Title: My Bloody Valentine
Author: Jo Gibson (Joanne Fluke)
Published: Feb. 1995
Description: Be mine . . . and die. It’s Valentine’s Day at Hamilton High. [Pretty sure it’s Valentine’s Day everywhere, but okay.] Everyone’s excited about this year’s big dance, especially the six girls competing to be Queen of Hearts.
One student at Hamilton High is paying extra close attention to the contest. Because it takes a very special girl to be queen . . . and if her heart isn’t pure and good, she doesn’t deserve to win.
In fact, she doesn’t deserve to live.
Poor Amy Hunter. Five girls down . . . one to go.
Well, guys, once again we have a book that I didn’t remember at all. Like, nothing sparked a memory, except when a certain character showed up I was like – it’s him! He’s the killer! And he was. (Saying “he” isn’t a spoiler – we get killer POV scenes that flat-out state the killer is male.) So, I would have been about 13 and a half when this book was released, chances are I bought it around that time. Probably only read it once since it’s pretty unremarkable and I obviously remembered nothing except who the killer was. This is the same author who wrote Slay Bells, which was one of the most fun recaps I’ve ever written, so I was hoping for something similarly over-the-top bonkers, and . . . I was pretty disappointed. This book was released a couple months after Slay Bells, and it’s like Gibson kept the template from that one to write this one (the similarities are ridiculous), but forgot how to make it fun. Which is sad for me, but hopefully not for y’all. My recap will probably make the book sound more fun than it is. Don’t be fooled though. This book is solidly “meh.”
Also, it has nothing to do with the slasher film of the same name. Just throwing that out there so there’s no confusion.
There are a lot of very interchangeable characters in this book; I can’t keep them all straight. Maybe we should do something I haven’t done in a while? Here goes:
Robot Roll Call:
Amy Hunter: Our intrepid heroine. President of the senior class. Long brown hair; not overweight but has to watch every calorie she takes in (ugh, really?); madly in love with Brett Stevens, the star basketball player; is almost unbelievably naive.
Colleen Daniels: Amy’s best friend since grade school. Can eat whatever the fuck she wants without “stretching out the seams of her size five jeans.” Well, goody for her.
Michele Porter: Cheerleader. Short black hair that makes her look like a pixie. I assume that means she has a pixie cut, but who the hell knows when it comes to these books, right?
Gail Baxter: Blonde. Harvard-bound but acts like a ditz to attract boys. You know, because smart girls intimidate guys and we can’t have that!
Jessica Ford: Redhead. Slightly overweight. Literally the only description we get of her until later on in the book.
Kevin Thomas: Student coach for the basketball team. Was on the team last year, but over the summer got into a car accident that killed his twin sister, Karen.
Brett Stevens: Star basketball player. Looks like a young Elvis Presley. Just moved to town two years ago. (Although somewhere later on someone says he moved to town last year. Yay, continuity!) Dating Tanya, although every girl would apparently sell her left tit to go out with him.
Neal Carpenter: Tall, skinny, total klutz off the basketball court, but graceful as a fucking gazelle on the court. Dating Jessica, although the book doesn’t mention this yet.
Danny . . . Daniels: Colleen’s older brother. Danny isn’t his real first name. Bad boy, dropped out of school to tour with his band; now is finishing his senior year and is two years older than the rest of his class.
Tanya Ellison: Rich girl, father owns a chain of movie theaters. Moved to town from California last year. Dating Brett. She’s the girl it’s okay to hate because she’s pretty and dating the guy the protagonist wants.
We open in the school lunchroom, with Amy feeling some sort of teenage ennui and Colleen trying to puzzle out why. Is it because Brett went out with Tanya again? Is it because Amy’s in love? Is it because she’s sick of winter? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Amy complains that they don’t even have a holiday until Easter, and since this is the first week of February and Amy apparently doesn’t own a calendar, Michele points out that Valentine’s Day is coming up. But Amy doesn’t give a fuck because that only counts if you have a boyfriend, which she doesn’t. I guess no one told Amy about Galentine’s Day.
Talk turns to the Valentine’s parties they used to have in the classrooms back in grade school, and the bright idea is hatched that they should throw a Valentine’s dance. Because there’s somehow a high school in America in the 1990s that didn’t already have a dance for Valentine’s Day? Unlikely. They decide it should be a Sadie Hawkins dance (if you don’t know, that’s a dance where the girls ask the boys) because, as Gail points out, that’s perfectly in sync with women’s rights, it’s about time Hamilton High entered the twentieth century, and the girls sit at home waiting by the phone for the boys to call when this is supposed to be the age of the woman! Hoo boy, I’ve got things to say here. First, the whole concept of a Sadie Hawkins dance . . . look, maybe it was progressive in the dark ages. Now, it just seems like you’re saying it’s so unnatural for a girl to ask a boy out that we need to make a special bizarro backwards day where it’s allowed. Which is kind of, you know, the opposite of feminism. Ladies, if you want to ask someone out, ask them out! You don’t need to wait until that one day of the year that the school administration tells you you’re allowed to ask someone out! Second, every time I see “Hamilton High” in the text, the score from Hamilton starts playing in my head. Not really a bad thing, but distracting as hell. (What’s your name, man? Alexander Hamilton . . . My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait . . .)
The girls decide to ask Mr. Dorman (whoever he is) for permission to use the school gym for the dance, planning to offer to give any profits they make to his library fund, and Amy states that this dance could become a tradition even bigger than the prom! Oh, Amy. Nothing’s bigger than prom. Again, I want to know how the hell this school didn’t already have an annual Valentine’s dance. (Maybe I’m thinking back too far, to middle school. I know my middle school had a Valentine’s dance, but my high school situation was very nontraditional, so I have no idea about high school dances.) Tanya overhears and horns in, telling them they’ll have to have a competition for the King and Queen of Hearts, then drags Brett in to discuss printing up cards (I guess his dad runs some sort of print shop?) to sell for votes. One card equals one vote, but a person can buy as many cards/votes as they want. So, the girl with the richest boyfriend automatically wins, right? That seems totally fair.
Hey, guys? Do you remember all the Killer Santa POV that Jo gave us in Slay Bells? Well, strap in for some killer POV in this one, too! Chapter One (everything up to now was prologue) begins with our bad guy thinking about how much trouble the King and Queen of Hearts contest is going to cause, that the King is sure to be Brett, but the Queen could be any of the girls whose boyfriend is willing to spend the money on her (see, even the valentine’s killer agrees with me!). This gets him thinking about how Karen Thomas could have been Queen because she was popular before she died – head cheerleader, student council president, editor of the school paper. But then the girls of Hamilton High exercised a concentrated effort to bring her down, because you know that girls always hate other girls. Rumors were started, with Tanya apparently being the ringleader, insinuating that Karen had been pregnant when she was out with the “flu” and massively slut-shaming her, saying maybe there was a reason she was so popular with the boys. Amy tried to stop the other girls from spreading rumors, so our killer is cool with her. He blames these other girls for Karen’s fatal car accident, sure that she was so distracted by the rumors that it caused her to drive off the road. I’m not sure that’s reasonable, but just like in Slay Bells, this killer is taking revenge for perceived slights because he’s craaaaaaazy, you see. Also, he’s taken to calling himself Cat, because that’s the secret nickname Karen gave him. He’s bummed that he never got the chance to tell her how much he loved her, and he decides that Karen would want him to make sure the Queen of Hearts is worthy of the title, so he’s going to test each contestant in the lead to make sure she’s not a raging cunt, I suppose. And if she fails, he’s going to kill her. I’m sure you didn’t need that part spelled out, but Cat is super dramatic about the whole thing, so I’d hate to gloss over it.
We meet back up with Amy getting ready for school, and I only include this detail because her outfit is described and I need to share this trainwreck with y’all. She is wearing: a bright yellow blouse with red, pink, and orange flowers with bright green leaves printed on it, along with dark brown slacks, a matching blazer, and brown loafers. This sounds less like a high school senior and more like Susan from next door going off to sell a three-bedroom split-level with a lovely in-ground pool out back.
Amy’s dad drives her to school after they stop for doughnuts (I refuse to spell it “donuts,” and this is a hill I’m willing to die on) because Mom is on yet another one of her health food diet kicks. This will become a hilarious plot point later on. (I’m lying. It’s not hilarious.) Amy meets up with Colleen at their lockers and mentions she wishes Tanya would sprain her ankle or something relatively harmless like that, so that she’ll be out of commission for the dance and Amy can ask Brett. Then they spot Tanya . . . on crutches! Was . . . was there an evil genie hanging around eavesdropping? Nope. Brett walks up and tells them that Tanya borrowed the crutches from the hospital because she’s playing the part of an accident victim for a drill in her first aid class. Whut? That’s a thing? I can’t imagine how this necessitates her using the crutches through the hallways, but . . . okay, I guess?
Brett hands Amy a card and walks away, and Amy gets all excited that he gave her a valentine until Colleen points out that it’s a sample of the cards his dad printed up for them to sell. Colleen tries to talk Amy into asking Brett to the dance, because Tanya always leaves things to the last minute and might not have asked him yet, and the worst he can do is say no. On the one hand, she’s got a point. On the other, Brett already has a girlfriend! Maybe don’t try to date a guy who has a girlfriend? Maybe focus on an available dude? I don’t understand why this is an okay thing for a character we’re supposed to like to do. If Tanya were trying to ask out Amy’s boyfriend, it would be framed that she’s a slutty little slut and we should hate her. Nice double standard, Jo.
During fifth period, Amy, Gail, and Colleen are allowed to use the faculty lounge to count votes for the King and Queen of Hearts competition. I’m not sure how there are already votes to count since they haven’t even started selling the cards yet, but this is clearly a “fuck continuity” moment that we have to overlook. Somehow. Oh dear, I’m not overlooking it, am I?
The girls clean off the table and sit down to count votes – the votes are green hearts for King, and red hearts for Queen, and we find out that thirty of the fifty-two votes for King are for Brett, and there are even more votes for Queen because clearly more boys bought cards than girls. The cards that can’t have started being sold yet because Brett literally just offered the design for approval mere hours ago. Just picture my face like this right now:
Tanya takes the lead for Queen, but someone gives Amy a vote, which shocks her. You know what shocks me? The fact that the boys are only allowed to vote for Queen, and the girls are only allowed to vote for King. Is this how voting for Prom King and Queen works? Anyway, Amy asks Colleen if she got her brother Danny to throw her a pity vote, and she swears she didn’t, meaning Amy has a secret admirer. I mean, by the strictest definition of those two words, I suppose she does.
Next up we get Cat studying the garishly decorated bulletin board with the vote totals on it, pissed off that Tanya is winning for Queen. You know, because she’s the literal devil and all. He talks to Amy a bit, and then reveals to the reader that he’s the one who voted for Amy. In case it wasn’t blindingly obvious or something. He thinks that he can’t let Tanya win, then remembers that Karen believed in giving people second chances, so he’ll test Tanya and “eliminate” her if she fails his test.
Amy and Colleen go to the basketball game that night and Amy spots Danny, who is sitting with a girl named Megan who flunked out of school and works at a truck stop called Tom-Tom’s, whose motto is “Tom-Tom’s – You can’t beat our food.” Ah, the casual racism of the 90s. But then Colleen mentions that Danny knows about the opposing team’s weak points because he’s dating their coach’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure that’s not Megan, so Danny gets around, I guess? Well, despite sitting with his arm around Megan, he winks at Amy, so . . . this dude annoys me. Then it’s revealed that Tanya, who is a cheerleader because of course she is, has the words “Beat Tigers” (the opposing team) stitched across the seat of her cheerleading pants, which everyone can see when she starts doing flips. I doubt you would be able to see words stitched across her ass from a whole auditorium away while she’s in motion, but this gives us the opportunity for some lovely fat shaming – Amy asks if she’ll have enough room next week to stitch “Beat Mountain Lions” across her butt, and Colleen informs her that Danny saw her at the Hungry Burger (nope, hate that name) pigging out on fries, bacon cheeseburgers, and a chocolate shake. Giving Amy the chance to point out that if she keeps eating like that, she’ll be able to stitch “Beat Mountain Lions”, the time and temperature, and the stock market report across her huge ass! Ah-ha-ha isn’t that funny? Girls who eat bacon cheeseburgers will get fat and deserve our ridicule, now laugh, dammit!
After the cheer routine but still during the game, Tanya comes over and sits on the bench in front of Amy and Colleen and shows them the three, count them, three cards she’s received from Cat. Boy doesn’t waste time. The first one reads: Roses are red/Violets are blue/A queen should be kind, faithful, and true. Tanya at first accuses Amy of sending it, because Amy writes poetry and her middle name is Katherine. Amy is way too chill about the accusation, like she doesn’t realize Tanya is accusing her of something bad. Sigh. The second card reads: Roses are red/Violets are blue/Pass my test and the queen could be you. Remember when Killer Santa just gift-wrapped the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? I never thought I’d miss those days.
Tanya hands the third card that she just received at halftime to Amy, telling her to read it to her. Okay there, Miss Diva. This one has at least some variation on the rhyme: Violets are blue/Roses are red/An unworthy queen is better off dead. Signed by Cat, who Tanya still thinks is Amy. Or at least some jealous girl who wishes she were pretty enough to date Brett. I don’t often say this, but ME-OW. Something tells me Tanya isn’t going to meet that “kind, faithful, and true” bar, huh?
In line for concessions, Danny buys Amy a Diet Coke, then teases her about drinking diet soda because she “doesn’t need it” and “looks perfect to him.” Ugh, fuck off. Maybe she’s diabetic; you don’t fucking know. Maybe she prefers the taste of diet, although that’s something I can’t quite wrap my brain around, but I assume at least a few people in the world like it. Amy mentions that thing about the coach’s daughter telling Danny that the Tigers always fall apart in the second half, and he says he guesses she just told him what he wanted to hear, because that’s what women do, right? (Look guys, if Danny turns out not to be the killer and is instead just a toxic red herring, I’m gonna need one of y’all to send me a flamethrower, ‘kay?) Instead of telling Danny to go fuck himself, Amy tells him that she’s not like that (oh you sweet baby angel and your internalized misogyny, sigh), so Danny challenges her to tell him what she thinks of his date. Amy hedges at first, then says that Danny is too smart for whatshername, and deserves someone brighter because he’d be bored with her in a month. Well. Okay. Then Danny asks if Amy’s coming on to him, and she says she doesn’t think so, she thinks she just likes him, a little bit because he’s her friend’s brother, but mostly just because he’s himself. Two thoughts here – first, whyyyyy? Second, the way Amy is written as being so guileless and almost completely unfamiliar with telling social lies makes me wonder if she’s on the autism spectrum. I don’t really think she’s supposed to be; I think Jo Gibson just really likes writing female protagonists who are unrealistically naive and almost babyish around boys. It’s a really annoying quirk. (Also, like in Slay Bells, we have commas in weird places and lots of exclamation points. Send help.)
Amy sits back down with Colleen to finish watching the exciting basketball game, and Superstar Brett scores the winning three-pointer as the buzzer buzzes. So excitement. Much wow. Everyone is going to the Hungry Burger (nope, still hate it) to celebrate, and Colleen points out that Tanya always takes forever changing so Amy will have the chance to steal her boyfriend before she gets there! I mean, ask him to the dance. Why do these girls think it’s a good idea to ask another girl’s boyfriend out?
Meanwhile, we switch to poor Tanya’s POV, where her inner monologue is supposed to convince us of what a little bitch she is. She’s having to scrape ice off the windshield of her Miata (well, hello there 1995!), and she’s using the ice scraper Jessica gave her from the hardware store her family owns, leading Tanya to think about how she doesn’t want to end up how Jessica is going to end up – taking over the family business and being stuck in this hick town for the rest of her life. Then Tanya wishes they had never left California, moans over her car’s heater not working, puts a jazz tape in the cassette deck (1995! 1995 all over the place!) because no one in town is sophisticated enough to listen to jazz, then scoffs over Brett liking Country Western (no. It’s just country. Ah, well, at least she didn’t say Country and Western.), which she hates but pretends to like when he’s around. Um, why? Girls, you don’t have to pretend to like something just because a boy does. How long do you think you can keep fooling him? Right up until the band plays “Friends in Low Places” at your funeral?
Tanya drives carefully on the icy roads, then sees a stalled car with the hood up. She recognizes the car, but decides not to stop to help because then she won’t have time to fix her hair before meeting Brett at the Hungry Burger. Apparently Brett was the one who told her that it’s an unwritten law for motorists in the winter to stop and offer assistance to drivers in distress, and . . . duh? Did Tanya really have to be told how to act like a human being? Of course, I have to argue that a woman alone at night wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable or safe stopping to help someone. This is exactly the sort of shit that Ted Bundy pulled to lure in his victims, so I don’t think this is really a fair test. (Because in case you hadn’t guessed yet, this is Cat’s “test” for Tanya.) Then again, she recognizes the car, so she’s actually failing to help a friend/acquaintance. I suppose we have to make that distinction. I just wanted to make the point that sometimes being a “bitch” can save your life. Onward!
Tanya gets home, takes a shower, “borrows” a fur coat from her mother’s closet because queens are supposed to wear furs, then finds a present in front of her condo door. She thinks Brett must have left it for her, and opens it to find that it’s a necklace – one of those half-hearts that couples can put together to form one heart. Now, I’d like to point out that the necklace on the cover of the book is a heart-shaped locket, not the necklace described in the book. It’s a small thing, but it bugs the shit out of me, especially considering what a big deal these stupid necklaces become in this book.
Tanya becomes impatient waiting for the elevator and decides to take the stairs even though she’s on the fourth floor and wearing heels. The stairwell is dark, but Tanya proceeds anyway because she doesn’t know what kind of book she’s in. Which I suppose is understandable. The other night I was in the church I clean twice a week, and the basement lights wouldn’t come on. I had to walk down the dark hallway, turning on lights in the classrooms until I got to the other light switch at the end of the hall, where it turned out someone had somehow balanced that switch exactly between on and off, meaning the first switch I tried wouldn’t work. Anyway, point is, if I had been in a horror movie, a monster would have eaten me. (For those of you who follow me on Twitter, this is the same church basement where random red balloons were on the floor. It practically screams “Pennywise was here.”)
Anyway, Tanya starts hearing breathing behind her as she’s making her way down the stairs, then whips around and recognizes . . . someone . . . behind her. He’s wearing the mate to her half-heart necklace, and she’s very confused until he reaches out and pushes her down the stairs, her neck snapping in the fall. Okay, but this is a little unfair. At least tell a girl why you’re murdering her, GOSH!
Fast forward to the next Monday, when our girl group is sitting around the school lunchroom making plans to attend Tanya’s funeral. They all decide to go together except Gail, who reluctantly reveals that she’s going with Brett. But it’s totally not a date, y’all. Except it kind of . . . is. Oh, Gail. Then she points out that so what if it’s a date, because even though Tanya and Brett were going steady (this is a phrase I feel like my mom’s generation was the last to actually use unironically), she was cheating on him. Ooh, juicy gossip about the dead girl? I one hundred percent understand why Cat wants these chicks dead. Anyway, it’s bullshit based on the half-heart necklace she was wearing when she died, that Brett definitely didn’t give her. Ergo, some other guy did, ergo she was totally banging him. I guess that totally makes it okay for the cuck boyfriend to bring a date to the funeral, then.
The girls decide to keep an eye out for the guy wearing the other half of Tanya’s necklace at the funeral, mainly because Brett wants to punch him out, whoever he is. Uh-huh, good luck with that, guys. Gail comments that a fistfight would make an otherwise dull event interesting, and Amy is shocked. Shocked, I tell you. She’s practically got the vapors, she does. Then we’re told that the Valentine King and Queen contest is continuing because Tanya’s dad insisted Tanya would have wanted another girl to get a shot at Queen. Gail disagrees, pointing out what a stuck-up snob Tanya was, and how her nose was so far in the air that if it rained, she would have drowned. Again, Amy is absolutely scandalized. Apparently this isn’t how Gail usually behaves, but we wouldn’t know since we haven’t gotten to know her much at all before now. We’re solely relying on being told instead of shown here. I guess that’s what happens when you arbitrarily have a million characters in your book.
Gail bails from counting the votes at fifth period, so Kevin joins Amy and Colleen instead, because . . . reasons? Brett gets the majority vote for King, and because she’s now dating Brett and he’s spending money to vote for her, Gail gets the majority vote for Queen. Amy gets another vote, and asks Colleen if she recognizes the writing, but alas, it’s printed. I imagine in block letters, like the way the threatening valentines in R.L. Stine’s Broken Hearts should have been. Cat is already smarter than that killer. Kevin wants to know why Amy cares who voted for her, and she replies because she’d like to have a date to the dance (you know, the one that was all her idea) and if she knew who liked her enough to vote for her, she’d ask him. Hahahahahahaha, oh Amy. No.
The day of Tanya’s funeral, we’re told that Mr. Dorman excused the entire senior class at lunchtime so they could attend. So, is Mr. Dorman the principal? That wasn’t the impression I got for some reason. Jo Gibson leaves out detail where she needs it and piles on detail about pointless bullshit. Because who authority figures are doesn’t matter, but the world will end if we don’t know that Amy decided to wear her mom’s trench coat instead of her own pink parka. See, the trench coat isn’t as warm as her parka, but she doesn’t think a pink flowered parka is appropriate for such a somber occasion. It’s super important that we know that.
Amy’s meeting up with the other girls at the Porter Fine Furniture Store, which I assume is Michele’s family’s store, since her last name is Porter and there are no coincidences in these books. By the way, I didn’t remember that her last name is Porter, since it’s only mentioned in the first few pages. I had to go back and look that shit up. But I guess we’re expected to remember that sort of thing. Or, like I did, think it’s really weird that they’re meeting at a furniture store to head out to their frenemy’s funeral, then think, hey wasn’t one of those girls’ names Porter? Anyway, Colleen gets to Amy before she gets there and tells her that Danny is going to drive them, even though he hates funerals and vowed never to go to another one until his own. He agreed to drive them because Colleen promised him that she and Amy would do his laundry and iron his shirts for the next four weeks. I’m not sure I’ve ever known a 19-year-old boy who cared about having his shirts ironed.
At the funeral, Amy refuses a handkerchief from Danny because she isn’t crying, then is shocked to discover that she is crying. This girl is wearing on my nerves. I haven’t read/watched 50 Shades of Grey, but Amy’s reminding me of the way Ana Steele has been described to me. Should I start an “oh my” and “jeez” counter for Amy? The wide-eyed virgin innocence and surprise at everything is probably going to kill me by the end of this recap.
I guess Amy’s never been to a funeral before, because she has no idea what’s happening when the pallbearers start to carry the casket out. Ugh, was Amy literally born yesterday? Is it even possible to know so little about the world? Then Danny (who’s been holding her hand, just as “friends” Amy thinks) correctly guesses that Amy’s freaked out by the coffin because she wants to lift the lid so Tanya can breathe. He guesses this is how Amy feels because it’s how he felt at the last funeral he went to. Uh. Whut. I’ve been to many funerals in the last several years, and I have never been struck by the urge to open the casket lid so the corpse could breathe. But here this book is, acting like that’s a normal thing and shit. What. The. Fuck. I don’t understand anything that’s happening right now.
They watch the attendees leave the funeral, but none of them are wearing the mate to Tanya’s necklace. Well, no shit. The group comments that there couldn’t have been a fight anyway, because Gail was hanging on too tight to Brett for him to punch anyone. Ha. Ha ha ha. Amy wants to tell the others not to gossip, but Danny beats her to it, which is about the hundredth time so far that he’s “read her mind.” I tell you what, if Danny really was a mind-reader, this book would be a hell of a lot more interesting. Then again, Amy verbalizes every thought she has anyway, so mind reading would be pretty damn pointless.
Wednesday afternoon, Amy, Colleen, and Kevin count up the votes again, now Gail is in the lead with Jessica (remember her?) in a distant second. Isn’t it funny how all the girls in the running are part of our main group? Almost like how everyone who ever wronged Killer Santa in Slay Bells ended up snowed in with him! Like, what are the odds? Hey, speaking of weather, an announcement is made that due to hazardous road conditions the basketball game with the Mountain Lions has been cancelled. This book would be better if the game had been with actual mountain lions, but Jo Gibson hates me.
Danny pops up to ask Amy how the horse race is going, and she laughs and tells him that it’s not a horse race, silly! I have no idea if she thought he was going to the track to bet on the ponies; thought he was comparing the girls to literal horses; or understood that “horse race” means a close competition but missed the sarcasm, because the next paragraph has the two of them pointing out to each other how far ahead Gail is. Amy asks Danny if he’s been throwing any votes her way, finds out he hasn’t, tells him she wants to find out who is so that she can ask them to the dance (nope, Amy, nope), then Danny tells her she can ask him if she doesn’t find the other guy (or if she finds him and he’s short/pimply/has sweaty palms). Amy treats it like a joke since she knows Danny hates school dances since he’s so much older and more mature, but he walks away before she can ask if he’s joking, which leaves her wondering – was he joking? Ugh, teen drama.
Cat rummages around in his locker, which is a mess except for the little area where he keeps a shrine to Karen, including the other half of one of the half-heart necklaces. He claims it symbolizes the way Tanya broke Karen’s heart. Um, anyone want to tell him that’s not what those necklaces mean? Anyone? No? Okay. He doesn’t recall Karen mentioning Gail as one of the specific girls who gossiped maliciously about her, so he asks her photo if he should test Gail. He asks for a sign, and a door in the hallway slams shut with no one around who could have possibly slammed it! It was obviously a sign from Karen! Or, you know, someone going into a classroom. One or the other. Either way, time to see if Gail deserves to live or not!
Amy and Colleen make it to the Hungry Burger (okay, seriously. Is the burger itself hungry? How does that work? Do you mean the place makes you hungry for a burger? I hate everything about the name of this place.) because that’s where all the senior class drives to when the road conditions are too hazardous to hold a basketball game at the school. I’m sure this makes sense somehow. The usual group of girls is there, plus Kevin, and Gail and Brett are all cozy in the corner of the big booth, prompting Colleen to tell Amy not to let on that they bother her, because then she wins and they lose. Instead of recognizing that this is a pretty common fucking sentiment, Amy just looks puzzled and asks where Colleen came up with that, and Colleen acts like it originated with her mother. She tells Amy that her mother comes up with crazy sayings, and Amy’s mom comes up with crazy diets, and what this conversation spawns makes me facepalm so hard I’m in danger of pushing my brain out the back of my head. See, Danny overhears this and asks why Amy doesn’t just print up a sheet of all her and her dad’s favorite foods and trick Mom into thinking it’s a new fad diet by making up some institute name and mailing the diet sheet to her. Amy thinks it’s a great idea, and now I’m the one who’s puzzled. Do envelopes containing diet menus regularly show up in your mailbox unsolicited? Was that a thing? Because it literally sounds like the plan is just to type out a school-lunch menu and mail it to her house, and her mom is supposed to believe it’s a legit new diet she should try out. I don’t understand this book.
When they slide into the booth, they discover that Gail has already received two scary valentines from Cat. Damn, boy really does work fast! . . . wait. It was just that afternoon when the slammed door told Cat to test Gail, but she claims here that she got the first card that morning. Aren’t the cards precursors to the “test”? If he didn’t know yet that he was going to test Gail, why bother sending the card? My head hurts. Anyway, the first card reads: Roses are red, lilies are white, a queen should always do everything right. Danny is surprised that Gail is upset about that, because getting weird valentines after the last girl who got weird valentines died is totally nothing to be concerned about! The second card reads: Roses are red, violets are blue, pass my test and the queen could be you. Amy points out that that’s the exact same as the card Tanya got, and this time it’s Colleen who shrugs it off, because the third card Tanya got was the scary one and Gail doesn’t have one like that yet. Are all these characters conspiring to give me an aneurysm? Because that seems to be our inevitable ending point here.
Cue the expected “Tanya’s death was an accident” “But what if it wasn’t” argument for a couple pages, then Amy compares the printing from the votes she received (that she for some reason is carrying around in her purse – cue jokes from Danny about how heavy her purse is and how bad the boys thought they had it having to carry their wallets and keys, and yeah, it’s so hilarious how the women’s fashion industry has conspired to not give us functional pockets, therefore forcing us to buy an extra fucking bag to carry our shit around in, ah-ha-ha so funny!) to the printing on the scary valentines, and big shock, it’s a match. Actually I am shocked, because I can’t fathom how you’re supposed to match up block printing when the whole point of using it is so your writing won’t be recognizable, but okay, book. Okay. I suppose there are variations in block printing that a bunch of teenagers can identify with the naked eye. Anyway, Amy is bummed that her secret admirer is a terrible poet. Or a killer. It’s sort of up in the air at this point.
Brett thinks he could actually identify the terrible poet if he had a sample of his block printing, and Danny tells the group he can get it for them, never mind how. So, we know one of the guys at the table has got to be Cat, right? That means it’s either Danny, Brett, Neal, or Kevin. Maybe don’t go broadcasting your plans for catching the killer to the killer.
Sure enough, we get a POV scene from Cat, thinking about how he’s going to have to change his printing style so no one knows it’s him. This shit is so unnecessary. This book might be better, more suspenseful and actually a mystery, if Jo had left out all the Cat POV scenes. He monologues at the end anyway, so what’s the fucking point of all this bullshit?! To let us know that he genuinely likes Amy because she’s too fucking sunshine and light to ever gossip? To let us know that he’s planning on testing Gail tomorrow during school to see if she deserves to live? Well, yes I suppose. All that. We need to know all of that. There’s literally no other way to convey that information through showing it happening. We must talk about it incessantly beforehand instead.
Oh, hey? Danny’s brilliant plan? He has an in with a DJ at a local radio station and set up a drawing for radio station loot. He brought in sign-up sheets with instructions for people to print their names and addresses. Because first of all, I’m sure literally everyone in school is going to sign up to win some shit from a radio station, and second, regular printing looks a hell of a lot different from block printing, but I don’t have the energy to argue anymore. You win, book. You win. (Thirdly, I’ve worked enough retail to know that a large percentage of people don’t read instructions, so at least half of those entries are going to be in cursive, I just know it.)
Everyone in the core group signs up in front of each other, and quickly determine that none of them are Cat, because the idea that someone who was sitting literal inches away from them while they hatched this plan might figure out they should change their handwriting style hasn’t occurred to any of them. How has natural selection not picked any of these kids off while they were merrily playing in traffic and sticking forks into electrical sockets?
Gail out of nowhere starts accusing Amy of sending the valentines and voting for herself (even though only boys can vote for girls! this is taking heteronormativity to a whole new level, guys), because it would be easy enough for her to slip in some votes while she’s counting them, and she’s so fucking jealous that Tanya and now Gail are so fucking popular and dating Brett. Gee, what happened to the Harvard-bound chick pretending to be a ditz, who secretly lectured us on Hegel? Now she’s just a one-dimensional bitch, trying to claw her way to the throne. That’s some stellar writing right there, man.
Everyone else stands up for Saint Amy, because she’s so good and honest and pure, and then Brett practically drags Gail outside so that she doesn’t lose any more of her friends. Brett doesn’t seem happy with her attitude at all. I wonder if Cat still needs to test her after that little display, or if he’s just all, “String her up!” now.
Gail POV now for the rest of her school day. Brett lectures her about how friendship is magic or somedamnthing; she bails out of studying with Jessica and Neal, then refuses to share her history notes with Kevin; doesn’t help her unnamed chemistry partner or the girl at the next table; then fucks up her part of an oral English report, which screws her partners out of a good grade. So, if there was a test from Cat in there somewhere, it means he’s either Neal, Kevin, or some random guy in chemistry class. Because if we’ve learned anything from Slay Bells, it’s that the killer can’t be a guy our protagonist or her bestie likes, and it can’t be bestie’s brother. This is basically the same book, y’all. Just sub in hearts and valentines for Christmas trees and packages. And a horribly-wronged dead girl in place of horribly-wronged grandparents. None of the girls in this book committed the unforgivable sin of underpricing Karen’s pies at a bake sale, though.
After school, Gail finds Brett and lays some bullshit on him about how sorry she is for the way she acted, and tells him all about her dead mom who was Homecoming Queen, and dad was Homecoming King, and he proposed that night and oh gosh he’s been so depressed since mom died and that’s why it’s so important to Gail to be Queen at this dance that was literally just made up a week ago. I’m sure you won’t be anywhere near as shocked as Amy would be to discover that Gail is lying out her ass. Brett seems to buy it, although he says he didn’t know they had Homecoming Queens back when her mother was in school. Uhhhhhh . . . according to Wikipedia, the first Homecoming dances were held in the 19th century.
Gail gives Brett way too much info about her fake dead mom and how much dad misses her, leading him to insist on involving dad in the coronation, and Gail thinking fast and convincing him not to. Then she realizes that now she’s going to have to be nice to everyone until she’s crowned, because nothing has ever meant more to her than being Valentine’s Day Queen! Despite it being a thing that her friend made up a week (two weeks?) ago. Fucking hell.
Brett looks up the info Gail gave him and finds out she lied, which makes him furious! He thinks that Cat said it best – that a queen should be kind, faithful, and true, and Gail was none of those things, grrr! So, I guess we’re supposed to suspect Brett here or something? *shrug*
Cat is about to drop the third valentine in Gail’s locker when it occurs to him that Gail may have apologized to Jessica and Michele at cheerleading practice and one or both of them might come to her locker with her and be there when she discovers the card, which would ruin everything, obviously. How? Because then she would never set out to drive to the Hungry Burger ( . . . ) alone. Even though she’s solidly in the “This isn’t real; Amy/Jessica is doing it because she’s jealous” camp. Cat asks Karen where he should put the card, and this time she answers him with a gust of wind. Is the implication here ghost farts? I’m going with it. Dead Karen is communicating through ghost farts. Fight me.
Gail actually does go to her locker by herself, thus proving ghost farts an unreliable means of communication. As she leaves the school and heads for her car, she notices a set of footprints in the snow and reflects that it couldn’t be Jessica and Michele because there’s only one set of prints. (I mean, that might have been when Jesus was carrying them . . .) Then she has the oh-so-hilarious thought that they were so clumsy in cheerleading practice that if it had been one of them, the prints would have two left feet! Ah-hahaha FUNNY JOKE!
Gail finds her car unlocked, which is weird because she totally locked it when she got to school. She considers not getting in, but it’s cold out so she looks inside to see if there’s anything missing. Personally I would be checking for a serial killer in the backseat, but I can see now that theft is obviously the more pressing concern here. Nothing’s out of the ordinary, so Gail gets in. While waiting for the car to warm up, she thinks about how she’s going to steal some money from her dad’s stash, because he’ll probably just think he spent it at the bar if he notices it missing. Then she notices the gift wrapped package in the passenger seat. So, she checked for anything missing, but didn’t notice something added? Sure, seems legit. She thinks it must be from Brett, but still plans to dump him after the dance because she needs someone older and with more money.
Of course it’s not from Brett. It’s another half-heart necklace and the third valentine card from Cat. This is the “an unworthy queen is better off dead” one. I mean, points for consistency, I guess? But points taken away for unoriginality, Cat. Come up with new threats. Try this: Roses are red/Green is for snakes/Guess what Gail?/I just cut your brakes! Gail tears up the valentine and throws it out the window, proving she’s a litterbug as well as a generally horrible person. She tears out of the parking lot, heading for the police station. On the way, a Cat Stevens song comes on the radio, and she remembers that Brett’s last name is Stevens! Oh noes! Is he Cat? She thinks about some conversation they had where he was all like “Man, I really hate liars, grrr!” and wonders if he found out she lied about her mom. She wonders if he’s craaaaaaazy enough to kill her for lying. So far, the car is braking okay, but then she gets to the hill with Deadman’s Curve at the bottom of it (because every town, everywhere, has one of those) and her brakes stop working! She’s doing 80 coming to the bottom of the hill and still accelerating. Gail may be a terrible person, but she’s no dummy, so she quickly slips the necklace over her head so the cops will maybe figure shit out. Then her car goes crashing through the guardrail and into “eternal darkness.” All right then.
The next day (I guess?) Amy and Danny are sitting at a booth at the Hungry Burger (why do you hate me, Jo Gibson?) waiting for Colleen and talking about Gail’s death, how the sheriff thinks the cards were pranks and the two girls’ deaths are accidents. Danny mentions cancelling the dance and Amy says Jessica won’t go for it since she’s in the lead for Queen now. Then Amy complains that she doesn’t even have a date since the one person she would have asked turned out to be Cat, and Danny again tells her to ask him. Amy doesn’t want his charity, but he literally tells her it’s not charity because he would never saddle himself with a loser for the night. Ugh. So she asks him, and he says she has to do something for him – wear something sexy for the dance, with a low neckline, because she has a great figure and he wants her to show it off. Unfortunately, Danny doesn’t die in this book. She says she doesn’t have anything like that, and he offers to buy her something next time he goes to the mall, then correctly guesses her dress size as an eleven, nine if it has a full skirt, and hold up. At first I was prepared to be like, yay, a normal-sized protagonist who’s not made out to be a fatty fat because she’s not a size three! But stay with me for a second. Dress sizes tend to run bigger than, say, jeans, so if Amy’s a size eleven dress, she’s probably a size 13 pants. Now, that’s not fat necessarily, but it’s larger than your average 90s teen thriller protagonist. Now, think back to the beginning of this book, where it’s stated that Amy’s “not a bit overweight” while Colleen can eat whatever without stretching her size five jeans. If size five is our ideal, then a size 11 or 13 would absolutely be considered overweight in this universe. Also, if Amy, who is a size 11 or 13 is not at all overweight, how big is Jessica, who is described as “slightly overweight”? From Amy’s size, it seems like she should be described as slightly overweight. And then there was the bit with them fat-shaming Tanya for eating a bacon cheeseburger and talking about how fat her ass was going to get. I’m not trying to fat-shame here (I have at one point or another worn every size mentioned in this book), but I am very confused about the message regarding weight. It’s very muddled.
Anyway. Amy agrees to wear whatever gross thing Danny picks out for her, then realizes that her parents probably won’t let her accept a dress from him, because I guess Amy doesn’t have the ability to lie to her parents. But it’s cool – they decide she can tell them it’s an early birthday present from both him and Colleen. Sure. Colleen shows up and tells them that Jessica and Michele want her to join them on the cheerleading squad at the game that night, because the cheers don’t look right with only two girls. What? Okay, Tanya and Gail were both cheerleaders, so that was four before they died. Are you telling me this cheerleading squad only had four people on it? I . . . this book has defeated me, guys. My brain is now pudding.
Danny tells Amy he’ll drop Colleen off at the game and then come pick her up, and Amy’s so annoyingly naive that she doesn’t realize it’s a date until Colleen tells her it is. Colleen teases Amy about how innocent she is, then warns her about Danny because of how innocent she is, then reveals that the only girl Danny was ever halfway serious about was Karen Thomas! Dun-dun-DUN! Turns out they were dating when she died. Red herrings! Red herrings everywhere! All I see is red!
They go to the game, their team wins, Michele invites everyone to a party at the store we’ve never been told her parents own, Danny and Amy get in his car and have some stupid conversation that I can’t be bothered to recap except the part where he tells her about how hard it was living on his own because he didn’t know about taxes coming out of his paycheck and apparently Amy was unaware of it, too. Seriously y’all, I think this is a book about aliens learning Earth culture. He also wasn’t aware of what sweetbreads were when he cooked them, and Amy asks what they are and then thinks he’s joking when he tells her it’s the pancreas and thymus glands from a calf. Guys, no one tell them about mountain oysters or haggis, okay?
They start a slow lean in to kiss, but then a car honks behind them, interrupting. Danny asks if she wants to continue this later or forget it ever happened, and Amy thinks that Shakespeare had it wrong – the question isn’t to be or not to be; it’s to kiss or not to kiss. I’m sure Shakespeare is rolling in his grave as we speak. Of course Amy tells him she’d like to continue later, please. At least she’s polite.
At the party we find out that Jessica has received a valentine from Cat. I guess he took my advice (or maybe Karen ghost-farted him a new verse?) because this poem is different: Roses are red and crowns are gold, a Valentine queen has values to uphold. That second part seems about one syllable too long, right? I’m sure Shakespeare is wholly unimpressed with all of this.
Amy suggests cancelling the contest, and Jessica argues, claiming she thinks Cat is just pranking them and the deaths were coincidences. If she gets a heart necklace, she’ll just throw it away, and she has Neal (remember him?) to protect her. Kevin asks what about when Neal is at basketball practice, and she says he can drop her off at the family’s hardware store/home, where dad or mom can protect her. Problem solved!
Danny and Amy continue their “conversation.” No, I’m kidding – they kiss, after some sappy back and forth about how Danny doesn’t want to take advantage of her, but she wants him to, then they kiss and she thanks him. Like I said, she’s polite. Also, she totally came during that kiss. Danny is a little too hot for her innocence, despite him holding himself back so he doesn’t take advantage of her. It’s pretty gross. He’s totally acting like a cherry hound, and I’m not okay with this. Also, it goes on for pages and pages. Like, they kissed, it was her first, the fact that it was her first turned him on, he’s creeping me out, I get it, move on.
Oh, now we have Jessica POV. So, that totally means she’s about to die, right? It’s Monday morning, and she’s relieved she gets to go to school and not have to be babysat like she was all weekend. The night before, she wrote a bunch of letters, including one to the college boy she’s kinda sorta maybe cheating on Neal with. Well, there goes “kind, faithful, and true” right out the window. When she went to put them in the mailbox for the postal carrier, she found a card from Cat. He really seems to be listening to my advice to change up his poetry, because this one says: Roses are red, their leaves are green. You’ll pass my test if you want to be queen. Eh, not bad I suppose. Jessica tore it up into tiny pieces and threw it away while yelling about what a creep Cat is. I mean, he’s probably not listening to you in your bedroom, but I bet your parents wonder what the hell you’re doing.
Now, Monday morning, Jessica gets ready for school and we’re told how much she likes fashion from the 1950s – seriously, she owns a poodle skirt. She thinks the 50s fashions look good on her because they were made for bigger girls – girls in the 50s weren’t all skin and bones like girls in the 90s. Skin and bones like your friend Amy, who is at least three or four sizes larger than what was established as the ideal? I’m still so confused about this book’s combination of fat-shaming and body positivity.
Jessica gets roped into looking after the hardware store so her dad can come up and have breakfast, and that means this store is open at what, seven am? That’s way too early for hardware. She spends some time staring out the window and thinking about how she doesn’t want to be stuck in this town, even though she had always planned to take over the store, now that the Valentine’s Day Queen contest (I guess we’ve dispensed with calling it the Queen of Hearts contest?) came along, everything was different! Now she really has the chance to be somebody and get out of this hick town if she wins! Jesus Christ, calm down. Why is everyone acting like this thing made up by a student a couple weeks ago is the fucking Miss America pageant? Anyway, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s bored by Neal and thinks that Kevin and some friend of his she spots out the window are losers who are going to be stuck in this town forever.
I guess it’s not time for Jessica to die yet, mea culpa. Now we’re at school looking at the world from Cat’s POV. He’s talking to Amy and surprised to learn that as far as she knows Jessica has only received one threatening card. He suggests that she lied so that Amy wouldn’t cancel the contest, and Amy’s eyes nearly bug out of her head in shock that anyone would ever lie about anything ever. Cat asks her why she thinks Cat’s doing all this, and Amy cottons on to the fact that every girl in the lead turned into a total see-you-next-Tuesday as soon as they were winning. He asks Amy if she thinks that’s happening with Jessica, and Amy doesn’t think so, at least not yet. Oh, if only Amy were privy to Jessica’s inner monologue. I’m sure her innocent little head would explode.
Speaking of Jessica’s inner monologue, she’s in a terrible mood because she has to go home straight after school to mind the store. Michele keeps bugging her about coming with her to keep her company, but Jessica is tired of being babysat and tells Michele she’s sick of her and doesn’t want her around. Harsh. Michele starts crying but is determined to look after her friend, so Jessica leans into her inner Mean Girl and tells Michele she doesn’t even want to be her friend any more, and the only reason she got any votes in the contest is because the boys feel sorry for her. Michele runs away crying at that, and Jessica is relieved that they’re no longer friends, because it saves her from having to tell Michele to get lost when she leaves town later on. This seems ridiculously manufactured, because you don’t dramatically break up with all your friends when you move away, but whatever Jessica. Then she walks away with her head held high, nodding to the lowly peasants along the way, because she’s a regal as fuck Valentine’s Day Queen of Hearts, bitches! Little does she know that Cat saw the whole thing and now doesn’t need to test her because she just failed a test of her own making. Ooh, burn!
At the store, Jessica is all alone because apparently buying hardware at 3pm isn’t a huge priority in town. While there, she gets jump scared by her cat, because of course she does, thinks snide thoughts about pretty much everyone she knows, including Brett’s mom, who doesn’t know that buying a pie for dessert is considered the absolute height of laziness by the other town women. Then she thinks that even though their town has over five thousand people in it, it’s still a small town at heart. Uh. Jess, honey, I hate to burst your bubble, but a population of five thousand is pretty much the textbook definition of “small town.” You need over twenty thousand before you’re a large town, and a hundred thousand before you’re a city. Sorry, girl. Then she thinks that she should date Brett because he’s going places.
She checks the mail and finds the third card from Cat, this one sticking to the “an unworthy queen is better off dead” rhyme, and shoves it back into the mailbox because maybe she won’t die if she pretends she didn’t see it? That’s solid logic, right? It’s getting dark now, and she heads to the back of the store to turn the daytime lights off and the nighttime lights on, and for some reason those two sets of light switches are at opposite sides of the store. Sigh. Once the daytime lights are off (if she turns the nighttime lights on while the day ones are still on, it overloads the breakers), it’s super dark in the store and she can’t see what she’s doing. Someone comes in and offers to help her, and of course it’s Cat. She recognizes the voice but doesn’t inform us of who it is. She’s at the light switch when he comes up, forces the half-heart necklace around her neck, and slams something sharp into her head. Bye, Jess.
At school, we find out Neal was the one who found Jessica’s body, and the official story is that she tripped while reaching for the light switch and slammed her head into the sharp edge of a shovel. Uh-huh. Amy decides she’s going to ask Mr. Dorman to cancel the contest, and Michele’s all like, hold up a second there, bish. Because now she’s in the lead for Queen and she wants to see shit through. To convince them, she tells the group that she went to see a medium, Madame Zane, who told her the reason the other girls died was because they let Cat’s valentines get them all uptight, which made them careless. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of thing. But she won’t let it stress her out, so everything will be fine! Also, Dead Jessica really wants the contest to continue so that Michele will get to be Queen. The others laugh at the whole psychic thing, but Amy decides to let the contest continue. I would think after the top three girls died, the school administration would be looking into cancelling things themselves, but this is Teen Thriller Land, where the adults pay zero attention to mysterious deaths and murderous stalkers, so of course I’m asking too much that they notice a correlation between dead girls and a Valentine Queen contest.
At eight o’clock that night, a delivery man from the mall shows up at Amy’s house with the dress Danny bought her. Um, what? Since when does the mall deliver to your house? When Jessica checked her mail before dying, there was a notice from the mall that the shoes she ordered had come in and she could go pick them up, but Danny gets the mall to fucking deliver to her house – twenty miles away from the mall? Nope. I don’t understand. He went to the mall, picked out a dress, then instead of paying and taking it with him, he said, “You know what? Make someone else drive twenty miles to drop it off at the chick’s house; I can’t be bothered.” Could just one thing in this disaster of a book at least try to make sense?
Anyway, the dress is a lovely blue thing with long sleeves, not at all the sexy thing Danny promised, which disappoints Amy. Then Danny calls and asks how she likes the blue dress, and I want to know how the living fuck he knew she’d just received it and tried it on. Does he have a hidden camera in her bedroom? Is he actually psychic? She tells him it’s great but what happened to the sexy one they’d talked about, and he tells her to look in the box again. Then I guess hangs up or something, because she’s not on the phone with him when she finds the second dress in the box. This one is a slinky little black cocktail dress, and Danny has enclosed a note that basically says to wear the blue one for the dance, and never wear the black one unless she wants him to forget his promise not to take advantage of her. There’s a lot of blushing and eye-widening going on on Amy’s part, and I’m not joking – I think this shit was the inspiration for 50 Shades of Grey, not Twilight.
Now we get a Michele POV, and she’s just as terrible as the other girls, what a surprise. She’s laughing to herself about making up Madame Zane and congratulating herself about manipulating Amy into keeping the contest going. She’s only a little worried about Cat, but she thinks she can survive because the other girls were too stupid to heed his warnings, and all she has to do is pretend to be nice for the next five days and then she’ll be queen! Her first act of pretending to be nice? She’s going to treat her friends to a plate of fries at the Hungry Burger (nope) with the five bucks she stole from her mom! Isn’t that nice?
Cat is in his car, talking to Karen in the passenger seat, even though he’s the only one who can see her, and oh dear. I can make all the jokes about ghost farts I want to, but the book is actually trying to paint Cat as craaaaaazy. I would guess schizophrenic at this point, but if you want a sensitive, realistic portrayal of it, you’ve come to the wrong place, friend. All Jo thinks you need to know is, he’s some amalgamation of cray-cray, and that (and that alone) means he will murder you all!
He knows that Madame Zane isn’t real, knows that Michele lied, and asks Karen-my-love what he should do about it. He listens for a minute, then agrees that she should get a chance to tell the truth. But what if she doesn’t? Oh, yes, then he’ll kill her for you, my darling Karen. This shit is super creepy, but I can’t fully get into why until later.
Michele drives home, exhausted from playing nice all day, and spots a red envelope on the passenger seat after she pulls into her garage. Boy, the characters in this book are completely oblivious to their immediate surroundings, huh? She opens the card when she gets in the house, and this one is very specific to her: Roses are red, violets are blue. Let this serve as a warning to you. Not one step toward the throne will you take, unless you admit Madame Zane is a fake. Michele burns the valentine in the fireplace and thinks about how embarrassing it would be to admit she made the whole thing up, especially since she’d spent the day doubling down on “Madame Zane said this,” and “Madame Zane said that.” She decides to simply appear to stop believing what Madame Zane says whenever anyone asks her about it, because that’s exactly the same as owning up to lying and should totally appease Cat!
She receives calls from no less than six (unnamed) friends while she’s fixing dinner, and tells all of them that she’s having doubts about Madame Zane’s psychic abilities. I bet Cat was one of those friends, don’t you? Then Michele grudgingly takes the family’s twelve year old collie, Happy, out for a walk, thinking about what a chore walking him is and thank goodness it’s almost over as there’s no way he’ll live much longer. Sorry, ‘scuse me while I sputter with rage for a moment. You cherish every second you have with that precious pupper, you horrible, horrible pile of human garbage! *deep breath* I’m still missing my old doggo, guys. I understand a certain amount of relief when your dog dies after a long, arduous ordeal of taking care of them and watching them get a little worse every day, but actively rooting for their death because you’re annoyed at having to take them out to piss? Nah, miss me with that shit. Fuck you, Michele.
She takes Happy down the street to some burned out and only partly-standing house on the corner and lets him off the leash to do his business. What? There’s all kinds of debris and barely-standing walls, probably nails and shit on the ground, and this is where you’re letting an old partially deaf and blind dog off his leash? I hate you, Michele. Happy starts barking and growling and looking up at the exposed rafters where Michele had heard a noise a second before. Then Happy starts nipping at Michele’s sleeve and trying to drag her away, and she swats his nose and yells at him that he’s a bad dog (just die, Michele) before finally realizing there might be something wrong. After all, Happy is a collie, just like Lassie, and Michele watched all those old movies when she was a kid, so she knows that Lassie was always pulling little “Tommy” away from danger. Hate to break up the action here, but this is fifty shades of fucked up. The boy’s name in the original Lassie movie and the first sequel (although they switched actors) was Joe. The boy’s name in the TV series, which is what I think most people are more familiar with, was Timmy. I don’t know if this was a typo, if Jo Gibson doesn’t know her Lassie trivia, or if we’re just supposed to think Michele doesn’t know her ass from a teakettle, but there you go. I love me some Lassie.
Michele doesn’t realize that Happy is smarter than her in time to avoid being smashed by the large beam that falls from the ceiling right on top of her. It’s okay, though. Happy is fine. He ends up going home, dragging his leash behind him (I don’t think Michele ever clipped the leash back on him, so Happy must be a very talented doggo) and her parents find her body.
Now the sheriff is finally starting to think something is weird with four dead girls, all with the heart necklaces on them when they died, but hey, there’s no proof these weren’t just accidents! Oy. Colleen got so scared at being in the lead now that she had Danny drive her to stay with their grandmother, sixty miles away. She begged Amy to drop out since she might end up in the lead, but Amy’s sure someone else will take over the lead since Cat was the only one who ever voted for her.
Amy, Kevin, and Brett go to count votes during sixth period, and I’m positive it was fifth period that they had free for vote-counting before, but if Jo Gibson doesn’t care enough to go back and check, then neither do I. Before they get to counting, they talk about the upcoming big history test, and offer to let Kevin study with them since he used to study with Karen before she died so now he has no one to study with. Apparently this test counts for half their class grade, and I know I just recapped another book where a test counted for fifty percent of the grade, and I still refuse to believe that’s a common thing in high school. Anyway, the test scores are going to be posted inside Mr. Dorman’s office on Friday night, prompting Kevin to ask how they’re supposed to see their scores before Monday. Amy tells him that Mr. Dorman gave her the key so she can come in and copy down the scores, and the scores will be posted by the person’s initials. I . . . it’s not just me – this is criminally convoluted, right? First of all, why the fuck are you going to post test scores for everyone to see? Why are you going to post test scores on Friday night? Why not just wait til fucking Monday? And what if two or more people have the same initials? That’s not uncommon, you know. I hate everything about this, and I hate that it’s only there to very transparently expedite the plot later on.
Fuck. Okay. So Amy gets a ton of votes from Cat, which . . . catapults her into the lead. (Sorry, I had to.) She freaks out because she doesn’t want to be queen and wonders why Cat keeps voting for her – so he can send her threatening valentines? Kevin doesn’t think so, and neither does Brett. Kevin thinks Cat likes her, and Brett thinks Cat is trying to tell them something by casting so many votes for her. Amy doesn’t like it, but she promises to stay in the contest unless she gets a scary valentine. Brett and Kevin promise to guard her, which is very nice unless, you know, one of them is Cat.
Later, Cat walks through the hallway, talking to Dead Karen. She’s getting louder in his head, communicating with more than just ghost farts now, it seems. He thinks Amy will be a perfect queen and wants to know that Karen feels the same, and is worried when she doesn’t answer at first. But then he hears her and starts getting upset, wanting to know what to do if Amy “doesn’t want to go.” And then the reader hears (reads?) Karen’s voice directly for the first time – “THEN TAKE HER AND BRING HER TO ME. IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU’LL DO IT. I WANT AMY HUNTER WITH ME, FOREVER!” Welp. Poor Amy. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t.
Amy takes her history test, then leaves school and meets Danny by the flagpole. He’s shocked that she’s staying in the contest, then jealous that Brett is watching over her because she used to want to date him, but she tells Danny that he’s the only boy she wants to date since she’s been spending time with him, and he tells her that girls are supposed to keep guys guessing instead of coming right out and telling them how they feel, and I wasn’t joking about someone sending me a flamethrower. I hate this “girls are supposed to act like this/but I’m not like other girls!” bullshit so so so much. Danny tells her that he can’t figure out if she’s hopelessly dumb when it comes to guys, or incredibly smart, and it seems I jumped the gun with the flamethrower request. Now can someone send me one? Danny’s negging bullshit needs to be set aflame like the garbage fire it is.
At home, Amy’s mom wants to talk to her because she heard about the dress Colleen and Danny bought for her birthday that she’s going to wear to the Valentine’s dance. More specifically, she heard that Danny picked it out, and wants to know how awful it is, since a boy who used to have green hair and play in a punk rock band must of course be terrible at fashion. Amy shows her the dress and mom marvels over how not-awful it is. She’s also in the middle of making fudge because that’s one of the foods on the diet sheet Amy and Danny printed up and mailed to her. That little scam is, against all logic, going swimmingly.
We skip ahead to Friday after school – test result time. The gang is sitting around at the Hungry Burger (why, just why) waiting for six o’clock, when the results will be posted. I cannot fathom the thought process that went into deciding to post test results at a specific time, a good three hours after the end of the school day, but like I said before – this is leading to some serious plot contrivance. I still want to kill it with fire. Some new girl in school named Suzie is hanging out with the group because she’s Neal’s new chemistry partner. She mentions a particular song by Danny’s band to him, but doesn’t remember the name of it. Danny starts to say the title, then looks around and shuts up, saying it’s not important. Yeah, that’s not suspicious. Amy pushes, wanting to know if it’s really X-rated or something, then Suzie remembers the title and understands why Danny didn’t want to shout it out. Amy runs through a mental list of all of Danny’s songs before landing on “Cat Walk.” Oh, no. Could Danny be Cat. I wonder. Ho hum. I mean, by that logic, Ted Nugent is the killer because of “Cat Scratch Fever.” While I do think Ted Nugent should be locked up, he’s probably not the Valentine’s Day Dance Killer.
Both Kevin and Danny notice how freaked out Amy looks, and she passes it off as nerves over the test, all the while thinking that Cat can’t be Danny because their printing was different. But then she realizes that he was right there when they were coming up with the plan to compare writing samples, and he could have changed his handwriting. Well, it’s a fine time to finally think of that, isn’t it, Amy? Danny gets an urgent call from Colleen, so Kevin offers to take Amy back to the school to copy down the test scores. Earlier she passed around a sheet for people to write down their initials for her to look up. So, I guess she’s getting the scores for as many of the class as showed up at the Hungry Burger? This is fucking stupid. Surely there was a better way to get to the big reveal.
Anyway, Kevin and Amy head off to the school, and as they’re leaving, Kevin tells Danny not to worry – he’ll keep Amy right with him, forever. Nobody thinks this is weird or creepy at all, because they have no radar for danger, I guess? Even when Amy gets into the car with Kevin and he tells her she’s the only girl in the senior class who’s kind, faithful, and true, she’s just like, huh, that’s weird, oh well! I guess she was born without any sense of self-preservation.
They get to the school and Kevin’s still acting weird, telling Amy he doesn’t mind waiting because they’ve been waiting for a long time when she asks him to wait outside Mr. Dorman’s office while she gets the grades. Then she sees him talking to himself and wonders if he’s praying, except he looks positively insane. Sigh. Then she looks at her sheet of paper and realizes that his name is Kevin A. Thomas. K.A.T. Dun-dun-DUN! Kevin is Cat! Oh my fucking god! (Now can I talk about how fucking creepy it is that Cat was constantly lamenting losing “his love” and “his darling” Karen, and talking about wishing he could have told her how much he loved her? I mean, familial love is one thing, but this definitely sounded like . . . more. Twincest, anyone?)
Amy locks the door and tries to call for help, but the phones have been shut off for the night. Kevin breaks the window in the door and reaches in and unlocks it, while Amy tries to get him to monologue to buy time. Why did he do it? The other girls weren’t worthy because they were cruel and gossiped about Karen, but Amy’s perfect. That’s why he and Amy are going to go see Karen right now. Amy is confused, because Karen’s dead! Fucking hell, Amy, keep up. When she realizes what Kevin means, she faints. Because of course she faints, they all fucking faint, don’t they? Wimmin and their damn fainting spells, right?
Meanwhile, back at the Hungry Burger (burn it all to the ground), Danny and Colleen are on the phone having very plot-important conversation. We find out that Danny’s initials are M.U.D. because his full name is Matthew Underwood Daniels. Seriously, Underwood? What kind of middle name is that? They start making fun of people’s middle names, starting with the fact that one of Amy’s middle names (she has two, and I’m wondering if she’s Catholic? that seems like a very Catholic thing to do) is Gwendolyn, which she hates. Okay. That’s not that bad, but whatever. Then Colleen, through a fit of laughter, tells Danny that it’s not as bad as Kevin’s middle name – Archibald! And Karen’s middle name was Amelia, and Danny and Colleen’s mom thought it was adorable because Mrs. Thomas raised Persians and Siamese, and Kevin and Karen’s initials spelled –
cue Danny dropping the phone and yelling through the Hungry Burger that Kevin is Cat and Amy’s in danger! Well, better late than never, I suppose. He and Brett fly off to the school, with Neal promising to catch up after he calls the sheriff. I’m not sure the sheriff is going to take anything seriously given his record so far, but it’s the thought that counts.
Amy wakes up and pretends to still be unconscious. There’s a ring of candles, a shrine to Karen, and a knife arranged around the room. She hears Kevin muttering, talking to Karen, promising that he’ll be with her soon and he’s bringing Amy as a friend for her so she won’t be alone. Amy understands that he killed the others because they weren’t worthy to be queen like Karen had been, but then is confused as to why he’s going to kill her since he said she made a perfect queen. She chalks it up to him being crazy, and crazy people aren’t rational. Amy. You total fucking tool. He literally said he’s bringing you as a friend for Karen because you’re so nice! It’s perfectly rational! I mean . . . it makes sense in context. Obviously his thinking is skewed, but it’s still got a logic to it.
Amy thinks about how nice Karen was and how horrified she would be at what Kevin’s doing, so she starts pretending Karen is talking to her while she’s unconscious, trying to convince Kevin that Karen doesn’t want him to kill her. She tells “Karen” that she’ll keep her memory alive by writing a piece for the yearbook, then tells her not to worry about Kevin – he’s their friend and they’ll take care of him. Kevin is leaning over her, crying, when the boys break into the school and tackle him. The knife goes flying as the boys and the cops run in, and Kevin breaks away to grab the knife and stab himself in the chest, screaming that he’s coming to be with Karen forever!
Well, that was all very dramatic, wasn’t it?
Oh. Now we have to deal with the epilogue. Amy finds her mother making apple pancakes because they used to be dad’s favorite, and Amy exclaims that apple pancakes weren’t on the diet sheet she and Danny sent! Whoops! Nobody entrust Amy with state secrets, okay? It’s okay, though. Mom already knew, because not everyone is as oblivious as Amy. Then Amy confesses that she asked Danny to the dance, even though the moms in town think he’s the literal devil, and mom already knew that, too, because Danny talked to her a week ago and asked permission! Then mom makes allusions to dad being a bad boy in school, and Amy is, predictably, shocked. Mom says that they’ll go to the mall next week and they’ll have some NSFW conversation because Amy’s old enough to hear some very interesting stories about what they got up to in high school. Ew, mom, no!
Let’s see. Colleen comes back to town in time for the dance. Amy hands the crown over to her and has arranged for her to go with Brett, because apparently Colleen has always fancied him but kept back because Amy liked him. The dance is perfect, Colleen tells Amy she always hoped she would date Danny, after the dance Amy and Danny make out like the world is ending, and Amy promises him that someday she will definitely wear the sexy “I want your dick” dress. The end.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
I . . . I got nothing. Are we supposed to think that Kevin wanted to bang his dead sister? Because that was some wild implications going on there. Maybe it was to throw the reader off, make us think it was referring to romantic love so we wouldn’t suspect Kevin, but . . . that was some creepy shit. I have a brother, and I have never called him “my love” or “my darling.” That is some Lannister-level twincest bullshit if I ever saw it.