Title: The Lost Mind
Author: Christopher Pike
Published: August 1995
Tagline: Someone had stolen her memory . . .
Description: She didn’t know what she had done.
She awoke in the woods beside a dead body. There was a knife in her hand, blood on her clothes. Had she killed the young woman who lay beside her? She couldn’t remember.
She couldn’t remember anything.
Not even her own name.
It was as if someone had stolen her mind.
Stolen her soul.
Guys! I’m really excited to recap this book! This used to be one of my absolute favorite Pike books. I’m a sucker for this type of story, with amnesia and . . . something that’s a spoiler. This story had concepts in it that I became obsessed with for years after reading it.
I don’t remember when I read this; I would have turned 14 the month it was released, but I could have sworn I was a few years older than that when I read it. Maybe it took me a while to get around to it, I don’t know. Anyway, I went ahead and reread this one before I started recapping this time around, and it turns out I still love this book! It’s not without its issues, as most of these books from the 90s aren’t, but it’s still pretty great, y’all.
Note from Future Me: I really struggled and procrastinated with this recap. Apparently I’m only excited and good at recapping things I hate. *tries to figure out how to give myself the side-eye*
Our story opens with our protagonist, name and gender currently unknown, waking up in the woods by a pond, cold and feeling like they’ve been unconscious a long time. It’s nighttime, but the moon is full, enabling our protag to see blood in the water.
Welp, right away that can’t be good.
Our protag wonders aloud where they are, and they don’t recognize their own voice. I feel like Pike could throw a gender at us at this point, but okay. We’re probably supposed to assume. Or read the back cover, whatever.
Anyway, this person is covered in blood. They examine themself and discover two small cuts on their hand; nothing that would explain why they look like Carrie at the prom. Until they look around and spot a dead blonde girl with a dozen stab wounds, and a knife that looks like it could have fallen from their own hand while they were unconscious.
Our protag doesn’t recognize the girl; doesn’t recognize their surroundings; doesn’t remember where they were earlier in the evening. Then Protag realizes they don’t even know who they are. Then it suddenly occurs to them that whoever killed the girl might still be around, and it’s a miracle he didn’t kill Protag while they were out. Yeah, about that . . . . Protag isn’t stupid, they know how this looks, but they also know that they’re not a killer. Even though they don’t even know what state they’re in or who they are. Some things you just know, you know?
Protag checks on the dead girl; she’s cold but warmer than the ground, so Protag estimates her death at around two hours ago, because they watch Law & Order or whatever the big crime drama was in 1995, hell if I remember. Their thoughts keep going back to the knife, and they ultimately decide to take it with them, both for protection and because it probably has their fingerprints all over it. I mean, fair. Also, every time I hear “knife” I think this is a big kitchen butcher knife. It’s not. It’s a giant, serrated hunting knife. Very mean.
Protag sticks the knife in their back pocket, I’m assuming blade-up, otherwise you just ruined your jeans. Doesn’t seem very safe, but oh well, moving on. They don’t know this girl, but they weep for her anyway, and vow that “We’ll come back for you soon.” I suppose it’s “we” because they’re still debating whether to go to the cops, and doubting the cops will believe their whole amnesia story.
They wander around in the woods for half an hour, completely lost, before stopping and feeling in their pockets. There’s a set of keys in one pocket, and just then they hear a car go by somewhere to the left. They walk that way and come out on a two-lane road a few minutes later, and follow the road down a hill, toward the lights of some city. They come to a car parked by the road, a Toyota Celica, and the keys fit it. They don’t recognize the car, but they know that they know how to drive. They know all the basic life information, just not anything personal about themself. They even know what sex feels like, and non-virgin characters aren’t something you’re going to find in any of these 90s thrillers that weren’t written by Pike, I tell you what.
Protag starts to get in the car, then realizes they’ll get blood everywhere if they do, so they search the trunk and find a pair of sweats. But then they realize that if they just put them on, they’ll still get blood all over the sweats, so they head off into the woods to wash off in a pool of water, because apparently there are little ponds all over the damn place.
Clean, wet, and freezing, our Protag makes their way back to the car, stashes the bloody clothes and knife in the trunk, cranks the heater up, then takes a look at themself in the mirror – long brown hair, brown eyes, attractive but not beautiful. We still haven’t been informed of a gender, by the way. Pike wants us to assume, but he doesn’t want to come out and say this is a girl. Anyway, she finds a purse with her ID in it – her name is Jennifer Hobbs, she’s 5’4″ and 110 pounds (because for some reason male authors think that’s a healthy and realistic weight for literally every female character ever), and lives in Carlsrue, Oregon. She has no idea where that is, but she points the car toward the city lights and eventually gets to Carlsrue – population 31,876. That is an oddly specific population sign. Does someone come out to change it every time someone dies/moves/is born?
Jenny doesn’t recognize anything in town, but finds her own phone number in her checkbook. No word on whether or not it’s 867-5309. (Kids, ask your parents.) She pulls over to a payphone (ah, we meet again, 1995) and dials her number, hearing her own voice on her answering machine. She thinks that the Jenny who left that message never woke up covered in someone else’s blood. Although, she really has no way of knowing that, does she? This could be a daily occurrence for all she knows.
She gets her mom’s number from Information and calls her. Mom is worried and asks if she knows what time it is and if she’s with Crystal. Uh-oh. Jenny says no and hopes it’s the truth.
She gets a map and figures out where her house is, then stops in at a Denny’s for some late night pie. Because there’s nothing like waking up next to a dead girl to really work up an appetite. She discovers it’s a quarter past two in the morning, and the waitress, Elaine, seems to know her. Elaine is described as short and chubby with squat, dark legs that look like she uses them to store emergency rations. What the actual fuck, Pike. What the actual fuck, Jenny. There is so much actual fuck to go around here.
Elaine also asks if Crystal is with her, and Jenny should really start worrying about who the dead girl is, huh?
Elaine brings Jenny her usual, which turns out to be decaf coffee and apple pie a la mode, unheated. Well, congratulations, Jenny. You managed to ruin both coffee and pie. Well done.
On the way home, Jenny buries her bloody clothes in the dumpster behind a grocery store, but keeps the knife for an unknown reason. And I’m not just marveling at her stupidity; she doesn’t even know why she doesn’t throw it away, too.
She finds her house, but doesn’t know which bedroom is hers. She hears snoring behind one door, then opens another, silent door, only to find a seven-year-old boy who wakes up and wants a doughnut because he went to bed without eating the one he was promised after dinner. So, Jenny and little bro sit in the kitchen, eating doughnuts, and he asks if she was out with Mitch, then says Crystal’s mom called asking if Crystal was there. Seriously, Jenny, start worrying about Crystal.
They talk for a few minutes, and little bro is obviously getting confused about why Jenny is acting so weird. This culminates when Jenny asks how Mom and Dad are, and little bro informs her that Dad has been dead for five years. Whoops.
She takes a shower and goes to bed, falling asleep almost immediately and dreaming. She dreams that she’s sitting by a river smoking a drug that’s both potent and sweet (spoiler alert, because Pike really drags this shit out – it’s hash), getting higher and higher, and then she’s not by the river anymore, nor is she necessarily female. She’s sitting with an old woman who pulls tarot cards for her, and the first card she pulls every time is Death. Jenny/whoever she’s inhabiting thinks this is hilarious, but they’re unsatisfied and demand the woman continue, pulling a knife on her and cutting her palm. Jenny/unknown dream person knows then that she’s the most powerful creature in the world.
Look, I did a lot of research into the tarot for a short story I wrote several years ago, and I could go on a rant about how the Death card doesn’t actually mean literal death, but I’ll spare you nice people that.
Jenny’s mom wakes her up the next morning, and Jenny still doesn’t have her memory back. She thinks her mom looks like a business woman late for an appointment and that she seems annoyed but not angry. Mom asks again about Crystal, and Jenny lies and says she got home okay. Oh, Jenny. Mom asks her to drive Ken to school (oh, so that’s little bro’s name) and asks if she’s working tonight and if she’s going to be home, can she cancel the babysitter.
Jenny calls her brother Ken, only to find out from him that she never calls him that – she’s been calling him Gator since he grew teeth and used to bite her when he was a baby. That’s actually kind of adorable. Because Jenny has no idea where his (or her) school is, she sits him on her lap and lets him steer the car, driving past her school first to “show the big kids.” This seems really inadvisable and unnecessary, especially considering she picked up a map the night before, and everything in town seems to be just a few blocks away from everything else in town. Gator thinks her voice sounds funny, and she jokes that it’s because she’s a robot, as his current favorite TV show is about a robot named Clyde.
When she gets to her school, she’s still not sure why she doesn’t just go to the cops and tell them about her amnesia. She’s pretty sure no one will believe her, as she knows total amnesia is rare, but infuriatingly, she doesn’t remember how she knows this. As she’s walking through the parking lot, some jock-type runs up calling her name, then grabs her and starts kissing her. She figures what the hell, and kisses him back. She doesn’t know if she likes him, but she figures she’s probably sleeping with him. Huh. Relatable. Anyway, both Jenny and I guess that this is Mitch, her boyfriend.
Mitch immediately starts asking Jenny if she has “his” money (three hundred dollars), then gets all pissed off yelling about how Duke is going to start breaking his thumbs if he doesn’t give him his money. Uh, okay, Mitch. That sounds like a you problem. Jenny tells Mitch he can stop by the house after school to get the money from her, even though she has no idea if she has any money to give him. Then she demands he walk her to her classes, because it will be “romantic.”
In one of her classes, the teacher asks where Crystal is, because they apparently never go anywhere without the other. Finally, Jenny begins to worry about who and where (and how dead) Crystal is. Even though Jenny is an eighteen-year-old senior on half-days, she skips the rest of her school day to race home and tear her room apart. She finds her yearbook and discovers that the dead girl was, in fact, Crystal. (Also, there’s apparently only one Crystal in the whole school. I call the most serious of bullshit on this.)
Jenny cries for ten minutes straight, even more upset that she can’t properly mourn Crystal without any memories of her. Then she vows that Crystal’s murderer won’t go unpunished. Once again she thinks of calling the police, and once again she puts it off, this time to listen to the messages on her answering machine. Three of them are from Crystal’s mom, getting progressively more worried, and the fourth is from a guy named Amir with a Middle Eastern accent. Amir says he needs to talk to Jenny about last night. Uh-oh.
She finds his number listed in her little black book (which is indeed little, and black) under A for Amir. He obviously doesn’t have a last name in her universe. He also asks if she’s heard from Crystal, and Jenny deduces that this must be Crystal’s boyfriend. He wants to come over so they can talk, and Jenny agrees, telling him to come over immediately.
Amir shows up right away, and Jenny describes him to us as exotic, with the dark skin of someone who grew up in the desert; sharp features except for full, sensual lips and eyelids; and he moves like a lion. Pike is going to do some things with Amir that skate right up to the racism line and then just hang out there a while, and I’m not loving it. Like, I get what you’re going for, but . . . this is not great.
Anyway, turns out Crystal’s mom has called the police to report her missing, and Amir is skeptical that Jenny really doesn’t know where she is. Amir keeps alluding to Crystal being upset when she and Jenny left him last night, and Jenny finally manages to find out why – Crystal suspected that Amir and Jenny were having an affair. Amir definitely doesn’t deny it, going so far as to say he thought Jenny was going to tell her. She truthfully says she can’t remember saying a thing to her about it, but Amir is still convinced Crystal ran away, even though her car is still in her parents’ driveway.
This shit just keeps looking worse and worse for Jenny, doesn’t it?
Amir goes on for quite some time about how they didn’t mean for the affair to happen, but boy wasn’t it great anyway, never mind his missing/dead girlfriend. Jenny thinks that he makes cheating on Crystal sound almost honorable when he really gets going. So, he’s a smoother cheater than anyone on Jerry Springer, check.
He leaves in a white Ford, and Jenny thinks he must not have much money. Yes, Jenny, because a Ford is such a step down from your luxury Toyota Celica. What the hell?
Jenny finally calls the police, from her home phone, disguising her voice with a pillow over her mouth. No part of this sounds like a good idea. She tells the dispatcher that there’s a dead girl named Crystal Denger in the woods and gives the location, then hangs up. I’m not sure what 911 caller ID was like in 1995, but she totally should have called from a payphone, right?
Jenny buries the knife under a bush in a park and tries to remember all the contradictory stories she’s told everyone since losing her memory. Hoping it doesn’t come back to bite her in the ass, she heads back home to wait for the inevitable visit from the cops. Denny’s calls to find out why she’s late for her shift, and Jenny’s like, ohh, that’s where I work, no wonder Elaine knew me and didn’t need to bring me a menu! and she gives them the excuse that she’s sick.
Then Mitch calls to ask why she isn’t at work like she’s supposed to be, and when she tells him she’s not feeling well, his response is not sympathy, but demanding to know if she has the three hundred dollars for him. Oh, go die in a fire, Mitch.
Jenny tries to put Mitch off, but he’s all whining about how you stall Duke at a price and he needs the money yesterday, and again, this sounds like a YOU problem, Mitch. Sorry, not sorry. Jenny tells him to come by later, and Mitch finally notices she doesn’t sound too great and asks what’s wrong. Then he asks her about Crystal, because people are saying she’s missing. God forbid Mitch add two plus two, however.
The cops show up at Jenny’s around 3:15, after Gator is home from school. Jenny forgot all about picking him up; fortunately he took the bus home. Not sure why he couldn’t take the bus there, too, but I digress. She snaps at him to go to his room, which is clearly unlike her judging from his reaction.
There are three cops – Lt. Lott, Officer Gallager, and Officer Jakes. Jakes is the youngest and obviously knows Jenny somehow. They inform her about the anonymous phone call and tell her that they found Crystal’s body. Jenny declines a lawyer (which I’m led to believe is always a mistake) and allows them to question her. Since she was the last one to see Crystal alive, they start asking her about last night, and she fucks everything up, starting with the timeline of when they were at Amir’s place and continuing through what they did and when she dropped Crystal off in her driveway. Her responses are mostly “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember.” I honestly don’t know how she expects to get away with these answers, holy shit. The cops aren’t buying her vague answers and wonky timeline, either, especially when she claims to have come home, gone for a long walk at one AM, then come back, got in her car, and driven to Denny’s for pie. Forget what I said earlier, this girl has clearly never watched a single incarnation of Law & Order.
Lt. Lott asks about Amir, and Jenny says he and Crystal were dating for a few months, then when asked Mitch’s last name, she can’t recall. Jakes jumps in and tells the Lt. it’s Severs, much to his annoyance. Lott asks if they do drugs, if Mitch gambles, and if the four of them hung out a lot. Jenny is not faring well at all with these questions. After Jakes tries to help her out one time too many, Lott sends him out of the house.
Lott informs Jenny that they only found one set of footprints other than Crystal’s around her body, then asks about Jenny’s shoes. Her muddy shoes from the night before are still in her bedroom, and oh yeah, the footprints indicate she was the only person out there in the woods. Things are not looking good for our Jenny. He wants to take all her shoes with him, and she asks about a search warrant, because at least that part of her brain has kicked into gear. Then another part kicks in and Jenny asks about the footprints; did they look like they were from a person who knows the area, or someone who got lost in the woods? Lott admits they wandered around the woods, but points out that it’s easy to get lost in the woods at night, especially if you’re upset.
Then he notices the cuts on Jenny’s hand. She tries to play it off like she cut her hand on a broken glass at home, and since it’s not yet trash day, he wants to dig through her trash to find the broken glass. Damn, dude. I’m conflicted; should I be rooting for this guy or not?
Jenny is not rooting for him, and tells him he should just come out and say he thinks she murdered her best friend. He corrects her – he thinks she might have murdered her best friend. She throws him out of the house, and he warns her to be at the house when he comes back (presumably with a warrant?) because she doesn’t want him to have to track her down.
After the cops leave, Gator comes out of his room crying, because he was eavesdropping and heard that Crystal is dead. Then he tells Jen she has to remember better, and she’s somehow surprised that he could tell she’s having trouble remembering things. Jennifer. Come the fuck on. He’s seven; not stupid. Gator mentions that when Clyde the robot was having trouble with his memory, he stuck his head in a nuclear reactor; would that work for Jenny? Jen tells him that he can’t tell anyone she’s having memory problems because it’ll make the cops even more sure she killed Crystal. If this were normal amnesia (whatever that even is), I would be frustrated that she doesn’t just tell someone besides her seven-year-old brother, but I know what kind of book we’re in, so I’m mostly okay with it.
Jenny goes into her room, and proceeds to wash the blood and mud off her shoes, then throws the sweats she was wearing into the wash along with lots of bleach. You know, just in case. Nope, nothing suspicious about that. Also, unless she also bleached her shoes, I don’t think rinsing them off in the bathtub is going to do a lot of good once the forensics people get in there and do their thing.
She inspects her room and is disappointed to find so many cheap paperback romance novels on her shelf. But there are also classics and fantasy novels, so she’s relieved that she’s not a total flake. Can I call Jenny out for being too judgmental about herself? This is a weird area. Look, all I’m trying to say is that my “Currently Reading” shelf on Goodreads includes Twilight, Ann Rule, Yeats, Sherlock Holmes, an Alien graphic novel, and whatever Point Horror/Fear Street/teen thriller I happen to be recapping at the moment. So, like, give yourself permission to like whatever things you like, Jenny. Damn.
She finds her diary next to a box of condoms under the bed, you know, in the world’s most obvious hiding spot? Anyway, the first entry she reads is from prom night, six months earlier. Long story short, she’s drunk as hell while writing this entry; Crystal was voted Prom Queen and looked beautiful even though Jenny thinks her date, Harold, was a loser; she and Mitch got a hotel room but first he couldn’t get it up and then Jenny rolled off the bed and couldn’t get up. But it was just as well, as they didn’t have any condoms with them.
Present-day Jenny thinks that Diary Jenny sounds like a total douchewaffle, and she hopes it was just because she was drunk. She flips forward to read an entry from the beginning of the school year, and we find out that Jenny doesn’t respect Mitch, in part because he has a gambling problem and bets on their own team to lose, meaning he throws the game on these occasions. Jenny is derisive because Duke and his boys are just small time hoods and Mitch treats them like they’re the Godfather or something, but I’m just distracted wondering how hot the action could possibly be betting on high school football games. Is this a thing? Even for small time hoods?
Diary Jenny ruminates for a while about why she doesn’t leave Mitch, telling us that she supposes she’s a jerk – she sleeps with a guy she doesn’t respect while trying to respect herself afterward. Then she writes about how Crystal just met this guy named Amir at a club, and her eyes practically glow when she talks about him. Diary Jenny thinks she needs to meet this guy, too, because it’s been a while since anything made her own eyes glow.
Present-day Jenny sees that she fucked up talking to the cops – Crystal only met Amir two months ago, but she told them they’d been dating for “a few” months. I mean, that’s not so bad. Two months could be loosely referred to as “a few.” It’s not like she told them Crystal had been dating him since freshman year or something.
She skips to three weeks later, and Diary Jenny tells us that Crystal won’t let her meet Amir, and Jenny doesn’t know why. She’s promised Crystal she won’t try to steal him, she doesn’t care if he’s homely (I don’t buy that a teenager would use that word to describe an ugly person, but sure), and she won’t report him to Immigration. I’m sorry, why was that even on the table? “Oh, your boyfriend’s from another country? I promise I won’t report him to ICE if I meet him!” What is the logic behind saying this to your friend? Does Jenny normally go around reporting “exotic-looking” strangers to Immigration? Is this a concern Crystal regularly has around Jenny? I’m probably analyzing this harder than Pike did, but holy shit the casual xenophobia!
Anyhow, Crystal told Jenny that Amir didn’t want to meet her yet, which Jenny found ridiculous – why wouldn’t he want to meet her? He doesn’t even know her! But Mitch is happy that Crystal has “found a lover” (again, totally how teenagers talk . . . I remember Pike being better at this) because it’ll get her out of their hair. Jenny feels the opposite. She never realized how much time she and Crystal spent together, but she misses her terribly now that she’s not around all the time.
At this point Gator interrupts to ask if he can go to his friend Timmy’s house, and Jen offers to drive him before Gator reminds her Timmy only lives two houses away. Then he asks if her memory problems are because Crystal died, and Jen tells him that it might have something to do with it, but that doesn’t mean she hurt Crystal, and she would never hurt Gator, either.
Mitch shows up and offers cursory comfort about Crystal before demanding Jen give him money so Duke doesn’t kneecap him or whatever. When Jen takes up my rally cry of “this sounds like a YOU problem, Mitch,” he responds by telling her they’re together, so they’re supposed to share problems. When Jenny wonders what Mitch does for her, he casually tells her “everything,” then goes on to elaborate: “I take you to movies, buy your meals . . . I give you the best sex you’ve ever had.”
Well why didn’t you say so earlier, Mitch? Here, take all my money! . . . said no one, ever.
Bored by the whole thing, Jenny goes to her room to see if she has any money, and finds two hundred forty dollars stashed away in a box. Instead of being grateful she’s helping him at all, Mitch bitches that it’s not enough, and he doesn’t have any money of his own to make up the difference because he plays football, he doesn’t work for fuck sake. When Jenny asks how he takes her out then, he replies that he gambles, but . . . he just told her he’s going to quit gambling, so how is he going to take her out now? At which point he asks if she’s getting her period or something, because women can’t be angry at being treated like shit by manbabies unless we’re about to bleed from the vag, obviously. That’s totally how that works, right?
Instead of setting Mitch on fire, Jen tells him off, pointing out that she has good reason to be mad at him; her friend just died; and if it weren’t so tragic she would laugh. Then she stomps off to Gator’s room to break open his piggy bank. It’s actually a plastic alligator (I’m guessing she probably bought it for him, but that’s all conjecture on my part), and she manages to find enough fives and singles to add up to sixty dollars.
Mitch is waiting for her in her bedroom, stretched out naked on the bed (apparently he’s a big boy). Jenny’s reaction is much the same as mine.
Mitch seems to not notice he’s naked until Jenny screams at him, which . . . really, Mitch? Really?! He gestures vaguely at his lower half and says he thought they could do it to “comfort” each other. Sure, Mitch, sure. Totally gonna happen, my dude.
Jenny points out that he’s not there to “comfort” her; he’s there to take advantage of her, then she throws Gator’s dolla-dolla bills at him and tells him to take the money and get out, it’s over. He fails to understand, and she has to spell out what “over” means. He needles her about how now that Crystal’s dead she has free access to Amir; she tells him she hopes Duke breaks his neck. He tells her she’ll regret what she just said; she’ll regret it before the sun sets! Because Mitch has time traveled from the Old West, apparently. Jenny snorts and points out the window because the sun has already set, you fucking nitwit. NO RAGRETS!!!
Amir shows up right after Mitch leaves, and cries in Jenny’s arms because the cops showed up to inform him of Crystal’s death and accuse him of killing her. Mostly the last part. Jenny tells him the cops don’t suspect him, they suspect her. I mean, why not both? *shrug* Amir mentions that it’s a good thing he has an alibi – he was watching tv with his landlady at her place until four in the fucking morning. Jenny’s all, oh shit, you don’t have a tv in your apartment but I told the cops we were watching tv at your place until Crystal and I left, whoops. Amir claims Jenny and Crystal left around eight thirty or nine, and he watched old sci-fi monster movies with the landlady because they both love them so much. Man, that is a tenant-landlord relationship I can’t even imagine having, but okay.
Anyway, Jenny realizes she fucked up again, because she told the cops they left Amir’s place around midnight. Goddammit, Jenny. Amir asks if she’s lost her mind (roll credits?), and Jenny laughs because, yeah. Yeah, Amir, she pretty literally has. Additionally, Amir told the police that he and Jenny had sex, because he didn’t know what she’d told them and he didn’t want to be caught in a lie. Jenny starts freaking out, because, like, thanks for giving the cops a motive for her to kill her best friend, Amir. There’s some stuff in here where Amir voices the opinion that the cops are automatically suspicious of him because he’s from the Middle East and therefore a terrorist in their eyes, so at least Pike was aware of what he was doing here. On the other hand, Pike was aware of what he was doing here. You’ll see the problem a little later on.
Jenny yells a little more about how Amir handed the cops everything they need to hang her, then admits that she doesn’t remember anything after she and Crystal left Amir’s place. I mean . . . technically the truth? She insists she didn’t kill her and points out that Amir wasn’t that big a part of their lives, even though he thought he made quite the impact. Amir tells Jenny that Crystal’s parents aren’t doing very well; her dad had to be sedated. He says that he still wants to be friends, and Jenny questions whether he still wants to screw her, too. He seems to think she’s offering, and turns her down at the moment, but dude. It was literally just a question. He answers that he wants to be friends, and Jenny is suddenly reminded of her dream. Now Pike mentions that the drug they were smoking was hashish, and Jenny wonders why she’s thinking of the dream, since Amir wasn’t in it. She thinks that the veil the witchy woman (The Dude does not abide the Eagles!) was wearing would “remind anyone of women in a Moslem society.” Uh, would it? Because I was picturing more “old lady in mourning” than “niqab.” Or, knowing Pike, “old lady hiding a horribly disfigured-by-fire face.” Anyway . . . .
Jenny questions what country Amir is from, and he tells her she knows – Egypt. I had to Google whether Egypt is considered the Middle East, because I had never really thought of it that way. Apparently it is. Huh. Today I learned. She asks if he lived close to the Nile; he did. She asks if he ever smoked hash, and he says no. She pushes him, insisting that it’s common in that part of the world, isn’t it? I’ve always associated hash more with Amsterdam; is that just me? She pushes to know what hash does to people, and Amir hedges, telling her it’s a powerful drug and it does many things to people.
Then Jenny takes a left turn and asks if he has any brothers or sisters. He tells her he had two sisters; they were triplets, but the the sisters died. Jenny feels like she knew this already, although she’s sure he never told her. He tells her the sisters were murdered and the killer got away. Jenny says that Crystal’s murderer won’t get away, and Amir just stares at her for a long time before leaving.
So, uh, that’s not weird, right?
Jenny goes to lie down to get rid of a headache, and ends up falling asleep and dreaming again. Good God, I hate recapping dreams. Don’t get me wrong, these are interesting scenes, but fuck do I hate recapping dreams.
Dream Not-Jenny is walking up a hill with the old woman, determined to find the American girl who haunts their dreams. Not-Jenny is high on hash, but as they tell the old woman, they don’t smoke it for pleasure; it’s to push aside the veil and reach enlightenment. Oh, well, in that case, do carry on. They’re now on the old lady’s family lands, where there are statues of demons entwined in pain, and she tells Not-Jenny she knows about the visions of the girls. When Not-Jenny tells her there’s only one, the American girl, the old lady says that no, there is always another, and they may even be close by.
The old lady says that Not-Jenny needs her to find the girl, and that Not-Jenny doesn’t know what will happen if they find the third and are all together in each others’ presence. She changes her mind about teaching Not-Jenny . . . whatever it was she was going to teach them, saying it will only lead to madness and death. Then Not-Jenny pulls out their knife and scratches it along the old woman’s throat, and here we find out that the old woman is their mother. Not-Jenny says they would take great pleasure in killing dear old mother, and demands she tell them everything.
Then Jenny’s mom wakes her up, because naturally we don’t get to know what the fuck this is all about just yet.
Mom has only just heard about Crystal, and holy shit I keep forgetting that this book all takes place over one day, basically. Lieutenant Lott came by Mom’s clinic (Jenny and I are both assuming she’s a doctor) to inform her and ask suspicious questions about Jenny. Mom is shocked and indignant that Jen would be considered a suspect, but like, the people closest to the victim are always the first suspects. Quit taking it so personally. Anyway, Mom wants to know what Jen said that made them so suspicious, and Jenny admits that she fucked up the timeline and contradicted herself a lot. She claims it was due to shock, and Mom agrees.
Jenny declines Mom’s offer to get her an attorney (mistake, Jen), and heads out to visit Crystal’s parents. When she gets to the Dengers’ house, she deduces from the family photos on display that Crystal was an only child, and Crystal’s mom is also shocked and indignant that Jenny is a suspect. Guys. Really. Anyway, then Jenny asks if she can go sit in Crystal’s room to kind of say goodbye to her, and Mrs. Denger agrees.
Jenny pretty quickly finds Crystal’s diary, which is the twin to her own, and sits down to read. I’m sure Crystal wouldn’t mind, right? She reads an entry from late October in which Crystal discovered Mitch cheating on Jenny, and when she confronted him, he hinted that Jenny was cheating on him first. Crystal is appalled, because Jenny would never two-time anyone! You can imagine how guilty this makes Jenny feel now.
She skips ahead to mid-November, and Diary Crystal tells us that she and Amir “made love” that night, not for the first time. Really, there aren’t enough words to express how much I despise that term, especially coming from teenagers. Anyway. Crystal fell asleep at Amir’s place, and had her own reoccurring dream about the old woman and Egypt.
Jenny is interrupted by Mr. Denger appearing in the doorway, newly awake from sedation. She apologizes for reading Crystal’s diary, and he doesn’t seem to have the energy to be mad about it. He collapses in tears, mumbling about having to go to the morgue to view Crystal’s body. Jenny leaves, planning to sneak back later to read more, since even the best of friends don’t generally share dreams.
She drives to Amir’s place, which is on the wrong side of the tracks literally and figuratively. You know, Jenny is pretty judgy for someone who works at fucking Denny’s. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a server; hell, I clean toilets for a living. But fucking hell, Jenny. You’re not the queen of England.) Instead of knocking on Amir’s door, she knocks on the landlady, Mrs. O’Bannon’s door. It seems Amir is renting a room above her garage. Mrs. O’Bannon is a hunchback who wheezes, and somehow this leads Jenny to conclude that the rent has to be reasonable. I am completely mystified at this logic. Did you leave a sentence out, Pike? How does the landlady being congested and hunchbacked mean the rent is good? Anyone? . . . . Bueller?
Apparently Mrs. O’Bannon and Crystal had become good friends over the last couple months, and she is deeply saddened by Crystal’s death. And here Jenny finds out that Amir maybe hasn’t been so honest with her – he was watching movies with Mrs. O’Bannon until four in the morning, but not because she wanted to. He basically planted himself in front of her TV and refused to leave. She mentions the cops came by to check his alibi, and she makes sure to tell us that she thinks they only asked because he’s Middle Eastern. Okay, yes and no. He’s the boyfriend of the dead girl, of course he’s at the top of the short list of suspects, because that’s just how these things go.
Anyway, Mrs. O’Bannon tells Jenny that she conveniently didn’t tell the cops how much Amir and Crystal fought. Jenny is surprised that they fought a lot, and Mrs. O is surprised that Jenny’s surprised, because they’ve had conversations about it before. You know, if I suddenly found myself with total amnesia, I would either tell everyone around me immediately or keep my damn mouth shut and observe what’s going on before saying a single thing. Jenny is terrible at this.
She gets Mrs. O to let her into Amir’s apartment to wait for him, and I’m pretty sure that’s not totally legal, but okay. Amir is a month behind on the rent, but Mrs. O isn’t worried about it as he’s a “trustworthy young man.” Jenny now has her doubts about that.
Amir’s place is tiny; a studio with a mat on the floor, a hot plate, and a closet barely big enough for his two shirts and two pairs of pants. She wonders about his immigration status and thinks that he must have been here before, as his English is perfect and his accent is pure American northwest. But . . . didn’t she tell us when she heard his voice on the answering machine that he had a definite Middle Eastern accent? What the fuck, Jenny.
Jen searches the place and finds a hash pipe under his sleep mat. Just racking up the lies here, huh Amir? She finds his stash of hash (rhyme time!) in a Tylenol bottle a few minutes later, and feels intimately acquainted with it although she doesn’t know how. If she’d smoked it with Amir before, he wouldn’t have lied and told her he didn’t smoke. She thinks of her nightmares, and how Amir made sure he had an alibi during the night. She thinks he’s the one person who absolutely couldn’t have killed Crystal, and yet . . . .
She goes back downstairs and asks Mrs. O about something she mentioned about Amir seeming sick the night before, and finds out that he was sort of glazed and unresponsive while they were watching the movies. Mrs. O thought he might be loaded and asks Jenny if Amir does drugs, to which Jenny responds that she doesn’t know what Amir does.
When Jen gets home, Lt. Lott is waiting for her, and he’s pissed that she left the house. I mean . . . did he tell her not to leave the house? I was under the impression he just didn’t want her making a run for it, like “don’t leave town,” not “don’t leave the house.” Anyway, Jen tells him to hold on, she needs to pee, then makes her way to Gator’s room and talks him into going to Crystal’s and sneaking in her window to “borrow” her diary. Hey, remember when people didn’t freak out about a seven-year-old riding their bike a mile down the road in the dark? That’s how old I am. (Well, everything but the dark part. The streetlights coming on were the signal to get your ass home.)
This time, Lott has a search warrant, and tells Jenny they have plenty of evidence against her, including tire tracks. She counters that she has Michelins like lots of people, and Lott says she has special Michelins. I’m just curious when Jenny had time to check her tire brand. Like, I don’t even know what tires are on my car. It’s whatever Walmart put on with their economy tire package.
They also found several long brown hairs, just like Jenny’s, and Lott mentions DNA tests, which Jenny had forgotten about. I mean, fair I guess. DNA was still pretty new in 1995, especially to the general population. Lott tells Jen there was absolutely no sign of a third party out in the woods, and Jenny is crushed. She doesn’t know why she would have killed Crystal. Surely not over Amir; she’s not even sure she likes the guy.
Lott wants the clothes Jenny was wearing the night before; Jenny tells him she’s not sure which ones they are but he’s welcome to search through them. Oh, he’s already done that, Jen. Now that she’s home, he wants to look at the trunk of her car, and oh yeah, he’s amazed by just how wrong all her answers to his questions have been, even about the most elementary of things. At which point Mom breaks in to say that she’s a physician and Jenny obviously displays all the signs of being in shock when he questioned her. He’s dealt with people in shock, and disagrees.
Lott tells Mom about Jenny and Amir’s supposed physical relationship, and Jenny denies it. I mean, why not? He’s lied about a bunch of other things, why not that, too? Jenny comes to realize that all signs point to her as if it was designed that way, and she’s hit by the strangest sense of deja vu from her dreams. She tells Lott that whoever the killer is hated her as much as they hated Crystal, and she knows who they are; she just doesn’t know their name. Well great, Jenny. I’m sure the cops will accept that in lieu of an alibi. Also, pretty sure you do know their name, you’re just not sure of the “how” part of the equation yet.
The cops search and bag Jenny’s belongings, then tell her not to leave the house for anything; they station a cop to watch the house and tell her they’ll be back in the morning to arrest her.
Mom and Jenny both go to bed, and Jenny spies Mom taking sleeping pills. I’m sure that was just an observation and these aren’t Chekhov’s Mother’s Little Helpers or anything. Jenny waits fifteen minutes before making her way into Gator’s room, where he’s all amped up over his Baby 007 exploits. He hands over Crystal’s diary and asks if it says who killed her. Jenny explains that it’s not that easy, but she’s going to study it. Gator wants to know if he’ll see her in the morning, and once again Jenny gets a feeling that she won’t live to see the sunrise.
Well, that’s melodramatic, isn’t it.
But then she realizes that’s not exactly it. She asks Gator about his robot show and Clyde the robot, and explains that she’s a little like Clyde. Her positronic pathways got scrambled and that’s why she’s having trouble remembering. But it doesn’t mean she can’t be fixed; even if something happens to her, it doesn’t mean she’s gone. She’ll come back, even if Gator has trouble recognizing her, it’ll still be her.
These are some heady concepts to be trying to throw at a seven-year-old.
Then Jen retires to her room to read her best friend’s diary. On November 14, Crystal went to see Amir without calling first, which is something she wasn’t supposed to do, ever. She walked in on him smoking hash and reading a gun magazine. Ah, settling right into the American lifestyle, I see. He told her to leave and never come back. But she went back three hours later, figuring he’d be sober by then, and he did seem apologetic. They had sex, but it felt all wrong and Crystal felt more like she’d been raped afterward. Then he pulled out the hash pipe and told her if she wanted to stay she had to get high with him. She left, confused because she still loved him, and wishing she could talk about this with Jenny.
Jen wonders why Crystal couldn’t talk to her about it. The next entry is from the very next day, and Amir told Crystal basically that she wasn’t enough for him anymore; she wasn’t living up to the dreams and fantasies he’d had of her, and it was time to finally meet Jenny. He thought it was about time the three of them got together. Crystal disagreed and left, not knowing what he thinks will happen if the three of them get together, but knowing she doesn’t want any part of it. She thinks he’s a bastard, but wonders why she still misses him.
The last entry in the diary is from six days ago, November 17. In it, Crystal is afraid and freaking out, thinking everyone is a stranger and she’s going insane. She went to the movies and saw Mitch getting it on with yet another girl in the back row. She stomped over and threw her Coke in his face, and he grabbed her by the throat and dragged her out to the parking lot. And nobody stopped him or called the cops or anything, because . . . reasons. Crystal quickly became scared, thinking Mitch was ten times worse than Amir on a bad hash day. Damn, all the boys in this book are garbage people. Except Gator. He’s goodness and light and hopefully grows up well.
Anyway, Mitch slut-shamed Crystal, slapped her in the fucking face, and told her she’d “pay the price” if she told Jenny about him fucking around on her. What . . . what the fuck is your damage, Mitch? Then Crystal feels responsible for this shit show because she was the one who told Jenny to ask Mitch out in the first place.
Then she had the dream again, and she thinks she’s Amir in the dream, although she has no real clue if she’s even a guy or a girl. The old woman is trying to tell her something important, but she doesn’t want to listen and instead starts cutting her with the knife. Then Crystal’s diary writing is interrupted by a phone call, and she doesn’t know who would be calling her since it’s the middle of the night.
Her diary ends there.
Jenny picks up her own diary and reads the entry she made the day after Crystal’s last entry, on November 18. In it, she’s excited because Crystal finally brought Amir over to meet her. So, this means Jenny has only known Amir for five days. That lying motherfucker. Anyway, he seems familiar to her, like she’s met him before somewhere. She notices that Crystal looks like hell and wonders if there’s something wrong between her and Amir, but she’s too taken by him to really care that much. Crystal leaves after Jenny promises to drive Amir home herself later, and they get to know each other. That’s not a euphemism, by the way. They talk and discover how much they have in common, then Jenny drives him home and he kisses her goodbye on the cheek. Which gets her thinking all sorts of more-than-friendly thoughts about him and how she kind of wishes he and Crystal weren’t together so she could shoot her shot.
Our Jenny is disgusted by Diary Jenny, and vows to burn her diary before the cops show up to arrest her in the morning. She wonders why Amir told her such obvious lies; is his memory defective?
The next entry is from November 20, three days ago. In it, she tells us how she was working her late shift at Denny’s when Mitch came in, apparently to whine at her and drink fifty gallons of coffee. Then Amir and Crystal came in, and at some point Amir took umbrage at the way Mitch was ordering Jenny around, and they started an all-out brawl with one another. Jenny says that was a mistake on Mitch’s part because they know how to defend themselves in the Middle East – all those wars and plagues of locusts. I . . . have no idea how to even respond to that, so I’m just gonna move on. What the fuck, Jenny.
Officer Jakes came into Denny’s after Mitch stabbed a butter knife into Amir’s leg and broke up the fight. Mitch was furious, but Amir just laughed it off, and Diary Jenny tells us that she loves a boy who sees the humor in every situation. Jenny. No.
Our Jenny is again appalled at Diary Jenny’s attitude, both the excitement at the violence and her obliviousness toward what Crystal was going through. She thinks it’s no wonder Crystal didn’t confide in her about any of this.
The last entry is from the day before Crystal’s death. Amir came by her house and just started kissing her, and despite how guilty she felt about it, all Jenny wanted was to screw him. It was like he held some mystical sway over her. He left pretty soon after he got there, but he wanted her to come by his apartment the next afternoon. She said no, but he just laughed like he knew she would do it anyway. Then she mentions having bloody dreams that scare her the last few nights, and all she knows is that she wants Amir; wants to be scared.
End of diary.
Jenny has no idea if she actually ended up fucking Amir or not, and she hates who she used to be. She’s no closer to knowing who killed Crystal, but she thinks it’s telling that she tied Amir in to her dreams, and also that she was having the dreams before she lost her memory. So, what does she decide to do? Why, take a nap, of course!
She falls asleep almost immediately and is transported to the dream in Egypt. Dream Jenny is demanding the old woman tell her what she wants to know, and thinks of herself as the old woman’s son. So, bear with me, I’m not a hundred percent on how to handle the pronouns here. Jenny is seeing through this dude’s eyes, but for ease of understanding, I’m going to keep referring to her as Jenny.
Jenny tells the old woman that if what she tells her doesn’t please her, she’ll cut the old woman’s heart out. The woman replies that what she has to say won’t please Jenny, and that Jenny has chosen the dark path and when the drugs wear off, she’s more deluded than when she started. Jenny asks why her vision is faulty, and the old woman tells her she can only see the girl who haunts her dreams and nothing else. That she feels she must go to her or die, and that’s the very reason she mustn’t find her. Jenny’s not feeling this, and the old woman points to the statue of the three intertwined demons and asks if she knows what it represents. She tells Jenny it’s symbolic of most humans. All people are split into three – one soul divided into three people. Sometimes Allah places two pieces close to each other, and those two people generally find great love or undying friendship with each other.
But placing all three bits of soul together is to tempt madness and death, because the power of the soul bursts forth in an unnatural setting. Only when you leave your ego behind should you attempt to reunite all three bits of the soul. The old woman tells Jenny that the girl she’s been dreaming of is one-third of her, and she senses that she has a friend nearby who is the other third. By going to one, Jenny will inevitably find the other, and that would be a disaster. It would open a black door through which all three demons will crawl.
Jenny says that sounds like a good time, then slices the old woman’s eyeball with the knife. Gah! No thank you! She says that if the black door opens, she’ll push the two girls in front of her as a shield, because while she desires them, she doesn’t need them, and she’s more powerful than the old woman can imagine. Then she pushes the knife deeper into the old woman’s eye, and we’re told that the night turned red and full of screams. Is that worse than being dark and full of terrors?
So, Dream Dude is obviously Amir, right? Could I have just been referring to him as Amir all this time and saved myself all this pronoun angst?
When Jenny wakes up, she knows how Crystal died. She knows she’s innocent, and she knows how to punish the guilty. But it’s at a cost she doesn’t know if she can pay. Then she tells herself she has to do it, because in the morning she’ll be going to jail for twenty years. I mean, you have to have a trial and be convicted first, Jenny. Also, you’ll be going to prison, not jail. Also also, twenty years? We’re not Norway; you’ll probably be going away a hell of a lot longer than that. I mean, twenty years is how long it’s been since I first read this book. God, I feel old.
It’s still only eleven-twenty at night; Jen was only asleep about an hour. She gets up and gets a bunch of sleeping pills and hypodermic needles out of her mother’s doctor bag. She notices that it’s Officer Jakes in the cop car outside, and brews up a pot of coffee, complete with milk, sugar, and four sleeping pills. Then she takes it out to him in a thermos, and somehow this shit works. I feel like actual cops would be a little more suspicious of anything a suspect hands them to consume, but somehow this shit always works in movies and books, so yay for idiotic tropes?
While Jenny waits for Jakes to go to sleepytown, they talk about how he can’t believe Lott thinks Jen killed Crystal, and how when Jakes was a senior and Jen was a freshman he wanted to ask her to prom. So, that means he’s only about three years older than her? As he starts yawning uncontrollably, Jen tells him that maybe he can take her to her prom in a few months. Is that inappropriate? That seems inappropriate.
Jenny stays focused on the full moon because she doesn’t want him to see in her mind and know what she’s doing, and she goes back in the house, writes a suicide note, grabs some rope, the hypodermic needles, and the sleeping pills, goes back outside and takes Jakes’s revolver and shotgun, then drives to the park where she buried the knife and digs it up. Still staring at the moon, mind you. M-O-O-N, that spells moon. (I tried very hard to find an appropriate image from The Stand for this joke, and came up empty. I am currently very put out by that fact.)
She drives to the woods and buries the knife by the tree where Crystal died. Then, for no good reason, she takes a detour from the main plan to swing by Mitch’s place, where he is currently getting it on with some unknown girl in a van in front of his house. Classy. She shoots the van up with the shotgun and takes off while Mitch & Co. freak out. I mean, it’s your last night of freedom; might as well fuck some shit up I guess.
Then Jen drives to Amir’s place, wakes him up only to pistol-whip the shit outta him, and asks if he wants to go for a walk in the woods. Aw, how romantic! She drives him out to the woods where Crystal died, then makes him lie facedown by the car. He exclaims that she killed Crystal after all, which Jenny finds pretty funny. She tells him yeah, she wanted him so bad that she had to get Crystal out of the way, but since then she’s changed her mind; she’s pretty flaky, huh?
Then she starts swallowing the sleeping pills with some beer she took from Amir’s fridge. Well, shit. She threatens him, even though she doesn’t want to hurt him too badly (she has her reasons), and tells him that she doesn’t fool herself like his mother that she knows all his dark secrets, but she knows a few of them. Amir is still acting all innocent, telling Jenny she should turn the knife in to the cops, and Jenny asks if it’s the same one he cut his mother’s eyes out with. He claims not to know what she’s talking about, and Jenny points out that he sounds like her – for the last twenty-four hours she’s been saying she doesn’t know and she doesn’t remember to everyone. Except Amir. He never asked her many questions at all because he knew it would be a waste of time. She tells him that despite not knowing her own mother, she knows his mother, and demands to know again if it’s the same knife. Amir finally admits it is, and he brought it to America with him.
Man, pre-9/11 airport security was a fucking joke, wasn’t it? Don’t mind me; just bringing my giant serrated hunting knife onto this airplane with me, never know when I’ll need to butcher a deer mid-flight.
Jenny finishes the pills, thinking it feels good to get high and see what’s real, even if it is the dark path. She stands Amir up, ties his hands behind his back, and marches him through the woods where she ties him to the tree where Crystal died. The poor baby is scared to death; no sign of the scary monster who laughed as he cut his mother’s eyes out. Phhht. Wimp.
Jenny demands to know how he did it; how he entered her, raped her mind, made her drive her best friend out to this forsaken spot and stab her over and over. This motherfucker is still proclaiming his innocence. Fucking hell. She threatens him with the revolver, and he asks how much she knows; does she know how they were all connected? Yes, and she tells him to elaborate.
He tells her it wasn’t hard to find her and Crystal; at times he could actually see through their eyes. He found Crystal within ten minutes of arriving in town, and although he’d never felt love before, he was sure he felt it for her – he couldn’t stand to be separate from her, he felt the need to possess not just her body but also her soul. Uh, yeah, I’m sure every creepy stalker thinks that’s love, too. Pro-tip: it’s not.
Jenny astutely surmises that he felt more incomplete in her presence when he thought he would feel more complete. He agrees. And just like that, his love for Crystal turned to hate. He couldn’t stand her; she was the most repulsive creature on Earth to him. Wow, thanks, buddy. Damn. But the longing wouldn’t leave him, and he thought meeting Jenny would balance things out. He knew he was the demon; Crystal was the angel; and Jenny was a mix of them both.
Amir admits that he and Jenny never had sex (infuriatingly, he says “made love” again, because clearly Pike just wants to watch me throw things now), they came close but Jenny wouldn’t because she was actually loyal to Crystal. She demands to know if she can get her memory, her personality, back; Amir tells her no, it’s gone, she knows that. And she thinks that she does know it, otherwise she wouldn’t have swallowed so many pills.
Running out of time and done with his shit, Jenny levels the gun between Amir’s eyes and demands to know what happened last night. Holy shit, this book really does all take place within a roughly twenty-four hour period, doesn’t it? I feel like I’m recapping The Mangler all over again, where one night lasted approximately five days.
Anyway, Crystal and Jenny stopped by Amir’s place; Jenny was invited, Crystal wasn’t. Amir had been smoking hash all day, and he was in a state where he couldn’t quite reach the soul, but he wasn’t in touch with his body, either. Kids, use your recreational drugs responsibly. Somehow everything went balls-up, the demons crawled through the door, and the sheer power of it all shattered individual barriers. Crystal and Jenny collapsed, writhing on the floor; Amir was in Jenny’s body, Jenny was in Crystal’s body, and Crystal was “floating up at the ceiling.” I’m not sure what he means by that. I suppose it means Crystal’s soul, but like, was it an astral projection type thing, or something even more ephemeral?
Then he got the idea to use Jenny to get rid of Crystal. He tells Jenny it was painless, but Jenny calls him a liar – she saw the look of pain and horror on Crystal’s face. She says she knows Amir let Crystal back into her body in the end so she would feel the knife sinking into her flesh. So after he regained control of the situation, Amir forced his mind into Jenny, and Jenny’s mind fell out into the void. He claims that if he could get it back for her, he would, which Jenny scoffs at. If he could reach her gun, he’d put a bullet in her brain and walk out of the woods smiling.
Amir pleads for his life, and Jenny pulls out the hypodermic needle, telling him she’s going to inject an air bubble into his bloodstream to kill him. A character did this very same thing in Pike’s book, Remember Me. He likes to pull out the same old tricks from time to time, doesn’t he? After some begging and fighting, Amir finally tires himself out enough for Jenny to grab him and jab the needle into his neck. She goes in for a second stab ( . . . why? Any air in the bloodstream will fuck you up; a cumulative effect doesn’t matter), and then feels the world begin to swirl around her. Everything seems a million miles away, her vision is expanding and contracting at the same time, and she feels inexplicable power and joy, like nothing in the world could command or contain her.
Something tells her to grab Amir’s hands, which she does, and then she blacks out.
When she wakes up, she’s in Amir’s body, tied to the tree, and Amir, in her body, is standing over her, grinning in victory. He tells her that there’s one thing she forgot about demons – they always have something unexpected up their sleeves. Good lord, you cocky bastard, you’re almost as bad as a Bond villain. Jenny wants to know what Amir’s going to do to her, and he replies that she’s already finished the job herself, what with the air in the bloodstream and all. But he supposes he’ll have to leave town since he pointed all the evidence in her direction, and now he is her. Well, yeah, that is slightly inconvenient I suppose. Jenny tells him that she read Crystal’s diary and she’d written that he was lousy in bed, and Amir leaves in a huff.
Of course Jenny didn’t really inject any air into Amir’s bloodstream. She gives him a few minutes head start, then digs the knife out of the ground by the tree and cuts herself loose. She thinks how odd it is to not be a girl anymore (and this is such a specifically supernatural situation that I’m not going to bring trans issues into it despite the conversation we could have about gender identity), but since that particular female body is wanted for murder, she doesn’t mind the radical cosmetic change.
She gets to her car and finds her body slumped over the steering wheel, unconscious but still alive. She drives Amir-in-her-body home and places him in her bed, making sure to put the pill bottle next to the suicide note on the bedside table. Then she waits patiently for her body to take its last breath, thinking about how we’re all a combination of good and bad, and our only chance at enlightenment is to balance the dark and the light. She thinks that she’ll miss Amir as much as she’ll miss Crystal, and in a way she knew him better. The devil always speaks louder than the angel.
Then her body stops breathing. She takes the knife and both diaries, wipes down Jakes’s guns and places them back in the cop car with him (he’s fortunately still unconscious), and walks home, to her new home.
You might think that’s a good place to end, but we get an epilogue. Jenny and Crystal get a joint funeral, which Jenny-as-Amir attends, feeling more out of place than anyone could guess. She tells us that no one wants to blame Jenny for Crystal’s death; everyone is too grief-stricken for pointing fingers, at least for now.
After the funeral, Jenny’s mother, thinking she’s Amir, hands her Jenny’s suicide note, telling her that she knows they were close so she thought Amir would want to read it. Jenny assures her that they were only friends, despite what Amir told the police. Even though she doesn’t actually need to read the note, she does so for her mother’s benefit:
To my family, Crystal’s family, and my friends,
I did not kill Crystal. I realize that when my body is found, my suicide will be proof to everyone of my guilt. But nothing could be further from the truth. I give my life now to stop Crystal’s true murderer, to prevent him from murdering again. Even as I write these words, I know they will never be understood. But I write them anyway because they are true.
I loved Crystal more than life itself. I would never have harmed her. I pray her life, and my own, and the love we shared together is what is remembered by those who loved us. What has happened during these last twenty-four hours is just illusion and madness. My only regret, as I leave, is that it will never be forgotten.
Gator is the greatest little brother in the world.
Jenny-as-Amir tells her mother that she believes her. Mom doesn’t know what she means, because Jenny took all those pills, but she would never have done those things . . . Jenny says that’s what she means. She believes her, and she hopes Mom can believe her, too.
Gator is still standing by the grave side, and Jenny goes up to get him, calling him Gator and telling him his mother’s waiting for him. He’s surprised to see Amir calling him Gator, and she points out that that’s what his sister always called him. He says that she’s not his sister, and his name is Ken. Then Jenny whispers to him that her name is really Clyde, but not to tell anyone else, because they wouldn’t believe a robot’s positronic brain could be repaired.
Gator’s eyes go wide, and Jenny tells him it’s their secret. Then he snaps forward to bite at her finger, which she pulls back in time. He’s delighted that she knew he was going to do that, and she replies that she knows all about his alligator teeth; she remembers that much at least.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
Man, this book hits so many high points for me. I remember becoming fascinated with the idea of the soul being in three parts after I read this. There are so many things in here that I’m a total sucker for in stories: amnesia, body-swapping, and the soul thing. I feel like this is one of Pike’s books that doesn’t get talked about much (although it’s briefly mentioned in the Suggested Reads post, “14+ Christopher Pike Books That’ll Remind You How Great He Really Is,” it’s not one of the 14+ books), which is too bad, because it’s one of his most unique.
We do have some problems that are pretty common to these 90s books. I mean, the one character of color turns out to be an evil psychopath, and while Pike acknowledges the prejudice that leads people to assume the Middle Eastern guy is the bad guy . . . he goes ahead and makes him the bad guy anyway. He comes out acting like he wants to subvert the trope, then upholds it after all. It’s not a great look.
I still enjoy this book overall, despite the weird xenophobia and Jenny’s catty fat-shaming. (Elaine looked like she stored food in her legs! WTF does that even mean?! Were her legs literally mini refrigerators?!) Gator is adorable, and I love his and Jenny’s relationship. Jenny not remembering who she was and being annoyed by her own attitude in her diary lets us see two versions of her character, and this was a pretty great way to present things. I’m not sure the reader would have liked the version of Jenny present in the diary any more than Amnesia Jenny did. Hmm. Character growth by amnesia?
Books like this are one of the reasons Pike always seemed a step above the other teen thriller writers of the 1990s. I can’t imagine R.L. Stine tackling this book with this much skill, although Stine has written both body-swapping and amnesia books. Pike recognized that teens could handle heady concepts (and characters who had sex and experimented with drugs without things turning into an After School Special), and his books are better for it.