Making Out #3: Nina Won’t Tell by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant)
Title: Nina Won’t Tell
Front Blurb: First Zoey fooled around with Lucas and Jake found out. Then Claire broke up with Ben to be with Jake, and ended up alone. Now Nina is thrilled because she’s always loved Ben, and she’s finally got her chance. Only they’ll never get together if… Nina Won’t Tell.
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 won’t tell that she’s in love with Ben. Ben used to belong to her sister, Claire, and who knows what Claire would say if she found out. But even worse, if Nina discovers that Ben doesn’t love her back… it will break her heart.
WARNING: This book and recap contain references to sexual abuse of a minor. If you have triggers, proceed with caution or not at all. This is the only warning you will get. I will be as tactful as I can, but you never know for sure what can trigger someone, so please consider this warning. If you see “A Note From Nina” as a heading there may be some of Nina’s dreams. Some may find the imagery triggering. I have labelled the dreams with a header, but they’re not hidden behind spoiler tags (as we don’t have such a thing on this site).
This was one of the last – if not the very last – in the series that I read. As I’ve said in my previous recap, I bought these in piecemeal in the pre-internet days. There was usually a selection of about five available and I would buy at least one, based on which sounded most interesting. However, this one I wanted desperately, because it was about Nina, and she was my best friend, because I didn’t have one in real life, and we already had so much in common (Guns N’ Roses, smoking, fashion choices that made me people roll their eyes, being inferior to family members, etc.) I just had to read this book. Our only difference is that she thinks highly of Benjamin. [Rosey: This book was the one I had the clearest memories of, coming into this re-read. because Nina! but also because Nina :,(]
The very first thing in this book is a map of the Chatham Island ferry route around the three islands to the mainland. So… is this the book where Aisha gets the water taxi a billion times?
And here’s something I didn’t know until last Saturday, you can get a water taxi along the River Aire – the stop is about a mile from my house. I’m totally doing that next time I leave the house (June, maybe?)
We open with notes from everyone on what they think is sexy.
Zoey thinks Lucas is, because of how she nearly had sex with him, which was cut short by Claire showing up to fess up to driving. Zoey was delighted by her timing. Lucas was not. Also, Jason Priestley is sexy. [Rosey: 2014Zoey says Liam Hemsworth is sexy, but she’s not sleeping with him anytime soon either.] [Wing: Liam Hemsworth is the sexier option than Priestley, but is not the sexiest Hemsworth by far.]
Claire thinks that Marky Mark (fucking lol) and Jason Priestley are quite pretty, but not sexy. Christian Slater is not handsome, but he is sexy. I’d say he’s both, but it’s subjective, I get that. She says that Lucas is both, Benjamin is both, Jake is “Not as cute as Benjamin, not as obviously sexy as Lucas.” But he also wants nothing to do with her, and the challenge is sexy. [Rosey: 2014Claire name checks Liam Hemsworth, Dylan O’Brien and Jessie Williams as pretty, but not sexy. Zayn Malik is not handsome, but is sexy.] [Wing: Dylan O’Brien is pretty?! This is on par with that Marky Mark LOL.]
Aisha thinks someone who shares her interests, is smart, funny and respectful is sexy – like Christopher. She doesn’t believe in chemistry or pheromones, she believes in shared interests. Like she and Christopher share an interest in making out, which they did on the ferry, knowing they could “blame it all on the ‘mones.” (She’s so cute when she’s being sassy.)
Nina does her best to avoid the question citing (in order) George from Seinfeld, Paul Shaffer and girls in general, before admitting that actually she likes Benjamin (but on their last date, she thought it was a date, and he thought she was his chauffeur), and it’s ok if he doesn’t think she’s sexy, because she’s not into all that, and it’s more spiritual, oh never mind, just change the subject. [Rosey: 2014Nina Cam from Modern Family and Paul Shaffer] [Wing: Seriously hate the way liking girls is treated like a joke (and later when Zoey freaks out over it, though at least part of her reaction is that Nina would never keep a secret from her). I get what’s happening, but it is still shitty.]
And, yeah, that resonates with me. I remember speaking to a friend about a situation I was in, where I really liked a guy and he was pushing for sex, and I was like, “Is it weird if I want to be his girlfriend and he can sleep with anyone but me, as long as we pretend he’s not?” and my friend was like, “Yeah, Dove, that’s weird.” (If that’s how you set up your relationships and it works for you, good for you – my friend specifically meant, “yes, Dove, that’s really weird for you personally, it doesn’t fit with what I know of you.” and not a blanket “Yep, only fuckups do that.”)
Now we get to the start of the story.
Nina is on the ferry with Zoey and Aisha, there’s some light-hearted conversation about school, and then Claire comes into sight and Nina feels an uncharacteristic pang of sympathy for her sister. Claire has no-one to talk to – she doesn’t usually sit with Nina and her friends, Jake is ignoring her, and she and Benjamin just broke up badly. Zoey suggests that they let Claire sit with them.
Nina made a face. Zoey was a hopelessly nice person. But then, Zoey had spent her life growing up with kind, considerate, decent Benjamin as her only sibling, while Nina had grown up under the ruthless tyranny of Perfect Claire. Ice Princess. Holder of the Record for Early Breast Development. Claire the Zit-proof. Claire of the perfect taste in clothing who had never once worn anything to school that caused large numbers of people to wince and turn away. Claire who must have sold her soul to the devil because she certainly didn’t have one that Nina had ever—
Nina’s a great example of an unreliable (or at least strongly biased) narrator. Zoey is an annoying wet rag who creates a metric fucktonne of drama, is super-judgemental, and generally gets on my nerves with every word she utters. Benjamin is a cold, smug, condescending asshat, who manipulates everyone around him. Claire shares a lot of Benjamin’s characteristics, but I love her. As Wing said in her recap, maybe it’s just refreshing seeing a female with those attributes, and that’s why we love her and not him. But in all fairness, Zoey is nice to Nina, Benjamin is… well, he’s not horrible or anything, but in the past two books, he hasn’t shown much care for her, treating her like the paid book-reader she is, rather than an actual friend. And yeah, she and Claire have a complicated relationship.
[Wing: Part of my problem with Benjamin is that, until this book at least, we don’t really see him being decent to anyone. He’s shit to Claire, he’s shit to Nina, and we don’t get to see him and Zoey have a decent sibling relationship until this book. Where, I’ll admit, he’s pretty great with her and what she tells him about Nina.]
Nina calls her sister over and tells her that they feel sorry for her because she’s “pathetic and boyfriendless”. Zoey says they’re not enjoying her misery, Nina says they are, Aisha makes a so-so gesture. Nina asks Claire for details about what Jake said when she fessed up to driving the car that killed his brother, and Claire is quite snappish when she says he threw her out, and she’s clearly hurting over it. Zoey reassures her that they’re all still her friends, and Lucas has forgiven her.
Nina points out that she still can’t stand her, but Claire says they’ll have to pretend while Aunt Elizabeth (there’s one Elizabeth I trust thus far in my life, and she prefers to be called bat – there is something alarming about that name) and Uncle Mark visit. [Rosey: You can’t conflate all Elizabeths with Elizabeth Wakefield, Dove. It’s not fair.] [Wing: Rosey just made me laugh so hard I scared Monster Dog. Yeah, DOVE. Be fair.] [Dove: I’m not assuming that I dislike all Elizabeths purely because of Elizabeth Wakefield. I’m just saying out of all the Elizabeths I’ve met and read about so far, bat is the only one I like.]
Nina drops her cigarette when she hears that news, and looks alarmed enough for Claire to ask if she’s ok. Nina says she’s fine. Maybe that should be a tag.
Over dinner at the Geigers, the sisters trade barbs – Claire is into Jake, but Jake’s not seeing her; Nina’s not seeing anyone because she’s the only Junior in the whole world that isn’t into dating. Then talk turns to Mark and Elizabeth visiting. Mr Geiger asks Janelle, their housekeeper, to air out the two spare rooms. Janelle replies with, “Ayuh.” This delights me. (And would probably delight Christopher too.) Claire asks why two rooms, and Burke says some older people prefer separate rooms. Nina pushes for Aunt Elizabeth to get the front bedroom, but Burke says no, she’s an early riser and would be happier in the back bedroom. Besides, if he doesn’t give Mark the best room, he’ll get in a snit about it. This causes Nina to pass on dessert. [Rosey: The only married couple I’ve known of that didn’t share a room were my Grandparents in their 80s. I’m sure there are lots of reasons couple’s don’t share the same room, but I’m also sure that the reason this couple don’t is that Mark doesn’t want Elizabeth to know what he gets up to after dark. It’s an early red flag for the book.]
She goes upstairs and paces the difference from each spare room to her bedroom door. It’s sixteen – maybe seventeen – from the back bedroom to her door, past her father’s bedroom, no less. It’s eight from the back room, passing nobody else’s room. This is the room Mark will be in.
Claire goes for a walk by herself to think about Jake. She hopes to randomly run into him, but finally admits to herself that she’s actually heading for his house. She has to take a detour to avoid being seen by Aisha and Zoey, who are outside Passmores’ restaurant drinking sodas. She doesn’t dislike them, she just thinks Lucas must be nearby and it’ll be awkward, despite the fact everything is allegedly ok between them.
She heads towards the breakwater bumps into Jake, who has a canvas bag full of beer, and he plans to drink it on the breakwater. He seems like he’s already had a few as it is. The surf is pretty powerful and she worries that even a sober Jake could get swept away. She asks if they can talk, and he says no, she might push him in and then there’s nobody left to carry on the McRoyan name. He snaps at her that Wade got dead and Lucas got Youth Authority, but Claire got a tiny bruise on her head, just enough to screw up her memories.
And damn, he’s not wrong, but ouch.
He stomps off and flops down on the breakwater to drink.
Claire keeps her distance, but decides to watch him, to keep him safe. Why? She owes him, she feels guilty, she loves him.
[Wing: This is such a decent thing to do, and this entire situation complicated and painful. I feel for them obht, which is saying a lot because I don’t particularly like Jake.]
Back at Passmores, Aisha and Zoey are still drinking their sodas and chatting. Christopher, who’s working that night, notes that it’s really slow and he’s worried that his hours will get cut back. Lucas rocks up and says that he doesn’t have to check in with his parole officer any more because his criminal record will be expunged. Zoey gets all fluttery and romantic and kisses him. Aisha notes that they’re a cute couple and would make a great homecoming couple. They both say no.
Then we cut to Zoey’s house, where she and Lucas are making out in her room. Talk turns to Nina, and Lucas, for some reason, decides to be a Neanderthal about it, and say that Nina doesn’t like guys. Zoey says she’s not gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but she’s been on one or two dates. Lucas pulls it back for half a second, saying she’s pretty (Lucas/Nina, yo), then calls her a ball-buster. Lucas, dude, you’re usually so much more sensitive than this. Zoey usually avoids the topic of dating when it comes to Nina, because:
“I don’t like prying into other people’s private lives,” Zoey said.
Bwahahahahaha. You are the nosiest person on the island. I mean, it’s not Elizabeth Wakefield levels of snoopery, but you do pry, Zoey. [Rosey: I really wanted Nina to be queer when I read this as a teen. I needed the representation.] [Wing: I wanted her to be queer before this book, because she’s a delight and I always want more representation, but as of this book, I’d rather have any of the others, and I’m glad Team Grapplegate made her straight. Having the queer girl be the one who was sexually abused would play too easily into those theories (which, somehow, still exist in the USA, WHY) that people are only queer because they’re damaged in some way. But queer!Nina was what I wanted SO HARD in book one especially.
I didn’t read Lucas as being a jackass throughout this scene, though I also don’t know why they’re talking about her when they’re supposed to be making out (…Lucas/Nina 4EVA). Nina is a ball-buster, and in a lot of ways, that’s part of her appeal, just as it is with Claire, though they go about it in different ways.]
[Dove: I haven’t seen this trope in YA, although I rarely read this kind of story anyway, but I’ve seen plenty of adult writers do this in chick-lit. I agree with both of you, god did I want Nina to be on Team Queer, but I really didn’t want molestation to make her “too damaged to be straight”.]
A Note from Nina
When Nina was eleven, she was strongly preoccupied with when would her period start. At the same time, her mother was dying, and she’s still torn up that her brain was 90% Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. When her mother died, both she and Claire were emotional wrecks – she never wants to see Claire that upset again – and dad decided it would be best to send Nina to stay with Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Mark, a change of scenery and all that. Not long after she got back, her first period arrived, and she thought it was punishment, either for what happened there or for her mother dying. Either way, she deserved it. She misses her mother. And how she was before, because she’s different now.
The next morning, Benjamin’s on his way to school when he encounters some kind of burst pipe, which means he can’t use his counting trick, and has to rely on someone’s help. He hears Zoey, but Nina offers to walk with him. When they’re alone Nina gets all insightful, saying that Benjamin doesn’t like to rely on his sister, or ask for help, and he likes being mysterious. Benjamin says he didn’t realise he was being watched. He then says he could have made the diversion himself, it’s just three sides of a square. Nina sassily replies that it’s a good thing she wasn’t waiting for gratitude. Nina asks him not to call her kid – which is new, we’ve never seen him call her kid before, but apparently he always has – and he says that he just remembers her when she was nine or ten. He asks what age someone stops being a kid, and very definitely, she replies eleven. He can hear anger or resentment in her voice, but doesn’t ask about it. Nina suggests they blow off school and do something fun. He says no, and says she’s a “sweet kid.”
Hey, Wing, I’ve found another possible reason why we don’t like Benjamin so much. It’s because he has all this intelligence, maturity and emotional comprehension, and displays less than zero of it when talking to Nina. We adore Nina, so side with her naturally, but at the same time, it also feels like Benjamin doesn’t actually care for her much. He only applies these things to the other characters. Nina is not worthy of all of his cleverness. She’s just a kid. [Rosey: I feel like I’m constantly white knighting for Benjamin, but Nina is 4 years younger than him. When I was 19, I definitely thought of 15 year olds as kids. At this point, he sees her as his little sister’s younger friend (not to mention, his ex’s little sister) which disregards the Nina we all know and love, but isn’t a completely unreasonable position for him to take. He should totally have noticed that something was up here though, and pursued it rather than ignoring her specific request not to call her “Kid.”] [Wing: I don’t disagree that it’s reasonable for him to consider her a kid. What I dislike is the way that, a lot of the time, he ignores what other people need or ask of him. Immediately calling her “kid” after she asks him not to is a perfect example. Whether or not he thinks of her as a kid, she’s just asked him to stop calling her one because it bothers her. To keep doing it is shitty. (I also think it’s pretty patronising for a 19-year-old to call a 15-year-old a kid, TBH, at least when talking to them directly. He’d be furious if someone five years older called him a kid.) I’m not sure he displays maturity or emotional comprehension toward any of the characters, really; he’s very caught up in himself, and that has little to do with his blindness and a lot to do with his personality. Similar to Claire, in some ways, though she’s often tuned into what’s going on around her, like she’s following the emotional weather the same way she does meteorological weather.]
At school, Zoey is reading a few pages from a bodice-ripper novel by slipping the ripped-out pages into her biology textbook. This is another reason I don’t like Zoey. I cannot rip up a book. Believe me, I’ve tried. [Wing: I’ve never torn pages out of books so I can read them in my textbooks, but I do make art from worn out books, so I can’t judge here. Also, one of the things I like about Zoey is how much she loves to read and makes time to do it, even if it’s at a bad time. Like during class.] [Rosey: Hello, Library Worker here. I have ripped up more books than I can count. When I first started working in libraries, it felt like heresy, but I honestly don’t think twice now!] I can’t even rip up Fifty Shades or something terrible like that. Claire notices and threatens to tell on her unless Zoey shares her English notes because she didn’t do the reading. Zoey notices this is out of character and calls her on it. Claire admits that Jake didn’t do the homework. Zoey wonders if they were groping all night and that’s why they didn’t get the homework done. Claire explains that Jake got drunk and she babysat him. Zoey doesn’t entirely believe it.
“Okay,” Claire said. “If you don’t believe that, then we were making passionate love till dawn. It was magic. He made a woman of me.”
God, I love the writing in this. Everyone’s just so sassy!
[Rosey: An aside on Zoey’s bodice rippers: I’ve always imagined them to be Mills and Boon (Harlequin Romance in the US, I think) and a lot of those are really explicit. Is Zoey reading porn at school? I am fascinated by her reading habits and how it fits with her overall characterisation.
(I now realise this sounds like I read a tonne of M&B, but I worked in Public Libraries for years and found them to be really interesting stock. Honestly, I can talk about them for ages. I never actually read a whole one, but I have a google sheet of my favourite titles and scored them based on certain tropes. If you ask nicely I’ll link you to it.]
[Wing: Clearly that is something we need to see, please and thank you. I didn’t read any romance in the 90s (internalised misogyny is such a great time, y’all, thank god I learned better), so I didn’t realise they were super explicit. (There’s a lot of talk in romance circles now about how much more explicit books are these days, even in romance subgenres.) How explicit are we talking? This is an interesting question about how that ties into Zoey’s personality, particularly her push and pull and judgment around sex. We’ll have to discuss this more throughout the recaps.]
[Dove: I have seen Rosey’s spreadsheet. Rosey has a freakin’ spreadsheet for this. It is art. And it’s a delight. I remember reading one when I was about thirteen. I can’t guarantee it, but I seem to remember the prose was very purple and very 80s porn, y’know, heaving bosoms, throbbing thises and engorged thats.]
[Rosey: I learnt the word “lathe” from an M&B, which means “to lick.” Use it in a sentence? “His curious tongue lathed her nipples.” I think that may have been the exact sentence.]
Claire is on the bleachers watching football practice. Jake is moving “elaborate care of a person with a bad hangover.” Aisha joins her so she can watch Christopher from afar. She asks Claire about her relationship status and Claire is prickly, 50% because she’s a private person, and 50% because she doesn’t actually know the answer. Aisha then observes that it’s a bit of a turnaround for Claire to be chasing her crush, instead of the other way around. Then Jake comes over and they have another biting exchange.
“I didn’t kill Wade,” Claire said softly. “We were all drunk. Any one of us could have been driving. If I hadn’t gotten behind the wheel, Wade would have. Then who would you blame?”
Jake didn’t explode the way she expected. Instead he just laughed cruelly. “That’s not what you said when everyone thought Lucas had been driving. You said he deserved to go to Youth Authority for two years. And when he got out, you said he should be kicked off the island.”
Claire cringed under his attack. She drew in her legs and hunched over, avoiding his gaze. “I know. I was wrong.”
Jake laughed out loud. “That’s what is so great about you, Claire. You can just instantly change what you believe so that no matter what, you’re always somehow in the right. So long as you get what you want.”
She then says she’s in love with him, and he laughs and says he doesn’t need her – not in his life and not watching over him when he’s drunk. Claire says he does.
At home, Nina goes through old photos until she finds a picture of herself on her eleventh birthday. She decides to keep it in her nightstand and look at it next time she has “one of those dreams.” [Rosey: *Cries forever*]
A Note from Nina – Dream Number Two
It’s a gloomy dream, and a girl is wearing a little-girl dress with a ridiculous bow on the front. Her mother is fussing with it, trying to get it straight. The girl messes with the dress, undoing all of the work and whining about how she doesn’t want to get dressed up. Later, the girl is older but wearing the same dress. Across the room, she can see a pair of intense eyes staring at her, and they tell her to “Come here, come here and give me some sugar.” Later still, the girl is lying in bed and the sheets are damp, and she’s guilty and ashamed, what if someone finds out. She wakes up feeling ashamed, because there’s a small sense of “undefinable pleasure, and that’s the worst feeling of all.”
[Wing: That detail about the small bit of pleasure is so fucking heartbreaking and disturbing, because it does happen, and it’s part of what people use to discredit victims and a huge part of what some survivors feel guilt over. If it was really rape/abuse/molestation/etc., I wouldn’t have liked it at all. God, my heart hurts.]
At school, Zoey finds out that she’s nominated for homecoming queen (yay) and Lucas has been nominated for homecoming king (not so yay). She breaks the news to him and he is furious. They get into an argument about, because Zoey wants to know why he thinks it’s ok for her to run for queen, but absolutely mortifying for him to be nominated for king. In Zoey’s defence, Lucas says “Uh, because you’re a girl,” in response to that question. But they kiss and make up.
At the pep rally:
“Go, Warriors, go, go. Go, Warriors, go!” Zoey shouted.
“Go, Warriors, go, go. Go, Warriors, go!” Aisha said a little less enthusiastically.
“Blah blahblah, blah blah. Blah blahblah, blah,” Nina said.
Claire read a book.
Team Grapplegate, I love you. [Rosey: Geigers <3]
Zoey is fuming that Lucas has failed to show up. Nina is on fire – bigger and louder than usual.
“We’ll hit ‘em again, we’ll hit ‘em again, we’ll hit ‘em one more time!” Zoey and Aisha cried on cue.
“We’ll castrate them using blunt knives,” Nina cried, causing several people nearby to turn and glare. “We’ll gouge out their eyes and swallow them like oysters!”
Claire glanced up from her book, gave her sister a pained look, and shook her head slightly.
“Beat Camden, beat Camden, beat Camden,” the chant began, becoming rhythmic and mesmerizing.
Nina jumped up, clenching her fists. “I vow total destruction on everyone from Camden. Kill the Camdenites! Slaughter them like pigs! They are the epitome of evil and must be wiped from the face of the earth! Forget football; we’ll bomb the bastards! We’ll make slaves of their children and whores of their women! Their men will be turned into beasts of burden!”
Sorry for the big chunk of quoting, but I absolutely love Nina dialled up to eleven – but I obviously wish it wasn’t her terrible history making her feel so aggressive. Team Grapplegate are very good at amusing dialogue and the deadpan reactions. This was the first set of teen books I remember reading where the author didn’t feel the need to add “everybody laughed” after an allegedly funny line. Instead, I would laugh at a genuinely funny line. Actually, I’d give a really inelegant snort. People would give me the side-eye if I was on the bus. [Wing: I still laugh at these lines, even knowing why she’s lashing out so hard. She’s fucking funny, and even beyond the reasons she’s turned up to 11, it’s also a great criticism of the metaphor of USA imperialism through high school sports. Oooh, I wonder if I can find an analysis of how schools here indoctrinate the students with RAH RAH RAH competition and US VS THEM.
I say this as someone who loves violent sports, grew up on high school football, and loves pro wrestling, boxing, and hockey. GO TEAM.]
Nina and Claire snipe again. Nina making fun of the hypothetical situation where Jake and Zoey are made king and queen and have to have homecoming babies; Claire bites back that the homecoming king and queen are purely platonic, a situation Nina is well-versed in.
The principal reads out the nominations, the ones we care about are: Jake, Lucas, and Tad Crowley (the guy Zoey kissed when she was pissed at Jake); and Zoey and Louise Kronenberger aka K-Berger, who you’ll meet later, but for now, rest assured that the islanders think she’s Jezebel McSlutty-Knickers. [Rosey: That’s not fair Dove, no one thinks she wears knickers.]
On the ferry home, Nina sits alone, as everyone is paired up (Lucas/Zoey, Aisha/Christopher, and Claire/Jake, although the latter is more a case of Claire standing as close to Jake as possible before he gets pissed off and walks away. At this point, they’re on the same bench, so Claire’s sort of winning). She wants to go to Benjamin, but with the pairings being romantic, it’s awkward. And she’s not really sure she wants that from Benjamin. She thinks she’s in love with him, but she’s not sure about the kissing. Last time someone kissed her she nearly hurled. She hates the lusty look people get though, it brings up bad memories. But Benjamin can’t look at her that way, he couldn’t even touch her unless she invited him to.
Wow. Talk about picking someone “safe”. I’m not judging at all. My first real relationship was with a guy who had never had a girlfriend before, had barely kissed anyone. I hadn’t realised that until now.
[Wing: Her line about him not even being able to touch her unless she invited him to is so fucking heartbreaking.]
Over with Zoey, she’s annoyed with Lucas because he just assumes he’ll win homecoming king. She wonders if Nina’s maybe got the right philosophy, since she’s upset about guys, Claire’s upset about guys, and Aisha’s just fine at the moment, but still. But on the other hand, Nina doesn’t look ok. She’s been too angry, shrill and Nina all day.
Aisha’s really enjoying making out with Christopher, until she realises that he’s kissing with his eyes open to watch a woman who’s hitched up her skirt to rub her feet. Nice. [Rosey; What, Christopher? Eww.] [Wing: Right, right, I’m remembering why I dislike Christopher.]
Claire can’t believe she’s throwing herself at a guy. She’s only doing it to get him back so she can dump him. Or she’s totally in love with him and utterly pathetic. (Yes, darling girl, you are, but it’s adorable. I love you, Claire.)
There’s a hold-up getting off the ferry because the elderly are disembarking first. I ordinarily would skip this part, but Nina says the following:
“Later I’m going to get a high-powered rifle, climb up on the roof, and shoot passersby while babbling about some conspiracy.”
This book was released four years before Columbine happened. I had to look it up because I read this around the time it happened, forgetting, of course, that it took me years to track this down, as mentioned in my initial thoughts at the top. [Rosey: That line is still in the 2014 reprint.] [Wing: Honestly, I’m amazed it stayed in the reprint without something happening to Nina for saying that. (Though, rich white girl.) Well, and also, it’s so normalised here. Many people probably wouldn’t even bat an eye.]
At home, Nina makes a sandwich and Claire checks the answer phone messages. There’s a gormless message from Aunt Elizabeth, who takes a few tries to understand she’s speaking to a machine, but eventually leaves a message saying she and Uncle Mark will be arriving on Sunday.
Once it’s done playing, Claire asks Nina if she’s going to mangle that sandwich or eat it. Again, she looks so alarmed that Claire asks about her wellbeing. Nina asks if Claire dislikes them, and Claire says that because they’re relatives they feel they have the right to bore her rigid and ask loads of personal questions. (God, do I feel this. One night, over dinner, my aunt and uncle, along with my cousins, started speculating on whether my relationship would last. I mean, clearly it wasn’t going to last, but it was none of their business.) But no, Claire doesn’t particularly dislike them. Aunt Elizabeth doesn’t have a sense of humour, and Uncle Mark is boring. Nina wonders why they don’t have kids, Claire doesn’t know or care.
Nina bolts. She can’t see either of the Passmores. Benjamin will hear her voice shake if she reads to him, and Zoey will just know, and ask. And she can’t have that, because no-one will ever believe her anyway.
And ok, Rosey has a point here. Wing and I dislike the Passmores, but Rosey made the point that they really do care for Nina. I stand by all my above points about Benjamin, but both of them have noticed that she’s off today, and even if Benjamin doesn’t care to ask, Zoey will. [Rosey: It’s so weird you say that because I was just about to comment “As if!” to Benjamin noticing her voice shake! But yeah, they really are their best selves around Nina, and around this whole issue.] [Wing: I agree that Benjamin either wouldn’t notice her shaking voice or would write it off as something unimportant, because she’s never upset about serious stuff (basically a quote from him later in this book), but Zoey is on fire in this book when it comes to Nina. Not so much that ridiculous Homecoming B plot, but I guess we can’t have everything.]
A Note from Nina – Dream Number Three
Nina is still wearing the silly dress mentioned above, and she’s the official cute kid at a grown up party. All the adults are really tall, and the room is dark and grainy. She’s really tired, so she climbs into a chair and it takes a long time because it’s really tall. She suddenly realises two things: everyone is staring at her, and she’s naked. And it’s all her fault because she shouldn’t have tried to go to the grown-up party. She’s not an idiot, she knows what it means.
This is the dream that freaks me out the most. If you won’t be triggered by this book, then you should read it. God, do you feel for Nina. [Rosey: So, so many feelings for Nina]
At lunch the next day, the girls are enjoying having a good old moan about the cafeteria food and their respective boyfriends. Nina is barely participating, but feels wired, despite not having slept the night before. John, a guy from Nina’s English class comes over and invites her to a football game. She says she wasn’t planning on going. John says they can do something else, and Nina starts to panic, but tells him it’s sweet of him to ask. He doesn’t take it well and accuses her of saying no because his dad isn’t rich enough or because Zoey is her boyfriend.
Zoey is rightly angry – not about being called Nina’s boyfriend, but about him being an ass to Nina. Nina says it wasn’t his fault. Yes, hon, it was. Aisha points out that if you ask someone out, you have to know there’s a 50-50 chance of getting turned down (or the absolute certainty, Claire adds poisonously), and Aisha’s right. John is your standard “nice guy”. Nina says she could have said yes. NO, NINA. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE TO DATE SOMEONE YOU DON’T WANT TO DATE JUST TO SPARE THEIR FEELINGS.
I mean, I know Nina’s got a skewed “it’s all my fault” view when it comes to romance and dating, but god, ouch. No, Nina. You’re right, he’s wrong. We love you. And Aisha says as much, adding that was it Nina’s fault because she wore a short skirt? Nina says she’s not wearing a skirt, and Aisha says it’s hopeless, and Nina would feel it was her fault if she didn’t want to bang on the first date.
Nina explodes and tells everyone to drop it. When they are surprised by her vehemence, she storms out, saying she’ll see them on the ferry.
[Wing: The friendships here are fucking amazing, and they are saying such important things. And fuck off into the sea, John from English class. You ain’t shit.]
After school, Claire heads to the locker room to get ready for the football game. This is what the island kids do for school events and dates, rather than rushing for the ferry home, showering, rushing back over on the ferry again, and condensing all prep time into 45 minutes. I love these details. You can tell Team Grapplegate have an epic bible on this series. I’d love to see it.
Claire overhears Zoey and Aisha talking about the time that Jake told her to strongly do one. (Non-Brits: that means fuck off.) They move on to talking about Claire specifically, how guys love her, how pretty and perfect she is, etc. She slams the locker door to announce her presence. They then talk about how upset Nina was at lunch. Aisha wonders if she’s gay. Claire – hi, I love you for this – says that she sounds like a guy. It’s always the first option for them. It’s not that they’re a complete toad, it’s that rampant lesbianism. Claire says there is a guy Nina’s into but it’s unrequited, which happens to everyone, even her. Then she quotes them verbatim to let them know she heard everything they said about her. [Wing: I love Claire so, so much for everything she does in this scene.]
Aisha and Zoey have time to kill, so they drive to the mall in Zoey’s parents’ real car. A note about cars, they keep their good cars on the mainland, and drive rusty junkers on the island. They spot Christopher, and he’s flirting with a girl with long blonde hair. Aisha is jealous and threatened, and Zoey asks if they ever talked about being exclusive, and Aisha’s taken aback, she just assumed they were. Zoey says talk to him.
Claire stops in a diner called Big Mikey’s. She speaks to Big Mikey himself, and he points out that Jake is in a booth, that he and his friend ordered cokes, which they’ve been drinking for hours now, but they’re not emptying, thanks to a paper bag that keeps appearing from under the table. Claire volunteers to get him out of the diner without causing a fuss.
Claire approaches them and Jake calls her “Killer Claire”. She manages to get him and his friend Dave out of the diner. Big Mikey suggests a hot shower, then cold shower, and fill him with fluids to get the booze out of his system. On the walk up to school, Jake hurls and claims it was something he ate. She gets him to the girls’ locker room to shower, where she demands he shower. Jake tries to joke that she’s taking advantage of him, but she coolly points out he’s sweating like a pig and stinks of vomit. She helps herself to some painkillers and vitamins from Zoey’s locker (Zoey’s combination is her birthday), and gives him some soap, a towel and some Listerine. She also can’t help but take a peek at the peen. Once Jake’s showered and dressed, she takes him out for food, and he’s just about functional before the game. He also thanks her for getting him sorted, and not letting him lose his spot on the team. He can’t promise anything about the future, but he does appreciate her help today. [Wing: One thing I love that we get in this scene is how, after taking a peek, Claire reassures herself that she handled herself well around her first fully naked guy. She’s so cool and unruffled so much of the time from everyone else’s point of view, I love when we get to see her reality.]
At the game, Aisha grills Christopher about what he did after work. He says he picked up his pay and bought socks. Aisha asks where specifically he bought the socks, he says Spinners, and she says he should try the mall. Christopher says he wouldn’t go to the mall to save a few cents on socks. Aisha has now officially caught him in a lie. When they’re alone later, she lets him kiss her, rather than talk about it, because she’s worried she won’t like the answer if she asks. For her, Christopher is the only person she wants to date. What if the same is not true for him? [Rosey: Aisha, honey, why do you even want to date Christopher? He is the very definition of not worthy.]
When Nina gets home she checks the visibility of her room from the balcony, which her uncle might hypothetically use. You can see right to her bed unless she keeps her blinds shut. Then she pulls out a bolt she bought from the hardware store. It won’t line up properly because the moulding on her door sticks out, so she gets a sharp knife from the kitchen to gouge the door into submission. It takes about 20 minutes to get the lock in place, and she intends to take the knife back downstairs when she’s done, but then she remembers how it starts – sitting on Mark’s knee, and give him a kiss. He asked if she liked it, and she said yes, and now she feels that it’s all her fault, because of that.
Oh, Nina. *sigh*
Back at the game, Christopher speaks to Lucas when they’re alone to ask what’s up with Aisha and Zoey’s attitude towards him. Then he twigs and asks if they want to the mall. Lucas says yes, and Christopher says that Aisha caught him looking. Lucas says that they have to look, and girls do it too, it’s just they’re far more subtle. Then Christopher says he got the girl’s number, and Lucas immediately says that’s uncool, and way more than looking. Christopher is amazed that Lucas is into the whole monogamy thing, when he feels it’s unnatural to be tied down. Lucas tells him to talk to Aisha. Christopher decides to be careful and do something romantic. For someone so organised and driven, Christopher is completely inept about romance and dating. [Wing: He’s more than inept, he’s manipulative as fuck. If he really thought this was all no big deal, he’d talk to Aisha about it. The fact that he intentionally decides to sneak around and to do something to distract her is gross.] [Dove: You’re right. I did not say that, but I really should have. This is not how you go about dating multiple people.]
A Note from Nina – Dream Number One
Dream number one doesn’t have a story, it’s just feelings, guilt, pain and shame. The following day, Nina is on edge, and she blames PMS. But she can’t ever talk about it, because it would make it real.
On Saturday morning, Zoey heads over to the Geigers. She sees Claire on the widow’s walk, and invites her out for the day. Zoey has a few errands to run, but she’s free for most of the day, and they could go shopping or something. Claire turns her down but says go straight in the house to see Nina. Zoey decides to burst into Nina’s room screaming her head off to frighten Nina for the lolz.
Only she can’t fling open the door, and on the other side of the door, Nina is moaning “No! No! No!”
Zoey calls through the door, asking if Nina is ok, and after a few seconds, Nina opens the door. Her eyes are alert, as if she had been scared, but the rest of her is dishevelled. Zoey invites her out for the day, and Nina points out it’s really early and she could have slept for a few more hours. Zoey notices the new lock and asks about it, but Nina avoids the question. She asks how much the rooms at Aisha’s parents’ B&B go for, and realises she can’t afford it. Zoey asks why and Nina shrugs it off as relatives. Zoey realises that Nina is really off: the biting exchanges with Claire that are just a little too often; the anger; the scene in the lunch room; the new lock. She doesn’t piece it together, but she does notice that something’s wrong. She also notices that Nina forces herself to act normal when she says she’s going for a shower.
Alone in Nina’s room, she asks the Axl Rose poster (Dove approves) whether Nina is ok. Then she looks around for something to read and finds the knife and the picture in Nina’s nightstand. At this point, Zoey worries hard. [Rosey: 2014 Zoey has to talk to an Ed Sheeran poster. Rosey does not approve. 2014 Nina, I know you’re having a hard time but, really? Ed Sheeran?]
And, sigh, ok, Rosey’s got a point here. Zoey actually does care. I still don’t like her, but I’m woman enough to give her kudos here. I had the kind of friends who laughed at me when I said I was hit. They thought it was funny that there was a walking stick around, and that was the takeaway from the statement I made, not the “I was hit.” A grudging A+ to Zoey for caring here. [Rosey: Zoey’s only redeeming feature is her friendship with Nina.]
Zoey and Nina are out shopping, and they’re choosing braille books for Benjamin. Nina makes suggestions on which books and Zoey makes a light-hearted crack about how Nina’s suddenly an expert on guys and Nina tenses up. They pay in an awkward silence, and get back to the car. They drive for awhile and Nina keeps up the silence, despite Zoey trying to get the conversation started. Finally Nina lashes out, snapping that she’s not gay. Zoey says she knows – and she wouldn’t be bothered if Nina was gay. Zoey asks why there’s a lock on her door and a knife by her bed, but Nina tells her to drive.
Zoey pulls off at a rest area and tells Nina that she’s her best friend and she wants to help. After a lot of pushing and reassuring, Nina jumps out of the car and sobs at a picnic table. Nina makes Zoey promise she will keep this secret, and besides, Zoey won’t believe her. Zoey says she will, and finally Nina says:
“I was at my aunt and uncle’s house for two months. I was eleven. My uncle, he started off just kissing me. Then it was more.”
Zoey felt her heart stop.
“Almost every night, for two months… He would come into my room. Into my… into my bed.”
[Rosey: A standing ovation for Nina, for finally saying it out loud.] [Wing: Jesus, Nina. My heart hurts for you.]
And we cut to Jake, who’s working for his dad at the marina. He takes a break to go swimming, and finds an empty boat with some beer in a net bag hanging in the water to keep them cool. He wants to steal them. Then decides he won’t because he’s better than that. He swims away and thinks about Claire, who he loves. He thinks he owes it to Wade to continue hating her, refuse to forgive her.
Over with Aisha, she’s having a romantic date with Christopher at his apartment. He’s cooking for her, and she’s charmed by the effort he’s made. But he gets a phone call, which he keeps short and talks in a low tone so she can’t make out what he’s saying. He says it’s someone he does landscaping work for. Aisha and I are sceptical.
Over with Benjamin, Lucas taps on his window to ask how pissed off Zoey is with him. Benjamin says only an idiot would get involved in that. Lucas says that they were supposed to go out, but she cancelled at the last minute, so is she pissed off about the homecoming thing – you know, where he’s been calling people to beg them not to vote for him. Oh, Lucas! You are marvellous. And stupid. You’re just begging for a unanimous vote, aren’t you? [Rosey: HA!] Benjamin says that he thinks Zoey may be ill, as she’s been quiet ever since she got back from Portland with Nina. Or maybe she’s with another guy. Lucas says he’s giving Benjamin the finger, and Benjamin thinks to himself that Lucas is an improvement on straight-arrow Jake.
Ben then checks on Zoey, who is quiet and sad. She asks if it’s better to keep a promise or break the promise to help someone. Benjamin asks for more details, but she says that’s all she can give him. He finally says that if the person is old enough to make decisions for themselves, then I guess you keep the secret. Unless it’s a crime. Zoey spits out there are some real creeps in the world, and the venom in her tone shocks Benjamin.
Claire drops by Nina’s room to tell her it must be cleaned. Nina bites her head off.
She turned and marched to the door, shaking her head. Nina seemed to be in a fairly rotten mood, which just exacerbated Claire’s own fairly rotten mood. To top it off, their father was also in a fairly rotten mood, brought on by the fact that his Sunday off and several subsequent days were going to be ruined by visiting relatives. Their branch of the Geiger family was not big on backslapping, trading old stories, and forced friendliness. It just brought out the crankiness in them.
Can I be a part of this family please? I would much rather be part of a family that finds it easy to love from afar and hate up close, rather than guilt from afar and suffocate up close.
Claire and Nina trade barbs again – they have been super snappy with each other this book, I always forget just how spiteful they were before the end of this book. Then Claire confirms Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Mark will be arriving around 11am, and their dad will be doing a cookout and they can invite guests. Claire says she thinks it so he won’t have to talk to Mark too much, because he gets all bitchy and defensive about the fact that the Geigers have more money. Nina asks if Claire ever stayed with them, and she says no. Claire thinks her sister is being stranger than usual during this conversation, because she’s really spacey and jumps from topic to topic.
That night Nina can’t sleep, she’s still up at gone 3am. She’s too distressed about tomorrow. Her mind circles around the shame, and the feeling that she won’t be believed until she realises that Zoey believed her. On this revelation, she gets dressed and creeps over to Zoey’s house and lets herself into her bedroom. Zoey pulls her into a hug and Nina cries into Zoey’s sleeve until she falls asleep. [Rosey: Best Ever Zoey.] [Wing: Seriously, Zoey is great in this book. She’s a far more interesting character when the focus is on her friendships and familial relationships rather than her romantic ones.]
An hour later, Zoey gets up and finds Benjamin in the kitchen, reading and eating Doritos. Does nobody sleep on this island? I’m not judging, I’m just enjoying seeing other people being irritatingly awake like I am every night.
Benjamin rightly guesses Nina was the person Zoey posed the hypothetical question about earlier. Zoey tells him to stay out of it, it’s not his problem, Nina’s her best friend. And then Benjamin gets angry and says Nina’s his friend too. Really, Benjamin? SHOW, DON’T TELL.
Zoey decides to tell Benjamin the whole story, and adds that Nina feels responsible for the abuse. Benjamin points out that, “She was eleven, for God’s sake. You can’t vote when you’re eleven, you can’t drink, you can’t drive. You can’t play the lottery or go on half the rides at Disney World. She was just a kid. When you’re eleven, your only responsibilities are doing your homework and feeding your dog. You don’t decide whether or not to have sex.”
They have a discussion about whether they should tell vs Nina telling people, and agree that it’s best if Nina confronts the situation herself, to give herself the power to fight back. Benjamin, the fucking idiot, wonders if they should tell the doped up hippie and the “I’m not like other girls, becuz they’re bitchy” moron also known as their parents. Zoey vetoes that, saying Nina needs people she can trust. I know Zoey’s saying it to mean, “I can’t betray her trust”, but I also read it as, “Our parents are fucking hopeless, there’s no way they can be trusted with this.” [Rosey: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. God, they really are. Who’s worse, the Wakefield Elders or the Senior Passmores?]
A Note from Claire
Claire isn’t sure how she and Nina ended up with their snipey relationship. She thinks if they ever had the chance of being BFFs, they diverged from that path around the time their mother died. Claire admits that Nina’s more involved with other people and way funnier – in the future, she sees Nina doing comedy, or writing funny plays (maybe smoking a cigar – hah! Wing and I didn’t even remember this line when we wrote Nina’s Home for Christmas), whereas Claire will be alone in Antarctica, charting the weather. It’s too late to change their relationship, even if they wanted to.
[Wing: And this, Claire, is when I fell in love with you the most.]
The next morning, Nina starts to make her exit. Zoey says that she can stay here the whole time, and Nina chokes up at her kindness. Zoey then confesses that she told Benjamin the whole story. Nina immediately worries that he’ll think she’s disgusting for all the things she did with her uncle – and Zoey shuts that down immediately, first of all, no; second of all, they didn’t do them together, an adult did them to Nina, a child. Ok, Zoey, I do like you right this second. She adds that even if it was Nina’s idea and she’d wanted to, it was the adult’s responsibility to stop it. Nina blows up, saying she didn’t want to, didn’t like it and he made her. And Zoey’s like, yeah, I know, it wasn’t your fault. Nina relaxes by a minor degree, and invites Benjamin and Zoey to the barbeque. [Rosey: Zoey’s character literally peaks for me here, in this book. This is Best. EVER. Zoey.] [Wing: SERIOUSLY.]
Claire is shopping at the small grocery store on the island, stocking up on last minute requirements for the barbeque. She spots Jake, and drops a sack of charcoal into her cart, and plays the helpless and feeble girl, knowing that Jake’s inherent decency will demand he carry it for her, whether he likes her or not. They get talking and he says that he thinks about her, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and he doesn’t know what to do about their relationship. Claire invites him to the BBQ and he says he’ll think about it. [Wing: Is Jake religious anywhere else in the series. He tells her he’s going to talk to his pastor about her and the whole situation, but I didn’t remember him being religious at all.] [Dove: I don’t think he’s hugely religious, but I think it kind of makes sense at this point. One the one hand, he used to be straight-arrow Jake, kind of staid and vanilla, excellent athlete, average student, generally known as A Good Guy. Now he’s in love with the girl who “killed” his brother, he’s tried to ruin the life of Lucas, thinking he was at the wheel, and he’s drinking a lot. God is where old Jake might have gone (because certainly not his parents), and maybe that’s the logic? Also, I think he still go to church when he’s dating Kate, but I’m aware that going to church with your family and being religious aren’t always the same thing.]
When Nina gets home, it’s not long before her aunt and uncle arrive. She accepts a hug from her aunt, and then Uncle Mark says that Nina probably won’t remember him, it’s been so long. Not a hint of guilt about him. He moves forward to hug her, but stops, with a look of fear crossing his face. Nina files that reaction away for future consideration. [Rosey: The fucking gall of that man.]
Later when outside, Nina sets herself up on a chair, pointing away from the table, making it clear she won’t be involved, which annoys Claire, because Aunt Elizabeth is pestering her with stupid questions, and thinking she wants to be a weather girl on TV, rather than the scientific study of the weather, and why can’t she study the weather somewhere nicer than Antarctica? (I feel you, Claire. My mother can’t comprehend a computer can be used for anything other than solitaire, therefore any time I spend on it must be playing that same single card game over and over.)
Claire winces as Zoey and Benjamin turn up, thinking Nina has invited them just to make life awkward for Claire by inviting her ex. Benjamin gives Aunt Elizabeth a hard time, pretending to miss her hand when she tries to shake, and then telling her that he’s the chauffeur. And this is what I mean about Benjamin being a dick with these initiations. This is a good way to use it, to be slightly rude to someone but nobody’s going to call him on it. To do it to a nice person visiting seems a bit cruel.
Next up, Jake appears with a couple of cases of beer, but Claire notices that two six-packs are missing from the cases, which means either she misheard how much he brought or he’s stashed ‘em to get drunk later.
For some reason, this next chapter is in present tense, rather than past, which actually works. I’ve never noticed it before, but Nina’s so out of it, it kind of makes sense to change the tenses.
She takes in the situation, everyone present, she thinks she sees doubt on Zoey’s face that this very average man could be a monster – Oh, Nina! Zoey might be a wailing wet rag, but she’s not a dick in that way. Mark is being passive-aggressive, and making digs about Burke’s money, while trying to appear impressed, good god Team Grapplegate write good dialogue. Mark makes a comment about how you wouldn’t know Benjamin was blind with the way he clears his plate, so Benjamin immediately starts missing his mouth, while the rest of the island kids hide their sniggers.
Mark is embarrassed that the blind boy is making fun of him and tells Aunt Elizabeth that she’s got food caught in her teeth. (Jeez, have Team Grapplegate been to one of my family’s get-togethers?)
And the conversation turns to kids…
Her aunt is talking in a full, fruity voice, loaded with happy anticipation. “… never had children. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to. It was me,” she adds quickly at a look from her husband. “I mean, I wasn’t able.”
“I was worried it might be me,” Mark interjects, just in case anyone has missed the point, “but we got tested and it turned out I was fine.”
[Rosey: I just need an aside about this believable extra level of Mark is a Jerk. Did you get the message? It’s not him. It’s important that everyone knows it’s not him. There’s nothing wrong with him. Twat.] They’ve been talking to an adoption agency, and there’s a little girl, just under two years old, waiting for them. Zoey and Benjamin look worried, and Nina finds herself getting to her feet. [Wing: That moment when Nina stands without really thinking about it is such a powerful, terrible moment. It’s breathtaking, and it’s only a few words, and Team Grapplegate have done such a great job with building to this moment.]
And we swap over to Zoey’s head, and back to past tense for this. Nina says no, people like you don’t get to adopt, they don’t let child molesters adopt. Burke snaps at her to shut up, thinking she’s playing one of her odd jokes, but Nina adds that Mark likes little girls. She begs her father to believe her, that Mark molested her when she was sent to stay with them. Burke orders her to leave the table, and Mark says that she’s lying.
Claire, of all people, speaks up, saying that Nina doesn’t lie. Claire sides with her quickly and protectively, then Zoey speaks up, followed by Benjamin, all the while Mark disputes it. Finally Burke sides with his daughter.
And I really didn’t remember how many times Burke refuted the allegation. I know it’s only the span of maybe three or four minutes in real time, but motherfuck, no. Way to not back up your daughter, I have really lost respect for Burke on this read through. I mean, he was never my favourite, what with the underhand Lucas situation, and my inherent dislike for the upper middle classes, but I always gave him a small pass for how much he loved his kids. As it turns out, I’ve been attributing his support of Claire only to his support for both kids. [Rosey: Right? I was cringing horribly when I read that. Like, fuck Burke?! You fucking… Berk.] [Dove: For those not aware, this is cockney rhyming slang. Berk = Berkshire Hunt… rhyme the last syllable.] [Wing: SERIOUSLY. I had no memory of how badly the adults handle this here. Burke seriously fucks up in this response. Goddamn.]
And on the other side of it, Claire, I love your support of Nina, despite the fact she’s annoyed you for the past… week or so with all the bitching and sniping, but immediately know the difference between an inappropriate joke and a very real accusation of sexual assault.
And finally, NINA. How fucking brave to stand up not just for herself, but for the future kid they were going to adopt, and in front of not just friends, but random neighbours and dad’s co-workers, not to mention the man who assaulted her. Ten thousand points to each Geiger daughter, and then ten billion more for Nina. [Rosey: ALL the standing ovation GIFs for Nina!]
Also, honourable mention to Zoey and Ben, who have supported her through this.
Jeez, I feel like Dumbledore at the end of the first three books, before shit started getting real at year end.
That night, Nina goes up to Claire’s widow’s walk – she doesn’t go all the way up because she’s scared of heights, but she gets to the top of the ladder so they can talk. Also, Claire offers to come down, because she’s in Sweet!Claire mode. Claire says she’s sorry for not knowing, she thinks she should have known somehow. Nina says it’s fine, they’ve never really talked. Claire suggests they talk about things, but Nina says no, she’s going to see Claire’s old shrink, and also thank you for the backup. Then they hug. And it’s adorable. [Rosey: Is this their only ever documented hug? I demand a Geiger Sister Hug Watch!] [Dove: Tag added: Geiger sister hug moment.]
Also, Nina refers to herself as “Ms. Normal of the Nineties”, Rosey, what does the new version say? [Rosey: just “Ms Normal”] [Wing: Decided to stop dating themselves with decades, I see.]
A Note from Nina – Dream Number Four
The dreams starts off the way the others do, with the grainy state and the staring eyes, but this time there’s someone with her – bits of Zoey, Benjamin, and her dad, and lots of Claire in that person. The person can’t protect her, but because they’re there, she doesn’t feel the shame any more.
The next chapter is very lighthearted. Lucas has won homecoming king and Louise Kronenberger has won queen. Zoey immediately refers to her as “dial-a-slut”, and given that Zoey is the purest of the pure you know this is the most poisonous insult she can possibly dish out. Also, they make up in 24 seconds, Nina times how long it takes. [Rosey: NINA <3]
At football practice, Jake is still hung up on Claire, but doesn’t go to her after practice.
On the ferry home, Nina asks Benjamin to be her date to homecoming. Oh, and she spells out exactly what she means. She’s asking for a date because she has romantic feelings for him. No mixed signals. #BadassNina #FTW [Rosey: NINA <3<3<3]
And finally, Aisha decides to surprise Christopher with a visit, wondering if she should tell him she loves him. Unfortunately, she finds him and the hot blonde from the mall making out on his bed.
And boom, cliffhanger ending, as usual.
I love many things about this, despite the subject matter. Angry Nina is incredibly funny when she’s heckling the pep rally, and I love seeing how amusing she can be. Upset Nina just needs protecting, and I’m glad that Zoey and Benjamin supported her. And when Claire stands up for her my heart grows three sizes. Unlike the rest of the series, this one was very strongly on Nina, which is good, because the Geiger sisters are my favorite characters. [Rosey: This is possibly the darkest book? But yeah, I loved it because I love all the Nina. And there are not enough Nina books. Why was Zoey the protagonist? Nina would have made a much better anchor for the series.]
[Wing: This book has such a terrible plot, and yet it is wonderful. Team Grapplegate handle a difficult, painful, real situation and make the book a fantastic read without lessening the impact and seriousness of the subject matter. Even with the ridiculous Homecoming B plot.]
[…] has everything. Also, it’s light-hearted (comparatively, anyway) after the emotionally draining Nina Won’t Tell, and I find Ben’s in Love to be a bit dull. This one kicks up the energy […]
I love all the Making Out series recaps you’ve done here, and especially this one. The 4th book was the one that I first read, but this one cemented my love of this series and of Nina, especially as I read it while going through a distinctly similar experience. While reading it does dredge up horrible memories, I can’t fully express how perfectly they handled the descriptions and emotions involved, they really hit home. Rereading it when I was 16 was what motivated me to disclose my history to a friend for the first time ever, and that’s one of several reasons these books are a favourite whatever my age. Thank you for the excellent recaps, it’s nice to see other people who love Nina as much as I do and who can’t stand Zoey most of the time. I really am looking forward to seeing the rest of the books recapped. (I also love Nina/Lucas, especially after the whole events in books 19 onwards)
I’m sorry that you had to go through something like that, and I’m glad that Nina and this series was such a help for you. I think that is one of the reasons many writers writer, to touch readers, to help them in ways that the author may never know but that means the world to the reader.
Lovely to meet another Nina/Lucas fan! I hope we can do them justice throughout the recaps.
“[Rosey: 2014Claire name checks Liam Hemsworth, Dylan O’Brien and Jessie Williams as pretty, but not sexy. Zayn Malik is not handsome, but is sexy.] [Wing: Dylan O’Brien is pretty?! This is on par with that Marky Mark LOL.]”
As someone with a semi-late blooming libido – next to no interest till high school – I remember who the sex symbols of my youth (mostly) in name only. But then I didn’t feel as bad because I know how Dylan O’Brien and Zayn Malik got famous, but I don’t know what either look like.
“Claire has no-one to talk to…Zoey suggests that they let Claire sit with them.”
Who is she friends with? I know ‘the Islanders stick together’ but she is ALWAYS the odd man out. It makes me a little sad.
“Nina’s not seeing anyone because she’s the only Junior in the whole world that isn’t into dating.”
I know it’s a small town, but is their class 14 people? I went to a large school and none of this “BUT SHE DOESN’T DATE!>!*@!#” was drama. Neither was the gay panic, but that’s more a shift of high school culture in the ~decade separating this book and my experience, which was more of the, “they’ll wait till college to come out.” I would like to brag that where I work now, all variations of the queer community are welcome and out ‘n proud <3
"Claire keeps her distance, but decides to watch him, to keep him safe. Why? She owes him, she feels guilty, she loves him."
I don't dislike Benjamin (yet – I'm v curious about your veiled hints) but this is a fundamental reason why Claire is more interesting. It's a nice vs kind dichotomy. Claire refuses to be nice, but she does show herself to be kind.
"At school, Zoey is reading a few pages from a bodice-ripper novel by slipping the ripped-out pages into her biology textbook."
This was an odd detail to me. I can tell Zoey is on the Elizabeth Wakefiedl chastity conveyor belt, and I can't quite reconcile someone loving 'smut' with someone who is so disdainful sex(ual behavior – I have a rant coming later.) I know romance novels are about the emotion, but I'm having a hard time seeing her enjoy the books [enough to read them during class] when she's so dismissive of sex. Am I wrong?? edit: I continued reading to see you discuss this idea. Also, I want to see Rosey's spreadsheet now. I have no Zoey-ish qualms lol.
"[Wing: That detail about the small bit of pleasure is so fucking heartbreaking and disturbing, because it does happen, and it’s part of what people use to discredit victims and a huge part of what some survivors feel guilt over. If it was really rape/abuse/molestation/etc., I wouldn’t have liked it at all. God, my heart hurts.]"
I thought Grapplegate did an excellent job – esp for a book of this caliber and audience. They address the guilt, the physical reaction, the PTSD, the power imbalance. I was impressed, think that it definitely lets readers know that they are not alone and it was NOT their fault.
"Zoey wants to know why he thinks it’s ok for her to run for queen, but absolutely mortifying for him to be nominated for king.
I liked this – she's absolutely right he's being sexist? toxic? but then she is annoying for the rest of the plot.
"Wow. Talk about picking someone “safe”. I’m not judging at all. My first real relationship was with a guy who had never had a girlfriend before, had barely kissed anyone. I hadn’t realised that until now."
Simpsons did it: Non- Threatening Boys Magazine. It's a cliche for a reason. Also not judging. And I did do the same 🙂
"Claire – hi, I love you for this – says that she sounds like a guy. It’s always the first option for them. It’s not that they’re a complete toad, it’s that rampant lesbianism."
THIS. So much this. I got pissed at John – who was portrayed as wrong, then Grapplegate went back to the well because people who do this are fucking awful.
"For her, Christopher is the only person she wants to date. What if the same is not true for him?"
This was irritating. Fucking communicate. You cannot assume what he wants – or thinks – without talking to him. You haven't discussed exclusivity? Then you're both free to do what you want. (My foreign bf is v confused by this: "Why bother dating if you don't want to be exclusive?? We never talked about it.") Later though Aisha does call Christopher "boyfriend" to his face, and in doing so, transfers all blame to him. Be honest about what you want. Don't be a liar. Ass.
"Alone in Nina’s room, she asks the Axl Rose poster (Dove approves) … [Rosey: 2014 Zoey has to talk to an Ed Sheeran poster."
Nope, nope, nope. GNR has the energy that would appeal to Nina. Ed Sheeran has the smarmy, touch-your-body energy that would make Nina uncomfortable. His biggest hit is about his lover's body and his first hit was getting pissy that his nonexclusive relationship was nonexclusive. He can do one.
"Zoey immediately refers to her as “dial-a-slut”, and given that Zoey is the purest of the pure you know this is the most poisonous insult she can possibly dish out."
OMG the slut shaming in this book. Fuck you Zoey. What Louise does (or doesn't do) DOES NOT CONCERN YOU.
Work was draining today, so many tech problems. You can probably tell from the number of f bombs I dropped. I talk like that, but I usually try to edit it for the comments. Thank you for the recaps as always. Fun way to unwind. My copy finally showed up Saturday – days after the replacement copy I ordered did. My original order date was the beginning of June lol.