Making Out #12: Claire Can’t Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)
Making Out #12: Claire Can’t Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Title: Claire Can’t Lose

Front Blurb: Zoey still can’t choose between Aaron and Lucas, so Aaron asks Claire’s advice on how to win Zoey’s heart for good. But Claire wants Aaron for herself. If he’s crazy enough to follow her advice then… Claire Can’t Lose.

Back Blurb: Claire can’t lose in the game of love. For once she’s found her soulmate—a manipulative schemer just like herself. And she’ll do whatever it takes to make Aaron forget Zoey forever.





Initial thoughts:

These books are blurring into one. I remember the vague storylines, but what happens in specific books is very fuzzy. The titles and blurbs don’t really help either. I guess it must still be the Christmas break and we’re carrying on the love-square of Claire-Aaron-Zoey-Lucas. Yay.

[Dove: Same. I think we can all agree that it’s basically a soap opera right now and each book is not a contained story, but a single episode in an ongoing saga. Which was really frustrating to read as a teenager. Especially when you remember that I bought the books piecemeal and not in order.]

The Recap:

Zoey’s Diary: She’s musing on New Year. Last year she would have said something corny like “it’s going to be my year” but now she knows better. Apparently, last year things weren’t as confusing – college wasn’t looming, she was still with Jake, Benjamin was with Claire, Nina was a virgin, Aisha wasn’t engaged – she hadn’t even met Christopher. It’s been a big old year but Zoey has learnt you can’t change the past.

[Wing: UMM. Since when is Aisha engaged? She hadn’t said yes at the end of the last book, Zoey, goddamn.] [Dove: Have you met Zoey? Saying “engaged” makes it more dramatic. And now Zoey can apply Aisha’s dramatic life events to her life, so that somehow anything about someone else is actually about Zoey. God, I hate her.]

Friday 27th December, Morning

Zoey is pissed at Lara, which would be understandable if she were angry about the fire at the restaurant in the last book night, but she mostly seems annoyed that Lara went running to Lucas. Also, she can smell booze on Lara, who says it’s from the night before and that nothing happened with Lucas, she just wanted some advice from him. I don’t think Zoey believes her on either count. She can’t believe that Lucas cheated on her again, a mere month after she cheated on him, how could he do that? She calls Lara ugly and then cries to herself that “She, Zoey Passmore, had been reduced to taking cheap shots such as calling people ‘ugly.’” Eugh, it’s too early in the recap for a Zoey rant, so I’m gonna just skim over this.

Her dad calls from the hospital were Benjamin has been having surgery. He’s bandaged up and it will be a a week or so till they know if it’s been a success but he’s fine. Zoey opts not to tell her Dad about the fire and after she hangs up she feels sorry for herself. Her whole family and her best friend are having a swell time in a hospital while she is stuck at home. Life is so unfair!

[Wing: Yes, yes, I’m sure it was just a party all day every day during surgery, Zoey fucking Passmore, and I hate you. The title of this book is about Claire. Why the fuck have we already had so much about Zoey? Rhetorical question, I know why.]

Meanwhile, Lucas is in his room. He hasn’t slept because he’s too upset about everything with Zoey. He didn’t do anything wrong last night and Zoey lost it, calling him a bastard and Lara a slut before throwing his Christmas present at his head. I just want it noted by everyone that Lucas is aware of how hypocritical Zoey and oh my god how much longer must this Zoey/Lucas/3rd party storyline go on for? Lucas thinks he should have made a move on Lara, to teach Zoey a lesson… Didn’t we already play out this scenario with Claire, Lucas? How did that work out for you? 

Christopher shows up, and tells Lucas how drunk Zoey got on Christmas Eve. And Lucas acknowledges that the scene between him, Aaron and Zoey was a lot like the one between him, Jake and Zoey all those months ago. Lucas, your internal monologue is really spot on today. Christopher is feeling anxious because his seventeen year old girlfriend needs a few days to consider if she’s ready to get married, and join her new husband in his new army life. God, Aisha, why you making such a big deal out of this?

Lucas is really having an insightful morning. When Christopher tells him it’s just over a week till he ships out, Lucas realises that Christopher is his best friend and the only person he really has to talk to. [Wing: Umm, is he? Is he really? Because you sure didn’t mind keeping the skinhead information a secret and leaving your best friend to nearly shoot someone because of how he was beaten.] He also knows that Christopher is hoping to get the inside scoop on Aisha’s decision, but it’s not going to work because he and Zoey are fighting. Again? Still? I’ve lost track. Christopher doesn’t seem too concerned since he also realises that Lucas and Zoey are always in some bullshit fight. [Dove: “Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday.” – pretty much my reaction to anything Zoey/Lucas related.]

Claire is in Aaron Mendel’s bed at the Grey’s Bed and Breakfast. Aaron is confused as to why she is there, because she doesn’t want to have sex and that’s the reason that girls usually crawl into his bed. Claire wants him to like her and girl, you are breaking my heart. I mean, Aaron is a jerk, and you are shallow as fuck and only like him because he’s cute, but this whole inability to vocalise your desires in case your vulnerability is perceived as a flaw is heartbreaking. Anyway, she knows that Aaron is really into Zoey, and he knows that she sent Lucas to catch them together. Claire sets a new game in motion: pretending she is over Aaron, because men want what they can’t have. She leaves, slamming the door… alerting Aisha to the need for her to cook breakfast for the guests. Aisha bumps into a dishevelled Claire in the hallway, and this is not the gossip she had been expecting.

Nina’s Diary:  She’s not worried about the future – her boyfriend is having experimental surgery and it may not work, or it may work and when he sees her he might not be attracted to her any more, her best friends are off to college and soon she’ll be alone on the island. What’s there to worry about? Includes a Beverley Hills 90210 reference.

The Passmore parents and Nina are at the hospital. Benjamin is still unconscious so Jeff and Darla are going to head back to the hotel for a while. Nina wants to stay with Benjamin and as they leave she thinks how cool they are.

I'm a cool mom - Darla Passmore
I’m a cool mom – Darla Passmore

After they leave, Nina thinks about how unattractive she is, and how she shouldn’t eat anything because of “the small roll of flesh that protruded from under her flannel shirt and hung over the waistband of her black jeans.” Eugh… Nina, you and Benjamin have been pretty intimate. He might not be able to see your face, but he can feel your body and he likes it! Anyway, she spies the condom machine and briefly thinks how perceptive Dr Martin is and feels reassured that Benjamin is in such good hands. We swiftly return to thinking about how much Nina needs to change before Benjamin’s bandages come off in a week – stop eating, work out every day, change her make up…

Dr Martin comes out to tell her that if Nina would like to visit Benjamin then he’s showing signs of waking. He’s pale and seeing him the hospital bed, hooked up to machines, is shocking for Nina. Dr Martin explains that the procedure went well and that they are very hopeful but he doesn’t make any promises. Benjamin starts to come round and he is aware of an ache behind his eyes. He’s disorientated and can’t remember where he is, but as he starts to come round the pain becomes sharper and his blood pressure starts to rise. Nina is hurried out of the room and Dr Martin tells Benjamin he needs some time alone to relax and recover. Benajmin wants Nina there and honestly, this whole section feels kind of sinister? I think it’s just conveying Benjamin’s confusion and fear about the surgery, and general anaesthetic can make you feel weird as hell too  but a Doctor doing experimental surgery on teen and then isolating them seems like the set up for horror.

[Wing: Man, how badly do I want to read that version of these books? SO BADLY.]

Jake’s diary:  he is worried about the future. He is worried about his drinking, about being confronted with alcohol, about the role drinking played in his brother’s death and the role it could play in his future. Who knew big, dumb, jock Jake was going to break my heart like this? [Dove: Jake is the guy in the whole series we love. How did that happen?]

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)
They try to make Jake go to rehab…

After the scene last night, his Dad has taken him to an AA meeting. Turns out, Louise Kronenberger attends this meeting too. She’s happy to see Jake, and he’s surprised to see her, especially as she’s not dressed like a slutty slut slut. Honestly – it’s right there in the text:

“For once in her life, she wasn’t wearing an outrageously tight dress or low-cut shirt – just a sweater and jeans… This was K-Berger, Weymouth High’s number one party girl – the very same girl who had seduced him one night in a wild binge of booze and cocaine and stolen his virginity.”

I think this is the first time the text has acknowledged that Jake didn’t/couldn’t consent to what happened between them? Anyway, Louise has been going to AA for about a month and sits with Jake and his Dad. Jake is pretty uncomfortable with the situation, understandably. Pretty sure this is why the second A stands for Anonymous. But Jake’s Dad is happy that Jake has a friend at AA, it’ll help motivate him and Louise assures Mr McRoyan that she’ll keep an eye on Jake. Jake is uncomfortable with this too: “If there was one thing Louise Kronenberger was good at it was keeping an eye on the boys of Weymouth High.” His internal dialogue is going pretty hard for Louise, but she’s expecting this: “I can understand if you’re angry… Sometimes the past hurts to much.” Jake relents and sorry that I’m basically quoting word for word but I am just so happy he’s getting help!

[Wing: RIGHT?! I’m so proud of him for doing this, and proud of his dad for really stepping up, and ugh, I did not want all these feelings. Even when he’s being sexist and shitty and slut shaming when it comes to Louise, I still love him. He’s growing as a character. I accidentally recapped a book later in the series before I reread this one so I know he’s going to get better and learn lessons and so will she!]

Zoey walks to the restaurant, thinking how about how she will leave the island soon and make a new start at college with a new man, far away from Lara and Lucas and Aaron Mendel. [Wing: Well thank god for that.] [Dove: If this series continued, you know she’d have a college boyfriend and Lucas back home and would alternately wail their names while deciding that $boy was love of her life. It would never stop. It’s like Samara and her video tape.] When she gets to the restaurant, Lara is nowhere to be seen and Christopher has already finished cleaning up after the fire. Christopher goes into bat for his buddy, telling Zoey that nothing happened between Lucas and Lara, and then reveals he was hoping to get some info out of Zoey about the state of his “engagement” to Aisha. He doesn’t believe Zoey doesn’t know what Aisha is thinking, but they get sidetracked by talk of Benjamin’s operation. Then Lara shows up, and she’s been drinking. Zoey kicks her out of the restaurant but now they are short of a waitress, so Zoey calls Claire. Claire assumes Zoey knows about her rendezvous with Aaron and is so relived when she realises Zoey doesn’t know, she agrees to waitress. [Wing: Oh. My. God. Claire. Waitressing. What.]

Benjamin writes in his diary that he’s scared how the surgery will change his life if it’s successful, and he’s scared that it will fail. I guess this must have been written before he went under anaesthetic? Anyway, he’s awake now and feeling hungry. Everyone takes this as a good sign. Dr Martin visits and examines Benjamin. The doc is expecting tenderness, but Benjamin is in serious pain and this still feels sinister: “For the first time Benjamin seemed to notice a hint of warning and finality in the doctor’s tone, as if he were saying, ‘Don’t pursue this line of questioning any further.’” #Creepy

[Wing: #horrormovieMakingOut2019]

Jeff Passmore follows the doctor out and Nina distracts Benjamin by declaring her excitement over the TV channels in his room – HBO, which meant nothing to me in the 90s, but obviously, Nina was an early devotee of Game of Thrones. Darla reveals that she and Jeff have New Year’s Eve plans and that it’ll just be Nina and Benjamin enjoying the dragon tits: “’Uh oh,’ Benjamin said. ‘We all know what that means: getting out your old beads, putting on the Jefferson Airplane, and reminiscing about the glory days while you suck down margaritas.’” Add a bong and some hallucinogenics and I reckon you’ve got a Passmore NYE Extravaganza! Anyway, Jeff comes back in and he’s annoyed. He called Zoey and she decided not to tell him about the fire, so as to not worry him, but did tell him that Lara is a useless drunk. Because that won’t worry him. No, it really won’t. No one worries about Lara. That should be a title in this series. Anyway, the Passmores decide that someone should go home and referee Zoey and Lara, so Jeff is off first thing in the morning.

Friday afternoon

Jake is back on the island and processing everything he heard in AA. Well, that’s what he says he’s doing. But actually, she’s scoping out Passmores and planning to suggest Lara joins him at AA. Of course Lara isn’t there and Zoey revels in telling another person that Lara showed up drunk to work. [Dove: Zoey is one of the most gleefully spiteful characters in this whole series. Clare uses her words carefully to attain a goal. Zoey loudly bellows that she’s a slut, she’s a bitch, she’s a drunk, etc., for the sheer vindictive joy of it. (Dove says, very hypocritically.)] Jake sets off to find Lara, even though he knows this isn’t a good idea.

Claire is surprised to find she’s enjoying waitressing, and she and Zoey even seem to be getting along. Zoey tells her that she’d like them to be better friends, and gets schmaltzy about the fact they will both be heading off to college this year. But Claire isn’t really feeling it. And the Aaron walks into the restaurant. The ends the chapter there, and then picks right back up with these guys. It’s such a fake out “cliff hanger” that I refuse to justify it with a new paragraph. [Wing: Oh, god, please tell me Stine didn’t infect Grapplegate with Needlessly Dramatic Cliffhanger Chapter Endings.] Anyway, Claire and Aaron are on edge with each other and Zoey, who’s interest in Aaron has been fanned by the possibility that maybe Lucas might have cheated on her a bit with Lara, picks up on it. Aaron is there to personally invite Zoey to a New Year’s Eve party his Mum and Claire’s dad have decided to throw and after he leaves Claire warns Zoey not to trust him.

Jake finds Lara at home, drunk and dancing to hip hop in her underwear. He tries to get her to put on some clothes, stop drinking and come home with him, but Lara is too far gone and he’s scared by how drunk she is and how much she keeps encouraging him to join her. Oh Jake, get out of there! Lara needs help, but it doesn’t need to be you that gives it too her! [Wing: +1! You can’t save her if you can’t save yourself. Put on your mask before her mask as they say on flights. Etc.]

Friday Night

Lucas is at home, but he needs to get out. He’s done feeling sorry for himself and is heading out to have some fun. He considers calling “K-Berger” since “she was always looking for a good time.” Guess Lucas hasn’t heard about Louise’s new leaf. He bumps into Jake, running away from Lara’s place. Turns out, Jake was on his way to get Lucas to help him with Lara. Lucas doesn’t want to, because helping Lara is at the bottom of everyone’s to-do list and considers punching Jake – did I miss something, are they particularly pissed with each other at the moment? Or is this just a standard impulse for Lucas? After Jake points out that he wouldn’t ask for Lucas’ help unless he really needed it, they head to Chez Passmore. [Dove: Lucas’ train of thought over why Jake needs punching: Zoey cheated on me with Aaron, because I cheated on her with Claire. However, I wouldn’t have cheated on her with Claire if I hadn’t thought she was cheating on me with Jake. And of course I thought she could cheat on me with Jake, because she cheated on Jake with me. Ergo: PUNCH JAKE! If Zoey and Lucas were real, they would be on Love Island. And probably win.]

Aisha’s Diary: She’s not worried about the future, she’s obsessed with it. Should she say “yes” to Christopher? What would her parents say? What would it mean for college? If she says “no” then it’s the end of her and Christopher – and I think she’s right: Christopher wouldn’t be able to get past her “rejecting” him. Other people might be more reasonable – Basically, Aisha thinks she’s screwed either way.

Aisha has been crying and decides to call Zoey because “Aisha could listen to all Zoey’s problems and forget about her own.” That’s hilarious – she’s not calling Zoey for advice, or cheering up, or company… She’s calling Zoey because Zoey will make the entire conversation about herself. Spot on, Aisha. She’s right, and in seconds Zoey is updating Aisha on all of Lucas and Lara’s failings. Zoey is upset because last night, after the fire in Passmores she found Lucas and Lara “sitting next to each other.”

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate and (Michael Grant)
She found Lucas and Lara sitting next to each other.

Aisha isn’t convinced that it sounds like Lucas did anything, and would he have primed Christopher to lie on his behalf ? Suddenly Zoey is convinced:

“You’re right. Lucas doesn’t think that far ahead. He’s too focused on the here and now. He’s too caught up with how he’s possibly going to get me to sleep with him”

Fair point. She continues, saying she wished Lucas could be more like Aaron, who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage. Aisha decides it’s time to tell Zoey that she caught a rumpled Claire leaving Aaron’s bedroom first thing this morning. Zoey thinks about the tension between Aaron and Claire, and it all makes sense. Zoey goes on for a bit and Aisha regrets “opening her big mouth. Zoey was working herself into a frenzy.” Aisha shuts her down:

“Aaron isn’t your boyfriend. He wasn’t cheating on you… When you were making out with Aaron, who was cheating on whom?… I don’t mean to be harsh.”

Finally someone is calling Zoey out on her hypocritical bullshit! [Dove: *bows down before the greatness that is Aisha’s beautiful honesty.*] Zoey takes it on the chin and we get a little update on Lara’s current situation: Lucas and Jake carried her to Jake’s house, Mr McRoyan called to let her know. It’s good that someone’s family is keeping an eye on Lara, eh, Zoey?

So Jake and Lucas have been keeping an eye on Lara for five hours while she vomits and rants, shouting about all the residents:

 “Lucas was a prude. Jake was a bastard. Zoey was a slut Benjamin was a freak. Lucas was just thankful that she’d eventually gotten Chatham Island out of her system and started in on people he’d never heard of before.”

Man, that is a lousy way to spend a Friday night all round. There is a heart-warming moment where Mr McRoyan thanks Lucas for helping with Lara – because he seems to have more of a sense of responsibility to Lara than her family do? – and he apologises to Lucas for believing that he had been driving the car when Wade died “You’re always welcome here, Lucas. You’re a good influence.” I don’t always like Lucas, but I don’t think he gets enough positive reinforcement and a bit more of this might be exactly what he needs.

[Wing: I think Lucas could also grow as a character if he had more of this. So, basically, I am 100% for the McRoyan adults turning over a new leaf themselves and helping all the teens on the island. Shit, this was not what I expected when we started these recaps. Damn it.] [Dove: I also agree that Lucas needs more adults in his life giving him some guidance. His father is 90% absence and 10% disgusted anger. His mother is a shy little violet who never says a word. His girlfriend’s parents are toxic hippies who think they’re just super when they’re just as immature as the kids they’re trying to parent. I’m not excusing his behaviour, but thank god someone’s adulting on that island. Also, let’s go for the Geigers too. Mrs Geiger is dead. Mr Geiger needed multiple people to stand with Nina before beliving she was abused by her uncle… a man he doesn’t even like. He believed a complete asshat he doesn’t respect over his own daughter. And Sarah Mendel is a point of ridicule, to the point where I wonder if she’s aware that everyone’s slagging her off behind her back and is just wearing a Stepford Smile to get through it all. Possibly to the point of massacre.]

Back to Zoey, because it’s been a couple of pages. She can’t sleep and starts thinking about boys. Lucas blah blah Aaron blah blah blah…. She finally realises that Aaron is sleeze and that Lucas isn’t a terrible guy for wanting to have sex with her (no, Zoey, he’s terrible for not respecting your clearly stated boundaries. Come on, it’s the only thing I like about you.) She considers calling Lucas, when she hears someone approaching the house. She races down, but it’s Aaron at the door, not Lucas. He wants to come in, it’s cold outside. She relents, letting him in so she can tell him to get lost and it would be a really satisfying scene if the storyline had involved anyone but Zoey. She kicks him out into the night, telling him that Claire isn’t a virgin, so he should try writing a song for her instead. My first instinct was to correct Zoey – Claire is a virgin – but actually, that’s not even the point. Claire is single (unlike you) so if she wants to pursue anything with the hot new guy on the island, she can. Quit lashing out at other women when men don’t behave the way you want them to, Zoey! [Wing: I HATE YOU ZOEY.]

We get a fun format – countdown to New Year’s Eve, from Saturday morning to Tuesday.


Cool Dad Jeff Passmore arrive home at the same time Mr McRoyan drops Lara home. He suggests she joins Jake at AA meetings and “Zoey suggests that Lara find another place to live… Mr Passmore surprisingly agrees to that as well. “You have to prove that you respect our family before you can be a part of it.” he says.” Jesus Christ, Jeff.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)
[Dove: To summarise: We invited you to live with us (in the garage, like an old toys or broken furniture), we’ve treated you like family (by ignoring you and letting our “real” children bully and make fun of you), we have dealt with your alcoholism (by ignoring it, and pretending we think Zoey is joking whenever she mentions it), and now we’re at the end of our rope. We’ve done all we can (literally the barest minimum) and now we’re at our wits’ end. So fuck off.]


Aisha’s parents, who, unlike Jeff Passmore, are excellent parents, want to know why she’s been so upset. She tells them about Christopher leaving the island to join the army, but only tells Kalif, her brother, about the proposal. He likes Christopher and enthusiastically approves of the marriage. [Wing: Kid, you are like twelve, what the fuck do you know about marriage?]


Christopher calls Lucas and invites him to the movies. He can’t go with Aisha because she will just drive him crazy. Jake calls Lucas to tell him about Lara getting kicked out and Lucas invites Jake to join him and Christopher in Weymouth. Jake thinks it’s pathetic that three guys are going to the movies alone but actually Jake, I think it would be really healthy to build some relationships with people who aren’t Passmores. Anyway, Lucas tells him that if they had girls to hang out with, they would but actually he gets a call from Zoey just as he’s walking out the door. He tells his father to tell her he’s already gone.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose


Aaron barges into Claire’s room to blame her for how things ended with Zoey. And Claire is classic Claire, she very calmly tells him to shut up. She adds that he’s welcome to stay up there so long as they discuss ozone depletion in the ionosphere. He leaves.


Jake has been to his second AA meeting and afterwards Mr McRoyan invites Louise Kronenberger for dinner. She asks if he’s seeing anyone and he gives her an account of things with Lara. She warns him that Lara won’t help his recovery. [Wing: And here is where Louise becomes one of the best fucking side characters in the whole damn series. I love you.] [Dove: How do they win so hard with her, and Zoey is the lead?]


Christopher agrees to talk to his landlord about Lara taking over his apartment lease when he leaves in a week.


Benjamin finds out his bandages need to stay on for longer as there have been some minor complications. He and Nina fight – she wants to stay till his bandages come off, he thinks she’s pitying him.


Claire drops into the restaurant to offer her waitressing services, but it seems like Lara is okay right now. She also apologises to Zoey for not telling her that she snuck over to visit Aaron. Zoey tells Claire she can have Aaron. When Lucas comes in, looking for Christopher, Zoey offers him cake, but he doesn’t want anything from her. [Wing: …except her sweet, sweet pie.]


Claire visits Aaron, apparently to collect a book he borrowed. They trade insults for 2 hours. Pretty sure that’s at least 3rd base?


The kids are on the Ferry and it’s awkward – I guess Aisha and Christopher are avoiding each other till she makes a decision, which seems super healthy, and obviously we all hope that Lucas and Zoey are in the process of realising they should break up for good. Anyway, it’s New Years Eve and they are all heading to the Mall to buy party essentials like cake, sparkling cider, snacks and unholy amounts of cheese. The boys decide that hanging out on the upper deck in the cold is a more inviting prospect and leave the lower deck to the Zoey and Aisha. They manage to avoid each other at the mall, but end up on the same ferry home.

Tuesday Evening – New Year’s Eve

Zoey gets home with the caviar, smoked salmon and gourmet bread sticks that she got for the party. Did I miss something? What party is she catering? The party Aaron’s Mum is throwing? Anyway, I’m supposed to be focusing on how sad Zoey is. Lucas ignored her! In fact, never before has she felt so ignored.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose
Actual footage of Zoey playing the saddest song in the world. For herself. D’uh.

Cool Dad Jeff Passmore is in the breakfast nook with Soon To Be Evicted Sister Lara who announces she has found a place to live and will be moving out on the 5th – just five days away – into Christopher’s apartment. And OH MY GOD, character development alert!

For some reason, Zoey was unable to bring herself to look Lara in the eye… now with the move suddenly definite, she felt a strange guilt gnawing at her.

Is this a flicker of self awareness?

[Wing: Don’t worry, it’ll burn out soon.] [Dove: I think it’s indigestion from the food she probably sampled from Sarah Mendel’s party.]

Lara is going to keep working in the restaurant and “when she starts going to AA meetings and proving to us that she’s sincere about straightening up, then we’ll discuss her living situation again.” Best. Dad. Ever. Even Zoey thinks that Jeff is being cold and after Lara leaves she starts to tell him that maybe she overreacted, demanding Lara move out. Jeff interrupts though:

Mr Passmore placed his hand over hers. “the only reason you’re so predictable is because you have the biggest heart of anyone I know”

Jesus Jeff, why you gotta pour water on that fleeting flame of self awareness? While I think Lucas needs to be told a bit more often that he’s essentially a good kid, I think Zoey needs to hear it a little less often. [Dove: Character shilling. If everyone didn’t tell Zoey she was the best thing ever, we’d notice that a toxic nightmare was leading this saga.]

Anyway, Jeff thinks Lara is too much of a strain on the household and he would have insisted she move out even if Zoey hadn’t suggested it. When Zoey points out she’ll be alone, Best Dad Ever replies:

That’s not true. She’ll still have us. She always will . I’ve made that abundantly clear from the moment she walked into our lives. But I won’t allow her to take advantage of our family or our house. I expect the same from her as I do you or Benjamin… When she learns how to accept that love and reciprocate, we’ll all be better off. Right now she has little more growing and learning to do. [She won’t drink herself to death because] for the first time she’s been thrust into a situation where she has no responsibilities. Until now she’s always had to fend for herself… I think some time on her own will do a world of good. She can reflect and she’ll HAVE to shape up

Jesus Christ, Jeff. I don’t even know where to begin with this bull shit. Let’s take a drink every time Jeff lies, and then reflect on Lara’s alcoholism. [Wing: Those of us drinking alcohol for this are going to die.] From the top:

  1. She’ll still have us. She always will . I’ve made that abundantly clear from the moment she walked into our lives. When? Was it when your son tracked her down before you did? Was it when you invited her to Thanksgiving without telling anyone, forcing her into an awkward confrontation with your wife and daughter? Was it when you let her move into the garage as a very temporary measure? Admittedly, you gave her a job, that was pretty decent. But once she was installed in the garage you left her to rot, and allowed your other daughter to use her as an emotional punchbag.Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose

  2. But I won’t allow her to take advantage of our family or our house. I expect the same from her as I do you or Benjamin… expecting the same behaviour from her as you expect from your other children is ridiculous. She doesn’t know you, she wasn’t raised by you, does she even know how you define “taking advantage” and “respect?” How on earth can she be expected to live up to standards she doesn’t recognise without any support to meet them? Also, I call bullshit on the idea that Jeff and Darla would kick out Zoey or Benjamin for having an alcohol problem. I like to think they would have noticed and intervened before it got to this stage, but we are talking about Jeff and Darla, so maybe not.

    Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose

  3. When she learns how to accept that love and reciprocate, we’ll all be better off. Right now she has little more growing and learning to do. how do you expect Lara to do any “growing and learning” about life in your family and accepting the “love” you offer when you’ve made her move away from the family? Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose
  4. for the first time she’s been thrust into a situation where she has no responsibilities. Until now she’s always had to fend for herself… I think some time on her own will do a world of good. She can reflect and she’ll HAVE to shape up And finally, the Jeff Passmore Bootstraps Cure for Alcoholism; Lara was better off when she had to keep it together enough to pay the rent. Ergo, force her back into that situation. Now there’s no need to get her any kind of professional help! She’ll be a functioning alcoholic and that’s all that matters. Also, why on earth does Jeff think that she was keeping it together before he so graciously swept her into a life of luxury? When she comes to Thanksgiving we learn that she’s dropped out of school and is being evicted. Does that sound like someone succeeding at fending for themselves? [Dove: Oh, Rosey, let me explain. She’s doing as well as you’d expect from someone like her. She’s not Zoey. Zoey is college, marriage, babies, suburbia, yummy mummies, and maybe one of those small dogs you carry around like a handbag. Lara is minimum wage, cheap booze, not getting fired too often, and multiple babies from multiple fathers, most of which are being raised in foster care, followed by a fatal overdose before she’s thirty. Lara’s doing just terrific!]

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

In conclusion, fuck you, Jeff.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose

[Wing: In further conclusion, Wing has died of alcohol poisoning. The remainder of her comments will be from Wing’s ghost come back to haunt you forever.]

We move to the NYE party that Sarah Mendel is hosting. Claire has been decorating and is up to her eyeballs in quality time with the new fam. She heads for her widow’s walk as soon as she can escape. She’s convinced that tonight is the night… tonight things are going to happen with Aaron and me. I can’t bare this…. Claire, he is a jerk. You verbally sparring for hours isn’t because he sees you as an equal who can keep up with him, it’s because he knows how to get what he wants, and he knows the approach he took with Zoey would never work with you. Girl, how can you be so right about someone and so wrong at the same time? What do I know though? Apparently, no two people were more compatible… he was the perfect match for her. He’s not as naïve as Lucas, as suspicious as Benjamin or as dumb as Jake. He’s super hot, they have great chemistry and he’s never once told her he likes her which would be so gross and off putting.

Aisha wakes up – she’d been dreaming about being on a plane with Christopher. She kept being offered upgrades and Christopher was encouraging her to accept them. She analyses her dream for a bit and is still no closer to deciding if she should accept Christopher’s proposal or not. Her time is nearly up and she’s still waiting on a sign from God or the universe.

Christopher’s diary: He wasn’t worried about the future when he proposed to Aisha – he knew she’d say yes – but now he’s been waiting for an answer for days and the answer has the potential to ruin his life. Bloody hell Christopher… if Aisha says no, it doesn’t mean she’s breaking up with you! It just means she’s seventeen and not ready for that kind of commitment! Of anyone, you should understand, you only decided a couple of weeks ago (Maybe its been a month? I need a calendar.) that you would stop chasing other girls and try a monogamous relationship. He’s so all-or-nothing! [Dove: Not that I think getting engaged at seventeen is a sensible plan for most people, but what’s wrong with getting engaged, but not getting married until Aisha’s finished college (or some other much later date)?] [Wing: Because she still might meet someone else and Christopher is determined to lock her down now. For reasons. Reasons like him having cheated on her left, right, and centre earlier in the series and now expecting everyone to do the same. …though, considering where he lives right now, that’s not too wrong, though it is completely off base for Aisha.]

Christopher is first to the Geiger/Mendel party, wearing a suit and bearing a cake as a hostess gift. That is sweet. Aaron is in a tux though and Christopher instantly feels inferior on the one night he was not in the mood for any competition. Claire is also dressed to the nines in a strapless black dress that clung to every curve of her body. Lucas shows up next, wearing brown corduroy pants and an ill-fitting blazer he had borrowed from his Dad. Oh, Lucas! Claire lets him know he hasn’t met the dress code and I feel for Lucas… I NEVER get it right – I’m either head to toe sequins when everyone else is casual, or in paint splattered jeans when the rest of the crowd is in their finery. [Wing: Claire, fuck the fuck off. Not everyone has your money or access to things or your sense of style. Not to mention, stop being so goddamn shallow. And finally, I have come to the place in life where I just walk in like whatever I’m wearing is exactly what needs to be worn. It’s worked really really well even when I’m wearing worn jeans into fancy restaurants or sparkly black dresses into hole-in-the-wall bars. I enjoy this Don’t Give a Fuck!Wing point in my life.] Zoey shows up with Lara, and introduces her to Mr Geiger and Sarah Mendel. I’m really enjoying how hard the clothes descriptions are working to demonstrate the class distinctions in the group, but this section about the half-sister’s outfits is telling us a whole lot extra:

Zoey wore a formal blue dress that matched her eyes. Lara wore a black one that Mr Passmore had lent her from Mrs Passmore’s closet. Zoey had felt as if Lara was somehow trespassing by wearing her mother’s dress, but she kept her thoughts to herself.

Zoey, who is perfectly attired for the event in a dress that has been chosen for her, because it suits her and makes her feel good, fits here at this party with these people. Lara, like Lucas, doesn’t even own anything close to appropriate for this kind of event and is in a basic pulled from someone else’s wardrobe. I sort of wish we’d seen that – Did Lara ask to borrow something? Did Mr Passmore offer? Did Zoey insist? Anyway, Lara must be so uncomfortable, in her borrowed dress at a party with people who either actively don’t like her or are indifferent to her. And Zoey actually resents Lara for being allowed the small comfort of being dressed “appropriately.”

Anyway, Zoey is feeling sorry for herself because Lucas isn’t speaking to her (because she accused him of cheating on her and told him to leave her alone) Aisha isn’t here yet and where were Nina and Benjamin when she needed them the most? Oh, y’know, Benjamin is off getting that experimental life altering surgery and Nina is supporting him. Selfish pricks. I’m sorry, I promised myself at the start of the recap that I wouldn’t just rant about Zoey, but I don’t seem able to help myself. She’s just so insufferable!

[Wing: Well, if Grapplegate would stop making all the books All About Zoey, it’d help some with our Zoey rants. And I don’t think you’re ranting too much at all.] [Dove: Faux Grapplegate at this point. We’re on the ghosties now. Though it would be interesting to know how much control they had over the series as it went on.] [Wing: Fair point. I’d cut them more slack of Zoey hadn’t been terrible from the beginning. I wish I’d asked Applegate about Zoey when I got that book signed for Dove. Which reminds me, I probably never sent that, I should make sure I have it stored somewhere protected.]

Jake and his Dad arrive. Jake is in his only suit, and it’s a little small for him, so we know Jake is uncomfortable here too. Mr McRoyan heads off to the grown ups gathering in the study – I wonder if Mr Passmore is there, and did he take his bong?- and Jake spies Zoey. Good old Zoey. As long as she was there the party might just be tolerable. Wow, Jake, I think you are a great guy, but we may have an irreconcilable difference of opinion when it comes to Zoey Passmore. [Wing: Jake, I can only hope that you learn the truth about Zoey one of these days. I’m also v. v. v. v. v. sorry that I once wrote you being happy to marry her. V. sorry.]

Aisha arrives last, wearing the dress she wore when Christopher proposed. Is she wearing it because she’s going to say yes and is more of a romantic that she likes to admit or just because it’s her newest dress and she likes it? She gets to the business of avoiding Christopher and chats to Zoey in the kitchen. Lucas is avoiding Zoey – he’s upstairs with Jake and Lara listening to Nina’s CD collection and Zoey is annoyed that he and Jake are friends now:

They were probably bonding over the fact that they had both gone out with Zoey.

They were probably bonding over the fact that they had both gone out with Zoey.

They were probably bonding over the fact that they had both gone out with Zoey.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)
“They were probably bonding over the fact that they had both gone out with Zoey”

[Wing: I. Am. D Y I N G.] [Dove: Outstanding gif.]

Nina calls the party, she’s watching TV with Benjamin and Cool Mom Darla Passmore. She wishes everyone a happy New Year, checks in on the Aisha/Christopher gossip and puts Benjamin on the phone. Benjamin gets in a Zoey-zinger that makes me cheer (“Nonstop fun Zo, You should get a dangerous experimental operation sometime”) and a Lara zinger that makes me hiss (“Maybe she’s on drugs”) Benjamin is treading a thin line, frankly, and I’m poised to start disliking him and collecting the full Passmore Hate Set. [Dove: I’ve been hating him for years. Join me.]

Claire is heading to her room to meet Aaron, when she hears music from Nina’s room and pops in to find Lucas, Lara and Jake pouring over Nina’s CDs. “Glad to see you’ve made yourselves at home… I’m sure Nina would appreciate it.” See, when we heard earlier that they were up there, I thought Claire had told them they could? This feels pretty intrusive and I don’t think Nina would want those people in her room, especially when she’s not there. On the other hand, I love the idea of these 3 and Nina having some kind of music based friendship that Zoey just doesn’t understand.

Anyway, Aaron is in her room, but he’s sitting at her computer reading a conspiracy site about Jay Leno’s existence, rather than lounging on the bed, surrounded by flower petals and waiting to seduce her. They banter, he tells her that his usual tricks won’t work on her and that she knows him too well – she think’s he’s the most manipulative, cold-hearted liar in the world and it’s all very flirty and Claire eats it up and they make out.

Lucas realises he might be cramping Jake and Lara’s NYE party and as he leaves Nina’s room he bumps straight into Zoey who won’t let him ignore her anymore and starts crying. For a moment he stared at her face, but instead of experiencing the usual pangs of remorse, he found he was angry. Girls were so damn lucky. All a girl had to do was turn on the waterworks, then bang -instant forgiveness.” I’d argue that the fact Zoey is white, and pretty add to the effectiveness of her tears, but it’s a fair point, again Lucas on the tip of recognising that the patriarchy damages everyone. He tells Zoey that he’s sorry she’s having a hard time, but he’s not the right person for her to talk to it about and leaves. Bloody hell… Well done, Lucas! [Wing: Good work, Lucas! And you are 100% right about how Zoey’s whiteness and beauty help her get her way especially with waterworks.]

Lara is wondering why Jake has been avoiding her for the last few days and he says he has a lot on his mind. Lara points out that she does too, she just got evicted. Jake is annoyed – he thinks it’s her own fault and she shouldn’t play the victim. This is why it’s not a great idea to have a relationship with an addict when you are getting clean. And also why you shouldn’t really try and start a a relationship while getting clean. Jake invites her to come to AA with him, and tells her that she needs help, but he can’t be the one to give it to her. And like Lucas, he isn’t cruel or misleading, but he states his boundaries and my golly, I wish my relationships with boys had been this wholesome when I was a teen!

Christopher finally tracks down Aisha and takes her off to a quiet room to talk. She tells him she can’t marry him. She loves him, he’s the man of her dreams, but she can’t make such a huge commitment. She wants to make it work, but Christopher seems to be shutting down. He knows exactly how much Aisha loves him, and it’s not enough to marry him.

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Then Mrs Mendel calls everyone together to ring in the new year, and she and Mr Geiger announce that they are getting married! The kids (with the exception of Claire and Aaron) are all gutted to see the grown ups getting more New Year’s Romance than they are.

Another fun format – New Year’s resolutions!

Zoey is going take an oath of celibacy, never tell a lie again and act (not be) nicer to Lara. Claire plans to stop meddling and to somehow get her Father’s wedding cancelled. Nina is cutting down on chocolate, driving her sister to suicide, get her Father’s wedding called off and have lots of sex. Aisha plans to stalk Christopher. Lucas is going to study and hook up with lots of girls who aren’t Zoey. Benjamin is going to act (not be) nicer to Lara, have lots of sex with Nina and get his vision back. Jake is going to stay sober, study and not fool around with Louise or Lara. Christopher resolves to leave the island and win the lottery.

[Wing: Well, no surprises, but also half of these are terrible and Jake remains the best.]

Claire’s Diary: Claire is mostly optimistic about the future, especially since she is now really and truly in love. She can even be happy for BenjaNina, rather than jealous. It’s a bit of a bummer that her Dad is marrying her new boyfriend’s Mum, but Claire’s sure she can fix that. [Wing: It’s not incest, Claire, you’ll be fine.]

Saturday 4th January

We cut to Claire visiting Aaron a few days later while he packs to leave the island. He has the box of “souvenirs” that Claire dug through when she was looking for dirt on him and tells her it’s nothing, but Claire want’s to know how much she’ll tell him so presses a little more “I… uh… keep [old letters] to remind myself of the mistakes I’ve made. It doesn’t really seem to work though.” Claire thinks this is the perfect answer, and they make out. They are going to make it work long distance, they can write letters for Aaron to add to his collection. [Wing: Claire W H Y you are smarter than this.]

Nina is back on the island and visiting Zoey. She wants to hear about her Dad announcing his engagement, but Zoey is moping and would rather not talk about romance or the party. She wants to talk college applications, but that’s not much fun for Nina, who is facing all her friends leaving the island simultaneously while she finishes high school alone. Nina confesses to Zoey that she is scared Benjamin won’t find her attractive and Zoey, in one of the moments with Nina where she resembles a decent human being, tells her that she is attractive and Benjamin loves her. She also whisks her off to Aisha’s for a make over.

Lucas’s Diary: Lucas is worried about applying for colleges with the drink driving sentence on his record. Yeah, that’s a problem that the series never resolved: everyone knows he didn’t do it and he no longer faces the social consequences, but officially, he has a long list of possible charges that may have been filed against him – drinking under age, driving underage, drink driving, manslaughter… I understand that when he arrived on the island he just wanted to be accepted, but I feel like as Lucas gets older he’s going to wish he’d either demanded a legal testament of some sort from Claire or a lot more Gieger money. This isn’t Lucas’ biggest concern though. His biggest worry about the future is that he will never find another girl like Zoey. [Dove: There are plenty like her out there. The biggest flag is that a lot of them say, “I’m not a girl’s girl. Girls are bitchy.” That’s how you find them. They’re full to the hilt with drama and toxic behaviour.]

Lucas is spying through the Passmore kitchen window, but Zoey isn’t in view. It’s just Lara. His Dad wants him to go buy nails. Lucas has all his money in the new wallet Zoey gave him for Christmas and it feels unfamiliar. It’s a nice wallet, but it’s a mistake to be carrying a reminder of Zoey round with him. Lucas knows this, though. He decided to return it to Zoey while running his Father’s errand. Zoey isn’t home, but Lara lets him in to leave the wallet on Zoey’s desk – do whatever you want, it’s not my house. When dropping off the wallet he finds the college essay Zoey had been discussing with Nina, a paragraph on regret. Zoey regrets having betrayed Lucas and regrets far more that I may have destroyed his ability to hope and trust in others. Look, I’m just going to say it: Zoey has too much self esteem. [Dove: I always found that to be a breathtakingly arrogant statement, even before my hatred ramped up to extreme levels.]

Aisha and Zoey are distracting themselves from their boy problems by giving Nina a make over – flowery dress, cute little bob, a touch of eyeliner and Nina was stunning. Nina is ambivalent: she can see she looks great, but also hates the concept of make overs and doesn’t like admitting that how she looks matter’s to her. Anyway, the fun ends when Christopher show’s up. He’s leaving the island, so he wants to give her back the island car she got him. He’s cold as ice, even when Aisha begs him not to let it end like this. Damn Christopher, way to prove her right in her decision. What if she said yes, and was already legally bound to your self-centered ass when something happened that you didn’t like? He makes it painfully clear that they are over and leaves. [Wing: That’s a really good point.]

Jake is also trying to write a college application. He briefly wonders if AA counts as an extracurricular activity. There’s a tap at his window and Lara is there with a present for him. He assumes it will be booze and he’s annoyed but then she gives him a portrait of him that she has painted. She hasn’t been painting for a while, I assume because she’s been too drunk, either to concentrate or to prioritise buying materials. This is sweet. She leaves, she just wanted to give him the painting, thank him for being kind and supportive and now she’s off to finish packing. As she leaves, she says she’s still thinking about coming to a meeting with him. Jake has a moment of reflection after she leaves – he’s not the most intellectual guy, but he’s been learning to read bewteen the lines more and to accept that nothing is black and white. People can do bad things and still be nice people, with good intentions. He knows he has forgiven Lucas, even started a sort of friendship with him, but he will never totally forgive the night Wade died, even though he knows Lucas wasn’t driving. He can’t concentrate on applications now, but he’s feeling ok, even a bit happy, when he finds a small bottle of tequila that must have fallen out of Lara’s bag. On the side Lara had taped a note to herself: Save for your last night at the Passmores’ House. Enjoy it, McAvoy! It will be your last. He wonders if she left it there deliberately to prove to him that she was serious about giving up. But either way, she won’t be drinking this bottle tonight, and nor will Jake. [Dove: Jake, I love you.]

Making Out #12: Claire Can't Lose by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)

Sunday 5th January

Benjamin is in the hospital with Dr Martin and the bandages are coming off. He’s optimistic, there has been less pain. When the Doctor tells him to open his eyes, Benjamin pauses, recognising that this is the moment his life will change forever. When he opens them, there is a flash of light and then darkness. “It didn’t work.”

[Wing: I dislike Benjamin most of the time, but this storyline is heartbreaking. That poor guy.]

Aaron is all packed, ready to leave the island. He and Claire are saying goodbye. They flirt, he asks her to visit, she teases that she’s just a trophy to him, he agrees that she is a prize. I’m just not invested in these two at all. Clearly, he’s a dickhead and this isn’t going to work out. Anyway, she extracts a promise that he will be faithful and they say “I Love You.”

Lara is moving into her new apartment. Christopher has left a note there for the Passmores – thanks for being the best bosses, sorry I couldn’t’ say goodbye etc – so I guess he has officially left the island too. “Well, I guess that’s about it, Lara,” Mr Passmore said, putting his arm around Zoey’s shoulder. “Good Luck.” Then the Passmores leave Lara in the barren octagonal room. Fuck the Passmores.

They are feeling peachy as they driving home though, for about all of five minutes, till they get there and find a crying Nina being comforted by Lucas. She bears the news about Benjamin’s failed surgery. After reading Zoey’s essay, Lucas has had a change of heart and he comforts Zoey, apologises and says he loves her and they are going to be together forever.

For fuck’s sake.

Final Thoughts:

This wasn’t a Claire book. Not really. This was another Zoey book. For a minute there, I thought that she and Lucas were actually going to break up, which would have been the healthy choice. I wonder who will cheat/ who will accuse the other of cheating next? Benjamin’s surgery didn’t work! Aisha and Christopher broke up! Jake is in AA! He’s called everything off with Lara! Who has been evicted! Fuck me, I hate the Passmores. Jeff really cemented it with that sanctimonious bootstraps justification for evicting his alcoholic daughter rather than taking her to see a counsellor to help her deal with her addiction. I really wish we got some more perspective on Lara – where are her diary entries? She still just exists as a problem for the Passmores, and to highlight to Jake his own damaging behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying these books, but I think their strength was their ensemble format and that is definitely becoming a more Zoey-centric narrative. Which is tough for me, because I really don’t like Zoey. Had you noticed?

[Wing: I don’t want to keep going if they’re all going to be more about Zoey than anyone else. And I know they are. Damn it. We were so close to Lucas finding a way out of Zoey’s black hole of suck and into a space where maybe the McRoyans could help him find himself better. Finally: Claire can’t lose? More like Recappers can’t win.]

[Dove: I don’t have any more to say that Wing and Rosey haven’t covered. We were lied to again about the contents of this book. Suggested title: EVERYTHING is about Zoey?]