Recap #12 – The Best Friend by R.L. Stine

bestfriend

Title: The Best Friend

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: December 1992

Tagline: Sometimes friendship can be murder . . . [But I thought friendship was magic!]

Description: Best friends . . . to the end! [Oh. Is Honey actually Chucky? Hidey-ho! I’m your friend to the end! My name’s Honey and I like to be hugged! Ha ha ha!]

Who is Honey Perkins? She’s been telling everyone in Shadyside that she’s Becka Norwood’s best friend. But Becka’s sure she’s never met Honey before.

Honey systematically moves in on Becka’s life, copying her in every way. But when Becka presumes to have more than one “best friend,” the horrible accidents begin. [“Accidents.” Riiiiiight.]

Does Honey just want a friend? Becka wonders. Or does she want more – much more! [Like . . . lovers?]

Nostalgia Time!


Okay, full disclosure here: I fucking hate this book. Not because it’s badly written – it’s actually one of the better entries in the Fear Street series. My hatred of it is personal – it came out when I was 11 and in a very dark place, depression-wise. The gaslighting storyline in it hit a little too close to home, and still does. I have a visceral reaction to gaslighting due to someone in my life constantly pulling that kind of shit on me, albeit generally more subtly than Honey does to Becka. I’m not gonna go all out and say I’m triggered by it, but it’s definitely something that affects me on a deep level. Also, there’s a fair bit of ableism here, with Becka questioning her sanity and constantly thinking she’s going crazy, but I’m pretty inclined to give it a pass since that’s the whole point of gaslighting someone – to make them question their reality and sanity.

I remembered the end of this book, but the rest of it was refreshed by listening to the RetRead Podcast episode of it. Fun fact – apparently so many kids hated the ending of this book and wrote to Stine to tell him that, that he ran a contest giving people the chance to come up with an idea for the sequel, where Honey gets her comeuppance. I can’t remember if I read The Best Friend 2 or not. I probably did, but I have no memory of it. Maybe I’ll try to get my hands on it to recap at some point.

Recap


We open with our heroine, Becka Norwood, parked somewhere, making out with her boyfriend, Eric Fraser, while she’s planning to break up with him. I already see a problem here. She’s constantly annoyed by how needy he is, and the fact that he giggles at inappropriate moments. That sounds like a nervous tic that he probably can’t help, but I get it. Becka breaks up with Eric, who seems less upset about it than she thinks he should be. I mean, I kinda get that, too. Goddammit, am I Becka? Although, it’s possible that Eric is just going stony and stoic due to not wanting to let on that he’s hurt, because toxic masculinity has dictated for ages that the only emotion allowed for men is anger or else you’re a fuckin’ pussy, so there’s that.

Eric drives Becka home (oh, honey, the correct place to break up with him is in your own driveway, you silly girl!) and she thinks about her ex-boyfriend, Bad Boy Bill, whom her parents forbid her to see after he got in some trouble. Or, was hanging out with some friends who got in trouble that extended to him. She waffles back and forth about going to see him, then decides to just go for a little drive in her parents’ car to calm down. This is where Becka and I diverge (thank god), because there’s no way in hell I find driving in the ice and snow a relaxing way to calm down. I’m an old pro at it, but it is in no way relaxing. As she’s driving around, she runs a stop sign and smashes/slides into another car in the intersection, complete with crunching metal and shattering glass, but when we turn the page after that shocking cliffhanger chapter end, we find out it was only a headlight that got broken. I don’t think fender benders usually come with crunching metal and shattering glass sounds, but okay R.L. This is what we’ve come to expect from you, so I’m rolling with it.

The next day, Becka is hanging out in her bedroom with her two best friends, Trish and Lilah. We get a lot of unnecessary description of their appearances, including a rundown of their wardrobes like this is the freaking Baby-Sitters Club or something (Becka seems like a Stacey, Lilah is probably a Dawn, while Trish sounds like a Kristy). I recall Stine doing this in a lot of early novels, but nothing else I’ve recapped so far. I’m convinced it was the Baby-Sitters Club influence.

Anyway, we find out that Becka recently got her hair cut short. I know that doesn’t sound important at all, but it becomes a plot point later. Oy. The girls have some pretty realistic conversation (including Trish complaining about being short and chubby, and Lilah complaining about being too tall and skinny – which is realistic, but also unfortunate), and then the bedroom door bursts open and a girl rushes in, sets her sights on Becka with pinpoint precision, then squeals and hugs her, proclaiming she can’t believe it’s really her and she’s so happy to see her again. Becka is flabbergasted, as she has no idea who this strange squeeing girl is.

The girl is described as being about Becka’s size, but with a full figure, and I can’t figure this out. “Full figure” is usually code for fat, but then she wouldn’t be Becka’s size, would she? She might be the same height, but . . . yeah, I can only conclude that Stine is using the other coded meaning of full figured and trying to tell us that this girl has huge boobs. Which seems like an odd thing for a middle-aged man to try to convey about a teenage girl. What the fuck, Stine? (It’s probably the former, just not written well. Much is made throughout the book about how big Honey’s hands are, which is a weird hang-up that appears in multiple Stine novels. I don’t get it.)

Oh, good, a description of what she’s wearing. She sounds like a Claudia. Or maybe she’s just colorblind, who knows? She keeps gushing about how great it is that she moved in next door and it’ll be just like old times, and Becka still has no clue who the fuck this person is. Best friends (the real ones) to the rescue! Lilah introduces herself and Trish, and the girl suddenly realizes she’s not alone with Becka and introduces herself as Honey Perkins. I have a real problem with people being named Honey. I use “honey” (or “hon” usually) either as a term of endearment for people I know, or condescendingly/pityingly depending on the situation, but having to refer to someone I barely know as “Honey” at all times? Weird. So very, very weird.

The name does nothing to jog Becka’s memory, and Honey ignores all of Trish and Lilah’s questions about her. Becka thinks that Honey is looking at her like she’s a hot fudge sundae she’d like to devour, so I guess that’s a not-so-subtle hint that “full figured” is indeed code for overweight in this instance. Or at least not rail-thin, which always seems to translate to big fat fatty fat in these books. God forbid anyone be more than a size 3 and not constantly on a diet.

Honey apologizes for being so emotional, then stops ignoring Trish and Lilah long enough to explain that she and Becka were best best friends in third and fourth grade. Becka is understandably confused, because her best friend in fourth grade was Deena Martinson. And like, yeah, you wouldn’t just forget who your best friend was less than ten years ago. Fourth grade was almost three times that long ago for me, and I still remember who my best friends were. Becka feels guilty for not remembering Honey, since she was obviously so important to her, and here lies the power of the gaslighter. They count on you feeling guilty, or unsure, or too embarrassed to correct them, and then they get into your head and make you start questioning your own memory. And you do, because they’re just so insistent that what they’re telling you is really what happened and why on earth would you remember it any differently? Not to downplay physical violence, but I would honestly rather be punched in the face than gaslighted (gaslit?).

Becka’s mom comes in, and Honey practically smothers her in a hug, and it’s obvious that Mom has no idea who this girl is, either. Becka feels a little less guilty then, but she’s still feeling awkward and trying way too hard to just be nice to Honey. Maybe she could have nipped this in the bud by straight up telling Honey she doesn’t have any idea who the fuck she is, but then again maybe not. Honey spots an enamel pin shaped like a parrot that Bad Boy Bill gave Becka, and she gushes over it, asking Becka if she remembers the injured bird they tried to nurse back to health when they were little. Because she has no idea how abusive Honey is going to become, Becka says yes. Good lord, Becka. Don’t encourage this girl. Honey admires Becka’s posters, and Becka says she’s kind of sick of them, so Honey asks if she can have them. Damn girl! Honey has no damn shame, does she? Becka agrees even though she was just making conversation and doesn’t want to get rid of them, because Becka has no spine. Throw this interloper out of your personal space, girl! You’re being way too nice!

Honey finally leaves, and the girls try to figure out just who the hell she is. Becka finds their old fourth grade class picture, and they all suddenly remember Honey as the weird girl who never spoke, had no friends, and used to burst into sobs for no apparent reason. Well, that can’t be good. Then Becka realizes that her parrot pin is missing and Honey must have stolen it! Lilah and Trish are a little more forgiving and suggest that Honey must have pinned it to her sweater and forgotten she was wearing it, but either way Becka decides she’s going next door to get it back from Honey. Her friends leave, and Bill calls before she heads out the door. Mom is not happy about that, but lets Becka talk to him instead of hanging up on him. That’s progress, right? Becka declines Bill’s suggestion that she sneak out to see him, then argues briefly with Mom about why Bill is calling her, then finally is able to head next door, where . . .

. . . the house is completely dark and empty! Honey lied about moving in next door! Or, you know, moving is a process and any number of things can prevent you from moving in immediately.

Walking home from school with Lilah on Monday, Becka tells us about Trish’s upcoming Christmas party, and that Bill will be there so she can see him then. When Becka gets home, she hears someone talking in her room, and discovers Honey in her room, trying on her clothes and murmuring to herself. I guess R.L. Stine saw Single White Female and thought, Hey, I can write that! But for teens! Anyway, Becka is all like how the hell did you get in here and what are you doing, and Honey tells her that Mom let her in and then left. Um, why? Why would she . . . you know what, never mind. Honey denies talking to herself, then gushes about the new skirt Becka bought for Trish’s Christmas party, demanding to know where Becka bought it. Honey gushes all this other nonsense about how people said they looked like twins when they were kids, and how they used to trade clothes all the time, and about how they’re still the same size even though Honey knows she looks bigger than Becka. Okay, now I’m completely lost with this whole full figured thing, then. Was Stine trying to tell us Honey just has herself some tig ol’ bitties? I realize I’m probably thinking about this way more than Stine did, but that’s the problem. Words mean things, guys. Choose them appropriately.

Becka asks Honey about the house being empty, and Honey says that her dad couldn’t get the furnace to start so they had to spend the weekend in a motel. Then Becka asks if Honey accidentally wore her pin home, and Honey starts choking Becka! With her large hands!

Oh, this is just the Gotcha! game that they used to play all the time as kids. Which of course Becka doesn’t remember because it never fucking happened except in Honey’s head. Honey is hurt that Becka doesn’t remember all the truly terrible pranks they used to pull on each other, including Becka pulling Honey’s dress up in front of a busload of cub scouts. Yeah, pretty sure that’s sexual assault, so probably a good thing it never happened. After Becka stops outwardly freaking out, she asks Honey about the pin again, and this is when Honey tells Becka that she didn’t take it accidentally, Becka gave it to her, doesn’t she remember? Becka is beyond flabbergasted, but ends up letting it go because of how worked up Honey is getting and how exhausting this shit is to deal with. (I might be projecting, but like I said, I have some experience in this arena.) Becka just wants Honey to leave, but she sticks around to help put away all the clothes she pulled out of the closet, badger Becka about what kind of bike she rides so that Honey knows what kind to get so they can ride to school together, and then tell some made up story about how broken up they were at the end of fourth grade when they found out Honey was moving away. They sat on the curb holding each other and crying, and some guy stopped and took a picture of them because it was such a touching scene. Speaking of touching, it’s a good thing this story never happened, because this hypothetical guy is probably a pervert. What grown man stops his car to take a picture of two crying nine-year-old girls? That’s creepy as fuck! What is even going on in Honey’s imagination?

Honey keeps trying to get Becka to agree to come over to her house, but neglects the most obvious temptation:

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She has a very special Mewtwo for you

When Becka mentions going to Lilah’s the next night to help decorate their Christmas tree, Honey gets weird about Becka spending so much time with her actual friends, then gets all sunny again and says she’ll see Becka first thing in the morning. I assume to walk to school together, but she might just be peeking through the window watching her sleep.

Becka calls Bill and they have some not-very-important conversation, then Mom comes home and Becka asks her why she let Honey in her room. Mom is super confused, because she hasn’t been home all afternoon and didn’t let Honey in! Are you shocked? I’m shocked. This is so very out of character for Honey. *eyeroll*

After school on Wednesday, Becka and Lilah decide to go for a long bike ride, since the snow has melted and it’s the first chance they’ve had in weeks. Honey is lurking by the bike rack when they walk up, and she ignores all of Lilah’s pleasantries to pester Becka about her bike, and ask if she can come over, then if she can call Becka later. Lilah asks Becka why she doesn’t just tell Honey to get lost, and Becka says that she wants to sometimes, but then she decides Honey isn’t all that bad and must just be insecure. Oh, Becka. She is that bad, and you should run. Far, far away.

Lilah and Becka reach the top of a hill and start to pedal down it, when a delivery truck pulls into the intersection at the bottom of the hill. Becka stops okay, but Lilah’s bike doesn’t. She screams something about her brakes, then is thrown over her handlebars while still picking up speed. This is like Schrodinger’s bike accident – there were both brakes and no brakes causing the accident, and we don’t know which yet. All we know is that there’s a thump and a crunch. I’m just curious how the bike was still picking up speed, indicating no brakes, while throwing Lilah over the handlebars, indicating a sudden stop. Hey, Mythbusters? Can you get on this for me, please?

There are a couple of pages of pretty good description of Becka basically being in shock while she watches the EMTs load Lilah into the ambulance, then she picks up the ruined bike and notices that the rear brake cable is missing. She remembers Lilah screaming about her brakes right before the bike slammed to a stop and she went sailing . . . over . . . the  . . . No. Stop. The bicycle did not slam to a stop! The text said it was still picking up speed! Let me actually quote it for you:

“My brakes!” Lilah shrieked.

Becka squealed to a safe stop.

Still picking up speed, Lilah flew over her handlebars into the intersection.

Now I will grant you that if she slammed on her brakes and only had front brake cables, she probably would go flying over the handlebars as described, but the bike would not be picking up speed. The front would stop and the back . . . wouldn’t. You can’t have it both ways, R.L. Pick one.

The police drive Becka home, and the next time we pick up with her she’s on the phone with Bill, telling him that Lilah is stable but she doesn’t really know what that means. She agrees to go out with Bill Saturday night, claiming she’ll sneak out and tell her parents (we hear about but never meet Dad in this book – my theory is that he’s a ghost. This is Fear Street, after all) that she’s at Trish’s. Then she looks up and sees Honey standing in her doorway. Was she making plans to be sneaky with her door wide open? That’s a rookie mistake right there. Honey runs in and starts hugging Becka because she heard about Lilah, then she starts saying “There, there. There there there there” over and over, and all my inner asshole can picture is this:

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I appreciate that this one says nerds rather than Nazis

When Becka tells Honey she’d rather be alone, Honey isn’t happy, but quickly recovers with (made-up) recollections of how Becka always had to figure things out on her own when she was little and was sometimes quite the loner. Becka’s just like yeah sure whatever makes you leave me alone, biatch. Then Honey comments that Becka doesn’t have Lilah anymore, and Becka is so shocked by this that she starts crying, prompting Honey to immediately start smothering her with care again. They’re their there, Becka. They’re their there. Trish walks in, and before Becka can say anything, Honey manhandles her out of the room because Becka “wants to be alone.” No, Honey, she just doesn’t want to be around you. I’m sure she’d appreciate the company of her actual friend.

I guess we’ve fast forwarded to Saturday night, because now Bill and Becka are parked in his car at what I assume is makeout point, making out. Then Becka starts venting about Honey, telling Bill how she insists on spending all her time with Becka, and how Mom and Dad think she’s overreacting and take Honey’s side. Damn. Was the topic of gaslighting never mentioned on Oprah? Sally Jesse? Donahue? Also we find out that Honey took off with Becka’s favorite blue blouse and acted like she didn’t know what Becka was talking about when she asked for it back. Bill is kind of trash about all this, telling Becka she’s being crazy and asking why she doesn’t just tell Honey to get lost. Becka hates to hurt people’s feelings. Bill doesn’t understand how girls are socialized to be polite and take everyone else’s feelings into account over our own. Because we’re supposed to be “nice,” even at our own expense. Especially at our own expense, because if we’re not, then we’re bitches, and that’s the worst thing a woman can be, amirite?

Bill changes the subject to how Lilah’s doing (better than the doctors expected), and Becka tells him that during her visit, Lilah told her that Honey had been hanging around asking questions about her bike and how the brakes worked. Whut. I mean, that’s pretty fucking bold and seriously tipping your hand, but also – uh, are you from another planet, Honey? “How do bi-cycle? What do brakes? How brakes work on bye-sigh-clee?” Are bicycles foreign objects to Honey? You can see how the brakes work by looking at them for approximately five seconds. Besides that, demanding an explanation more detailed than, “You squeeze the levers on the handles and the wheels slow down” is very suspicious.

Bill makes Becka feel crazy for maybe kinda thinking Honey tampered with Lilah’s brakes, proving that maybe Honey isn’t the only one with gaslighting tendencies around here, and then Becka sees something outside the car that she thinks is Honey spying on them. Spoiler alert – it’s a red kerchief. My, that’s an old-fashioned word. What the heck is a kerchief, anyway?  . . . . . . . oh. A bandanna, basically. What’s wrong with saying bandanna? Was that too urban or something? I feel like the last time I actually saw anyone use the word kerchief was in the Night Before Christmas poem. Becka expects Bill to laugh at her, because some part of her must realize he’s trash, but he’s really worried about her instead. Worried she’s going . . . craaaaaaazy. Urgh.

Becka wakes up sick Monday, with a fever of 101.6. Definitely high enough to keep you home from school. Mom can’t stay home with her because she has to work, and Dad can’t take care of her because he’s a ghost and every time he tries to hand her the bottle of Nyquil it just falls right through his noncorporeal hands. Mom brings her some juice and Tylenol before she leaves, and tells her that Honey was downstairs but she sent her away because of how rotten Becka feels. Hey, Mom’s on Becka’s side for once! Then she ruins it by saying Honey is such a considerate girl and wants to come by later to bring Becka homework. Homework, ew! Not respecting your daughter’s boundaries about who she doesn’t want to spend time with, ew!

Becka sleeps and has wild fever dreams (is her fever high enough for that?), and then is woken up by Trish calling. Trish is surprised to find Becka at home because Honey told everyone that Becka had a mental breakdown over Lilah and Trish was sure she’d be in the hospital or something. Well. Way to escalate, Honey. Trish thinks Honey just got mixed up or something, because everyone close to the protagonist in a Fear Street book has to be completely clueless about the danger the protag is in. It’s in their contracts. Trish tells Becka that her parents will be gone during her Christmas party, so they won’t be able to tell Becka’s parents about Bill being there. They talk about Lilah, who is doing better and eager to leave the hospital but is going to need a lot of therapy for her legs. Then Trish gets all mysterious telling Becka to just wait until she sees Honey. Trish is being a bad friend, because the last thing Becka needs right now is a surprise that’s obviously going to upset her. If Trish can’t figure out that this thing will upset Becka, then she obviously needs to pay more attention.

After Becka and Trish hang up, Honey comes waltzing in the unlocked front door and up the stairs, because Mom clearly doesn’t care if her ailing daughter gets raped and murdered in her bed because the door was unlocked. Who leaves their door unlocked on fucking Fear Street? Fortunately it’s not a rapist, just Honey sporting short hair cut just like Becka’s! This book would only have to take a tiny left turn to convince me that Honey is planning on murdering Becka, hiding the body, and taking her place. Would it even be that hard? Honey could really put her gaslighting skills to the test by just telling everyone that of course she’s really Becka, then just staring at them blankly when they question it. You do believe me, don’t you? You have to believe me!

We skip to later that night, and Honey calling over and over haranguing Becka to tell her she doesn’t really believe that Honey said she had a breakdown; that she believes Trish lied to her, and that she really does like her haircut. Jesus, at this point Becka would say practically anything to make Honey leave her alone so she can sleep! She’s still sick, with a fever! Fuck off, Honey!

Becka goes to school the next day, because she doesn’t want to miss the last day of school before winter break. Um, why? Just take it as an extra day of vacation, what the hell? R.L. Stine all up in here acting like teenagers don’t want to take any excuse at all to miss school. (Or was that just me? The oh-so-witty nickname the bullies gave me in fifth grade was “school skipper” because I missed so much school . . . what a weird thing to bully a kid over. Also, part of the reason I missed so much was because of their bullying, so . . . that one’s on you, you little fuckers.) While between classes, Cari Taylor tells Becka that she’s surprised to see her because people were saying she’d had a breakdown. Becka gets pissed off that Honey lied to her, but . . . didn’t she know that? Like, did she actually believe Honey’s denials? Oh, boy. She’s in your head too much, Becka.

In class, Becka sees Honey with her haircut, wearing her blue blouse (the one she feigned ignorance about) with the parrot pin pinned onto it. Poor Becka, but also this outfit sounds like something a forty-year-old would wear, not a seventeen (sixteen? eighteen?) year-old. At lunch, Becka asks Trish what she’s going to do about Honey, and Trish suggests they murder her in typical R.L. Stine cliffhanger chapter end fashion. Of course Trish is joking, but Becka’s so stressed that she takes her seriously for a minute. (This is basically the plot of Halloween Night. “Hey, let’s murder my shitty boyfriend-stealing cousin!” “Okay!” “Not really though, it’s a story for school! . . . No, let’s murder her for real! . . . No, just kidding, ha ha ha! . . . but really though.” “For really reals, or for fakesies?” “For fakesies, duh! . . . but for really real this time.”)

While walking around on the school grounds, they spot Honey walking with and kissing Eric of the inappropriate giggles. Becka freaks out, pointing out that Honey has her hair, is wearing her blouse with her pin on it, a jacket just like hers (I guess she didn’t have an opportunity to steal Becka’s actual jacket), and is now kissing her ex-boyfriend, and it’s sick, just sick! Trish starts worrying that Becka is going crazy, especially when she starts talking about how she thinks Honey caused Lilah’s accident. Are your friends really your friends if they dismiss your concerns that easily? Like, friends should listen to each other even if their worries sound a little farfetched.

Honey spots them and runs up all smiles like she’s not being all weird and fucked up, and Becka tells her this conversation is private. Honey says there’s nothing she can’t tell her best friend and Becka’s all, “That’s why I’m talking to Trish.” because Becka finally tapped into her savage side. Which she needed to do much earlier and keep doing, but of course she won’t. Honey is stunned and takes off, and Becka immediately worries that she was too blunt and Honey might retaliate. She warns Trish, who laughs the whole thing off because we need more cannon fodder.

Back inside the school, Becka’s locker has been broken into and trashed. She’s sure it’s Honey, so of course this is going to be the one time it actually isn’t, so that she’ll look “crazy” when she confronts Honey. She goes into the girls’ room to calm down and runs into – well, you know. She screams at Honey, who is completely bewildered and starts playing the victim, whining about why is Becka picking on her and being so mean today? Is it because of Eric? Becka keeps saying it has nothing to do with Eric (not everything is about a boy, Honey!), when Honey pulls out a gun and shoots Becka. Boy, you can tell this is pre-Columbine, can’t you?

Of course it’s a water pistol. Part of the Gotcha! game that they used to play when they were kids, don’t you remember? They used to bring them to school every day and squirt each other every time the teacher turned her back, and they’d be soaked by the end of the day! Becka keeps saying no no no that never happened, but Honey is unflappable, insisting that of course they did, Becka just doesn’t remember!

After dinner that night, Becka sneaks off to Bill’s, where he is unsupportive and douchey. He says that Honey isn’t that bad, is kind of cute, and admits that she came on to him. Wow, not helpful at all, jackass. He also interrupts Becka to ask her if she heard about the guys who went around school trashing lockers that day. Oops. So, not Honey after all, then. And here’s where the gaslighting really starts to take hold of Becka, because now her internal monologue is embarrassed at accusing Honey, and she starts thinking how irrational she is and what a good friend Honey is for putting up with her. Oh, no. Sweetheart, no. Please don’t let her get her hooks in your brain like that! That’s like if she shot you and then kindly refrained from yelling at you for bleeding on her carpet.

Becka drives around for a while to clear her head, because that worked out well last time, then comes home and finds Mom waiting for her at the kitchen table. All serious talks must take place at the kitchen table. It’s an unwritten law of sitcoms and YA thrillers. Mom knows Becka’s been seeing Bill again, and is pissed. Becka screams at her, but somehow this doesn’t quite manage to bring Mom around to her way of thinking. I can’t imagine why. Mom grounds Becka permanently. I’m not sure how long that is. Until she goes away to college? Until she gets married? Until she dies? At any rate, it’s long enough that Becka’s going to miss Trish’s Christmas party. But . . . no! The Christmas party is the whole reason I felt justified to recap this in December! Without the Christmas party, this recap doesn’t fit in with my Christmas theme at all! Goddamn you, Becka’s mom!

Becka feels the same way I do, albeit for different reasons, and stomps upstairs to find Honey hiding in her closet. I wonder if that’s some sort of symbolism. Maybe Honey doesn’t want to be Becka; maybe she wants to do Becka. It’s a fine, confusing line. Honey halfway answers Becka’s questions about how she got in her room, then reminisces about the time she and Becka hid in the attic closet while their parents searched and searched for them, despite Becka informing her that she doesn’t have an attic closet. Honey reveals that she’s here to apologize for accidentally letting it slip to Mom that Becka was seeing Bill again. Accidentally. Mm-hmm. Okay, Honey. Honey begs for forgiveness, cajoling Becka by saying that surely she could forgive her best friend, and Becka’s finally had enough of this shit. She tells her through clenched teeth (Mom’s downstairs, you know) that Honey is not her friend, that Lilah and Trish are her best friends – her only friends. Honey stares at her blankly for a moment, then cheerfully tells her that she broke up with Eric today – just like Becka did!

Well, surprise surprise, Ghost Dad (NOT Bill Cosby!) convinced Mom to let Becka go to Trish’s party! My recap isn’t ruined after all! All the halls are decked at Trish’s place, and according to her, it’s the Guns n’ Roses Christmas album blasting all through the house. Now, I was a HUGE Gn’R fan in 1992, and trust me, they did not have a Christmas album. Nice try, though. Becka finds Bill, then a boy named David Metcalf casually cat-calls her and she tells Bill that at least David appreciates her (gag, but not unexpected for this time period and genre), and Bill jokes that David appreciates anything – David appreciates a baloney sandwich. So, just to be clear, David wants to fuck a baloney sandwich? Because that’s what we’re talking about here, Bill. Keep up.

Basic party shenanigans happen for a while, and then Becka turns around and sees Honey – wearing the same skirt and catsuit that Becka has on! (It’s come to my attention through listening to podcasts about this book that some of y’all, especially the young’uns, aren’t a hundred percent sure what a catsuit is. Well, here ya go. Just, um, ignore the fetish ones and the Catwoman costumes, mmkay?) Honey is thrilled to see Becka and runs up to her like, Hiya twin! She tells Becka she found the shop she bought the skirt in and couldn’t believe they had another one. Um, that shit’s mass produced, of course they had another one, but whatever.

Becka loses her shit and starts screaming at Honey to go away, leave her alone, she looks ridiculous, etc. I mean, if you’re embarrassed that she showed up dressed like you, calling attention to it and yourself by screaming about it might not be the smart move here, but . . . I do kinda get it. Anyway, of course it just prompts people to start whispering about Becka’s “breakdown” of the previous week. If Becka were a less high-strung person overall, I’m sure she could have just played it off like OMG why are you so obsessed with me, are you, like, in love with me? But this was several years before Mean Girls, and Becka is no Regina George. Hell, she’s not even a Gretchen Wieners.

Becka tries to find Bill, but then she sees Trish at the top of the stairs with a Yule log cake on a tray (that sounds terrible. I’m not sure what it is, but it doesn’t sound edible.). Okay, is this party in the basement? Why is the kitchen apparently upstairs? Oh well. Honey appears behind Trish, and then Trish is suddenly falling down the stairs! Trish lands face down, the cake crushed under her chest (it had a cream filling. nothing with the word “log” in it should have a cream filling.), because of course the chubby girl has to land in food. So much for any measure of dignity.

Honey is still standing at the top of the stairs while everyone panics, and when she realizes Becka is staring at her, she immediately becomes tearful and starts crying that she tried to catch Trish, she offered to help her carry the tray, bullshit, bullshit, and more bullshit. Trish is still breathing, but it’s labored. Honey comes and puts an arm around Becka and tells her she still has a friend and she won’t leave her, and Becka freaks the fuck out screaming “no” at her, running out the front door and directly into the police, then screaming at them that Honey pushed Trish and immediately thereafter passing out. Because of course she faints. It’s not a teen thriller til a girl faints dead away, now is it?

Becka wakes up in bed the next day with her mom and the doctor hovering over her. She finds out that Trish broke her neck but she’s going to be okay. I mean, you can totally just walk that shit off, right? The doctor thinks Becka had a terrible shock and wants her on complete bed rest for the next few days. Mom answers the phone while the doctor is talking, then tells Becka it was Honey wondering how she’s feeling and that she’s been calling all morning. Becka starts screaming “no” and begging her mom not to let Honey call anymore, and Mom and the doc are sort of . . . taken aback? The doctor tells her that she’s obviously still troubled by what happened at the party. Gee, Sherlock, ya think? The girl who’s been mentally terrorizing her and physically terrorizing her friends keeps harassing her, and y’all are totally cool with it, taking her side and thinking Becka is being irrational and, yes, crazy. Listen to your kids, ya jackoffs!

The doc gives Becka some tranquilizers, and Becka immediately thinks that means he thinks she’s crazy. No, dummy, that means he thinks you need help relaxing. Becka spends the next few days mostly sleeping, waking up here and there to talk to Trish on the phone – she unfortunately can’t say for sure if she was pushed or fell. Awesome. So everyone is going the “deliberately obtuse” route and assuming coincidence. Nope, nothing to see here, move along please!

Becka’s mom leaves the house to go . . . somewhere. No word on where Dad is. Possibly the exorcist came by to send him back to the nether realms. Just as Becka starts to fall back to sleep for the umpteenth time that day, Honey calls, trying to talk Becka into coming over for a minute because she has a big surprise for her. Becka is having none of it until she thinks she hears Bill’s voice in the background. Then she throws her robe and sneakers on and heads out of the house in a tranquilizer and depression haze. She stops at Honey’s backdoor and sees Bill and Honey sitting companionably at the kitchen table together, possibly holding hands.

And that’s when Becka snaps. She starts screaming that Honey has taken everything from her and she can’t have Bill, too! She rushes into the kitchen and grabs a knife, heading straight for Honey with every intention of stabbing the shit out of this chick, when she of course passes out again. Hmm. Anticlimactic.

Bill jumps up, yelling that he thought Becka knew he was there and she was coming over to see him, then tries to go over to help her, but Honey screams at him to get away because Becka is her best friend! Predictably, Bill asks if Honey is crazy. Ho hum. Honey picks up the knife and they wrestle around for it a bit, ending with Bill falling into the knife. This must be a magic knife, because he basically dies immediately. Honey looks wildly around, then has the bestest idea ever! She puts the knife in Becka’s hand, then wakes her up and tells her that she, Becka, stabbed Bill, but everything will be okay because Honey is her best friend, her only friend, and she’ll tell the police that Bill attacked them and it was self defense, and it will all be just hunky dory.

The book ends with Becka gratefully thanking Honey!

Nostalgia Glasses Off


Nope. Hate it. Look, I can appreciate that Stine did something here that most teen thrillers weren’t doing at the time, but this one just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. (Maybe I shouldn’t lick the books then, har har.)

Curious where Honey’s dad was all this time. Was he a ghost, too? Did Honey kill him and then just find an empty house next to Becka to squat in? We may never know.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Recap #12 – The Best Friend by R.L. Stine

  1. Pingback: Recap #12 – The Best Friend by R.L. Stine — Oh God Why?! Nostalgia Reviews – horrorwriter

  2. “She sounds like a Claudia. Or maybe she’s just colorblind, who knows?”

    Always a tough call.

    Oh, Yule Logs are SO GOOD. Though I also thought they were exclusively a French Canadian thing? I guess maybe not. Anyway, it’s basically a big jelly roll cake, only chocolate and cream instead of…vanilla and jelly.

    Like

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  6. AnneCat

    So, I read your two “Girl Talk” recaps and loooved them — I think I only ever read the 3rd one, too! Can’t wait til you get to it! (I was surfing the web *trying* to remember what that series was, so you must’ve tagged it well!)

    Ohh, R.L. Stine. Your brain must be a weird, weird place.

    I was already enjoying this trip down memory lane immensely, but then THIS:

    “… and Dad can’t take care of her because he’s a ghost and every time he tries to hand her the bottle of Nyquil it just falls right through his noncorporeal hands. ”

    ….had me ROLLING with laughter!

    Also, yeah, I feel you on the stress of having been previously bullied and gaslit. I was mostly just excluded, so books like Sweet Valley Twins when Lila Fowler acted up, for example, always had me needing to put them down and control my RAEG TEARS.

    Like

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