. What an awkward, emotional, tense moment. It feels real (credit to Applegate and Grant and their writing skill), and it makes me care so much about her and her happiness.
Claire, thinking she has at least an hour while Nina reads to Benjamin, takes herself up to the widow’s walk, her favourite place in the world. It would be mine, too, and her love for it and for the weather is part of why I adore her so.
She hides a leather-bound journal behind a brick in the chimney. The first thing she writes in it is the date, time, temperature, and wind’s speed and direction. Oh god, Claire, you delightful fucking nerd. I’m picturing her as a storm chaser now, with her tech and her passion and her wild disregard for what people expect from her when they see her pretty face and learn she’s a scientist.
She writes about her problems with Benjamin and Jake, but the real problem, she notes, is whether to tell the truth. People will think she knew all along, that she let Lucas go to jail to protect herself, that her dad bribed the Cabrals so she wouldn’t take the blame, etc.
She wants to do what’s right, and she knows the right thing is to tell, but she’s not sure it’s the smart thing to do. How can she put her friends over her own father?
As she writes through it, she talks herself into keeping the secret, and then turns to the question of what to do about Benjamin. He’s too hard to deceive, too dangerous to have around, so he has to go. (Again, this could so easily slant into serial killer territory — and I bet Claire would make a smart, dangerous one.)
She’s rather sad over putting Benjamin out of her life, because he’s been in it for a long time, and they’re a lot alike: private, aloof, independent, difficult, challenging.
And this makes an interesting point for me. If they are a lot alike (if the authors want to write them as being alike), why do I adore Claire and dislike Benjamin? Is it his smug superiority? Because she can be that way too. Is it how he treats Nina? Because she’s pretty shit to Nina too, a lot of the time. Is it that guys get away with this kind of bullshit all the time and it’s refreshing to see it in a girl? Maybe. [Dove: I think it’s partially because we know what’s coming, because I really don’t remember hating Benjamin this much on my first read. But he is insufferable. And you’re right, we don’t often see this personality in a female, which makes Claire interesting, but him a bit of a toad, to use Nina’s expression.] [Rosey: I had really forgotten most of the stories in this series, and at this point in the series I really don’t hate Benjamin. He’s a bit self involved and pretentious, but he’s a teenager.]
Nina writes about her in the fifth grade, when she had braces, terrible hair, zits, and horrible clothes. She was in love with a boy named Sketch, who had a brother named Canvas. Those poor kids. Anyway, her five step plan: (1) try to sit next to him at lunch, (2) let him copy her math tests, (3) always smile at him without showing her braces, (4) try to run into him at the mall, and (5) get Claire to find out if he likes Nina.
You can see where that is going, clearly, and Nina claims she learned an important lesson: to come straight out and tell people how she feels.
… are you sure you learned that?
(Oh, damn, and Claire actually went out with Sketch. WTF, Claire. That’s some shit. And I have a hard time believing she’d go out with someone named Sketch anyway.)
Aisha, Nina, and Zoey are talking about the whole Lucas in the closet, Jake in the bedroom thing while they’re on the ferry, which means, of course, everyone else is also on the ferry, but they’re not all sitting together as a group, which has annoyed Aisha, mostly because Aisha thinks Zoey should control her “romantic impulses,” which makes me laugh out loud. Oh, Aisha, I love you.
Aisha is taller than Zoey and Nina, and uses that height to literally look down on Zoey and show her sadness at Zoey’s folly.
Zoey won’t let either of them go sit down, because then she’d have to sit with either Jake or Lucas, and she can’t decide what to do. UMM. You could always just sit with Aisha and Nina, you’re already with them as it is. Or join Claire and Benjamin. Or sit by yourself and read a book or something.
Aisha points out that because Zoey refuses to tell Jake, she’s making everyone lie to each other. This hurts Zoey’s feelings, because she’s not asking anyone to lie for her — except Aisha’s right, and she totally is, because lying by omission is also lying, and Aisha points all this out: Zoey’s lying to Jake, Nina and Aisha are lying to Jake and Claire by not telling them, Benjamin knows, so he’s also lying to Claire (and Jake, though Aisha doesn’t point this out), and Lucas is lying just by pretending he doesn’t care about Zoey. I mean, really he’s lying because he’s not telling Jake he’s been making out with Zoey, but I don’t actually see anything wrong with him pretending he doesn’t care about Zoey. It’s the acting on it that is a problem here.
(Nice bit of [terrible] foreshadowing: Aisha says a week ago they were all close friends who more or less told each other the truth, and Nina agrees that it was “more or less.” Ugh, Nina. I love you.)
Zoey argues that Aisha is being judgmental because Aisha doesn’t have any romance in her soul, but eventually even Zoey has to admit that she’s being shitty to her friends, as well as Jake, and promises that she will talk to Jake soon. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Jake starts to come over to them, so they very loudly start talking about tampons and pads, and Jake veers away in disgust. Now, on the one hand, guys being grossed out by periods is a ridiculous, sexist thing, but on the other hand, it is super true, especially in high school, and on yet another hand, this exchange is hilarious. I love the friendships between the girls so, so much. (Even when they’re being shitty to each other, usually.)
In gym, Jake tries to take things out on Lucas while playing basketball, but when he charges Lucas and knocks him down, Lucas accidentally kicks him. Or at least, Jake thinks it is accidental, though later in the locker room, he wonders if it was on purpose. If it was, that means Lucas can be fast and accurate even while falling, and I hope it was on purpose. (It probably wasn’t.) Jake measures up whether it would be worth having a fight with him, despite that potential fast accuracy (Jake has 30 or 40 pounds on him, and thinks he could beat Lucas), but in the end doesn’t pick the fight in the shower.
(If this series was coming out now, do you know how much slash fic this scene would inspire? SO MUCH. And all sorts of debates about who would top, etc.)
ANYWAY, Jake does call Lucas a killer, and Lucas ignores him for awhile, but confronts him once they’re both dressed; he didn’t want to go through it with Jake, but flat out says that three of them were in the car, all three of them were drunk, Lucas pled guilty and did his time. It’s over. That is a damn subtle way of getting around flat out saying you killed his brother when really Claire was driving.
Jake again considers fighting him, but he promised Zoey he wouldn’t. Instead, he throws it into Lucas’s face that he knows Lucas’s dad is kicking him out. Lucas immediately wants to know if Zoey told him that, because suddenly Lucas has lost all his ability to be subtle and smart.
Of course, it is Zoey who trips them into an actual fight. Jake swings at Lucas, but Lucas puts him down with fast, economical movements. (Goddamn. That’s hot.) Lucas tells Jake he gave him one free shot on the ferry, but he won’t let Jake do it again, and he’s spent two years with a tough crowd learning to take care of himself.
Jake’s friends bolster Jake after Lucas leaves, telling him that Lucas sucker punched him and that he’ll get Lucas next time. Oh come the fuck on. I know they’re supporting their friend, but Lucas certainly did not sucker punch him, not when Jake was swinging first. It’s not Lucas’s fault that Jake apparently can’t throw a punch for shit.
All of this has Jake worried about Zoey and Lucas, and even the faintest suspicion is too much, so he’s driven to find out the truth.
At lunch, they’re arguing over the gross meat and where Salisbury is and Nina makes all sorts of jokes about Turkey being separated from Salisbury by Greece and how Frankfurt and Hamburg aren’t in Germany but are in County Mayo, Ireland, get it, GET IT. I love Nina and her cheesy sense of humor SO MUCH. AND THEN AISHA ADDS THAT ZOEY GETS IT, SHE JUST DOESN’T RELISH IT OH MY GOD.
Their friendships are so, so great.
Zoey asks Claire to sit with them, because she thinks there’s some sort of tension between her and Claire. I mean, besides you making all of your friends lie to her, including her own boyfriend? Surely not.
(Oh, Zoey, if only you knew.)
Claire asks if Nina’s going to eat her turkey, because she’s supposed to be giving up animal flesh. Nina says she’s starting with cows and pigs, then working her way down to chickens and turkeys; fish will be stage three. Good luck, kid.
Before Claire can tease her about her vegetarian thing, Jake turns up, “his face distorted by cold anger,” and he tells Zoey he needs to talk to her alone in a “low, dangerous voice.” Fucking off with that intimidation bullshit.
When Zoey doesn’t leave with him immediately, he demands to know what’s going on with her and Lucas. Zoey feels like everyone is watching them — and they ARE, but that’s on you for not doing this sooner and in private — but says that she was going to tell him.
Jake is furious about this, but doesn’t do more than slam his fist against the table; I can see other writers handling this much worse (making him slam things around, but treating it as normal because of course he has to act like that, he loves her). And while he does come back to ask how she could do this to him, because he loves her and he thought she loved him too, it’s never presented that him getting physically violent here would be an understandable thing. That’s pretty cool.
As soon as Jake leaves, the crowd starts to whisper about them, Lucas looks nearly as unhappy as Jake did, and all of their friends are mad at her, too, especially when she accuses them of telling him. Fuck out of here, Zoey. Aisha calls her on that, telling her that it’s not their fault, she can’t take it out on them, and after all, they’re the only three friends she has left.
Until Claire leaves, telling her that Zoey has two friends left. Oh snap. (Not a surprise at all.) [Dove: I kind of love this moment with Claire. She’s up front about which side she’s on. That’s not always the case with her, but here it’s lovely.]
Zoey tries to write a letter to Jake, more or less to apologize to him, but each start is pretty terrible. The one she finally finishes is almost worse, because it’s too long, and makes too many excuses, if she’s supposed to be doing this to apologize to him.
Nina and Aisha both tell her it’s a good letter, though. Psh.
They then talk about how Zoey knows she loves Lucas more than Jake, when up until recently, she thought she was head over heels in love with Jake, so it’s hard to believe her when she says she loves Lucas. It’s hard for any of them to put emotional things into words, which I like, it’s believably awkward and makes their friendships seem truly real, but eventually Zoey settles on this:
“It’s not that I suddenly didn’t like Jake anymore,” Zoey said. “It’s just that all of a sudden there was Lucas. And it was like…” She searched her mind for a comparison. “It was like, you know, how at night the moon can seem amazingly bright, but then you get days when the moon is still up in the sky, but the sun is up, too? And then the moon looks pale and the sun looks so incredibly bright?”
“So Jake is the moon and Lucas is the sun,” Nina said dryly. “Zoey, have you been working on your romance novel again?”
Zoey is the cheesiest of the cheesy. [Dove: And Nina is a perfect foil to this nonsense.]
In a journal entry from Claire (or something similar, I guess), we learn that Claire kissed Jake last year over Christmas vacation while Zoey and Benjamin were visiting their grandparents for a week. The island got a foot of new snow, Claire ran into Jake playing around on the beach on a new snowmobile (the idea of a snowy beach breaks my heart; beaches should be warm and sunny), Jake didn’t offer Claire a ride because what would Zoey think, but he doesn’t turn her down when she asks, they ride around for awhile, Jake says his lips are frozen stiff, and Claire kisses him briefly. Claire calls it no big deal, Jake freaks out and makes her swear she’ll never tell Zoey.
Oh good lord, everyone’s a fucking hypocrite. Well, maybe not Claire, we haven’t heard her actually weigh in on the kissing without telling, but Jake. Seriously. HYPOCRITE.
Ever since then, Jake can’t keep his eyes off Claire, and she knows it. This pleases her. She also likes how easy and open he is about how he feels, which is a big change from Lucas and Benjamin. A change she wants.
Back to the current plot, while Zoey’s finishing up that letter, Claire rides her bike to Jake’s. When no one answers the front door, she goes around to the door to Jake’s basement room. Good lord, everyone could get up to trouble with that. (… I speak from experience, since Ostrich had a basement room when we were younger, though it, at least, didn’t have a door to the outside. It did have a nice, big window, though.)
Before Claire gets to talk to Jake, though, she runs into Nina, who is, of course, delivering the letter, though she doesn’t come out and admit that to Claire right away. They snark at each other a little, but then Nina gets serious and tells Claire that it’s pretty sleazy of her to be skulking around Jake when no one knows if Jake and Zoey have even officially broken up yet and Claire and Benjamin most certainly have not.
As she does, Claire turns it on Nina and calls her out on her massive crush on Benjamin. This stymies Nina long enough for Claire to get away; Claire knows that was a bit of bad luck, because Nina will tell Zoey and might even tell Benjamin, and Claire isn’t ready to share that shit yet. Of course, it is a minor secret, and all she’s worried about is keeping the major secret from them.
Meanwhile, Jake is drinking lukewarm beer in his bedroom (he’s on his fourth), staring at a cardboard box full of his old stuff, and it is truly heartbreaking:
He took the lid from the cardboard box and sneezed at the dust that rose from it. The box was marked JAKE’S JUNK in black Magic Marker. He turned it over, spilling the contents onto his comforter. A Red Sox pennant, from the time Wade and he drove all the way down to Boston to watch a game, just the two of them. Come to think of it, that had been the first time he’d ever had a whole beer. Wade had used his fake ID to buy them some. By the end of the game, it was Jake who’d had to drive all the way home, even though he was just fifteen and didn’t have so much as a learner’s permit.
Great day. The only time he’d gone to a ball game with Wade. Great day.
He drank some more of his beer, ignoring the sour taste, and opened a scrapbook. Newspaper clippings of Wade when he was the star fullback on the Weymouth High football team. A photo of the whole team together, Wade right at the front, looking cocky, as always. A ticket from Wade’s junior prom. He was dead before his senior prom.
And the newspaper article about the accident, a sort of dividing line in the scrapbook. Before that article, most of the stuff was Wade’s.
After, it turned to pictures of Jake himself, standing with the whole team and looking cocky.
There’s a bunch of stuff of Jake’s after that, including things that remind him of Zoey. (Fifth beer goes here.) He ends up crying and shoving everything away, because he’s not drunk enough to deal with it all. (He might never be drunk enough.)
I don’t like Jake much throughout the series, but I feel for him here quite a bit. He’s dealing with a lot of shit, especially everything dragged up when Lucas returned, and there are clearly complicated feelings about his brother. [Dove: I don’t dislike Jake, but he’s not one of my favourites either, but I feel for him throughout. We have quite a lot of drama heading his way. And there are some scenes in later books where I flat-out adore him. But I’ll bring that up when we get there.] [Rosey: I feel like Jake is set up for me to not like him – big dumb jock with self destructive and possessive tendencies – but DAMN, there are times he really gets to me. ]
He finally notices that someone is tapping on his sliding glass door, and immediately assumes it is Zoey, because she’s the only one who comes straight to the door.
But no! It is Claire. It is … Claire. Didn’t she just leave?
Anyway, she comes in and sits on the end of his bed, which is a little awkward. Even moreso when he offers a beer, but she hasn’t been much interested in drinking since the accident. Jake swears he doesn’t drink and drive, he’s not Lucas; Claire tells him he’s definitely not Lucas.
Claire’s sympathetic with him, and supports him in being sad and crying, which is pretty great, actually, considering how often guys are socialised that they’re weak and terrible if they cry. (I’m aware that she’s probably manipulating a lot of this situation, but she didn’t have to do it that way, and I appreciate that Applegate wrote it like that.)
He cries against her for awhile, and though he’s sad, he’s also comfortable for Claire’s warmth (and the soft swell of her breasts, he definitely notices that even though he doesn’t really want to); finally, he stops crying and thinks about how he never could have guessed that Zoey could be so cold-blood or that Claire could be so sympathetic.
And then they make out for awhile. Claire’s lips are fuller and softer than Zoey’s, but she kisses more forcefully, she knows what she wants and goes for it, and this is one of the things I love about Claire. (Baby!Wing would have been absolutely besotted.)
Switch over to Aisha, who left Zoey’s as soon as Nina went to deliver the letter. Aisha’s in a bad mood after all the emotions that Zoey has been putting out, and she resents that Zoey keeps dumping on her. Not to mention that anyone could have seen this coming.
There’s a gorgeous description of the setting as she walks:
The night was cool but not cold, with wispy clouds concealing, then revealing stars, one moment hiding the moon and plunging the road into darkness, the next moment letting the moon shine bright and turn the road silver. The surf to her right broke on the beach with comforting regularity, a crash followed by the rattle of small stones being sucked into the undertow, a lull, then a new crash.
Across the water Weymouth was going to sleep. Most of the office buildings were dark, except for a few scattered lights where cleaning crews were at work.
Of course, she ends up running into Christopher, who is out riding on his bike. She describes him as being tall, just under six feet (…so not tall actually), and muscular in a wiry way; he always gives the impression that he’s leaning forward, eager to see everything first. I like that bit of description that doubles as character building.
They flirt a little, mostly about how Aisha likes to control things and make her own decisions, because she’s delightful; he does point out that no one is always in control, life just doesn’t work that way. Aisha tells him that life doesn’t work any other way, and she has proof in Zoey, who doesn’t stop to think about what she’s doing, especially romantically, or where it’s likely to lead.
I love you, Aisha. I love you so damn much.
Christopher then distracts her from their conversation by pointing out that he lives in a sprawling Victorian that is nearby; she thinks the turret is cool, and he just so happens to have the top room in it. The landlady rents it to him cheap because he helps out as the handyman. One of his 94 jobs, Aisha teases, but really he just has 5 (“just”): cook at the Passmore restaurant (though that’s slowing down outside of tourist season), paperboy, equipment manager and part-time soccer coach at the high school, landscaping, and the handyman job. He only works about 50 hours a week; he’d like to work more, but jobs are scarce.
While I admire him working so hard to pay his own way, perhaps he should have thought things through and not moved to a small island with a short tourist season if he wanted a lot of year-round work.
He invites her upstairs to see his apartment, and it doesn’t take him much time at all to talk her into it. There’s no one else staying on his floor, which is a nice bit of information if you’re trying to sex someone up, I suppose. His room sounds great, though; it’s an octagonal room with tall paned windows on three sides that provide excellent views of the beach and Weymouth by night.
I’d like to live there.
He’s organised his work schedule on a dry erase board in a color coded grid.
… oh shit, Christopher has just won me over, y’all. I’d completely forgotten about his delightful organisation. (I do the same thing even now, and certainly did the same thing when I was working multiple jobs and going to school full time.)
There’s very little personal touches, though, no posters, no pictures, no mementos; Christopher says it’s only a place to sleep, and when Aisha asks about family photos, he’s brusque at first, but then admits that he doesn’t get along with his family much. In fact, he hasn’t seen them since he graduated four months ago and moved to the island.
Aisha realises that Christopher is uncomfortable and unsure of himself; it’s the first time she’s seen him that way. She flat out asks if he’d like her to drop it (I really appreciate Aisha’s straightforward nature), and he says that it’s no big deal, they’re just “the typical screwed-up inner-city family. No father. My mom’s on welfare. She was on crack for a year, but she got off that and now she just drinks. My older sister’s living with a creep who takes all her money.”
Hmm. I have thoughts. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to elaborate on them all that well, but I’ll give it a try. On the one hand, I like that Aisha, our first black character in the series, is written with a warm, caring, successful family that includes her dad. (There’s a huge stereotype that black men are never involved in their families’ lives.) On the other hand, white writers have a history of not writing black characters well, particularly when they try to write inner city characters; they rely heavily on stereotypes (which are here in spades) and often write them not as well rounded characters, but as dramatic backstory for the black character who has overcome. And that seems like what’s happening here. It’s complicated and potentially messy and potentially causes real harm depending on how the author handles it.
[Dove: On the other other hand, given later books – which may or may not have been envisioned when this scene was written – Christopher’s back story does not entirely line up, but in later books it does not come across as a continuity error. (After being reprimanded by Rosey last recap, I’m trying to stay spoiler free here!) So possibly out of all of the options available to Christopher, possibly telling this story, which is a cliche, seems the easiest way to “open up” without telling the truth.]
There’s a bit more to this exchange, with Aisha shocked that someone so confident and driven could have come from the projects (ugh), and Christopher talking about how he’s never going back to them, and he learned young that life isn’t fair and that even though most people fail, he’s not most people, and he doesn’t care how impossible it is to succeed, he’s going to find a way.
And then the heavy conversation lightens a little and turns to them flirting. (Well, and a quick bit about how he’s bitten off more than he can chew with the cold on the island, which was described last year as an “icicle enema” — I’m never visiting Maine in the winter. NEVER.) It’s not super great flirting, though; when she says there are some things he can’t get, he tells her she could just give in already. Kinda gross flirting in some ways.
They leave it at the fact that they’ll keep running into each other, because on a small island it can’t be totally avoided, and that maybe they’ll accidentally run into each other at bargain night at the movies, which is kind of adorable. (Also, $2 tickets for the bargain show in the 90s?! We were paying $1.50 in the late 2000s in a much larger winter town.) It’s not a date. Not a date at all, just two people who live in a small town running into each other.
Oh, you kids.
Later, Nina calls Zoey, who is kind of upset that Nina didn’t come back after leaving the note for Jake. Worse, Nina didn’t actually deliver the note; she tries to brush it off as saying that she wasn’t sure if he was there, but Zoey can tell she’s hiding something. Nina flat out says that she won’t tell her because it would be like tattling or spying for her, and I think that’s pretty cool of her, especially because of her complicated relationship with Claire.
Zoey manages to talk her way around to knowing it was Claire. Nina defends her a little, saying that she was probably just bringing him homework or something; Zoey calls Claire a bitch and says that if she’s going around Benjamin’s back, she’ll kill her.
ARE YOU — ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW, ZOEY? WHAT KIND OF BULLSHIT HYPOCRISY ARE YOU SPEWING?! [Dove: Zoey, this is why nobody on this site likes you.] [Rosey: True that.]
Thank god Nina also calls her on this bullshit. (Which is realistic, but is still shitty.) (Alas, Nina says that best friends aren’t supposed to tell you the truth about yourself, which is the opposite of what I look for in a best friend, now or when I was baby!Wing.)
Oh, damn, Zoey actually calls herself a hypocrite. Nicely done, Applegate. She’s being shitty, but she eventually realises she’s being shitty and apologises. You’ve made me like Zoey a little bit here.
Back to Claire’s diary. She writes about comforting Jake and making out with him, and how different Jake and Benjamin are from each other. She then talks about how she’s at least partly responsible for what happened with Wade, which is right and wrong. I mean, yes, all three of them were drinking and any of them could have been the driver, but she was the driver, so that falls pretty squarely on her.
She decides to tell Benjamin that it is over when they’re on the ferry so that she doesn’t end up like Zoey with him finding out a much worse way. She’s also certain that he won’t be devastated the way Jake was, because Benjamin never needs anyone but Benjamin, and what was so strange about the thing with Jake is that he needed her.
That’s an interesting bit of characterisation for someone who is considered to be an ice queen by many of the other characters, and pretty excellent nuanced writing from Applegate. Claire may be cold and precise and driven, but she has emotions, too, and she needs things. And she’s willing to admit them to herself, at least, even if she’s reserved with everyone else.
The next morning on the ferry, Claire carries her books like a shield. Lucas, Zoey, and Nina are already on the top deck, and Zoey refuses to meet her eyes; meanwhile, Jake and Aisha are coming across the parking lot, and Benjamin is sitting on the top deck, alone. She goes to tell him before Jake gets on the boat, feeling both determined and nervous, which makes her unhappy, because she’s never felt nervous before when breaking up with someone before.
She sits next to him, trying to remember what she memorized to say (people change and change is good, but it doesn’t mean couples last, and Benjamin will easily find another girl to go out with, and neither of them promised forever), but before she can actually settle on anything, Benjamin says that she should be sitting with Jake, because he’s known for a long time that she’s been setting her sights on Jake. Claire assumes Nina told him, but nope, Nina told Zoey (not really true) and Zoey told him because she’s his sister and she loves him.
Claire’s flustered and tries to get back to her memorised lines, but he shoots her down because that’s trite and he expected better style from her. He then tells her that Jake will be an interesting change for her because she always needed a guy to feel superior to, and that’s what she thought she was getting from Benjamin, but she didn’t. She’s an isolated, lonely, superior person, she sits on her widow’s walk and watches the clouds above her and the little people down below, and she won’t tolerate her equal for long.
She knows that he’s hurting her on purpose, but it still does hurt, and he is being a jackass here. They were supposed to be monogamous, she shouldn’t have been kissing someone else, but he’s also being a dick to her (and I don’t even think he knows about the kissing, because Nina couldn’t confirm that). She tells him that he’s really describing himself, and he agrees, and says that’s why she’ll get bored with Jake and come back to him, because they’re so much alike.
That … is not wrong, and yet I love Claire and hate Benjamin. A huge part of it is how he treats Nina later; I can’t remember if I disliked him so much my first time through, but I can’t forget what happens later. But part of it is that Claire comes off more reserved and solitary, while he comes off as smug and assholish.
Benjamin then hints that her relationship with Jake will only last until he learns the truth, and she really lashes out at him over that. He says he won’t tell, because despite everything, he loves her, but how long will Lucas keep her secret. I mean, he’s kept it through a lot of shit already, so …
He then predicts that she’ll be the one to tell the truth, because even though she’s self-serving and ruthless, he believes she’ll do the right thing in the end.
Later, Zoey comes up to see how he is, and he says he’s okay, and he’s glad he deprived her the pleasure of dumping him thanks to her. Jesus fucking christ, it’s not like she was acting all Disney villain, cackling and rubbing her hands together and casting fire spells and turning dalmatian puppies into coats. [Dove: Passmores, I hate you. They’re really petty.]
Zoey actually comes to Claire’s defense, because Zoey’s only just learning how painful it can be. Claire and Jake are down on the lower deck, and Zoey’s struggling because know she thinks that Jake will be comparing her to Claire, who is beautiful, dark and sultry, with a disgustingly perfect body, and now Jake will be glad that Zoey’s out of his life.
YOU WANTED OUT OF HIS LIFE OH MY GOD.
Anyway, they make a bet on how long Claire and Jake will last. Benjamin: two weeks. Zoey: six weeks. She wants to bet $10, but he drops it to $5 because he already bet someone at school that she and Lucas won’t last three months. Dickish, but in a believable, loving sibling way.
Zoey asks if he’ll come to the movies with them tonight, because Aisha’s going because of that conversation with Christopher but she doesn’t want it to look like a date, so Zoey and Lucas and Nina are coming along too. Benjamin says Nina’s not exactly a date, brushing her off, but he agrees to go. (How little you know, Benjamin. How little you know.)
Nina’s answer a question about the major Axis powers in WWII and thinking about how Benjamin would know, but then again, he’s a senior and she’s only junior. And maybe that’s why he doesn’t get that she wants to date him, because he only wants to date older, mature girls. So she’ll be sophisticated at the movie, no dumb jokes, only witty observations. Oh, Nina. My heaaaart. Don’t change yourself for romance!
She keeps going back and forth between her logic over the question and her nerves about the movies, and it’s kind of adorable. Applegate does a great job of balancing the mundane world with the emotional.
Zoey, Fourth Period
Zoey’s daydreaming in English (which she apparently shares with Claire and Jake), and she’s busted daydreaming when she can’t answer a question about foreshadowing. Zoey then continues to space out and think about how one of your friends telling you to be honest is foreshadowing. Which is … not really the actual part that foreshadowed the trouble, but sure.
Claire answers a question about Metaphor, even though she’s also not been paying attention but apparently whispering with Jake.
AND THEN. AND THEN WE GET THIS GREAT BIT WHERE ZOEY IS A JUDGMENTAL ASS AND CLAIRE IS SUPER FUCKING SMART.
Claire thought for a moment. “Well, I think the hurricane is a metaphor for the heroine’s own passion. It’s a metaphor for sexual desire. At first it was just out there, harmless, but as it came inexorably closer it became more powerful, more overwhelming, more dangerous, until the heroine was caught up and swept away by it.”
Zoey rolled her eyes. Half the guys in the room were now sitting there with their tongues hanging out. Including Jake. And it wasn’t even the right answer. The metaphor in the book had nothing to do with sex.
“Absolutely correct,” the teacher said.
God forbid anything talk about sex, Zoey. Fuck. (Heh.)
Aisha, Fifth Period
She’s working through a math problem, and she does well, though she leaves off parentheses; one of the things she likes about it is that it is important to be precise, and also she loves the logic of math, and I love Aisha more and more. [Dove: Aisha for the win.]
She’s also stressing about what she wore, because she thinks Christopher will think she’s dressed up for him. SHE THEN STARTS TRYING TO COME UP WITH THE EQUATION TO PREPARE FOR EVERY POSSIBLE ARRANGEMENT OF SEATING AND GODDAMN I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
Nina, Sixth Period
Nina is also working out seating arrangements, though without the math equations, so less delightfully. She, too, gets caught not paying attention but she gets to smart off that she knows exactly what the teacher is asking, which is about a tautology, and she once again gets to be funny.
“Do you think you could offer an example?” the teacher asked poisonously.
“Yes, ma’am. Um, okay, like a funny example would be if I say that I love this class like a hungry baby loves his mother’s nipple, like a… like a drunk loves a toilet with plenty of room to kneel, like a hooker loves a sailor on leave… Wait, one more–like a teenage guy loves his hand.”
When the laughter died down, the teacher asked Nina if she knew the way to the principal’s office. She did, and went off down the hall shaking her head.
Never should have gone for that fourth one, she chided herself. I’ve always said three was the right number. When I tell this story to Benjamin tonight, I’ll leave one out. After all, I’m going for sophisticated.
Things do not get any less complicated at the theater; Zoey refuses to see a slasher movie because she doesn’t understand how people can find it entertaining to watch women being murdered. Which is a valid criticism, but it’s one thing to criticise the media and another to judge people (including your friends) for what they want to watch. People get to create what they want to create and people get to watch what they want to watch. Open to criticism, yes. Shutting them down for doing it, no.
(Despite cheap movies, Tuesday is not a movie night. I find that hard to believe. CHEAP MOVIES.)
Aisha also refuses to watch violent movies, because of course the girls won’t watch it and the boys will. Benjamin says no animated characters trying to save the rain forest and if this is a slam against Fern Gully, I’m going to set things on fire. Nina agrees with Benjamin. She then shoots down My Sister’s Boyfriend, because awkward. Aisha shoots down the lawyer movie and the mock Tom Cruise a little (this is before the whole leaping on Oprah’s couch thing, right?), they all have opinions on Michael Keaton and Batman oh my god just choose a movie! [Rosey: in 2014 the film options are weirdly the same? The “violent” movie conversation is still there, but it includes a reference to “Dwayne Statham” which made me think Fast and the Furious franchise, but Dwayne Johnson involvement is too recent. It’s no wonder this cinema is cheap, because they are still showing Fern Gully and My Sister’s boyfriend. Michael Keaton as Batman is replaced by Christian Bale as Batman, and they end up seeing Christian Bale movie because, it was the only one released within a decade of 2014?]
Oh, wait, they’ve chosen the Michael Keaton movie, thank god. This sort of waffling isn’t fun in person with people I love, much less in a damn book.
(Okay, there are some funny moments, that is true.)
Zoey and Lucas find seats in the middle of the theater, but everyone else gets stuck waiting for Nina and Aisha to get their shit together. OH MY — you know, no. I’m going to fall on the entertaining side of this part, because this is a contemporary story about friendships and romances, and this sort of awkward dance is super realistic — all that tension of whether you’ll get to sit by the people you like and that stuttering breath and tension in your chest. It’s great, that thrill of a crush, and this is fun.
Finally, Christopher promises Aisha that he won’t count it as a date or even try to put his arm around her if she and Nina stop fighting over who goes next and she just sits down. Which she does, grumpily, and then Lucas jokes about everything changing seats again, which is actually kind of adorable.
Then we get some short bits of their reactions to the movie, which are funny and fun:
Lucas: Hates it, wishes it was funnier, his hand is numb after holding Zoey’s hand for so long, he wants to kiss her but Benjamin is right there, as are her friends, and he’s worried they’ll have an audience who judges them. God, Lucas, you are sometimes hilarious.
Zoey: It’s so romantic that Lucas only holds her hand doesn’t dry to feel her up or make out with her like Jake always did, and she’s sure that Aisha thinks she’s a backstabbing bitch, and is she one? Who knows.
Christopher: OMG OMG OMG OMG AISHA’S THIGH IS TOUCHING HIS AND HE ACTUALLY HAS ALL CAPS HERE OH MY GOD HE’D SELL HIS RIGHT ARM TO HAVE HER SO LONG AS IT WAS REMOVED PAINLESSLY THOUGH THAT WOULD FUCK UP SOME OF HIS JOBS OH GOD AISHA IS SO GORGEOUS.
Aisha: Can’t pull her leg away or he’ll think he got to her. Can’t leave it there because he’ll think she likes it and she doesn’t. He’s Mr Ego and he’s probably shocked that she’s ignoring him. Though he hasn’t tried anything and why not, did the red hots give her bad breath? OH MY GOD AISHA, YOU RIDICULOUS NERRRRRRD.
Nina: Benjamin leaned over to say something and his lips brushed her ear and she choked on a piece of popcorn and now she wants to die and I am laughing so hard I’m crying.
Benjamin: He thinks the movie sucks and he misses Claire and it’s making him sick, both how much he misses her and when he thinks about her with Jake. Maybe he should find someone new to go out with, too, but Aisha is the only girl he knows and she’s apparently dating Christopher and god, he misses Claire and what’s she doing right now and on and on and on.
I love bits like this in these books. It’s such a nice way to see how you can assume one thing about a person and they’re going through something much different in reality. It can be frustrating and make the reader want to shout at the characters to get their shit together, but it’s really interesting, too. [Dove: I was just about to say the same thing. These little character insights or time splits or countdowns are always both funny and they move everything along. It’s a nice touch.]
Meanwhile, Claire and Jake are going for a very slow drive while they listen to Lyle Lovett, very melancholy music. They head out to the Lip, a peninsula which is a fave make-out location, and is terribly and perfectly named.
AND THEN THERE IS THE LOWER LIP ACROSS THE INLET, PART OF THE NATURE PRESERVE, AND HOME TO A COLONY OF PUFFINS OH MY GOD PUFFFFFFFFFFINNNNNNNNNNNNNS.
… also, fuck their winters are cold.
After she spaces out a little because nature and cold air and weather, they talk about how the others think it’s weird she likes the weather, but she finds it super interesting and complex and always changing. I love her so, so much. And she wants to study meteorology, climatology, hydrography, and get her doctorate, and work in Antarctica, home of strange, unknown weather patterns, and y’all. I am so fucking charmed by Claire and her love of weather.
Applegate does a wonderful job of making each character unique and making the reader feel things for them. Sometimes rage, thank you Benjamin, but it is still emotion brought about by the writing, and that is exactly what I want to do as a writer, and I love seeing it in other people’s work.
Jake admits that he’s a little envious that she has something she loves and wants to do; he likes football, and he’ll probably be good enough to play in college, but doubts he’ll make the NFL and needs to figure out what else he’s going to do. He thought about criminal justice, becoming a cop, and oh, god, Jake and his temper would be a fucking terrible cop.
Claire accidentally hurts Jake when she pops off that he only likes her because Zoey hurt him. Goddamn, Claire, that is shitty and out of nowhere. Are you fucking fishing for compliments? Trying to pick a fight? Damn.
She knows it’s wrong, too, and reminds herself that for all he’s big and powerful-looking, Jake is far more vulnerable than Benjamin.
They talk about how he is hurting, but he’s always liked her, too, and she flat out asks him if he thinks she’s isolated, lonely, and superior. Oh, god, Benjamin’s words are lingering, aren’t they? No wonder she’s lashing out at Jake, who is accessible and safe.
They make out for awhile, and she notices that she feels like a different person with Jake, a nicer person. I am overidentifying with Claire a lot. (Though I’ve settled on being a good person, but not a nice one, personally. I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties trying to be a kinder, gentler Wing, though.)
And then the storm comes on, and she wants to go home and be on her widow’s walk, but she knows that will hurt Jake and he won’t understand. Oh, Claire.
After they get home from the movie, Lucas and Zoey talk a bit about Aisha and Christopher and how Aisha (Eesh, Zoey calls her, and that’s a terrible name on the page) won’t admit she likes him, and then they make out for awhile and are super cheesy about meeting in each other’s dreams.
Then Lucas heads home to a dark house, because his father has to get up early as a lobsterman and so goes to bed early. In his room, he finds a note from his father that says he’s on a flight to Houston on Saturday.
Oh god, here we go.
This is really heartbreaking, the struggle Lucas has returning to an insular small town that thinks he killed one of their beloved stars, dealing with his father being so disappointed in him, dealing with the ostracization from everyone but Zoey. And he did nothing. NOTHING.
He’d be happy to go to Texas but for Zoey, because his grandfather is not nearly as rigid, moralizing, and humorless as his dad, plus he’d get free of the judgmental town. But then there’s Zoey.
And he doesn’t think his parents would even believe him if he tried to tell the truth now.
UGH MY HEART.
We then get a bit of an entry from Lucas talking about why he signed the confession; he did it because he was in love with Claire, he would have done anything for her. She was the first person who ever said they loved him, and he’s always felt like an intruder in his own home, he’s never felt loved, and she gave that to him.
NO REALLY OH GOD MY HEART.
He confessed because he loved Claire and he loves his father even though he also hates him, and confessing saved them both. Neither of them ever came to visit, or sent letters, or called. He fell out of love with Claire a long time ago, but his dad is always his dad, how does he stop loving him?
OH GOD MY HEAAAAAAART. Fuck, I’d forgotten how heartwrenching Lucas’s story is.
Lucas misses school the next day, and Zoey comes over to see him as soon as she’s back on the island. He shows her the message and the ticket, and they’re both bleak and heartbroken. She demands to know what they can do to fix things, and he says nothing. He could stay in school and try to get his own place, but he couldn’t afford food, heat, clothing, etc. Or he could drop out and get a job somewhere and maybe in a few years he’d be a manager.
They tell each other “I love you,” and then make out for awhile. If it was anyone but Zoey, I would assume they have sex, but I don’t think Zoey does that even here. (Note from the future: she does not.)
Claire’s watching Jake’s football practice, bored and judgmental of the cheerleaders, though at least she’s also judgmental of why anyone would want to play football, too. Jake’s all proud of himself, and he teases her a little about knowing nothing about football. It’s actually a sweet little teasing, especially when she says several of his teammates have nice butts, which made me laugh out loud. [Dove: I love this, they’re so cute when they’re flirting.]
This unfortunately turns to talk of Zoey, and he’s not quite over her, he’s still hurting, but most of him is thrilled that he and Claire are together. Claire tells him she’s glad he hasn’t had any more fights with Lucas, and he says he wants to, but doesn’t need to. One of the things he learned in football is not to take unnecessary hits and don’t give unnecessary hits. That is actually really sound advice.
And, of course, Lucas is out of the game. His dad heard from Lucas’s dad that he is sending Lucas away. Claire is filled with joy and relief, and she and Jake have a delightful little exchange.
She leaned over and started to kiss Jake, but he pulled back.
“I’m all sweaty and dirty,” he protested, “and my breath probably smells like Joe Bolt’s shoe since he stuck it into my mouth on that last play.”
“Joe Bolt,” she said thoughtfully. “Is he the one with the nice behind?”
“Claire,” Jake said reproachfully, “we are all very, very tough guys and manly men and all. No one on the team has anything nice. Except maybe me.”
I wish I had Applegate’s writing talent when it comes to dialog. It’s amazing, pretty much always.
He tells her that he’s really starting to like her in a new way and he’s glad they’re together, and this makes her feel very touched and also guilty.
Nina is grumpy the next morning (and still smoking unlit cigarettes — Lucky Strikes — did they remove this from the reissues? Or was that still early enough they could keep fake smoking in?). She hates school, she hates getting up earlier, she hates studying — she just hates everything.
Zoey, too, isn’t doing well, though she’s more heartbroken than angry. Nina finds it weird to see her so upset, because Zoey is always sunshine to Nina’s rain. Which is not actually anything like what we’ve seen from Zoey over the two whole books (not even, since this isn’t the end of book two yet), but sure.
When Zoey talks about his family being so cold, Nina is about to crack a joke about Claire being such a cold family, but then she catches Claire furtively glancing at Zoey. Way to be subtle, woman. Nina thinks that Claire is acting like she knows why Zoey is sad, but since it’s a small island, maybe that doesn’t mean anything; she’s ignoring storm clouds, though, which is a huge thing.
Zoey’s mourning over how she loves him and how much this hurts, Aisha mutters about true love always leading to pain and then actually admits that maybe fate exists and maybe Zoey was doomed to go through this which is (a) kind of a shitty time to be saying that and (b) what the fuck, I thought you didn’t believe in fate!
Zoey says she’d go through it all over again, even if she knew how much it would hurt, and Aisha is doubtful but clearly rethinking her stance on love, and even Nina starts to cry, because it could happen to any couple; she’d be heartbroken if she knew she’d never see Benjamin again even though they aren’t romantically involved.
At lunch, Benjamin teases the lunch lady by pretending to guess what’s on the menu just be smelling it; really, he read the school lunch in the paper, he admits to Aisha. She walks with him across the cafeteria, one of the few places where he can’t just count steps and find his way because things move around too much.
She sits with him because Zoey is too depressing to sit with (which, as much as I like Aisha and dislike Zoey, that is a shitty thing to do to a friend; way to kick her when she’s down, Aisha), and ends up having to be the one to break it to him that Lucas is being kicked out.
Benjamin reacts badly, calling Claire a selfish bitch, though of course he doesn’t say her name and of course Aisha thinks he’s talking about Zoey, but he quickly puts her mind at ease. They then get into a conversation about how if people listened to reason and common sense only, we would have never moved on from “dragging our knuckles, eating bugs, and talking in grunts.” Which is fairly astute, but he’s also being a know it all to her, and she snaps at him for it when he starts giving people shit about saying “I told you so.”
She then has to go help Nina with Zoey, leaving Benjamin alone.
Journal from Benjamin: He’s been Zoey’s big brother all her life, and it meant he was required to tease her and to protect her. He feels like his role as big brother ended when he lost his sight (his words, and he even talks about how his therapist tells him to say he became differently abled, but he thinks that is b.s. And, since he’s the one going through it, he can talk about his experience negatively all he wants). Anyway, after that he fell behind at school and couldn’t protect anyone, even himself; Zoey defended him and helped him, and he felt completely wrong footed over it. He worked hard to keep from becoming a burden to her, and at the same time ended up helping himself, but mostly he’s glad he sometimes gets to be her big brother again.
Aisha and Nina talk about what’s good and bad about falling in love, and Nina freely admits that she’s a coward like Aisha. Aisha, of course, takes this as an insult and lets Nina know that she’s not a coward, she’s not afraid, she’s just sensible, and she’s not a baboon or a caveman.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of emotion built up inside of her, and I think Applegate wants us to tie that her being on edge and lashing out because Christopher has gotten to her and shaken her worldview so much. And that is definitely an interpretation.
HOWEVER. There is a long, storied history of comparing black people to primates and it carries a ton of racism and violence and pain in it. The baboon callout doesn’t seem to be tied to racism here, but you can’t separate it from its history, and it casts a new light on why Aisha is upset.
Aisha talks herself around to going out with Christopher because no one will stop picking on her until she does, including her mother, and so she goes straight up to him and tells him they’re going out Friday night. Of course he doesn’t argue.
Nina is intrigued by this whole being straightforward thing. You can do it, Nina.
Skip over to Claire, who is in therapy with Dr Kendall. She’s talking about how she already feels a lot for Jake even though it’s only been a few days; Dr K points out that actually, she’s known him her whole life, and even though it wasn’t romantic before, that doesn’t mean she couldn’t care about him.
Dr K leads the conversation around to Jake being Wade’s brother, and Claire immediately assumes Dr K thinks there’s something psychological going on. Dr K lets Claire talk her way through the idea that she’s going out with Jake to make it up to him that he lost Wade, and then tells her that it would be far fetched unless she has a reason to feel guilty over Wade’s death.
Dr K goes on to say that sometimes people feel guilt even when they aren’t responsible, and of course there’s survivors’ guilt, but Claire says that she doesn’t feel guilty at all, just a little strange that she lived and someone else died. She then cracks a joke about trying so hard to be crazy and not making it there. I’m flipping her off here.
Dr K reminds Claire that her opinion hasn’t change: Claire is well-balanced and well-adjusted.
Benjamin is annoyed that Claire’s not on the ferry, but then remembers she’s at her psychiatrist appointment. I … do not think that sounded much like a psychiatrist appointment, instead much more like therapy, but it can vary, I suppose. He thinks about how he should have tried to catch her as she left there, which would have given him “quite a nice little edge.”
This is one example of why I dislike Benjamin so. Even when he’s trying to do the right thing, he’s a manipulative asshole about it.
He goes to the house to try to catch Claire on his own, and her dad lets him wait in her bedroom. She gets home shortly after, and when he says they need to talk, she’s derisive and tells him she never thought he’d come begging. Her tone hurts him, but it’s pretty clear from earlier that she’s still lashing out at him for hurting her when he broke up with her. Then he turns the talk to Lucas, and the more he tells her about how Lucas has already been punished for something he didn’t do, the more frightened she gets and the more she lashes out, until she gets real cruel and tells him that he can’t see inside her to know the truth, he can’t even look into her eyes.
Damn, Claire, that is fucked up. And beyond being an extremely shitty thing to say, it’s also a dead giveaway that you’re lashing out because you feel cornered or you’re hiding something.
She keeps telling him to get out, but he keeps trying to talk her around, until he mentions that Zoey is going to end up with a broken heart. She snaps at him again, and tells him he wouldn’t know anything about a broken heart. He feels then that he’s failed, and tells her he knows about broken hearts and he can’t believe she’s this far gone.
She kisses him to prove a point, and it works, and finally he leaves.
Claire is absolutely shaken by him and thinks about how she should have pushed him down the stairs for him coming to her and accusing her of things, trying to make her feel guilty. She would have told if she remembered, and she didn’t ask Lucas to confess to protect her. She hadn’t remembered.
Until now, when it is too late.
She tries to convince herself that going off to Texas would be the best thing for Lucas and he’d have a better life there. And he probably would, but for this whole Zoey thing. And Claire tells herself that she shouldn’t worry about breaking Zoey’s heart, because Zoey sure wasn’t worried about breaking Jake’s heart, and besides, if Claire tells the truth, she’ll only hurt Jake worse.
All she has to do is get through Saturday morning and everything will be over.
She’s not hungry, but she has to eat because otherwise it will look strange. Then she’ll go to Jake and he’ll help her forget all the terrible thoughts that keep circling her.
Zoey shows Lucas her writing, even though she’s never shown it to anyone before. She’s never finished anything, though, she’s just written the first chapter of a romance novel about 25 times. Frustrating, but true for plenty of people. They flirt a little via breaking down romance novel covers, and then make out for awhile, until Lucas turns the talk to sex. Better watch it, Zoey’s likely to blow up at you for having normal urges.
She’s embarrassed, but does admit that she’s a virgin and even though she wants to make love, she has to stay in control, and romance is about wanting, not having. I am pretty sure you’ll find that plenty of people define romance as, you know, having a happy ending, which means that the heroes get to have, not just want.
Then she pops off that they can take a break from their making out because they have plenty of time — which, of course, they don’t, and brings them both back down to the real world.
Jake and Claire talk about their favourite colors (Jake red, Claire blue), and together they make purple which means they get along. Greens and yellows, though, would just make brown, and they’d never work. Claire’s pretty happy that they’re being lighthearted as they walk barefoot along the beach, just enjoying the moon and stars and being together.
Other things: GN’R vs U2 (Claire U2, Jake GN’R); chocolate chip cookies (both love, though there’s no other choice, so it doesn’t really count); Letterman vs Leno (both Letterman); dogs vs cats (Claire cats, Jake dogs); pepperoni vs anchovies (both pepperoni); lectures from the teacher versus reading assignments (both lectures); Gondin over Boyer (teachers )(both Gondin) —
— and then the surf surges over their feet. This is adorable, and would be pure delight except for that much darker truth hanging over them.
(One last one, they both prefer beaches and surf over mountains and snow, though that’s a tough one for Claire.)
Claire then gets serious about things, about how weird it is to live on the island, how she worries that she’ll struggle when she gets to college and a world where she doesn’t know everyone, but how she’s jealous of those people, too, because if you’re anonymous, you’re free to be whoever you want, whereas on the island it’s hard to ever live down your past.
Claire. You are being so shitty, but you still make my heart hurt for you.
Jake tells her that she has nothing to live down, and when she says he doesn’t know everything about her, he promises that he knows everything important and he knows he can trust her and know her true self. She reminds him that he thought he knew Zoey, and he finally admits that even on the island, where they’ve all grown up together, you can never be totally sure of who you can trust.
He begs her to promise not to turn against him because he can’t take it twice. First of all, you’re going to have to learn to live with that. People hurt you. They will all your life. Second, fucking ouch. Claire. You can’t let him go on like this.
They start to make out, but Claire is feeling strange and unsettled, thinking about how different Jake and Benjamin are, and how easy it is for her to fool Jake. He’s so easy and gentle with her, waiting like a sweet dog for a kind word, and Benjamin is far more like her. She’s going to hurt Jake, and she knows it. I know this feeling, though not for the same reasons. It sucks. [Dove: This entire scene. I think this is why I like Jake just a bit – because he’s really endearing with Zoey, and actually, he’s just as full of emotion as Lucas.]
Claire’s journal: Big changes, differences between Jake and Benjamin and how nice and soft Jake is, and how she likes being with him, but she always feels like she’s tricking him somehow. You mean … by lying to him constantly because you’ve never told him the truth? That sort of “somehow”?! She needs a storm to blow her out of her funk, but honey, I don’t think even a storm is going to do it for you this time.
Nina decides that she’s going to ask Benjamin out on a date. She’s nervous, but determined, and absolutely adorable and realistic and believable as she tries to work her way through the worst possible responses.
Aisha is washing her hair before school, which I don’t think she would actually do, with her hair, and thinking about whether Christopher likes the smell of coconuts (her conditioner) or not, and whether she should take perfume to school with her, something that would “blend nicely with the cotton candy and hot dogs and pony poop at the carnival.” OH MY GOD AISHA I LOVE YOU.
She considers cancelling it, and then decides not to, and then decides not to kiss him, and then considers just one small one, to be polite.
Claire has a freezing shower after Nina uses up all the hot water (which Nina did specifically because Claire did that to her the other day), and she’s super grumpy about it. She also tries to come up with a plan to get through the day without dealing with Zoey making her feel bad. She decides to wear something white, something nice and innocent. CLAIRE.
Zoey’s trying to make it look like she’s going to school, but instead she’s skipping to spend one last day with Lucas. She considers how to make it special; she knows he wants to make love to her, and she wonders if she should do that for him, so that he never forgets her. She’s afraid of pregnancy, though, even if they use condoms.
Nina tries to work herself up to asking Benjamin out on the ferry to school, because neither Zoey nor Lucas are around, of course; Benjamin is super glum. She mispronounces Bach as Batch, which is a completely understandable mistake to make if you’ve only ever seen it written down. He agrees, and she’s shocked, though from his dialog, it’s pretty clear he’s not thinking of it as a date. Nina is giddy and triumphant and I am bracing myself for him hurting her. I don’t remember if it happens here (though I have my suspicions), but I know it happens eventually, if for no other reason than everyone hurts everyone else at some point in this series.
Christopher and Aisha have an adorable time at the carnival, though their random dialog during the roller coaster is both kind of boring and unrealistic for most roller coasters. Still, they are adorable, and I laughed out loud when Christopher says he loves roller coasters and his great goal in life is to go to Ohio. He explains that he means Cedar Point, which is a fantastic theme park with great roller coasters, and it cracks me up how different I feel about Ohio between the first time I read it and now. (Before: Oh, Cedar Point sounds fun, guess Ohio wasn’t that bad when I briefly worked as a nanny there, I should visit. Now: DIE IN A BURNING FIRE BUCKEYES AND TAKE YOUR ENTIRE STATE WITH YOU GO BLUE IT’S GREAT TO BE A MICHIGAN WOLVERINE WOOOOO SPORTSBALL.
They go on a little boat ride next (a low budget Pirates of the Caribbean, Aisha calls it), and they cuddle a little on the slow and gentle ride. There’s some gorgeous bit of anticipating building, and just as they start kissing, a flashbulb goes off and startles them.
OF COURSE THE SOUVENIR PHOTO IS OF THEM KISSING. OF COURSE IT IS.
Aisha finally, sheepishly, admits she liked the kiss, but swears she’s not going to Ohio to ride roller coasters.
This date is a joy and a delight and a great lesson on how to build tension between two characters without any dramatic action going on.
Claire and Jake get dinner together, and talk about how it’s their first real date, and so Jake wants his first real kiss again. Their kiss is brief, but tender — and then Claire gets self conscious when she realises people are watching them. They see Aisha and Christopher on the ferry, clearly getting along now, snark a little about that in an adorable friend way, and then Jake tells her that he’s totally lost it for her.
Oh god. There’s no way this ends well, and even when I dislike the characters or what they’re doing, I feel so much for them, too.
He tells her she rescued him from his depression and, oh, he loves her. That breaks her a little, and she realises, finally, what guilt feels like, something gnawing at her and infuriating her and making her unhappy.
Zoey and Lucas spent the day walking around the island so Lucas could say good-bye to it and talking about everything, their families, their hopes and dreams, their worries, their parents, their sadness, their love for each other — but eventually it ends.
Later that night, Zoey sneaks over to his house to lie with him. At first, all they do is lie together and hold each other and even doze a little, and then Zoey starts to undress, because she’s decided to have sex with him.
They hear Mr Cabral leave at 4 a.m., just as she’s starting this next step, and then they hear him talking to Claire. Zoey’s confused, but Lucas is shocked and pleased. They quickly get fully dressed again and rush outside, not caring what anyone thinks, to find out what’s going on.
Claire tells Mr Cabral that he has to do it, he knows it’s the right thing, and eventually, he turns and tells Lucas he’d better stay. Then he leaves for work, distant and gruff, but doing the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing: Claire tells Lucas that she really didn’t remember until last week, maybe jarred out of her brain when she saw him again. Zoey doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and Claire is shocked that he didn’t tell her. So now Claire has to, and she does, very simply (though Lucas interrupts to say that he did it because he loved her when she says he did it because they were good friends). Lucas promises not to say anything about Claire’s dad’s part in it all, not to protect Mr Geiger, but to protect his dad, because his dad doesn’t know why Mr Geiger gave him that loan. The story will be that Lucas was a dumb kid, so he confessed to protect Claire, which is most of the truth, anyway.
Claire looks a little broken when she tells them she has to tell Jake next.
Zoey asks why Claire decided to tell after keeping it a secret for an entire week, and she says that Lucas never thought her perfect, and Benjamin certainly didn’t, but Jake does, he thinks she’s like him, sweet and honest and fundamentally decent, and the more he trusted her, the more she couldn’t stand herself.
UGH CLAIRE MY HEART.
Claire finally gets Jake to wake up, and though he’s excited when he thinks she’s come to hook up, she ruins that quickly with their conversation. She tells him that for a long time she didn’t remember the details of the night, but she knows they were all drinking, and that Lucas wasn’t driving, and in fact he kept telling them to pull over and walk home, but she wouldn’t listen.
AND THEN, OH SHIT, WE GET THE REAL TRUTH THAT SHE’S BEEN HIDING FROM EVEN IN HER OWN THOUGHTS
“I was the one driving the car, Jake. And the more Lucas complained, the more I would swerve around, making a big joke of it. Until that last split second when I realized we were going to hit.” She took a deep, shaky breath and forged ahead. “And just so the whole truth is out, once and for all, I saw the tree, and I knew we would hit it. And at the very last second I yanked the wheel over so that it wouldn’t hit my side of the car. I saved myself. And I killed Wade.”
I had honestly forgotten about that part and I am shocked as fuck and overwhelmed and — fuck, this is good storytelling. [Dove: This is just brutal. God, Claire. Nobody can accuse her of withholding facts at this particular point in time.]
Nina gets up early to get ready, and struggles, and is sad that she doesn’t have anyone to help her get ready, but Zoey is hurting too much now that Lucas is gone and she can’t possibly ask Claire because Claire’s not that type of sister and, oh yeah, she’s going on a date with Claire’s ex.
And then we get some foreshadowing from Nina that is painful and hard and I’m just going to copy it here:
She didn’t know why she hadn’t dated very often, or why she had never dated any guy more than twice. Usually her dates amounted to meeting casually at a movie, or a quick stop-off at a burger place. She’d only ever kissed one guy and that had grossed her out.
The truth was, most guys grossed her out.
Except Benjamin. He was so different. She knew he would never be disgusting, the way guys often were. He would always treat her with respect, and that was important. Unlike when she had gone out with George O’Brien and he had kissed her and then tried to touch her breasts.
The memory made her heart race, and she realized her palms were sweaty. She had totally panicked when George had done that. So utterly uncool of her. George had gone around telling everyone she was a lesbian. Which she wasn’t. In fact, she had more experience than people knew. More than Zoey and probably Aisha.
That memory made her even more uncomfortable. She beelined for a bench and sat down beside an old man. She fumbled a cigarette out of her purse and stuck it in her mouth.
“You’re not going to smoke that, are you?” the old man asked.
“Actually, no,” she said. She took several deep breaths and wiped her hands on her shirt front. Why were these things out of her past suddenly re-emerging? She hadn’t thought about all that in a long time. At least not outside of the dreams she sometimes still had. Was it because she was finally going out with Benjamin? Was that it?
But Benjamin wasn’t George O’Brien.
And Benjamin wasn’t her uncle, either.
She looked at her fingers and saw they were shaking. She sucked deeply on the unlit cigarette. That’s all in the past, Nina, she told herself. Years and years ago. Over and done and forgotten. Things happen, and then you go on.
Book three is going to be so, so heartbreaking. I’m even going to cut some slack at Nina for pretending she’s talking to the voices in her head, because ha ha ha, so funny. *eyeroll*
Nina turns up wearing a black dress, black heels, real stockings that make her thighs itch, a silver necklace and bracelet, and “enough perfume to fumigate a barn” OH MY GOD.
She, of course, hasn’t heard anything about what’s been going on, and Zoey doesn’t know about the date. In fact, she asks if she’s wearing the dress and hose because somebody died, which annoys Nina, but is a valid damn question, woman, you never dress like that.
Lucas tells her that she’s all grown up and looks good, and then swings her in a graceful circle. Oh, god, I ship them so much, and this series gives me so little joy for them. [Dove: Nina is too good for Benjamin, Lucas is too good for Zoey. Nina/Lucas? Absolutely perfect. Oh, you guys just wait until Wing and I can really expand on this topic!]
She’s shocked to see him, and Zoey’s surprised that she hasn’t heard anything from Claire, but Nina hasn’t seen her and she’s been buying clothes and memorizing fun facts about Bach. They tell her that Claire really needs to be the one to talk to her.
Zoey heads upstairs to get Benjamin, and Nina asks Lucas what he thinks. He teases her that they should do it right there on the floor before Zoey gets back, that’s how good she looks, and she absolutely shakes in fear before she realises he’s obviously kidding. Oh, Nina. God, next book is going to be rough.
Benjamin comes down in a suit and tells them that Zoey said Nina was showing leg, so he’d better wear his dead-relative clothes instead of just jeans. They all joke a bit about his plaid suit clashing with the striped pants, and then Benjamin asks Lucas how Nina looks, because what does Zoey know, she’s a girl. Sexist, but also funny. Lucas tells him Nina looks too good for him and she gets a thumbs way up. [Dove: Nina/Lucas ♥]
They head to the ferry, but before they can get to it, they run into Claire who is looking for Jake. Nina waits for Claire to lash out with sarcasm, but she just heads off. Then when Nina says she’s surprised about it, Benjamin says there’s no way she’d be jealous, it’s just him and Nina. She gets annoyed at that, but then he says that he wants her to walk with him so everyone will be jealous, because everyone is jealous of a guy with a beautiful girl on his arm, and she thinks maybe he’s not completely annoying.
YES HE IS. YOU CAN DO BETTER.
Claire breaks down and tells Zoey and Lucas that she’s afraid for Jake, who had been drinking after she told him and now is missing. There’s only one more place to look, but she doesn’t want to go alone, so they offer to go with her. There’s seriously decent friendships going on in this chapter.
Sure enough, Jake is passed out in his truck at the spot where the accident happened. At first, Claire thinks he’s hurt, but then realises he’s just passed out from drinking too much. So much for not drinking and driving, huh, Jake?
Lucas gets Jake slightly more comfortable and then hands the truck keys to Claire, who promises to wait with him until he wakes up.
Oh god my heaaaaart. There’s a ton of emotion in this one, and even when that emotion is rage or annoyance, it’s a sign of good writing how much I care about the characters, love them or hate them. Usually when I get annoyed or enraged it’s because the writing is terrible and doing real damage at the same time. Though some of the shit we talk about can still do real damage, there is also a lot of emotion and strong characterisation here, and I’m reminded all over again why I loved this series the first time I read it.
Nina deserves better than Benjamin at his most judgmental and know it all, though. And I’m already braced for her story in book three.
[Dove: This was much more of a roller coaster than I remembered. I knew the fallout of who was driving was big, but I’d forgotten just how much Claire develops in this book. I absolutely adore her and feel for her, all the while I want to shake her and tell her to fess up for Lucas’ sake. I love-love-love this series so much.]