Making Out #9: Zoey Plays Games by Katherine Applegate (and Michael Grant!)
Title: Zoey Plays Games
Front Blurb: Life was bliss for Zoey and Lucas until Aaron showed up on the island. Now Aaron wants Zoey. Claire wants Aaron and Zoey’s got a secret that EVERYONE is talking about. How long before Lucas finds out that Zoey Plays Games
Back Blurb: Zoey plays games with Aaron and sets off a wave of broken hearts. Because Lucas is in love with Zoey, Claire has vowed to make Aaron her own. But the island is too small for big secrets.
I don’t remember this book. It’s Zoey story, so that’s probably why.
Fun fact- this is the first Making Out book that wasn’t written by Grapplegate – they handed the series over to ghostwriters from book 9. Also, there are also no more reprints for these later books, so it’s firmly nostalgia from here onwards.
[Dove: Oh good, a Zoey book. You know how highly I regard the Passmore family in general, and Zoey in particular. This is the point where I really got sick of her nonsense, I think.]
[Wing: I’m pretty sure life wasn’t bliss for Zoey and Lucas, book, but cool. Coooool.]
We start with diaries, and for those keeping track it’s Thanksgiving, which I think brings us towards the end of November; it’s been 4 weeks since Zoey had ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING to be thankful for. Luckily, her parents are now back together and she and Lucas are more in love than ever. (Hmm… hang on, is this the book where Zoey cheats on Lucas?) Speaking of Lucas, he is thankful that Claire owned up about who was driving the night Wade died and for Zoey, Zoey, Zoey. Nina disappoints me with some pretty snarky history of thanksgiving including the phrase “I’m talking good, nice Indians, not the screaming tomahawk-weilding ones we see in movies… the pilgrims were thankful that none of the Indians (known to the politically correct as Native Americans) had tried to scalp them…” So, Nina is getting some major side eye from me, and so is the ghostie. They better not just turn Nina into a dick. Anyway, she is thankful for days off school, not having to do Thanksgiving plays and Benjamin. Claire isn’t thankful for anything. [Wing: I’m thankful for you, Claire.]
It’s Thanksgiving and Zoey is enjoying a relaxed morning when Lucas shows up in her room, hoping to catch her naked. Ah, so Lucas has forgotten again that he promised not to pressure her about sex. He’s so absent minded. They agree to have a “sex truce” for Thanksgiving.
Nina is getting dressed, and her father has requested she wear the floral dress he gave her last Christmas. She’s not a fan and describes herself as a “dead-ringer for Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie.” Why does it matter what she’s wearing? Weeeeellll… Mr Gieger has a Thanksgiving date! And he wants the girls to impress. It’s a shame he doesn’t understand how impressive Nina and Claire are when left to their own devices. Anyway, Nina is supportive of the dating, but she’s not going to wear the dress. Claire shows up to complain that Nina’s stereo is too loud and let us know that she isn’t nearly as happy about their Father dating as Nina is. There are quite a few call backs in this scene – we get mentions of Nina’s abusive uncle and the fact Benjamin used to date Claire within a few lines and I feel like the ghostie wants me to know that they have done their research, damnit.
Claire heads up to her roof. Life has been dull for her since she and Jake broke up. There was the brief flirtation with internet dating, but the guy she had really enjoyed talking to turned out to be a disgusting fatty-fat-fat who Claire couldn’t possibly be seen with in public. Claire knows that she’s superficial, but hey, what you gonna do? [Wing: Damn it, Claire, I’m no longer thankful for you.] Claire writes in her diary – we learn that he Dad has been dating Sarah Mendel, who works at the bank with him and has a 17-year-old son that goes to some fancy school in Connecticut. Claire wants him to be happy, but doesn’t see how anyone can make him as happy as their Mom did. Oh Claire, that’s not how this works!
Next we get a diary from Aisha (Hi Hon!) her Mum always goes all out for Thanksgiving, and Aisha gets roped in to helping, while the men chill out and watch the football. This year, her Mum has invited Christopher to spend the day with them, which is sweet. This is followed by a Christopher diary entry where he admits that he loves how over the top Aisha’s Mum can be about things like Thanksgiving and he’s excited to spend the day with them. He mentions his “dysfunctional family” and I can’t remember if this is the first time we hear them talked about in such terms – Christopher is pretty cagey about his past. Anyway, he’s looking forward to seeing the Greys and to getting in some make out time with Aisha. [Dove: I’m not sure if Christopher has mentioned his family specifically, but I recall Wing mentioned in the earlier ones that even if Christopher was only talking about the kids he grew up with being dysfunctional and in trouble, it reeks of racial stereotypes, even if Christopher wasn’t touched by it. Either way, it’s definitely been hinted at.] [Wing: Yeah, it’s been hinted at and it really does smack of some racial stereotypes. It’s like, here’s the “good” black character and here’s the “bad” black character, though also, it’s pretty telling that Aisha only gets to be the “good” one once her parents move her away from the city and into lily-white Chatham Island.]
Christopher is at work at the Passmore’s restaurant before he goes to Aisha’s for dinner. Ghostie takes another opportunity to fill us in on some past storylines, demonstrating their credentials for taking over the series – Christopher as many jobs; Christopher and Aisha are the only black teens on the island and at first Aisha refused to date him because she thought that was the only reason he liked her; Christopher cheated on her pretty regularly. I feel like this is a real departure in style. Something I quite liked about these books is that Grapplegate rarely feel the need to remind you of the past like this, and, when they do, they are more subtle about it. They trust the reader to be able to remember what happened a couple of books ago, and I appreciate their faith in me. [Wing: Agreed, especially because there’s never any real beginning or ending to the books, they carry one to another.]
Anyway, Mr Passmore tells Christopher he’s invited Secret Sister Lara McAvoy to Thanksgiving dinner, and he hasn’t told Zoey or her Mum. Ooompf! That’s not gonna go down well, Jeff. Christopher suggests it might though “Maybe they’ll be excited… you know, getting to know a whole new relative and all.” Yeah, that is not how this is going to go, but bless you for trying.
We aren’t made to wait long before we find out that, no, Mrs Passmore and Zoey are not happy about Lara coming to dinner. Mrs Passmore even says “She’s not my family” but concedes that Lara shouldn’t have to spend Thanksgiving alone. Zoey declares Lara a “total druggie” who will probably steal the silverware. I fucking hate the Passmores. Like, Lara is not a saint, but she seems like she has had a very different life to the charmed one Zoey has, and perhaps part of that is due to a lack of family support and maybe the Passmores could make a fucking difference to her, and this familial situation isn’t by her design, but oh no…. [rant redacted] [Dove: Oh, thank you for redacting. My recap on the next book also covers this rant, so at least it won’t look like I’m copying you. But I feel this so hard. Zoey is such a horrible person about this, and I just want to punch her.] [Wing: Damn it, I want to read the redacted rant!]
Zoey storms home from the restaurant to confront Benjamin, who already knew about Lara’s visit and hadn’t told her, and find him entangled with Nina on his bed. Zoey is even more pissed off when she realises that Benjamin had told Nina that Lara was coming. Zoey admits she is curious about Lara, but doesn’t want her there to ruin our Thanksgiving. Oh my god, Zoey, you are so annoying! It’s too early in the book to be annoyed by you.
It is 2.55pm and Nina is attempting to put on make up to go with the dress her Mr Geiger wants her to wear. Apparently, she now looks like Tammy Faye Bakker. Claire is waiting for the bathroom, so Nina takes her time, even sitting on the closed toilet for a few minutes. These two continue to be such a good depiction of siblings. Well done Ghostie.
Nina heads downstairs to meet the Girlfriend, and discovers the Girlfriend has a son. She also sees how happy her Father is in Sarah’s company, and it’s cute. We meet the son, Aaron Mendel, and kids, remember that name. He’s a New Character, which we didn’t get much of under Grapplegate, but will be happening thick and fast now the ghosties are in charge. Anyway, he’s a dead ringer for Brad Pitt, apparently. [Dove: I have literally never noticed that description. I’ve always pictured him as being your standard “tall, dark and handsome”. Probably with over-gelled hair.]
[Wing: So they were setting this up for a tv series, right, where 30-year-old actors play teenagers?]
Sarah is either relentlessly chatty and cheerful, or really nervous. We don’t get into her character’s motivation much, but I’m guessing meeting the daughter’s of your new boyfriend, who hasn’t dated anyone since their Mum died, is going to be a pretty intense experience. We learn that she and her devastatingly good looking son are staying at the Grey’s Bed and Breakfast, she is a cornball who likes to say grace while the son is quiet and charming. Claire is particularly charmed by him, because Claire literally only cares what someone looks like and not what they say or do. Full disclosure: I might still be mad with Claire about Sean/Flyer and unwilling to spend much time on her during this recap. [Dove: That’s fair. I spent half of my recent Sweet Valley recap raging about a character’s misdeeds (by my standards, the book thought it was just fine) from six books ago. So you hold your grudge. Also, I always assumed that I’d missed something with Claire and her obsession with Aaron, because I missed all of these all the way up to, well, spoiler territory. The books after this seem to think this is very serious business, but the lead up doesn’t really show it. You’re right, for someone who prides herself on needing a meeting of the minds, her reaction is basically: he’s hot. I love him.]
Nina sneaks out between courses to call Zoey and discuss their respective Thanksgiving guests. Nina says that Sarah is a “dwarf. A midget. I never could get those two straight. Maybe the anatomically correct term is munchkin” And I’m glaring at Nina again. She also compares Sarah to June Cleaver and Carol Brady, which I am betting will mean a lot more to American readers than this Brit. They are quintessential housewives, right? The kind that never really existed outside of some TV shows. Anyway, Nina wants Zoey to come and assess Sarah. In return, Nina will visit the Passmores and offer moral support while Zoey faces the half sister from hell. [Wing: Yeah, basically a housewife stereotype for white women.]
Zoey arrives at Nina’s house and Nina is struggling with everyone being so cheerful and well behaved. I get ya, Nina. Sometimes I need to head to a corner and scream after too much family time. Zoey heads in to take a look at Sarah, but is dazzled by Aaron instead. He looked like a spokesmodel for Obession cologne. Nina wants to discuss Sarah, understandably, but Zoey is too distracted by the glimpse of Aaron and the smile he gave her. Honestly, she’s kind of drunk on him, he’s all she’s able to think about while Nina talks, she gets a bit confused at the mention of her boyfriend’s name and even forgets that Lara is coming to dinner. Oh, Zoey!
Aisha is at home, trying on a new lipstick. She thinks it might be too red, but is pretty sure it will look good with her black velvet dress. Aisha, honey, you are going to look awesome. Lipstick can never be too red, and black velvet is Nineties-tastic. [Dove: *blinks, sighs, puts away velvet jacket she keeps in reserve for going “somewhere nice”*] [Rosey: You get that jacket back out damnit! #Nineties4Eva ] [Wing: The 90s are in again! You wear it everywhere. Also: red lipstick is the best lipstick.] Christopher shows up at her window, to kiss her hello before he arrives by the front door. That’s cute but it bites Christopher in the ass when he arrives at the front door, complete with flowers for Mrs Grey and is covered in red lipstick. Whoops! We are told that Christopher will have to tighten his belt a bit to pay for the flowers, but Mrs Grey has been kind to him and is worth it – that’s so sweet. Christopher thinks briefly of his own mother, who is probably eating Mcdonalds for dinner.
Benjamin is dressing for Thanksgiving and we are reminded that he mainly wears black, white and grey as it’s easy for him to co-ordinate without help. He considers playing one of his “pranks” where he baits someone to try and help the poor blind boy but decides that Lara will be having a tough enough night as it is and puts on a black blazer instead of the plaid one with a polka dot tie that he’d been considering.
Lara arrives and is wearing a denim jumper over a unitard and cowboy boots. I have no idea what a denim jumper might look like, but I think I kind of love Lara’s style. Zoey does not, obviously.
[Wing: Pretend that has a skirt instead of shorts and that’s basically a denim jumper over a unitard — though actually, she could have been wearing the shorts version. Not cowboy boots, but I couldn’t find one with that combo.]
When Lara greets her as sister, Zoey is quick to point out they are half sisters, which is a phrase she claimed not to like a couple of books ago but now will be using with abundance, lest anyone think she and Lara are real sisters. They have the same eyes, though, points out Lara, desperate to connect with this new family. Although, not desperate enough to quit calling Benjamin the blind boy. [Wing: I hate everything about this. EVERYTHING.]
The Passmores, plus Lara and Nina, sit down for food. I would love to eat an American thanksgiving meal one day. I am especially curious about sweet potatoes/ yams with mashmallows. I guess I could make it at home, but it’s difficult recreating a recipe you’ve never tasted because you don’t know if you got it right or not. I once tried making American biscuits, and the texture was amazing, but they has a real bicarb tang and, oh, this isn’t what you read these recaps for? Apologies. [Wing: Come visit! We have an open-door policy for Thanksgiving. Everyone is welcome. I’d even make the sweet potatoes with marshmallows thing in your honour, though normally I make the sweet potatoes with honey whiskey.]
Mr Passmore mentions Lara is getting the water taxi home and Benjamin thinks “His dad was shelling out the big bucks for a water taxi, he must have felt more guilty than anyone realised about not having a relationship with Lara while she was growing up.” Haven’t we established that the water taxi costs about $40? This is the measure for how guilty Mr Passmore feels? While that’s not something most people could afford everyday, it’s hardly like he is giving Lara a million bucks to make up for the missed birthdays, holiday and occasional weekend treats. Anyway, The family chat a bit, we learn that Lara is a high school drop out, working as a waitress and has no money. Nina tries to make some jokes and Zoey tries to stir some shit by bring up Lara’s drug dealer boyfriend. Turns out, he’s in jail now, Lara and he have broken up and Zoey might regret taking the conversation down this road because Lara needs somewhere to live. Lara is remarkably unbothered by her impending homelessness and Benjamin tries change the subject because the Passmores are supportive like that. Nina excuses herself and the Passmores are left to their uncomfortable dinner. Mr and Mrs Passmore have had a chat in the kitchen and have decided they should invite Lara to live with them. In the storage space above the garage. Temporarily. Because she’s desperate.
Zoey. Is. Horrified.
[Dove: This is probably the Brit in me, and Rosey, chime in if you felt it too, but how crap does staying in the space above the garage sound? I know our houses are smaller, and we have vastly different ideas about what goes where in a house to Americans, so that might sound quite cosy to someone familiar with American house layouts, but to me it sounded like, “You’re trash. You’ll live with the car fumes. You are not coming in the real house. Aren’t we saintly?” Like I said, it could be the Brit/American differences making me feel that way. Or my burning loathing of the Passmore family.] [Rosey: It sounds like it would be breeze blocks and beams and possibly not even insulated. But perhaps it’s an extension above the garage? I think it has it’s own entrance, so maybe it’s like a “granny flat?” But yeah, it feels like the absolute bare minimum her father could do for her, dressed up as the ultimate in compassion.] [Wing: It’s a fairly common style in the USA, where there’s a bedroom, at least, over the garage. (Super unsafe during an earthquake, BTW, but common. It might even be an entire little flat, depending on the house. Probably a fairly nice space, or at least as nice as the rest of the house.]
Lucas shows up to visit and comfort Zoey, who can not believe that her parents have offered their spare room to a soon-to-be-homeless teenager. They are so insufferable! How could they do this? Lucas, to his credit, tries to talk Zoey down – for once someone actually seems to be thinking about Lara as an actual human being, rather than a problem they need to tidy up. Lucas feels like he can relate – his father is a cold inflexible man who doesn’t believe in showing his son any tenderness. Lara has never even knew her father, and now she meets this family man in his lovely home on a beautiful, safe island and she’s got to be wondering why his other two children were given the life she wasn’t. “And now she’s got a chance.” Zoey is still a spoiled brat though, and doesn’t see why she should have to share her home or her family with Lara.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and Zoey, Nina and Aisha are going shopping. I now know this is called Black Friday, and it’s become a thing in the UK, even though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s literally just companies creating a spending event and, oh, this isn’t what you read these recaps for either? Okay. [Dove: I’m with you, dude.] [Wing: Black Friday is horrific and a mess of people sometimes beating each other up for deals. It’s also sometimes the only way for families to get special things to give as gifts. I’ve done it exactly once and never again. My family tends to go to the shooting range instead.]
Nina and Aisha are being fun and they really are the best, but Zoey isn’t in the mood for their banter so we aren’t allowed to enjoy it either. “She’s sharing my bathroom.” Zoey revealed the information as if she’d just told them she had leukaemia. I hate you, Zoey. “What if her convict boyfriend show’s up?” I hate you, Zoey. “She’ll probably turn tricks in her bedroom.” I hate you, Zoey.
Claire stayed at home and has spied the perfect opportunity to demonstrate her skills as a master manipulator. She wants to get to know Aaron better, because this guy is apparently frenzy-inducingly hot, but being Claire, she can’t just admit that and go talk to Aaron. Instead, she suggests to her Father that Aaron must be bored on the island and before anyone can say “Since when does Claire care if someone is bored?” he has given her money to hold a party to seduce entertain Aaron.
Back to the mall. Aisha has been Christmas shopping, Nina has bought a CD and Zoey has a self help book called Why We Love To Hate Our Siblings. The mall is busy, they’ve lost the car. This scene serves no purpose.
Meanwhile, Jake is working out. He’s been sober since Halloween and is using exercise to help himself cope with the cravings. Well done Jake! I still think someone should get you some counselling, but that seems like too much to hope for. Being at home right now sucks for Jake. There is a gaping wound in the family structure left by Wade’s death and Thanksgiving wasn’t much fun, especially as Jake knows about his father’s infidelity. I guess it was extra difficult this year, as it seems that despite the sighting of her a couple of books ago, Holly is missing again. Anyway, Jake takes a shower and considered shaving, but what’s the point – he has nowhere to be. This is so sad. Like, grow a beard if you want a beard and for sure don’t shave if you don’t feel like it, but the implication that Jake doesn’t think he is worthy of self care makes me sad. [Dove: Behold! The Beard of Sorrow.] Can someone please get this kid a professional to talk to? He’s restless – considers homework, watching TV and working out again before his Mum tells him Claire called. At first he’s annoyed – they haven’t spoken since the party in the last book a few weeks ago. But Claire has left a message about the party she’s having tonight and figures he at least has a reason to shave now. [Wing: UGH JAKE HOW ARE YOU STILL MY FAVOURITE.]
Nina gets home from the mall and Claire is setting up for the party, which Nina still knows nothing about. Claire dresses it up as a favour to their father – entertaining the girlfriend’s son – but Nina has met Claire and knows that Claire wouldn’t go to all this trouble unless their was something in it for her. Nina thought of Aaron’s dark hair and hazel eyes. Even Claire had to have noticed the guy was gorgeous… “Are you after Aaron?” Obviously, Nina is spot on, but Claire manages to make her question her judgement. In the end, Nina realises she doesn’t care why they are having the party – she’s just looking forward to sneaking off to her bedroom with Benjamin.
We then get one of those “quirky” chapter set ups that we all love about Making Out. According to Wallace Stevens… there are thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird. There were also thirteen (or more) ways of looking at Claire and Nina Geiger’s party. Here are eight of them. This is a bit weird? I think I’d like it, if it were describing the same moment form eight perspectives, but it’s just a chapter of party, framed weirdly. I looked the poem the ghostie is referencing, and I still don’t think it works.
- Jake is last to arrive, he doesn’t want to risk being alone with Claire. He sits on the floor next to Aisha, who informs him that Lara is moving in with the Passmores.
- Claire notices that Aaron isn’t that interested in talking to her, and seems a lot more interested in Zoey. That’s okay by Claire though – she likes a challenge.
- When Christopher suggests they all play poker, Nina and Benjamin slip off to Nina’s room.
- Christopher is feeling pretty confident about poker – he wins the first hand, but then loses the rest and regrets having suggested it.
- Aisha knows Christopher is gambling money he can’t afford to lose. Zoey and Claire are bored by the poker.
- Nina and Benjamin are having a great time in her room
- Lucas has noticed that Aaron is ogling Zoey. He hears Aaron inviting Zoey to a movie and he’s not happy. He tells Aaron that Zoey is his toy and it seems like this is the first Aaron has heard about Zoey having a boyfriend.
- Zoey is pissed off – she says it’s because Lucas acted like he owned her but she also thinks about Aaron’s eyes while she kisses Lucas sooooooooooo… I think someone was annoyed that her flirting was interrupted.
There’s a diary entire about rites of passage from Zoey where she remembers for the first time in books that she cheated on Jake with Lucas and I am the kind of person who will callously break someone’s heart if I find myself irresistibly attracted to another person. That’s right, Zoey. [Dove: Also, she snogged Tad when she was pissed off with Jake. I know I hate her, so I can’t be fair, but it’s not as if the girl has a history of not cheating.] [Wing: And a history of being hypocritical as hell, considering how she’s been blowing up at Lucas.]
Zoey has rocked up to Lara’s apartment to loan her a duffel bag for her house move. She’s trying to follow the advice in Why We Love To Hate Our Siblings and get to know Lara in her own environment. The room is simultaneously messy and almost empty – there are dishes piled up in the kitchen, but little in the way of furniture or other belongings. Zoey puts this down to Lara not having much of a nesting instinct, but it really doesn’t seem surprising for a 19 year old? Go on Zoey, scrape up the things you actually own and I bet you don’t have much of a pile either. Turns out Lara’s boyfriend stole a bunch of her stuff when they broke up too. She does have some of her paintings though – her more commercial work, which Zoey likes, and some of her more abstract pieces, which Zoey does not. Anyway, by this time Zoey is crawling to get out of the apartment and I still don’t feel like we’ve really gotten to know Lara any better. At this point, she is less of a character and more of an anti-Zoey plot point.
More journals musing on rites of passage: Lucas is mostly interested in gaining access rights to Zoey’s passage; Nina thinks that rites of passage are mostly about pain, although lately she’s been thinking about doing It. She capitalises It, which is adorable; Benjamin thinks of losing his sight as a right of passage, but lately he’s been thinking about another passage he’d like to explore with Nina. Basically, and unsurprisingly, the phrase “rite of passage” leaves all these kids thinking about sex.
Aisha is at Zoey’s, looking for help analysing a poem for English class. She’s not a poetry person and prefers less touchy-feely subjects. It’s Benjamin who answers the door though, and although he is not the Passmore she seeks, he wonders if Aisha can help him look something up on The Internet. It’s so fun to read 90s references to The Internet – it’s such an everyday tool now like shoes or running water that sometimes I forget it didn’t really exist when I was a child. Anyway, Aisha was familiar with the internet. She’d used Claire’s America Online account a few times over the last few months and done some websurfing. Awww, the past! Benjamin has heard about some experimental treatments in Boston that could reverse blindness. He wants Aisha’s help to look up the hospital and doctors and swears her to secrecy – he doesn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up till he knows more.
Zoey is wandering around the island, not sure what to do with herself, but not wanting to deal with anyone who will want to talk about Lara, or Lucas because she’s still annoyed with him for embarrassing her in front of Aaron. She ends up on the beach, where, surprise! Aaron is flying a kite. How wholesome! Did I slip into an Enid Blyton recap? She watches him, wanting to call out to him but telling herself to walk away – that damn Lucas has got his suspicious mind into her head and she won’t stand for it! She hasn’t done anything wrong so decides to call out to Aaron, who trips over and what larks! They end up sitting together, Zoey thinking innocent thoughts like you’re gorgeous, he saw they way I was staring at you. Because even though I am in love with Lucas, I’m dying to kiss you right this very second. She finds out he’s staying a couple of extra days because his Dad is away on business, but it’s okay because he’s a musician and finds the island inspiring. Zoey would love to hear him play! But Aaron doesn’t think Lucas would enjoy it as much, it’s a shame not all guys realise that there is more to life, and relationships, than sex. She should drop by the Bed and Breakfast if she does want to hear him pay though. Zoey thinks this sounds dangerous, even though Lucas has nothing to worry about and doesn’t control her, so she probably won’t go. These mental gymnastics are exhausting. It’s no wonder I’ve never had an affair.
Benjamin is sitting alone at his computer thinking about the information Aisha has just Asked Jeeves [Dove: Was his question “Does Jeeves have an evil twin?“]. He has a panic attack, thinking about how huge the impact of his blindness has been on him, how much he would like to be able to see again and how much of his identity is tied up in being blind. If he regained his sight, just who would Benjamin Passmore be?
[Wing: I … am actually very sympathetic toward Benjamin right now. On a lesser scale, I had similar thoughts about starting to take bipolar meds, afraid I would lose myself and my writing, etc. But it did not happen, thank god. Still, I understand this worry and for once, I’m fairly fond of him in this moment.]
Nina, Lucas, Benjamin and Zoey are hanging out at the Passmores house. Nina and Lucas have ended up sharing the sofa and the Passmore siblings are in the armchairs. Neither Nina or Lucas are very happy about the seating arrangement, but the Passmores seem unaware. Nina rags on Saturday Night Live but Zoey wants to watch it because there is a blues musician on and Aaron likes the blues. Benjamin is distant and snappy, and Nina assumes he is mad at her and doesn’t love her any more. He goes to bed early. Then Zoey goes to bed too, leaving Lucas and Nina to let themselves out.
Claire has been waiting by the phone in a silk blouse because she told Aaron to call me if you’re bored tomorrow, I’ll probably be around. He should have understood this was an invitation to come and make out, and he didn’t take her up on it, and she’s pretty sure it’s because he wants Zoey. Why do all the guys want Zoey?!
Next up, we have an entry titled Zoey’s Erotic Dream but don’t get too excited – She’s at a bar, drinking beer and smoking (transgressive!) and Aaron is on stage, looking right at her, playing a song called “Zoey.”
Sunday is delightfully broken up into a timeline of Lara’s moving in Chez Passmore. People come to gawk, the family are cold. I just feel really sorry for Lara, tbh.
In the afternoon Jake comes to call on Lara. She uses the power of Tight Jeans makes him carry her stereo up the stairs. They talk about Halloween, the last time they saw each other, when Lara scared the shit out of Jake by pretending to conjure Wade’s spirit on the ouija board. Jake thanks her, because that night made him change his life – he’s been sober since then. Lara is confused – being sober doesn’t sound like anything to be thankful for.
The Passmores et Lara have a strained “welcome” dinner and then all disappear to their rooms. Zoey is disappointed when her boyfriend calls, but decides to spend the evening with him and remind herself how much she loves him so she can safely visit Aaron tomorrow for a song. Just a song. [Dove: I think what pisses me off so much about Zoey’s near-constant infidelity is that she paints herself as a true romantic, a beautiful yearning soul who wants to meet its other half, or some such shit, and then as soon as she meets “the one”, she immediately starts moving on to the next guy. Like, Aisha and Nina are less than her in some way related to romance, because they’re less flowery about it all, when actually, she’s the one sullying the perfection of monogamy because she can’t stop snogging new boys. (Disclaimer: when I say “perfection”, I mean Zoey’s ideal, not that monogamy itself is the perfect/only way to love).] [Rosey: God, yes. And suddenly I realise the genius of Zoey only ever writing the first chapter of her romance novel. She is only interested in the beginning! Nice work, Grapplegate.] [Wing: … oh shit, that’s great. I’ve always looked at it as that standard writing flaw where you don’t move past the first part until you make it somehow “perfect” but it works on multiple levels. Damn.]
Back to school! The girls are hanging out on the ferry. Zoey is all fluttery about Aaron. Claire decides she is over him. I am bored of this now and hope Aaron leaves soon.
Christopher is broke. His work on the island is all pretty seasonal, and with winter setting in, he’s earning less. Time to find another job.
Nina is in Zoey’s bedroom, trying to engage her BFF in some Lara gossip but Zoey is moonily folding socks, and one assumes, thinking about Aaaaaah-ron. Nina heads down to Benjamin’s room to see him instead and hears Aisha say “I wish I could kiss you right now…. you’re turning me on…watch what you say, other people might be listening.” and Benjamin reply “This is so great.” I think we all know there will be a completely innocent explanation for this, but Nina, instead of walking in and finding it, decides to assume her boyfriend and best friend are fucking and runs home to cry to Nine Inch Nails.
Zoey is trying to distract herself from thoughts of visiting Aaron. She doesn’t see why she shouldn’t though. Just because Lucas is suspicious and can’t be trusted, it doesn’t mean she would do anything . She just wants to hear a cute guy play a song in a hotel room. That’s all. [Wing: When I want to hear a cute guy play a song in a hotel room, it’s very rarely innocent, Zoey. Also, Lucas is not the only one who can’t be trusted.]
She heads to the Grey’s Bed and Breakfast and lets Mr Grey assume she is there to see Aisha before poking round to find Aaron’s room. She lies to him and says Lucas doesn’t mind her being there, in fact he’d wanted to come and hear Aaron play too, but had to study! This visit is a perfectly innocent goodbye, which is why Zoey has to do all these little deceptions. When Aaron plays the guitar, all she can think about is the sound of his voice and her heart skips beats. Aaron then tells her he hasn’t ever had a girlfriend – girls aren’t into guys who don’t believe in sex before marriage. Zoey is blown away – finally someone who understands her! (Although, I think this is the first time Zoey has said she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage? Doesn’t she usually say that she isn’t ready? [Dove: Yes, it’s always been I’m not ready. I think she’s just thrilled that she’d not have to keep gluing her underwear on for at least one boy on the planet.][Rosey: At this point, I can’t blame her for that. ] ) Anyway, she can’t resist any longer and kisses him, just to say goodbye. But what’s that? Aaron drops the bomb, he’s not leaving tomorrow afterall! Hmm… I think I understand what Claire sees in this boy now.
There’s The List (Part Two) comparing Lucas to Aaron. Zoey made pretty much this exact list in the first book about Lucas and Jake. This does not bode well for Lucas. It includes that Zoey might be in love with Aaron, which… Jesus, Zoey, you met him four days ago! You have spoken to him four times. I know you are seventeen and passions run high, but love? You’re a writer – try infatuation, lust, desire, intrigued, entranced, bewitching, obsession, attraction…
Benjamin uses the school office to call the hospital in Boston. He gets special favours because when he was ill he missed a lot of school and his complicated records mean he’s spent a lot of time in the office and knows the staff.
Claire sees Aaron when she gets off the ferry and is annoyed when she realises he was waiting for Zoey. She’s at the mall with Nina though, so Claire takes the opportunity to get him up her Widow’s Walk. I feel like that could be a dangerous place to be for a man who doesn’t respond the way Claire wants him to. Aaron doesn’t, but Claire resists the urge to toss him over the rails. [Wing: Aww, Claire, I feel like that’s actually personal growth for you.]
Nina is pissed about what she overheard between Benjamin and Aisha and heads to Christopher’s to fill him in on the wild affair she thinks they are having. It’s weird that she didn’t talk to Zoey about this at the mall and clear it up already? I guess maybe Zoey was in an Aaron Daze and didn’t respond. Christopher laughs off her accusations, but after Nina leaves he decides to give Aisha a call anyway and is surprised to hear from her brother that she is with Benjamin.
Jake goes to see Lara, because she clearly reminds him of Zoey but with a darker, intriguing edge. She’s up in her room above the garage getting hammered and tries to get Jake to drink. She tries to get him to join in, and he’s tempted but he couldn’t let himself fall into that trap. Once he started drinking the monster inside would have to be fed over and over, until Jake himself was totally obliterated. Which is British slang for drunk. I wonder if Grapplegate knew that? Is it used in the States? Anyway, intentional or not, nice double-entendre. He pours away the beer she gives him and tells her that everything she is offering is too tempting, but she should call him if she decides to get sober. Damn Jake! How are you turning out to be my favourite and least problematic character? [Wing: SERIOUSLY. I am half-besotted by Jake at this point. When did you get so awesome?]
Christopher skips his morning kiss with Aisha – if there is any truth in what Nina said, he can’t think about it before he goes job hunting. He puts on his good suit and heads into Weymouth. After the forty-third rejection of the day, a man in a computer shop directs him to the army recruitment office. Christopher is skeptical but they’d pay for college, there would be travel, he’d get health benefits and vacation time… His only reservation is Aisha. So he asks about special provisions for married recruits. Why you asking that, Christopher? [Wing: Oh, god. This is — ugh, I’m not going to get into the terrible issues behind armed forces recruitment in the USA and how it targets minorities, particularly poor minorities and — god, nope, I’m out. This just makes me bang my head on the table.]
Nina skipped school because she was so upset about Benjamin and Aisha, and in the evening gets into full spy wear to hide outside Benjamin’s window and catch them in the act. [Wing: Nina, have you become a Wakefield?]
Aisha is studying with Zoey, who is being odd because her head is entirely full of guiltexcitement about her kiss with Aaron. Aisha then heads down to Benjamin’s room, where he tells her that he spoke to the hospital and needs her help with some forms, but it looks like he might be a candidate for the surgery.
Zoey should be writing a paper for school about The Scarlet Letter. I think she would have been more into this assignment when she found out about her Mum and Jake’s Dad. Right now, she doesn’t want to think about adultery and instead listens to the blues CD she bought because of Aaron. She notices that Aisha has left her mittens behind and decides to drop them up to the Bed and Breakfast for her. So thoughtful.
Jake is at home, also not writing his paper on The Scarlet Letter, when Lara shows up. She’s cold and unwell looking and is here to apologise to Jake for the other night. Her drinking is out of control and she wants his help. She want to be the kind of person Jeff Passmore would be proud to have as his daughter which is super sad. Maybe Jeff Fucking Passmore should get his daughter some help with her drinking? It seems like he helped her mover her stuff and has left her pretty much up to her own devices since. She cries, Jake comforts her. They make out. [Dove: *shakes head* Jeff has really done fuck all for his daughter, except move her into the garage. What a saint.] [Rosey: What a great guy.]
Nina is still outside Benjamin’s window. She has an eight-point plan to murder Benjamin and Aisha and get away scot free. Point eight is die bitter and alone, stray cats my only company. Nina saw Aisha arrive, and go to Zoey’s room first, but when she see’s Zoey leave the house, she knows that Aisha is in there with Benjamin and she sneaks in to listen at his door. She hears more incriminating phrases like Nina deserves to know the truth and starts crying. Benjamin hears her at this point and he and Aisha open the door. Nina confronts them about what she heard and they explain that Aisha had been helping him use the internet and they ended up on a chat site, where Aisha read out the chat to Benjamin. That actually is a perfectly reasonable explanation. I dunno if you ever used chat rooms in the 90s, but there was a lot of that. Anyway, Benjamin explains what he has been researching and that he didn’t want Nina to help in case it didn’t come to anything and she got her hopes up. Seems like Nina isn’t as excited as one might expect about the prospect of Benjamin getting his sight back though.
Claire too is failing to complete her The Scarlet Letter assignment. She also finds an item she needs to return to Aisha, and heads to the Bed and Breakfast. She might bump into Aaron while she’s there, but it would merely be coincidence if she did.
Zoey, meanwhile, is already in Aaron’s room. And his arms for that matter, lamenting that the memory of him singing to her made her heart hurt and she shouldn’t be there, she has a boyfriend who is really in love with me. We’re a couple and I’m not the sort of girl who goes around kissing guys who aren’t her boyfriend. Except that we’ve only known you a couple of months Zoey, and it’s the second [Dove: Third.] [Rosey: I stand corrected.] time you’ve done it, so, maybe you are that sort of girl? Which is fine, but you need to tell people and let them know where they stand. Anyway, Aaron tells her that he is in love with her and they kiss.
And Claire see’s the whole thing from the street.
Well, that was far too much Zoey! And basically a less interesting rehash of the first book – where Zoey wants Lucas but is with Jake. And since she’s only just made out with Aaron, so we’ve got at least another book of Aaron-Zoey-Lucas drama to look forward to. Yay.
[Dove: This is where the series really started my hatred of the Passmores in such a fiery way. Jeff has just left Lara to rot. Zoey is a complete beast to her, when she’s not falling in love with a boy she’s spoken to for three seconds, Benjamin isn’t there yet, but he will be shortly, and my reasons are spoilers. Zoey really does my head in. I hate the way always thinks she’s “in love” with boys that she just finds really really hot. I think I’d have more respect for her if she’d just cool it on the ONE TWOO LUV thing, and admit she’s keeping her options open and enjoys falling in lust or new attraction or whatever it is she keeps mistaking for love.]
[Wing: The quickly falling in love thing feels like a very realistic high school thing to me, but the fact that she keeps pushing the true love thing and that she’s so hypocritical about things is what annoys me most about her.]
“Mr and Mrs Passmore have had a chat in the kitchen and have decided they should invite Lara to live with them. In the storage space above the garage.”
My first apartment was a “mother-in-law space, which was an apartment above a garage. It was in LA and the only time I’ve been uncomfortable in an earthquake. Didn’t realize they were more unsafe, but that makes sense. It was a Craftsman-style apt, so the corners were lower and since that’s where I put my bed, it felt like the ceiling was falling on me. Normally I enjoy quakes.
“I still think someone should get you some counselling, but that seems like too much to hope for.”
No counseling for his brother’s death, no counseling for drug/alcohol use a teenager… Poor guy
“Because even though I am in love with Lucas, I’m dying to kiss you right this very second.”
This is the same logic as Sweet Valley, where lust = love.
“Benjamin is sitting alone at his computer thinking about the information Aisha has just Asked Jeeves”
Bless. Ask Jeeves was my favorite pre-Google search engine.
“Why do all the guys want Zoey?!”
She’s Elizabeth Wakefield 2.0. The staggering number of boys who preferred Liz to Jess upon first sight was unrealistic and stupid. Wakefields always win, but Elizabeth >>> Jessica.
“Although, I think this is the first time Zoey has said she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage? Doesn’t she usually say that she isn’t ready?”
Would definitely be a safe space for a girl who’s constantly guarding her underwear – from her bf of 6 weeks. Of course, her false equivalence of true love and constant unfaithfulness (but it’s only evil when her mom does it) is entirely unsympathetic.
Lara…Poor girl never her knew her father because he didn’t want to confess? Mom kept it a secret? 90s YA dictates that a “broken home” = problems so she is fucked. [I’m also aware of spoilers from looking up all the titles of the series.]