Title: Nina Shapes Up
Front Blurb: At first Nina thought Ben was fooling around with Aisha. But then she discovered the truth: Ben’s facing a decision that could change his life for ever and she’s scared he’ll leave unless… Nina shapes up. [Dove: That is literally fuck all to do with this book. That’s a recap of the last book, and a throwaway line in this one.]
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.
Nina shapes up because she’s desperate to keep Ben’s love. She’s terrified that if he regains his eyesight, he won’t need her any more. And if Ben can see Nina, will he still love her? [Dove: as before.]
This is where everything starts to blur together for me. The titles, beyond Zoey Fools Around, Nina Won’t Tell, and Aisha Goes Wild, don’t really have much meaning, to be honest.
I’m going to tell you right now: Nina does nothing that comes close to shaping up in this book. But in her defence, she wasn’t unshaped to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I continue to love the hell out of these books. I just find the titles to be word soup. $name $verb $thing [Rosey: The blurbs and titles are so inaccurate for the most part. I get that they had a formula they want to stick to, but surely they could have come up with things that actually reflected the book?] [Wing: I wonder if the person writing the blurbs wrote them early on, without having read the books and only a synopsis of the overall series.]
A note from Zoey
The topic of the day is deepest, darkest secrets. Zoey waffles for a very long time, clearly avoiding the topic, but takes moment or two to throw shade at her parents for their affairs, and Claire for being Claire. Eventually she admits that her secret is that she’s totes hot for Aaron Mendel and they’ve had some cheeky snogs. [Rosey: I resent a Nina book beginning with Zoey’s diary.]
Then the story starts properly with Zoey checking out her “rode hard and put back wet” look in the bathroom mirror just before school – she’s blotchy with her hair all messed up. Apparently it was only one kiss – “okay, a long, sensual kiss, a deep kiss, a kiss that took her breath away—but just one.” but still she looks that ragged? What a kiss, I guess. [Rosey: You seem to have forgotten that this boy is so beautiful, he has driven half of the age appropriate female population to distraction!]
Lara knocks on the door and Zoey fights the urge to rip her head off. She manages to talk herself down because it’s not Lara’s fault that Zoey is, in her own words, the “World’s Biggest Hypocrite”. I’m shocked. Give it a few more chapters and pretty much everything on the planet is Lara’s fault as far as Zoey’s concerned. Also, how wasn’t she already a hypocrite? She already cheated on Jake with Lucas, why is she acting as if cheating on Lucas with Aaron is some huge game-changer? And, for that matter, she cheated on Jake with Tad Crowley before Lucas even came along. Let’s face it, Zoey is not cut out to not kiss people other than her boyfriend.
Benjamin asks where she was last night, and she tells him she was at the B&B, looking for Aisha. Benjamin teases her – with no hint that he actually knows the truth – that she should have stayed home, since Aisha was here with him and Nina. Knowing how perceptive her brother is, Zoey worries that Benjamin will notice that something is off.
Then Lara reappears and Zoey notes that she “reeks” of toothpaste. Jesus fucking Christ, Zoey, how is that a bad thing? The girl takes oral hygiene seriously and you’re treating that like a fault. [Wing: How exactly does one reek of toothpaste to start with? Does Zoey think she’s smearing it all over her body or something?]
Lara asks if Benjamin would mind turning down the opera he’s blasting at full volume, because she wants to go back to sleep. Benjamin grabs a book and pretends to read it upside-down to make her feel uncomfortable.
Because all of the Passmores fucking suck.
Zoey notes he does this to distance people he doesn’t trust. It’s fine not to trust people – there are loads of people I wouldn’t trust with my secrets, or even the not-secrets that go above and beyond “polite chit-chat”, but I don’t make them feel like an unwelcome waste of humanity every time I engage with them. And yes, I know we need to cut him some slack, because I can’t know how that disability feels, and he’s got the additional pressure of the operation that could potentially restore his sight, but it’s still an asshole move to pull on people, and the fact he does it to Lara at every opportunity is hardly giving him the opportunity to get to know her and work out if he should trust her. And it’s almost certainly making her pull away and decide that her half-siblings are stuck-up assholes. [Wing: Isn’t he the one who wanted to get to know her in the first place?]
If I was Lara, and I saw that he was only doing it to me, I’d feel like he was lashing out at me because we share half the same genetics, but I was lucky enough not to get meningitis, let along the complications blinded Benjamin at a young age.
Also, the last person he did this to? Uncle Mark. The guy who molested an eleven year old girl.
I just don’t like this trait of Benjamin’s. Or at least, I don’t like that it’s portrayed as a funny in-joke. But then again, I do rant on this during almost every recap.
I guess I feel for Lara. She’s got issues, sure, and I don’t particularly like her, but I guess when it comes down to “middle class, loving family, with straight-A student kids who are definitely going to college” vs “alcoholic, abused girl with no real parental figures, who often finds herself homeless at a young age and has little to no academic qualifications”, I’ve got more in common with the latter, and I kind of want to smack everyone for considering themselves saintly for doing the barest minimum for her. [Rosey: *insert applause GIF of your choice*.]
Over with Lucas, he’s staring adoringly into Zoey’s kitchen, like he does every morning, to thank the heavens above that he has an angel like her in his life. (Except for, y’know, when she won’t put out and they’re not talking, and all that. Lucas had a very short-term memory about how much he worships Zoey.) She’s not smiling this morning. OMG. What does this mean? Is she cheating on him? Then he gives himself a talking-to. He’s the horndog who cheated on her with Claire, so cool it, Cabral. [Rosey: These two are exhausting, Where the Fuck is Nina? This is supposed to be a Nina book.]
On the ferry, Benjamin and Nina sit together and snuggle – after he teases her about thinking that he and Aisha were having an affair. Lucas overhears and makes a few comments, since Christopher called him in a rage after Nina called him. [Rosey: Oh cool, she’s on the ferry. Better hurry back and see what Zoey is up to!]
Zoey is completely spaced out and decides to go above deck for some fresh air. Claire is also up there, and delights in the knowledge that Zoey isn’t as saintly as everyone thinks. Again: Zoey cheated on Jake. Just because Jake’s finally made peace with the fact that the relationship is over doesn’t make it any less cheaty that she made out with Lucas (repeatedly) behind his back. The fact that she and Lucas “fell in love” (I’m still sceptical about this – I just think they’re hot for each other. If they actually loved each other, they might respect each other more) doesn’t make it any less cheaty.
(Obviously there are plenty of relationships where snogging would not be considered cheating because the participants of the relationship have agreed their relationship works that way. That’s clearly not what’s going on here though, is it?)
Claire asks Zoey if she’s done her paper on The Scarlet Letter (there’s a convenient piece of homework, thank god for Weymouth High’s timely curriculum), [Wing: It’s like the teachers look to the islands kids and their dramas when they do their planning.] and Zoey is a little snappish and guarded. She blames her mood on Lara. Claire cheerfully comments that she might have a new sibling too – Aaron. Zoey claims to vaguely remember him.
After school, Benjamin and Nina go to McDonald’s to have a private conversation. Benjamin isn’t a fan of this plan, but Nina points out it’ll be so loud and annoying, nobody will overhear them. Nina is smarter than both Benjamin Passmore and Hermione Granger.
As they walk, Benjamin wonders what it would be like to see where they are. He usually avoids that train of thought, because it leads to helplessness and depression. I bet it does. Every so often, I get retrospectively angry about my hip – which does not require the same level of life-reorganisation as going blind did for Benjamin – I get angry that I’ve never won a race in my life; that I was forced to participate in sports day, but I was picked last every single time; for that matter, the moment when another non-athlete said to me, “Thank god you’re in my class, it means I don’t get picked last!” in a tone of camaraderie; that nobody ever wanted to play tag with me, or if they did, they used it as a way to make fun of me, because once I was “it”, I couldn’t catch anyone else; that teachers made fun of me and told me I wasn’t disabled, just fat and lazy; that I had to give up horse riding so early in my life, and so on, and even now this wave of impotent “it’s not fair” rage will hit at unexpected times. I don’t blame Benjamin for keeping his mind away from that train of thought.
He says that he’s made a decision. He’s going to go for the tests in Boston to see if he’s eligible for the operation that could restore his sight. Nina instantly says she’s going with him. He’s actually moved to tears by this, and they hug and say they love each other and, damn, Nina is so good at being his girlfriend. She really knows what he needs, not what he’s used to or what he thinks he wants. [Rosey: <3.] Benjamin says he’s not going to tell his family, there’s too much going on at the moment, with Lara moving in, and Zoey will make a big deal out of it. He’s not wrong about Zoey. Literally everything is about Zoey. Unless it’s awful, then it’s all Lara’s fault. That’s the first rule of Chatham Island. It’s all the rules of Chatham Island.
So basically, after school tomorrow, Benjamin and Nina are going to hop on a bus to Boston, using some flimsy excuse. [Wing: Does everyone think they’re off to have sex? Because that’s exactly what I would think at their age. And now.]
Over with Aisha, she’s bypassed the ferry and taken a water taxi home (and since she missed the ferry this morning, she’s spent $80 getting off and on the island in a ten-hour period) so that she can rush over to Christopher and reassure him that she’s not cheating on him with Benjamin. Christopher answers the door wearing only boxers, and Aisha tries hard not to notice how hot he is when he wears very little. She blurts out that there’s nothing going on between her and Benjamin, and he says he already knows, Lucas talked sense into him. Aisha lets a few details about Benjamin’s research into the procedure slip. Then they make out.
Over with Zoey, she decides that as soon as she gets off the ferry, she’s going to march right over to Aaron’s room at the B&B and tell him that their kiss was a mistake and she’s head-over-heels in love with Lucas. Lucas asks if she’s ok because she’s been spaced out all day, and she blames Lara (there you are, I knew Zoey’s blame couldn’t be missing for that long) and Lucas says she’s said that four times already. Lucas asks her to tell her what’s going on, if they’re in – he stops short of saying “in love” and changes it to “in a relationship” – they should be able to talk. Of course, Zoey says she can’t and Lucas storms off in a huff.
I swear these two should not be together. They’re not in love. They only fancy each other. If they were actually in love: Zoey wouldn’t get hot and bothered over literally any new male that pays attention to her; Lucas wouldn’t jump to conclusions which “allow” him to cheat on her; and they would want to tell each other what’s going on. If something happens in my life, my first thought is, “I have to talk to Raven about this”, whether the thing is good, bad or somewhere in-between. [Rosey: Right? They aren’t even friends – they aren’t interested in each other. With Nina and Benjamin, we see them express an interest in the other’s music – something they are both passionate about. It’s a nice bit of Show-Not-Tell: these two characters like each other as people. The only conversations we witness between Zoey and Lucas are them arguing about sex and who is cheating on who. Both of them talk to their friends about other topics, but they don’t count each other as friends.]
Zoey walks up to the B&B and hears Aaron practicing his guitar. She heads into his room, and Aaron heads her off. He knows why she’s here, he wants to apologise. He had no right to kiss her when she has a boyfriend. He’s so respectful of her personal boundaries that Zoey has to restrain herself from throwing her panties at him. She instead kisses him. [Wing: Head? Meet desk. Or in Zoey’s case, head? Meet wall. A little harder now. A little more.]
A note from Lucas
Lucas doesn’t have any deep, dark secrets. His are out in the open: he went to jail for killing Wade; he didn’t do it; he doesn’t get along with his dad; he loves Zoey and wants to have sex with her. Everyone on the island knows this. But people keep telling him their secrets, like when Christopher wanted a gun. (Gosh, if only someone knew the names of those skinheads and came forward, huh, Lucas? I bet that would have avoided the gun problem.) [Rosey: If only!]
Back home, Lucas beats himself up for being a bad boyfriend. Dude, now is where you draw the line? On this re-read, all three of us (Wing, Rosey, me) have fallen out of love with Lucas due to his generally awful behaviour for the past chunk of books, but this is the moment where he decides he’s a bad boyfriend? The one time he’s not actually being one? *shakes head*
He makes a list of his mistakes and do you know what’s not on there? The skinhead thing. Everything else is though.
Lucas decides to go talk to Benjamin and see if he can get any details out of him about why Zoey is so distant. He arrives just as Nina and Benjamin get home. When it becomes apparent that he’s going to cockblock them, Nina heads home. Benjamin quickly figures out why Lucas is here, and admits that he’s a bit curious about what’s up with Zoey too.
At this point, Jake walks in. Lucas goes into ALPHA MALE ATTACK MODE, immediately deciding that Jake is here to steal Zoey back. There is much male posturing on Lucas’ side, and Jake retaliates because it’s not as if he and Lucas are BFFs and Lucas is refusing to believe him when he says he’s here to see Lara. As voices raise, Benjamin yells at Lucas to “shut the hell up!” Which is just as a gratifying as it sounds. Benjamin adds that they’re not going to fight in his house. Jake, Lara’s in her room, you know the way. Lucas, do you want food or do you want to fuck off? Lucas decides to fuck off, truly thrown by Benjamin losing his cool.
A note from Nina
Nina rambles a lot, taking jabs at her sister for dating the Prince of Darkness, until she says that her old deepest darkest secret caused her a lot of pain until it came out, and now she’s healing. Her current secret is that she’s afraid that Benjamin won’t fancy her if he could see her. In fact, she describes a scenario where he says Nina looks even more beautiful than he ever imagined… and then someone has to say, “uh, that’s Claire Geiger,” and then he takes a look at Nina. And hurls.
At home, Nina is packing her suitcase to the sounds of Green Day very loudly, and feeling doubtful about her appearance. She had three jelly donuts for breakfast, her fingernails are ragged, and most people hate the way she dresses (yes, you, Zoey, with your LL Bean catalogue on permanent reserve for Nina). She worries that if Benjamin could see, he would see her flaws. Nina, you are awesome, you are too good for him, and if you are happy with your ragged fingernails and like the clothes that you buy, then fuck everyone else.
Claire bursts in to complain about the music, but then she notices that Nina’s packing and decides to stick around to find the real reason Nina and Benjamin are running away together – she doesn’t believe the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra lie for a second. Nina instantly sees that Claire will not be fobbed off with lies, so she has to tell the truth, but first she gets Claire to swear she won’t tell anyone. Claire, to give her credit, seems genuinely concerned that Nina is in trouble, although she assumes it’s more likely to be suspension from school than pregnancy, which offends Nina. Nina then worries that Claire isn’t a virgin, which means she probably had sex with Benjamin. Claire tries to tell Nina that Benjamin has issues talking about his feelings, but Nina cuts her off, saying he doesn’t have that issue with her. I mean, it’s delivered in a bratty way, but she’s so right.
Over with Jake, he and Lara are hanging out. Lara is wearing skintight clothing and Jake is finding it hard to concentrate. Apparently last night she snuck into his room, they promised they’d never drink again, “After that, they hadn’t done too much more talking.” Jake comments that Benjamin is wound kind of tight at the moment, and Lara says she knows why. The air vent in his room carries his voice right to her room. Jake is a bit morally judgey here, and Lara points out she can’t help overhearing. She mentions the blaring opera music again, so actually I side with her. I too loathe opera, so I would appreciate it being a tad quieter. Lara tells Benjamin’s secret, and then they presumably have sex again. [Rosey: …And Benjamin hears it through the vent? It has to be 2-way, right? Which means he must know how much Lara has been drinking and hasn’t mentioned it to anyone? I know he has a lot on his mind, but hell, it would distract the family from his trip to Boston AND maybe Lara would get some help!] [Wing: That’s a good point. Guess the air vent is only convenient when the plot needs it. Also, if Benjamin were smarter, he’d blast his music when he’s trying to have quiet conversations in his room so that no one outside the room could overhear his secrets, whether through the vent or not.]
And back to Princess Drama Pants, Zoey Passmore. Oh, Aaron! I’m so turned on by a guy who doesn’t want to sleep with me! Oh, Lucas! Our love is so pure and beautiful despite the fact we can’t get along for more than two (off-screen) chapters at a time. We’re practically Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins! Oh, how am I the only person on the planet that believes in one-on-one fidelity? Except, y’know, all the people who actually practice it. But who cares about them? They’re don’t have a romantic soul like I do! Oh, I might just disappear up my own arse in a cloud of self-righteous and melodramatic angst! (As soon as I finish my paper on The Scarlet Letter.)
Yes, she really does wonder if she’s the only person who sees infidelity as a bad thing. Zoey. Who has never once not kissed someone else behind her boyfriend’s back. Apparently Nina, Benjamin, Aisha and Jake, y’know, the people who haven’t cheated, don’t exist. (Aisha hasn’t cheated. Amnesia might be a genuinely shit plot device, but that’s not the character’s fault.) [Wing: …I’d forgotten about the amnesia plot again. I hate that plot so much I can’t keep it in mind even after having just recapped it.]
In Benjamin’s room, he’s wondering if he’ll lose his identity as The Blind Boy Wonder if he gets his sight back. Will he just be ordinary? I can see what he’s talking about, but I can’t fully comprehend it. As I’ve done nothing remarkable with, or in spite of, my disability, if I could just get rid of it, I would just be delighted. I leapt gleefully into a hip replacement that would give me mobility back. In fact, I’m finding my driving lessons hard because of my hip issue. The difference in the length of my legs makes the pedals a bit more difficult than most would find it and, despite utilising every tip my instructor has to offer, I drift to the right when driving. If I could get shot of these issues, I would in a heartbeat. I guess I’m too entrenched in my own experience to fully empathise with Benjamin here. [Wing: I rarely empathise with Benjamin, period, but it does seem like he, and the people around him, have built up his blindness in a lot of ways, possibly as a way to try to make up for the truly shitty situations he also finds himself in, and extracting who the real Benjamin is outside the built up personality might feel frightening. (Even though he wasn’t always blind, he’s changed so much from that previous version of himself he may feel that’s not even a starting point.) I sort of idly wonder about this when it comes to bipolar: how much of who I am is shaped by living with that? If it was something that could be cured, who am I think? But in the end, though it shapes my experience of the world, I’ve worked hard to become the person I am, to be a kinder, gentler person, to temper the rage, so I think I’d still be me if it was taken away right now. Ten years ago? Twenty? Who knows.]
Claire’s up on her widow’s walk and writing in her diary. She can see that Benjamin has built a persona on his blindness, and will be feeling insecure about losing what has been a cornerstone of his personality, however, she can’t talk to him about it. She’s the dreaded ex. She can’t talk to anyone about it. She’s driven back downstairs by the cold weather, and glances at her computer. She can’t even talk to Flyer any more. She’s completely alone. [Rosey: And why can’t you talk to Flyer, Claire? Oh, yeah, because he’s a disgusting fatty-fat-fat. Ewwwww]
Christopher calls Lucas, and of course he lets it slip about Benjamin’s operation, saying no wonder Zoey’s all zoned out. She’s probably worried about that. Christopher realises he’s messed up and makes Lucas promise not to tell anyone. [Wing: My god, no one on this island can keep a damn secret. Realistic, yes. Annoying, also yes.]
Then we have a lovely little format change, where it counts down the hours of Friday from 6:45am to 5:10pm. Basically:
- Jake does the walk of shame.
- Nina tells her dad she’s swanning off with Benjamin over breakfast.
- Lucas leaves a note in Zoey’s locker apologising.
- Zoey finds the note, and it causes her to vomit.
- Lucas asks if Zoey saw the note, she says no. She says she’s going shopping after school, and he asks if he can come. Zoey grudgingly allows it.
- Nina and Benjamin set off for Boston.
Naturally, it’s better to read the actual entry, because it’s delightfully worded, but that’s the main crux of things.
We skip to straight after the shopping trip. Zoey is in a foul mood because she wanted some time to think and her absolute bastard of a boyfriend had to come along and keep trying to talk to her. [Rosey: Eugh, TFW your partner wants to spend time with you.] What a shit. For once he’s actually not being a bad boyfriend.
On the drive home, Lucas apologises for coming along, and Zoey doesn’t reply. So he makes a comment about her having PMS. And we’re back to bad boyfriend. A+ dickhead. They obviously get into a fight about this. While they’re stuck in traffic, Zoey spots Benjamin and Nina walking to the bus station. Since nothing happens in the fucking universe without Zoey’s say-so, she hops out of the van, blocking traffic for miles in order to chase after them. She loses sight of them almost instantly and the angry drivers honking behind her sends her back to the van. Once back in the van, she informs Lucas she’s going to drive after them, regardless of the fact that it’s a one-way street and they don’t know the area well. Lucas tells her to let them go, and she snaps at him and asks what his problem is. He says it’s obvious, and they probably didn’t mention it was tonight because she’d want to go with them. She demands he explain himself, and here she finds out about the operation. She doesn’t believe him and bolts from the van. Again.
Zoey is an absolute fucking dickhead. She is the most selfish, self-obsessed, entitled brat on the planet. I fucking hate her.
In Lucas’ head, he can’t work out what just happened. How did Zoey not know? Also, he rates this as the second worst day of his life – the first being the day Wade died. Really? A fight with your girlfriend is worse than the time your supposed best friend got hospitalised for the colour of his skin and you didn’t tell the police who did it because you had to save your perfect white girlfriend from hypothetical danger? Just fuck off, Lucas.
Zoey reappears, having hunted for Benjamin and Nina again, apparently. I misread that earlier. I thought she just jumped out of the van because she was feeling dramatic. I knew someone who used to storm out of the pub in floods of tears every time a certain song came on (for the simple reason that it would provoke people to follow her and ask what was wrong, and then reassure her that she was so very perfect and lovely and beautiful and wonderful, etc). I didn’t realise that Zoey had purpose.
She asks Lucas to explain himself. He realises that if she knows nothing about Benjamin’s operation, then he has no idea why she’s been so distant and preoccupied of late.
Benjamin and Nina are on the bus together. Benjamin says he thinks he heard Zoey calling before they got on the bus. Nina thinks she does too, but claims otherwise, because what can they do about it now. Nina says that by the time they get back, everyone will know they went away. Benjamin says he knows, he planned it that way, knowing how secrets don’t stay secret for long on the island. Nina asks why all the palaver.
“Because you were right, as usual. People do have a right to know. This doesn’t affect just me. But I know if I told everyone now, my parents and Zoey would want to come, and I just don’t feel like being at the center of some big production. You see… my dad has always felt this weird kind of guilt ever since the whole thing happened. It’s stupid, but I know he’d be freaking out. And besides…” He paused. “Besides, I wanted to be alone with you this weekend,” he finished quietly.
Nina gets all wibbly over this and they end up making out. [Rosey: I know Benjamin can be a wanker, but I do like the two of them together, weird Nina-thinking-he-was-cheating plot device aside.] [Wing: I like anything that makes Nina happy. Except perhaps this public making out on a public bus, what the hell, people.]
Back with the Supreme Drama Queen, she stomps into her parents’ restaurant and asks Christopher to step outside so she can discuss things with her father. Jeff actually sends him home, and then Zoey starts yelling and throwing a tantrum about how everyone knows, and this is important, and she gets really riled up that stoner!Dad isn’t closing the store, calling the FBI and chartering a private plane to beat them to Boston. At this point, I’m-not-like-other-moms-Darla walks in and they have to start from scratch. Darla listens, but can’t really process it, so says they’ll discuss it when they get home. Zoey bitches at her for that decision. Jeff says they need to discuss it as a family, and Zoey sends a chunk of mental loathing in Lara’s direction, because goddamnit, that bitch just keeps existing.
Zoey says that they need to book flights to Boston. Jeff says no, they can’t afford it, and he doesn’t want to. If Benjamin had wanted them there, he’d have asked them to come. He’s nineteen, and old enough to make his own decisions.
Stoner!Jeff is probably the least obnoxious of all the – damn, I nearly typed “Wakefields” there – Passmores. Speaking of obnoxious:
Zoey wriggled free of her dad’s grasp. “That’s the biggest load of crap I ever heard!”
Too flustered to form another coherent sentence, she turned and stormed out the door.
I hope someone runs her over in their island car.
A note from Jake
Still with the deepest, darkest secrets, Jake’s are: he’s dating Lara; he’s an alcoholic; (though plenty of people suspect both of these); and that he saw his dead brother on Halloween, which inspired him to never drink again. He thinks all of his secrets make up one big secret that he hasn’t figured out just yet.
Poor Jake. He really is so adorable. I really hope nice things happen to him soon. I can’t really remember how things turn out for him, since he was never my favourite of the lads (but why? Lucas is an ass), but I hope something good is looming.
But not right this second, clearly. Lara calls Jake, utterly blotto and he heads over to help her. Once at the Passmores’ he finds her drunk on tequila, that she’s stowed away for a rainy day. He confiscates the booze, and puts her to bed, all the while she’s yelling at him saying he doesn’t want to help her, he just wants to get her loaded and bang her – even though he’s literally doing the opposite. He tells her to get some sleep and leaves.
[Wing: UGH, Jake, I still don’t understand how you were so awesome this entire time.]
On the way out he bumps into Zoey, who is still boiling with rage that her parents don’t want to call the national guard to hunt down an adult and his girlfriend. She spots the bottle and Jake says he knows what it looks like, but he took it from Lara. He pours the booze away. Zoey comments she didn’t know that he and Lara hung out.
The next thing Zoey knew, she was laughing hysterically. It was pretty strange, considering that the world seemed to be falling apart before her eyes. But she couldn’t help it. She felt as if she were watching someone else.
Fuck off, Zoey. Your nineteen-year-old brother went to Boston for some tests to see if he’s eligible for surgery and your ex is hanging out with a new girl. None of this is about you, so shut the fuck up. I was about to say this is probably the moment I hate Zoey the most, but actually, I know for certain that there is one more further down the line, which will always be my #1 “It’s not about you, Zoey” moment. [Rosey: I really hate the determination to make Zoey the main character all the time. The ensemble cast is the strength of this series and goddammit, this is a Nina book so why all the fucking Zoey drama?!]
Jake says she must have found out about Benjamin, and she gets even more furious when she finds out that Lara knew before she did. Jake doesn’t even wade into that one, he just asks her to promise to cover for Lara. She agrees because she realises that Jake is actually awesome, even if she doesn’t love him any more. She asks him for a hug in return.
For the first time all day, Zoey actually felt okay. Not great—but okay. It was amazing how nice okay could feel after a day like the one she’d just had.
To recap: Zoey has angst because she keeps cheating on her boyfriend; Zoey has angst because her brother, who is an adult, did something without her; Zoey has angst because her ex-boyfriend is seeing someone else.
Conclusion: Zoey is a selfish brat.
A note from Christopher
Christopher objects to the “deepest, darkest” part of the secret question, because he’s not ashamed of his secret, which is: he’s going to ask Aisha to marry him. And he’s going to join the army. He hasn’t even thought about what will happen if she says no.
[Wing: Oh, god, this whole plot. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to US military imperialsm, which maybe I’ll hit later, because I don’t remember how far this plot goes, but god, the fact is that it is mostly minorities who make up the enlisted in the armed forces and all our wars and “freedom fighting” and all that other crap are built on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.]
Christopher calls Lucas to snap at him for telling Zoey about Benjamin’s operation. Lucas retorts that what could he do, she saw them at the bus station. And at this point, Christopher internally concedes that he thought Zoey knew. He’s mostly pissed off because he needed the wages from tonight, but thanks to Zoey’s hissy fit he was sent home. [Wing: Which is pretty shitty of the Passmores in general. Way to fuck over your employees.] And he notices that Lucas sounds pretty pissed off himself. Christopher asks if Lucas ever thinks about the future with his girlfriend. Lucas grouses that he doubts they’ll be together next week, let alone next year. [Rosey: It’s for the best, mate.] From Christopher’s wording, Lucas quickly finds out that Christopher is planning to propose, despite Christopher’s attempt to deny it. Lucas points out they’re a bit young, and Christopher jumps in with both feet and tells him about the army too. Lucas tiredly wishes him luck.
Claire is bored brainless over dinner and has tuned out Sarah, Aaron and her dad’s prattle about some book they’ve read. She misses it when they ask her a question, and it makes her look like she’s the pretty-but-dim kind of girl. Sarah politely asks about her interest in “the weather” and Claire internally sneers. I know it would be frustrating to have a thing you loved constantly dumbed down by pretty much everyone, but I really think she should give Sarah Mendel a chance. She obviously makes Burke happy, and it kind of feels like she and Nina hate Sarah based on the fact she’s short and perky. [Wing: Especially considering they were so gung-ho for him to start dating just a few books back.]
Aaron makes an intelligent comment about a low pressure system, and Claire admires the way he has a line for everything so he can always appear the perfect son, charming would-be boyfriend, etc., to whoever he’s talking to. Claire wants to know who he really is.
The Passmore parents get home and Zoey quickly covers for Lara, then talk turns to Benjamin. Zoey thinks they should get a bus in the morning. Jeff points out that the only issue here is a big old bruised ego. Benjamin went off and made a decision without them, and now their feelings are hurt, and they’re mad at him for excluding them. Zoey says no… and then realises actually, yes. She’s just a petty little brat who can’t believe something happened on the island that wasn’t about her.
A note from Benjamin
Benjamin has only one secret: he’s scared of seeing. He wants to see but he still wants to appreciate music the same way, to hear sounds nobody else notices, etc.
Benjamin’s doctor is called Dr Martin and Benjamin is really tired during the tests. Mostly because when he and Nina got into bed last night, nothing happened. She just fell asleep. He wasn’t necessarily thinking they’d have sex, but there had been a lot of kissing on the bus, so he thought there might be a bit more kissing. But no. So he just lay there all night, pretending to sleep.
Over with Nina, who’s in the waiting room, same thing. Benjamin just went straight to sleep when they got into bed.
Benjamin realises that if he’s ready for sex, he should also be prepared for sex. The only problem is, he can’t just walk into a store and buy condoms because he doesn’t know where a store is. So he asks Dr Martin, which launches into a very truncated safe sex chat.
Back with Nina, she spots a cigarette machine with a safe sex slogan on it. Then realises that it’s actually a condom machine. After her flush of embarrassment, she decides it would be a good idea, but doesn’t find it easy to take action on this.
Dr Martin and Benjamin come out and when the doctor sees Nina in front of the machine, he gives her a safe sex talk too.
(Also, Benjamin seems to be in perfect shape to be a candidate for the surgery.)
Over with Zoey, [Rosey: Oh good, we haven’t checked in with her for ages!] she sleeps late because of the startling revelation that not everything is about her. Lucas wakes her up by knocking on the door. He breaks up with her because it’s not working and she acts like he’s stupid, and she doesn’t call. And OMG, my heart just soared. I had no idea what was coming next. I actually thought they would take a break and do the healthy and correct thing. But no. In the next sentence, Zoey does her weeping and wailing thing, and says she loves him and… back to the mother. fucking. status. quo.
YOU TWO ARE TERRIBLE FOR EACH OTHER. JUST FUCKING BREAK UP.
Oh, then Lara rocks up and thanks Zoey for covering for her.
Claire heads up to the B&B ostensibly to drop a book off for Aaron (mocking his dinner conversation), but actually to snoop around his belongings. She finds a shoebox under his bed and in it are some letters from a girl called Kate. She reads one and it reveals that Aaron got drunk and had a one-night stand with Kate. There are more letters, and she wonders if he kept them as trophies. She suddenly realises it’s a bit hypocritical to be judging the guy when she’s snooping around his room, and it’s not like Aaron is the only boy who’s gotten drunk and had sex.
She does find it very sexy that he’s intelligent and manipulative.
A note from Nina
She and Benjamin had sex. It was awesome. Dr Martin might have mortified them, but he did them a huge favour by putting the topic right out there for them. Also, Nina really liked sex. Also: Benjamin never boned Claire. [Rosey: I just love everything about this.]
A note from Benjamin
He was mortified, right up until he and Nina started talking. Once they started talking, they discussed absolutely everything: how they felt; the future; the fact that Benjamin has never had sex with Claire; safe sex; scumbag uncle Mark; absolutely everything. And then they did the deed.
Now we get the recap of a week (well, five days) in a page, which is awesome. You really need to read the old hard copies of these books. Not the kindle copies.
Sunday: Benjamin and Nina get home. The entire family has dinner at Passmores’. Nina gets home and does not tell the truth about where she was.
Monday: Aaron drops in on Claire to thank her for the book. She suggests they watch the moon rise from her widow’s walk. He uses the time to talk about Zoey. Claire says she thinks Lucas and Zoey will be the first of her friends to get married. (ILU CLAIRE)
Tuesday: Zoey leaves a note for Aaron saying they can’t see each other again. Nina asks Claire if she’s a virgin.
Wednesday: Christopher sells his island car to Sarah Mendel and uses the money to buy an engagement ring. Nina sees the purchase of an island car as SRS BSNS. Zoey agrees.
Thursday: Lucas goes back to being a horny toad and Zoey tells him to fuck the fuck off. Lucas pouts and says he still doesn’t know what was bothering her last week. Naturally this culminates in him storming out. Benjamin gets a call saying his surgery is scheduled for Friday, 27 December. [Wing: Wow, that is really close to Christmas. I’m kind of surprised.]
Friday: Jake hangs out with Lara. When she falls asleep he confiscates all the booze he can find. Since Zoey is on the outs with Lucas, she cock-blocks Nina and Benjamin all night.
And back to normal formatting. Zoey glares up through the kitchen window at Lucas’ house. She’s still furious that he keeps pushing for sex. And yeah, she’s not wrong. But see above rants about how these two just need to break up. Benjamin walks in and does a bunch of references to American shows that I don’t get. Lara also appears and compliments his impressions. She adds that it makes sense he’d be good at imitations. Zoey and Benjamin immediately start mocking her for that.
Yeah, Lara is insensitive and tactless, but did we not just read Benjamin’s note where he said that because he’s blind he hears sounds nobody else notices? That he feels he enjoys music more than other people? Maybe I’m giving her too much credit, but perhaps, in a rather tactless way, that’s what she meant – that he pays attention to sound much more and uses that extra attention to duplicate it more carefully. But obviously, instead of doing that wince that everyone always does when a family member says something that’s offensive but well-meaning, and (if you’re brave) gently resetting their vocabulary, Zoey and Benjamin just mock her.
Zoey snaps at Lara, asking if she insults everyone first thing in the morning, and Benjamin talks her down, alleging sympathy for Lara – who basically says, “Sorry if you took it that way, I didn’t mean to insult anyone. Bye!” Not the greatest apology, but honestly, this family isn’t really making her feel welcome, so it’s not surprising that it’s not a heartfelt and flowery apology. Benjamin’s sympathy for Lara is bullshit though. He says he doesn’t care about the tactless things she says, but every time she says something, he pulls his Blind Boy Wonder routine on her. So he either does care, and needs to address the situation like an adult; or he doesn’t care, and he just really gets off on making a damaged girl hurt more.
And sure, Jeff and Darla could do more, but honestly, didn’t you read book 6? They act like fourteen year olds, with all the cheating to “pay back” the other person’s infidelity. Everyone in this house is just fucking toxic. [Rosey: TRUTH.]
Over with Lucas, he gets all excited when the phone rings. Then decides to act like a brat, and make Zoey talk to voicemail. He’ll call back when she sounds a lot more sorry.
Just fucking die the pair of you. Take your tragic dysfunctional love and drown each other in Big Bite Pond.
Hey, why don’t we go to Big Bite Pond any more? It’s a cool location. It has puffins. Puffins! And ponds! The Famous Five could have a terrific adventure there.
Over with Benjamin, he’s sulking as he walks to Nina’s. Apparently he is offended by Lara. He hopes getting his sight back would stop her from making stupid and offensive remarks about blind people. Or, y’know, you could educate her. She’s not a spiteful person. She doesn’t mean to be cruel – most of the time she’s too drunk or hungover to notice what she’s saying. And it’s not like she can hop on tumblr and learn the correct terminology. Do you honestly think her school has taught her anything? My school taught me my disability was actually just fatness and laziness. That’s the 90s for you.
I will admit, I’m over-defending Lara. I freely admit that she could also read the room and adjust her speech accordingly. If she sees someone wince at one of her comments, she could apologise. This is absolutely true. I just think that someone should make the first move, and it really doesn’t look like it’s going to be Lara.
Once he gets to Nina’s house (and she turns of the Ramones), she says she wants to spend New Year’s Eve with him in the hospital. Benjamin refuses, and lashes out saying she pities him. She says she doesn’t, she just likes him best out of all of the everythings (that’s what I say to Raven, by the way) but he sticks with no, he won’t be pitied. She says if that’s what he thinks, he needs a shrink more than a surgeon.
Didn’t we have this plotline a few books ago? I can’t remember what it was… wait, yes I can. It was skiing. He threw a tantrum because Nina wanted to stay in the chalet and make out with him instead of falling down a snowy mountain. Clearly pity. Those who do not learn from their mistakes, Benjamin.
Jake is still trying to draft his Scarlet Letter paper when Lara rocks up and says that he missed one. A bottle of booze, that is. She rags on him for going through her stuff and being ashamed of her. He says that Zoey, Benjamin and Lucas all know about them, but Lara says they found out, he didn’t tell them. It’s a fair point.
Lara says she will either drink the bottle of tequila herself and get really drunk, or they can share it, and get mildly buzzed. Either way, the full bottle is being drunk. Jake sees through the manipulation instantly.
“But don’t you see the beauty of it, Jake?” she asked. She smiled suddenly, as if she were in some kind of religious trance. “It’s a symbolic act. Together we finish this last bottle and put drinking behind us forever.”
He shook his head. “I already have put drinking behind me,” he said in a low, sad voice. “And let me tell you something: Drinking is not the way to put drinking behind you.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t manage to stick to that line of reasoning for long. Damn you, Lara. I know you’re an addict, but fuuuuck. Jake was doing so well. He was doing breathtakingly well when you consider he was hanging out with someone who was still drinking. [Rosey: Oh, Jake :,(]
As he takes a sip, he imagines himself on the edge of a cliff, and below is Wade, shaking his head. [Wing: Oh, Jake, no. Stop. My heart.]
That night, Zoey’s alone in her room, despondent because Lucas hasn’t called back. There’s a knock at her door, and she bounds eagerly to open it, only to find Aaron there instead. He’s made her a tape of songs he’s written about her (just music, no words). Obviously, this gets Zoey all hot and bothered and she flings herself at him.
A note from Aisha
Her secret is that she’s been thinking about her race a lot recently. She initially shied away from a relationship with Christopher because it seemed so convenient that the only two black teens on the island end up together. She wants to get away from the island, which is too sheltered, and show the world that this African-American woman is going to accomplish anything she wants.
Aisha and Christopher are having dinner in a fancy restaurant (not Passmores’), and it’s going brilliantly well, very romantic, until Christopher drops the bomb that he’s joining the army. And then the follow-up as he places the engagement ring on the table.
And that’s how the scene ends, but reading those two paragraphs side by side, it does not look hopeful for Christopher, does it? I don’t think being a teen bride is going to fall in line with Aisha’s dreams of changing the world. [Rosey: Has Aisha ever hinted that she wants this? All their talk of future up to this point has only really extended to college. But also, wow, Christopher really took the whole “Aisha is the only girl for me” decision to the extreme in just a couple of books!]
[Wing: Ugh, this plot kills me. I’m actually fairly sympathetic toward Christopher, even though I think he’s read Aisha wrong at pretty much every turn, but I’m fully on the side of Aisha wanting to accomplish things and make the world take notice and get the hell away from lily-white Chatham Island.]
A note from Claire
Her secrets change daily, based on what is most useful, etc. Right now her secrets are: she suspects Nina isn’t a virgin; she actually is a virgin; she’d like to fool around with Aaron Mendel… and probably her biggest one is that she doesn’t think she’s a nice person. Though a lot of people would say it’s not a secret.
Claire makes her way to the B&B, only to be told by Sarah Mendel that Aaron’s at Zoey’s house. Claire is so furious that a mild expression crosses her face, and Sarah is unnerved. Claire asks if she can make a phone call.
She calls Lucas and tells him everything. He says he doesn’t believe her. So Claire challenges him to go over there right now.
So he does. And find Zoey with her shirt undone lying on the bed with Aaron Mendel.
PLEASE GOD, LET ZOEY AND LUCAS BREAK UP.
That’s pretty much my only thought at this point. They are really awful together, and they need to break up.
Also, Nina Shapes Up: did she shape up? Did she need to? No and no. Excellent titles, no?
[Rosey: There was barely any Nina in this book! I did like the whole them sleeping together episode – the awkward night where they both want something, but don’t know how to begin and then the doctor forcing the issue was cute. And informative! And I really liked that Nina enjoyed it. But honestly, this book was Zoey Fools Around 2: Island Boogaloo. I am so bored of the perpetual Lucas-Zoey-plus-1 storylines.]
[Wing: This is not a Nina book. THIS IS NOT A NINA BOOK. Why must you lie to me, series? WHY?]