Title: Sister Dearest
Author: D.E. Athkins (aka Nola Thacker)
Published: November 1991
Tagline: Blood is thicker than water . . .
Description: The only good sister is a dead sister.
Her older sister is gorgeous. Her older brother is cool. But their baby sister Vicki is a real wild child.
The school year has just begun and Vicki already has a new guy – and some brand new enemies, including the new principal. But she doesn’t care. She just wants to have fun, fun, fun. She won’t listen to her brother. She won’t listen to her sister. She won’t even listen to her best friend.
Because if she keeps on pushing the limits, she’s going to go too far.
And it’s going to cost her.
This book was published when I was ten, and if I read it, it had to have been sometime around that time. I read this back in December 2018 (and live-tweeted it, because it was so ridiculous that I had to share certain bits immediately instead of waiting around to do the full recap), and I didn’t remember anything about it, although it felt vaguely familiar in that same way that most Point Horrors do. Hey, we’re back around to a Point Horror, guys! This might be the shortest Point Horror ever published, clocking in at 106 pages, but don’t worry. There’s a lot of ridiculousness packed into those 106 pages.
Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that author Nola Thacker seems to be a sucker for punny pen names. D.E. Athkins spells “Deathkins” when you run it together, and she also wrote the Graveyard School series under the name “Tom B. Stone.” I’ll let y’all put that one together yourselves.
We open with our protagonist, Vicki Clements, staring up at Amelia Earhart High School and thinking how glad she is to be back, back to normal, and how actually abnormal it is to be glad to be back at school. She has an older sister, Alaina, and an older brother, Alan, and the two of them are twins. That’s right, we have a set of twins named Alan and Alaina. And they were introduced to us as Alaina Clements and Alan Clements, one paragraph after introducing us to Vicki Clements. You know, just in case we’d forgotten the family name in the fraction of a second it took us to read from one sentence to the next.
Alaina seems overly protective of Vicki, making sure she’ll be okay to make it into the school on her own, and then home again later, as Alaina has a Deltas meeting that afternoon. That’s one of those high school sororities that sound fake but apparently are an actual thing that exist. Vicki is annoyed by Alaina’s attention, and get used to this. Everyone will proceed to treat Vicki with kid gloves due to some accident that won’t be fully explained until much later.
Vicki’s BFF, Janet Peretti, pops up out of nowhere and makes a Wizard of Oz joke about Vicki’s red high heels, and the damage is done. I’m now picturing Dorothy’s ruby slippers and nothing else that happens in this book can dislodge that image from my head. Vicki says that the heels may not go with jeans, but who cares? And I remember a time when wearing heels with jeans was considered very fashionable, so . . . did Vicki start that trend? Is that what I’m to believe here? Anyway, Janet counters by saying, “Sexy. Verrry sexy is what I say, and that goes with anything.”
Thus begins the weird and inappropriate sexual overtones this book is chock-full of.
Janet bad-mouths Alaina, then starts in sharing various hot goss with Vicki, and Vicki thinks that Janet is her BFF, closer than a sister, then realizes that Janet is chattering nonstop in an attempt to stave off Vicki’s nervousness. Then some dude named Marty Harmon struts up to them and is creepy about Vicki being back “from the dead,” as she puts it. Then we get this (somewhat confusing) gem:
Vicki took a deep breath. Once – before the accident – she’d thought his stiff, cocky walk, his stand-up hair, even his graveled skin, made him sexy. But then she’d looked into *his* soul and seen – nothing. Now, she assured herself, he doesn’t mean anything to me. We’ve broken up. He’s history. Just a sleazy version of Rod Stewart. Not, in Vicki’s opinion, that there was any version of Rod Stewart that wasn’t sleazy.
What? Okay, let’s go through this. First off, this is the first mention of any accident. Just this, with zero context. Second, graveled skin? Why would that make him sexy? “Mmm, babe, I love how gravelly your skin is, now ravish me, big boy!” I . . . I don’t get it. Third, why the fuck is “his soul” emphasized like that? There has been no previous mention of anyone’s soul, so this is weird. Fourth, wow, poor Rod Stewart. What did he ever do to you, Vicki, to deserve being dunked on like that? Rude.
Then some chick named Caddie Melville rides in on Marty’s wake, points out that Vicki is back (yes, Caddie, very good, gold star for you!) and says it’s too bad. Vicki immediately jumps to the conclusion that Caddie means it’s too bad she didn’t die, and Caddie replies that Vicki said it, not her. So, Caddie is our one-dimensional bitch character, got it. It still seems like quite the leap on Vicki’s part to assume Caddie meant she wished Vicki had died, but okay. If you insist, book.
Janet and Vicki have some catty dialogue about Caddie wanting Marty for herself, but for some reason he won’t get together with her. Then Janet informs Vicki that they have a new school principal, and she’s a failed nun. Janet tells us we know what that means – “Locked away! No outlets. You know . . . ” Uh, no, Janet, I don’t know. You seem to be either insinuating that she’s a lesbian; a man-crazy nympho, or a pathological masturbator. I get that it’s sexual in nature, I just can’t figure out the specifics from your weird insinuation.
We’re on page 5, guys. Page fucking five. Just thought I’d point that out, in case you thought there was going to be any subtlety or nuance to this book. Nope, in a book this short, you’ve gotta exposit the hell out of everything and not bother taking the time to show rather than tell.
As they leave Homeroom and head to first day assembly, Janet chatters about how gorgeous Alan is, and then Vicki manages to run into another gorgeous guy named Dace Jordon, which causes her to teeter on her high heels. I don’t know what the fuck kind of name “Dace” is, but that’s where we are. He compliments her shoes and wanders off, leaving Vicki dazed and stammering, leading Janet to ask her if it was good for her. Dammit, Janet.
Then Vicki somehow runs into yet another human person. This one is a short woman with a “sandpaper voice.” The descriptions in this book are . . . weird. Anyway, this turns out to be the new principal, because of course it is. She already knows Vicki’s name and tells her to watch her step. I am presently unsure if she’s being literal, or if this is a warning.
At the assembly, the principal is introduced as Mary Sewell, and she announces that she does not put the pal in principal. They are to address her as Principal Sewell, and she will address them by their surnames, despite having already referred to Vicki by her first name. She believes in order and discipline, and they have to earn the right to be treated as adults. So, you know, she sounds like fun.
At home later, Vicki gets a phone call from Dace, which Alaina answers, then stands there smiling vacantly while Vicki tries to shoo her off. Finally Vicki tells her point-blank to go cover for her with Dad and she’ll be down to dinner in a minute. Turns out Vicki dropped a notebook when she slammed into Dace, and he wants to return it to her at her locker after school.
At dinner, Vicki discovers Alaina told Dad the phone call was from Janet, because I guess Vicki isn’t allowed to talk to boys or something. We find out Dad’s name is Rutland, which can’t be a real name, are you kidding me? Also, his full name is given twice on the same page, because it’s totally natural to always refer to people by their full name at all times, okay?
Dad tells Vicki she looks flushed, and she replies that she’s trying some new makeup, while thinking to herself, “like how to make up to Dace Jordon.” I get the impression she’s not talking about “making up” in the sense that she’s apologizing to him, but I’ve never heard that used as a euphemism for trying to fuck someone before. What bizarre alternate universe does this book take place in? At any rate, Mom (whose name is Ellen. Ellen Clements, if you were wondering.) pipes up out of nowhere to tell Vicki that too much makeup will make her look cheap. Thanks, Mom. A+ parenting from Point Horror yet again.
Alaina mentions that their new principal is “really odd,” and Dad starts going on about how there’s nothing he hasn’t seen practicing criminal law, and there’s nothing young people won’t get up to! Meanwhile, Vicki is thinking about wearing something “painted on” tomorrow when she sees Dace, but she’ll have to wear a long sweater over it so Dad won’t see, because he’s so much stricter with her than with the twins. Oh, and she’ll definitely have to wear her red high heels.
I’m beginning to think this book should have been called Red Shoes Dearest.
Vicki goes on a soliloquy about her shoes, then starts to wonder why her feet hurt. She looks down and realizes that those aren’t red shoes; her feet are covered in blood! Then she wakes up trying to scream. Oh. Whew. She throws the blankets off her legs, but they’re fine, except for some faint scars left over from the accident. What are the specifics of this accident, you ask? Fuck you, answers the book.
At breakfast, Dad yells at Vicki because she looks pale and isn’t eating her breakfast, even though Alaina is barely nibbling and Alan is just staring into his coffee mug. Mom sedately says that it wouldn’t hurt for Vicki to learn to watch what she eats. Because are you even a parent in Point Horror if you don’t slut- and body-shame your daughter?
Then Alan knocks over the tomato juice, causing Dad to yell at him and Vicki to almost be sick. Dad’s full name is used yet again, and we find out Alan is repeating his last semester because of “things like this.” Spilling tomato juice causes you to fail entire semesters of school? Huh. Who knew.
At lunch, Vicki snaps at Janet when she asks if she’s eating, then a friend of theirs named Lolly Parsons (who has an ample chest, wriggles like a friendly blonde spaniel, and is totally not supposed to remind us of Dolly Parton despite the nearly identical name) gets all gooey over Dace and Vicki. When Vicki mentions having a bad night because of “those dreams again,”
Dolly Lolly immediately jumps in with, “Naughty dreams! About Dace! Oh, Vicki, you are too much.” While making her eyes round. I’m not sure what shape her eyes normally are, but okay. Also, no, you fuckwit. She said she had a bad night. Jesus Christ, is sex the only thing anyone in this book can think of? I mean, I’ll turn anything I can into an innuendo given half a chance, but even I have my limits.
Janet gets Lolly to
chase a Frisbee out into the hall leave the cafeteria by telling her some boy named Tim just left with some hot babe, then tells Vicki that maybe it would help to talk to somebody. Vicki reacts with far more vitriol than strictly necessary, yelling that she’s not crazy, then storms out of the cafeteria, seeing red. She’s mad that people are treating her like an invalid; it was just a dumb accident, after all. Yes, Vicki, an accident that has clearly traumatized you to the point that you can’t sleep at night. Fucking hell.
We get a little background on the accident here: Vicki remembers hearing her parents talking while she was drifting in and out of consciousness in the hospital. Dad wants to know what Vicki was thinking, standing up in the car like that, and what Alan was thinking to let her. Then Mom asks what if it wasn’t an accident, and Dad scoffs, replying that next she’ll be saying all that garbage about kids being accident-prone to get attention is true! What?
Vicki thinks about the accident, and how it was an accident, they’d just been “spinning” in Alan’s silver ’57 T-Bird, spring fever, having a great time. She’d stood up while “they” were hanging on to her (I’m not sure if we’re ever actually told it’s a convertible), pretending to be Homecoming queen on a float, and then she was flying. She doesn’t remember what happened; doesn’t remember anything until she woke up in the hospital in the middle of summer.
She’s broken out of her reverie by Principal Sewell, who reams her out for not having a pass. As far as I can tell, Vicki only got as far as the cafeteria steps before collapsing into her exposition dump, so I really don’t know what she needs a pass for. Sewell says she knows all about Vicki and she won’t get away with anything in this school because she’ll be watching her. Then she says the next time Vicki feels sick, she should go to the nurse’s office, because the next time she catches her without a pass or proper authorization, she’ll suspend her. What even the fuck. Also, within this exchange, Vicki has referred to Sewell’s “strange green eyes” and “squat, strange figure.” I honestly don’t know just what is so strange about this woman; she seems pretty normal to me. Except for that sandpaper voice. That sounds like something she might want to get checked out.
After school, Vicki walks to her locker, thinking about how “deliciously tight” her jeans are and knowing how good she looks in them, but then is disappointed to find Alaina, not Dace, waiting for her. Alaina says she had a meeting and wanted to see if Vicki wanted to walk home together, then mentions that Dace came by and gave her Vicki’s notebook to give back to her. For some reason Vicki’s inner monologue is about how much she hates Alaina (for talking to Dace, I suppose) and how she wants to kill her. Um, overreaction much, Vicki?
As they’re walking, and Alaina is complimenting Vicki on how much better a choice Dace is than Marty, Vicki keeps wondering if Dace asked Alaina out. No, you idiot, she’s literally saying, “Dace Jordon! Not bad, little sister!” Does that fucking sound like she’s the one he’s going to ask out? Fuck sake. Anyway, Vicki starts throwing a hissy fit, pulling away from Alaina, which prompts her to mention how she’s been acting ever since the accident. Vicki explodes and fantasizes about pushing Alaina down the stairs in front of the school. Vicki. What the fuck.
Vicki fakes being fine, then asks Alaina if she has a Deltas meeting today, and Alaina says no; Vicki knows meetings are always on Mondays. But . . . she literally just said she had (just finished?) a meeting. I don’t understand.
Then Marty shows up out of nofuckingwhere to quote “ring around the rosie” at Vicki and to tell her it’s about the black plague and how everyone dies. Adding to the weirdness, he quotes it as “upstairs, downstairs, we all fall down,” whereas I’ve always heard it as “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” Is this a regional thing? Regardless, what the actual fuck, Marty?
The next day, Dace is waiting by Vicki’s locker to ask her out to a movie on Saturday. Actually, he’s there to “collect his thank you.” Whatever, Dace. I just discovered that you’re named after a type of fish, so I’m having a hard time taking anything you say seriously. I just imagine his parents introducing the family to people – Hello, this is my son, Dace; his brother, Trout; and their sister, Minnow.
Vicki of course says yes, and smash cut! to Dad telling her no. Vicki asks why; Dace is a perfectly nice guy; at least meet him before saying no. For some reason, Dad claims Vicki is getting hysterical, even though she’s clearly not, and she points out that she’s sixteen, and she went out before. You know, before the accident. Hell, maybe this book should be called The Accident, except I guess Diane Hoh already had that title on lockdown for the next Point Horror book that was published.
Dad doesn’t want to talk about it, and raises his newspaper up to hide his face, because Dad is clearly living in a 1950s sitcom. Then Alan pops up to the rescue and proposes a double date – Vicki and Dace can ride along on his date with some unnamed girl. Dad dithers for a minute, then agrees, but not before adding that he doesn’t know what he’s thinking of to think Alan would be any kind of chaperone. Alan refers to Vicki as “sister dearie” when she thanks him, which is . . . weird.
Fast forward to Saturday night, and Vicki thinking it’s been the longest week of her life, except for those weeks in the hospital. I mean, I’ll take your word for it, Vic, since I have no idea what day anything is taking place on in this book. She thinks about what the most revealing thing she can get out of the house wearing would be, and then tells us that of course she’ll be wearing her red high heels. Seriously though, why is she so obsessed with these fucking shoes? Does this bitch think she’s Kellie Pickler or something?
Then this shit happens:
“What’s the joke?” Alaina stopped in the door.
“Nothing. How do I look?” Vicki stood up and made a snake-hip movement toward her sister.
Alan had come up behind Alaina. Amazing how much alike they looked. Not just like fraternal twins. Like identical twins almost. “Nice hip action,” Alan said.
Vicki gave her brother her most seductive pout. “Isn’t it, though,” she said.
“And what a bad little girl.”
“It’s when I’m best.”
“You two,” said Alaina indulgently.
“Hold that thought,” said Alan to Vicki. “I think I hear a car.”
What. The. Fuck. What the fuck was that? The Lannisters by way of V.C. Andrews? What the fucking fuck did I just read?
Moving on, I guess. I do have to move on, don’t I? I can’t just keep gaping at this page while trying to figure out a way this doesn’t read as incestuous, can I?
Anyway. The car they heard was Dace. Dad is wholly unimpressed by him, only barking out that they’re to be home by midnight. For some reason they’ve taken Dace’s car, and Alan says he can just let him out on the corner. Ha! There’s no double date; Alan was just doing his little sis a solid! Because he wants to do her? Unknown.
Dace and Vicki go to a horror movie, which is apparently the funniest fucking thing they’re ever seen, because they’re still laughing about it an hour later at the pizza place. Apparently one of the lines from it was “Be he alive or be he dead, give me some blood to spread my bread.” Okay. I feel like I’m saying this a lot this recap, but what the fuck? “Spread my bread”? (I bet Alan wants to spread Vicki’s bread if ya know what I mean.)
Vicki mentions having “a lot” of siblings (you have two, Vic), and Dace suddenly gets squirrelly and says it’s time to take Vicki home. He kisses her on her porch, and she slides her hands up his shirt, but before she can really get settled on second base, he leaves. Oh, okay then. Guess we probably shouldn’t just straight up fuck on the porch in front of your dad who barely even agreed to let you go out at all, huh?
Because she supposedly went on a double date with her brother, she has to wait for him to get home before she can go inside. Kinda risky to be making out on the porch, then, isn’t it? Couldn’t Dad open the door at literally any time? You know he’s probably waiting up.
While she’s waiting on Alan, she hears someone laughing at her in the nearby shadows. She freaks out, asking who’s there while backing up against the door and fumbling for her keys. The door opens and a hand grabs her shoulder, causing her to scream “No! NO!” before discovering it’s only her dad. I mean, yeah. She asks if he heard anything, which naturally he didn’t, and he wants to know where the fuck Alan is. Oh, uh . . . Luckily Alan rocks up right then, saving Vicki from being grounded, or tortured, or whatever this bizarre-ass family does as punishment.
Okay, now we’re skipping forward to Monday. Why not. Vicki is annoyed because she hasn’t seen Dace; Janet is in the art room working on a project; and she keeps running into Caddie. She wonders how someone who was sly and calculating could be so obvious, and I answer that perhaps Caddie isn’t as sly as you think she is. Vicki mutters “Buy a vowel, Caddie,” to herself, and again this book has me flummoxed. Look, I love Wheel of Fortune as much as the next girl, but what the fuck is this supposed to mean in this context? What the fuck are you on about, Vicki?!
Vicki hides in the girls’ room to smoke a cigarette; Janet tracks her down; Vicki asks her what she’s doing there, isn’t she supposed to be doing her arts and crafts? Then we’re told that Janet lets the putdown slide, and I’m suddenly perplexed yet again. What putdown? Could just one thing in this book make any kind of sense?
Janet asks since when does Vicki smoke; Vicki asks since when is it any of Janet’s business, and Janet holds up her finger and says “Since anytime these last sixteen years or so.” They made themselves blood sisters when they were kids, and now Janet tells Vicki that blood is thicker than water, right? As much as this book is frustrating the hell out of me, they actually got this kind of right. The full expression is, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” essentially meaning that you don’t have to be related to be family, and just because you’re related doesn’t make you family. How many times can I say “family” before this turns into a Fast and Furious movie?
Vicki relents and admits she doesn’t know why she bought the smokes, and now I’m annoyed again. She’s sixteen; if she bought the cigarettes herself, the store she bought them from is going to be in some deep shit.
Apparently Janet has been at her uncle’s all weekend and wasn’t allowed to make a long-distance call (remember those?) to get the details after Vicki’s date with Dace, so she asks now how it was, including making a “descriptive gesture” with her hands that makes Vicki laugh and gasp. So, a finger of one hand going into a hole made with the other hand in the universal hand signal for P in V sex, or something else? Place your bets now, and we can DM Nola Thacker at a later date to ask.
They run into Caddie as they leave the bathroom, and she’s just generally unpleasant and randomly makes a crack about Janet’s figure. Then Vicki calls her a jerk and she acts like it’s the worst insult she’s ever heard. I find it hard to believe nobody’s ever called Caddie a cunt, but okay. She walks off in a huff, and Janet and Vicki snipe about her – apparently even soft-hearted Alaina wouldn’t let her in the Deltas; Janet hopes to be let into the Deltas; Caddie would do anything for Marty, but she can’t get him to ask. Okay, I’m sure this is all worthwhile to the story. Somehow. Meanwhile, we’re on page 33, which is basically a third of the way through this book, and the only menacing thing that’s happened is some laughter in the dark. Pick up the damn pace, Thacker.
I’m assuming it’s the next day, but who the fuck knows in this book. Vicki shows up to school wearing layers of t-shirts and a sweater, her high-tops (I had assumed up to this point that the red high heels were the only footwear she owned) with layers of socks, and black skinpants under a skirt she plans to take off as soon as she gets to the girls’ room. Okay, I’m sorry, what the fuck are “skinpants”? Are they leggings? From context, I’m assuming they’re leggings. I remember 1991. I owned leggings. We called them leggings. Surely this can’t be another weird regional thing? (This might just be a Thacker thing. Google thinks I’m asking about ski pants, and Urban Dictionary defines skinpants as “those big-hair 80s pants that forgetful mothers can’t remember the name of.” Think Peggy Bundy, I guess. So. Leggings.)
And what about all these layers, and a fucking sweater? Didn’t school just start? Isn’t it still essentially summer? It’s what, mid-September at the latest? Aren’t you fucking roasting in that get-up, Vic? Good lord, this book.
After taking her skirt off so she’s just wearing her
skinpants leggings as pants, she runs into Dace in the hall, wearing jeans almost as tight as her skinpants leggings. They ogle and make innuendos at each other for a minute, then he asks her out again for Saturday. Cool. When she tells Janet, Janet exclaims “Another date? It’s getting serious!” It’s only a second date, Janet, calm the fuck down.
They’re in the locker room, getting ready for gym class while talking about Dace, and Janet asks if Vicki thinks Dace will ask her to Homecoming, which prompts Lolly (the wiggly blonde spaniel) to pop out of a locker and squeal. Or something; I’m less invested in these kids’ love lives than I am in finding the appropriate analogy to convey how little I’m invested in these kids’ love lives.
After class all the girls come piling back in the locker room, put out because Caddie was put on the opposing basketball team and was playing like an asshole. Janet tells Vicki she’s lucky to have an excuse to sit out part of these brawls; Caddie comes in and tells Vicki it must be nice to get special treatment since she’s practically “a cripple” now (boo, hiss, not cool, Caddie); then Vicki starts to insult Caddie’s size, comparing her to a whale because her last name is Melville, but switching up to point out the name of the whale was Moby . . . Moby Dick. To which Caddie responds that Vicki and her girlfriend have problems – big, sick problems.
After showering, Janet and Lolly take off, leaving Vicki alone to get dressed. She pulls on her high tops and immediately falls to the floor, screaming and writhing. Cliffhanger chapter end! (There have been a few, but since this isn’t R.L. Stine, I don’t care as much about pointing them all out.)
Now, you might think there was glass, or thumbtacks, or literally anything else that could actually hurt a person in Vicki’s shoes. You’d be wrong. After two pages of Vicki screaming, kicking her feet, rolling around hysterically, and everyone running back into the locker room and helping her claw her shoes off her feet, Lolly shrieks that there are “hundreds and hundreds” of roaches crawling out of Vicki’s shoes.
Ummm, I have questions.
So. Shoes full of roaches, huh? How did our bad guy get all those roaches to stay in the shoes? How do you get “hundreds and hundreds” of roaches to fit in the shoes? Wouldn’t Vicki jamming her feet in the shoes have crushed most of the roaches? And, again, how did our bad guy get the roaches to stay in the shoes?! I call the most serious of bullshit here. Those little fuckers would have scattered everywhere immediately. I’m sure some of them would have remained in the shoes, but most of them would have scuttled off to find someone’s bag lunch left moldering in a locker somewhere.
In a move that has me wondering if this really is a Point Horror, the gym teacher is actually a competent adult. No, that can’t be right, can it? Ms. Hazelett asks Vicki who would do such a thing to her, then points out it’s not very funny when Vicki tries to brush it off as a joke. If you wanted to see one specific, singular trope subverted, I guess you’ve come to the right place. Ms. Hazelett asks Vicki if everything is okay at home, at school, with her friends, and rather than appreciating the only good adult we might ever run into in these books, Vicki is annoyed that everyone is treating her like she’s crazy. Except . . . Ms. Hazelett very clearly isn’t? She’s prepared to believe you, Vic. She’s concerned and not writing it off as a wacky teen prank. Cherish this, dammit!
Vicki spends her last class of the day trying to figure out who hates her enough to put roaches in her shoes, but somehow her entire inner monologue is all about the Deltas and how Caddie didn’t get in and Janet wants in even though she hates Alaina, and somehow ends with Vicki feeling ashamed for suspecting Janet. Except literally nothing she thought was a suspicion of Janet. It’s almost as if this book was written in a rush and doesn’t make any sense.
On the phone that night, Janet is insisting the culprit must be Caddie. Then she pointlessly mentions some panty raid the boys went on in the past, and then she points out that since she and Vicki share a locker, maybe the roaches were meant for her. Then Dad rocks up behind Vicki, asking her who’s on the phone (the only telephone the kids are allowed to use is in the front hall), and instead of acting like a normal human being, Vicki starts screaming about not having any privacy and tells her dad it was Jack the Ripper, then storms upstairs and slams her door. Uhhh . . .
Dad apparently lets this pass and doesn’t come up to read Vicki the riot act after that little outburst, which Vicki finds weird. Yeah, you and me both, girl. Especially since he called you hysterical when you calmly asked him to at least meet Dace before deciding whether you could go out with him.
Vicki spends some time suspecting various people – Alan because he didn’t hear the laughter in the shadows despite being right there, plus everyone says he’s changed since the accident; Marty because he might want to get back at her for dumping him, even though she quickly thinks that he doesn’t even notice she dumped him. Then she remembers Alaina calling him “Marty Hormone” and wonders if his hormones really had gotten out of control. Uh, sorry, what? I don’t think putting roaches in people’s shoes is a symptom of puberty. I mean, it’s been a while, and I could be wrong, but . . . pretty sure that’s not it.
Vicki has a dream that she’s drowning; no, she’s being smothered! She can’t breathe! She wakes up gasping for air, and Alaina is by her bed. She heard Vicki and came in to wake her up so she wouldn’t wake up Mom and Dad. Alaina concludes it was what happened with the roaches that made Vicki have a bad dream, and goes on to say that it was some pervert’s idea of fun. Why are we bringing perverts into this, Alaina? Pervert has a pretty specific meaning, and I’m pretty sure this doesn’t qualify.
Apparently all the ruckus also woke Alan up, as he stops by to lean in the doorway and punnily tell Vicki not to let it bug her. Bug her, get it? FUNNY JOKE! Alaina pointedly tells him goodnight, then relaxes against Vicki once he leaves, giving Vic the impression that she’s scared of Alan. Then Vicki suddenly realizes that she too is afraid of Alan, because he’s changed since the accident and she doesn’t feel she can trust him any more. Well, boy, I guess we just have to take everyone’s word for it since we have absolutely nothing to compare After-Accident-Alan to.
At school, Janet is still convinced the roaches were meant for her, even though Vicki is sure they weren’t. Vicki also calls it a perverted trick again, which . . . no. Vicki yells that if Janet wants to be the target so badly, then fine! Then Janet tries to smooth things over, while Vicki thinks about how she’s spending less time with Janet now that she and Dace are getting serious (have they still only been out on one date? was there an off-page date?), but when she does pay attention to Janet she’s getting on her nerves. Friendship is motherfuckin’ magic, y’all.
We get a lot of mooning over Dace now, along with the information that Dad won’t let Vicki go out with him at night, so they’re stuck doing kid stuff (like swinging on the playground) during the day. Uh, movies play during the day. You can do literally everything in the day that you could do at night (at least as a sixteen-year-old), so what the fuck is the issue? Anyway, Janet offers to double date, which Dad surprisingly goes for. Cue Dace, Vicki, Janet, and her date-of-the-week at someplace called Nick’s restaurant, where it seems half the school is hanging out. Dace and Vicki make out in a booth, and I’m mystified at why they couldn’t do this on their own in the daytime.
One day (when? who knows? who cares? not the author of this book!) after the last bell, Dace and Vicki are making out by their lockers. Guess who catches them? She of the sandpaper voice, Principal Sewell herself! She curtly sends Dace on his way, but drags Vicki into her office to yell at her about being on school property after hours (. . . surely there are after-school extracurriculars going on, right? What about all of those kids?) and the lewd and disgusting behavior she was displaying. I’m sorry, was Vicki making out with herself? Are you not going to yell at the other party about his lewd and disgusting behavior? No? Just the girl, then? Right, okay, got it.
Principal Sewell demands Vicki call her parents to come pick her up, and Vicki calls one of those numbers that tells you the time and weather instead, pretending to be talking to her mom. Then the principal allows her to go wait outside instead of having her mom pick her up in the principal’s office. Seems fake, but okay.
Vicki takes off walking, and seething, and somehow it’s already getting dark. Sorry, did we somehow fast forward to the middle of winter? It shouldn’t be getting dark in the mid-afternoon. She takes a shortcut through the elementary school playground, and starts hearing footsteps behind her when she reaches the little bridge that spans the culvert at the back of the playground. She tries to hold it together and not run or show how scared she is, but then she discovers that the “footsteps had gotten there before her.” Yeah, I don’t think that’s how footsteps work. Anyway, she knows this because she spots red shoes. And then feet. And then the bloody stumps of ankles where the legs should have been.
God forbid Thacker just tell us Vicki saw a pair of severed feet in red shoes. Nope, gotta be all dramatic and disjointed. And tell us that a sound (footsteps are a sound, people) left a pair of bloody feet for her.
Oh. Wait. Is she supposed to think the severed feet were making the footsteps she was hearing? That’s just stupid enough to be it, isn’t it? Lord help us all.
As Vicki is running away, someone grabs her, ripping her shirt. She turns and swings her backpack into them, and discovers it’s only Alan. He is understandably confused, and when Vicki calms down enough to explain what she just saw, he replies, “Stumps of feet in your red shoes? Vicki, aren’t you kind of young to be getting a foot fetish?” What? No. What? That’s . . . that’s not how any of this works. A does not connect to B; please try again.
Alan drags Vicki back to the bridge, and of course the shoes/feet are gone. Alan purports to believe Vicki, but she still makes him promise not to tell anyone about this, claiming she’ll say he’s lying if he mentions it to anyone. They head home for dinner, and the whole time they’re eating, Vicki waffles back and forth over whether or not she trusts Alan. This book’s short enough as it is; if you took out all this unnecessary, repetitive bullshit and picked up the pace, you’d have a pretty decent short story.
They have rare roast beef for dinner, and Vicki forces herself to eat enough of the bloody beef to appease her dad, then begs off, claiming she has a lot of homework. In her room, she stares at her closet, trying to convince herself that of course her shoes are still in there, and the feet she saw were Halloween props. She jerks the closet door open to find her shoes right where she left them as Alaina comes into her room and asks if she’s okay. Then Alaina says it’s just because she heard about that awful prank with the roaches, and, like, yes Alaina. We know. This wasn’t new information to anyone; you already mentioned it when Vicki was having a bad dream. What the fuck.
Alaina tells Vicki there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, then goes on to say that people think she’s so perfect but things are hard for her, too. Living up to such high standards isn’t easy. Vicki scoffs, but then realizes that maybe Alaina is right. Then Alaina tells her that Dace has problems, too – his sister has a severe personality disorder that turned into full blown psychosis, which the family found out when she flipped her shit and tried to stab Dace to death. She’s been institutionalized ever since. Yup, that’s right, all crazy people will absolutely try to kill you at some point. Ask everyone who’s ever met me – oh, wait, you can’t. Because I’ve killed them all, obviously. *various eyerolls and fart noises*
Alaina makes Vicki promise she won’t tell anyone what she told her, especially Dace. He’s apparently in denial about it or something. Sure. We’ll go with that.
That night Vicki dreams she’s dancing in her shoes, except she can’t stop dancing, and then someone comes at her with a knife and tries to cut her feet off. Then she wakes up and thinks she needs to talk to someone or she’ll go crazy, if she’s not already. Whatever, Vicki. And also, yes, you’ve clearly not dealt with the mental trauma from the accident, to say nothing of the weird shit happening now, so talking to someone is a very logical next step.
Then we jump to Janet asking Vicki if she and Dace are doing it. Uh . . . she clarifies that she means the Homecoming dance; are Vicki and Dace going? Janet, nobody would phrase it that way and you damn well know it. For fuck sake. Vicki doesn’t know yet, then Marty rocks up in the hall and Janet abandons her friend to him. Marty traps Vicki up against the lockers and tells her she’s been treating him bad, because he still doesn’t seem to realize (care?) that they’ve broken up. While Vicki is trying to get away from him, Principal Sewell shows up and lets Marty take off while she yells at Vicki again for . . . I dunno, getting harassed, I guess.
As Vicki heads off to class, she sees Caddie lurking around and suddenly realizes that Caddie is the one who pointed the principal her way, thinking she was “doing her dirty,” but actually helping her out. Because Marty was harassing Vicki, you fucking idiot. Feeling better, Vicki waves at Caddie and says, “Caddie. Thanks, babes. Stick around and I’ll show you how it’s done . . .” Then Vicki laughs all the way to class at the shocked look on Caddie’s face. I’m not sure I would be shocked in that situation. Mostly just because I’m sitting here trying to figure out what the fuck any of this means. You’ll show her how what is done? Getting harassed by exes? Making out (which is clearly what Caddie thought was going on)? I don’t get it; are you hitting on Caddie? What the fuck is happening?
Dace asks Vicki to Homecoming while they’re at a football game. He asks her if she’ll wear her red shoes, and I’m so sick of hearing about these damn shoes, I swear to God. Then she asks if he thinks she’s crazy, apparently out of nowhere, then she remembers about his sister (who I’m still going to think of as Minnow) and tries to deflect the crazy talk.
When she tells Janet about going to the dance, Janet laments that they could double if she had a date. She wants to go with Alan, and Vicki tells her to ask him, then! Then they talk about Janet’s art a little – Janet is put out that Vicki never asks to see it, but freaks out and says no when Vicki asks to see it. Okay.
Alan takes Vicki for a ride in the T-Bird, which he hasn’t driven since the accident, and Vicki loves it, it’s like the accident never happened. She thinks Alan looks sad, and apparently is done suspecting him of anything. For the moment. Then she finds out Janet went ahead and asked Alan to the dance after all. Oh, happy day!
Alan mentions to Dad that he and Janet are doubling to the dance with Dace and Vicki, and that’s that. Did I mention the family is sitting around watching Carrie, and as Sissy Spacek gets the blood dumped on her head, Alan pipes up that that reminds him they’re all going to the dance? Yeah. Surprisingly, Dad has a sense of humor and also thinks it’s hilarious that that was the segue Alan chose.
On Saturday, Vicki, Janet, and Lolly go on the Great Prom Dress Hunt. Despite the fact that this is Homecoming, not Prom. Those are two different things. I may not have gone to any high school dances, but I at least know that much about them. Anyway, after hours of shopping, Vicki finally finds a dress – it’s just a tube, very tight and very short. It comes with a long jacket that covers most of it up, meaning it will slip past Dad’s body-policing radar. Vicki insists that she’ll take the jacket off at the dance, and she hopes the dress will stay up . . . or maybe she doesn’t! She and Janet fall all over themselves laughing, and Lolly tells them a dress like that could get Vicki in trouble, which makes them laugh all the harder. Good times.
At school an indeterminate amount of time later, Vicki finds a note in her backpack. She freaks the fuck out when she reads it, crumples it up and throws it on the floor, and runs outside, prepared to ditch school because of bad poetry. She runs into Janet, who asks to see the note, but of course it’s disappeared. But fear not! For Vicki has memorized the terrible poem. It went like this: Little Bo Peep/has lost her shoes/and doesn’t know where to find them/but leave them alone/and they’ll come home/dragging her feet behind them.
Janet’s reaction is much the same as mine; she’s like, “Is that it?” Vicki freaks out on her at first, because obviously the note is referencing the severed feet in her shoes, but then she remembers she didn’t tell anyone about that, including Janet. Instead of telling her now, she passes it off like it just reminds her of her dreams and the roaches in her shoes. Janet again argues that the roaches could have been meant for her, and Vicki wonders if she should tell Janet about the other things that have happened, but thinks she’ll think she’s paranoid. Then the “maniac” voice in Vicki’s head tells her that just because she’s paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to get her. Thanks, Maniac Voice.
Vicki sits in math class and debates her sanity or something, I don’t know. All I know is that she starts to suspect Marty with his “Ring Around the Rosie and his brooding, sex-crazed obsessions.” Sorry, what? When have we ever been told about any “sex-crazed obsessions”? What are you talking about?! Fucking hell. Anyway, then we’re told that Marty was in the car when the accident happened. Marty, Lolly, Janet, and Alaina. And Alan driving, of course. We’re on page 79. We have 27 pages left, and we’re only just now getting around to naming everyone in the car when the accident happened. Goddamn, this book.
Convinced that Marty is the one fucking with her, and wanting to kill him herself, Vicki confronts him in the hall, screaming at him and calling him a “Rod Stewart joke.” Boy, Vicki really hates Rod Stewart. For some reason, this really gets under Marty’s skin, and I’m left wondering if boys in 1991 were into serious Rod Stewart idolatry. I don’t remember anyone trying so hard to emulate Rod Stewart, but I was ten. Maybe I missed it.
Vicki screams some more, accusing Marty of sending her the poem, and he has no idea what she’s talking about, but tells her that someone’s after her, all right, but it’s not him. He insinuates that he knows who wants to get her, but refuses to tell her anything. Vicki threatens Marty’s life a couple more times, then he tells her to think about him some more and maybe they’ll talk about it again.
Another time jump to some day before school starts. Everyone starts freaking out in the school parking lot because something’s been found on the elementary school playground next door. Principal Sewell walks over to the slides where something is lying on the ground, but God forbid we know what’s going on yet.
At least, until we’re told it was Caddie who’d found Marty, and she walks up to Vicki to scream at her that she did it; Vicki killed Marty! Except by lunchtime everyone knows he’s not dead – yet. He was found bloody and battered by the sliding board on the playground. Sorry, “sliding board”? What the fuck is a sliding board? I made a big deal of this when I live-tweeted this book, because I couldn’t figure this shit out. I have since Googled it, and a sliding board is a very regional term (mostly in the Philadelphia area it looks like, and maybe also some parts of the UK?) for a slide. However, we’ve already used the term “slide” before saying sliding board, so . . . I have so many issues here. (On my Google search, I was also reminded of the term “slipper slide” which we used to use all the time when I was little, except I was under the impression it was actually “slip or slide.” tl;dr: language is weird.)
Anyway, Dace comes up to Vicki and Janet at lunch, and Vicki thinks that he thinks she’s crazy just like his sister. Crazy enough to kill. But then he kisses her and joins them in a show of solidarity. Then Janet mutters at them to “go for vogue.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Has Thacker just created her own language here, or does she think this was the way kids talked? HELP ME!
Leaving school, all her friends are being super protective of Vicki, then Alan pulls up in the T-Bird and gives everyone a ride home, except Dace. Then Vicki tells us that she didn’t realize until later that everyone in the car had also been there the night of the accident. Except Marty.
Very dramatic. Also, utterly pointless.
Skip to the night of the Homecoming dance (how much later, you ask? mind your fucking business, the book answers), and Vicki in the bathtub, ruminating about how her friends have stood by her to stave off Caddie’s evil rumors about her trying to kill Marty, and also him being in a coma has even become old news. It seems like maybe weeks have passed, but it could be mere hours for all this book wants to let us keep track.
Alaina barges into the bathroom, because Alan has taken over the other bathroom and she wants to get ready for the dance, too. She’s the Deltas choice for Homecoming queen, and has started dating a guy named Thom Nixx. Everything about that name pisses me off, not least of all the fact that my spell check doesn’t recognize it, so my screen is full of little red squiggly underlines. (It doesn’t recognize “Alaina,” either, which has been maddening this whole time, too.)
Dad insists on taking a million posed pictures before they’re all allowed to be off to the dance, and I didn’t think Homecoming was as big a deal as Prom, but this book seems dead set on proving me wrong.
Alan parks the T-Bird all the way at the far end of the parking lot, off by itself, because he’s worried about kids leaving the dance, driving drunk and smashing into it. I had to read this passage several times to decipher his meaning, because of course he used some weird analogy instead of just coming out and saying what he meant.
Our group starts walking toward the school, and Dace helps Vicki unbutton her coat, because why not. Once they get inside, she takes it off, revealing her dress, and I’m just gonna quote this shitshow again:
Alan had grabbed Janet’s hand to pull her out onto the dance floor, but she stopped him and turned expectantly.
Vicki stood for a moment, savoring the attention. Then she reached up and in one motion stripped the jacket away.
“Yeah!” said Janet. “Let’s dance. Alan?”
But Alan was standing, staring at Vicki. “Well, well, little sister,” he said.
“Weird brother,” said Dace softly.
“Weird sister, maybe,” said Janet suddenly, her eyes narrow, as if she were looking at Vicki from Alan’s point of view. “Alan, come on!” She yanked Alan away.
So, Alan definitely wants to fuck his sister, yeah?
Vicki and Dace dance, then Alan cuts in, and I’m not going to quote this entire book, but there’s a lot more “sister dear” and “brother dear” back and forth, and Alan telling her no one else is dressed like her and maybe she’ll win Alaina some extra votes. Ew? Point Horror usually goes more for pseudo incest, as in, no one is blood related to the family-ish member they want to bang, but this one is just going for it, huh?
More dancing; Vicki practically sticks her tongue out at the principal as she dances past, and I guess there’s no dress code for this dance or else Sewell would absolutely be kicking her out. The Homecoming coronation takes place, and Alaina wins Homecoming queen. Vicki dances a victory dance for her sister.
Vicki and Dace sneak out a side door and end up making out on the hood of the T-Bird for a while before moving to the backseat. Things are getting hot and heavy, but Dace pauses the action and leaves to go get Vicki’s jacket from inside the school, because I guess he thinks she’s getting cold? I mean, I know the real reason is because we’re almost at the end of the book, so Vicki needs to be alone so the bad guy can try to kill her, but really. Just get naked together. That body heat will warm you right up.
Vicki starts hearing someone whispering her name, and somehow she pinpoints it as coming from the playground. Let me repeat: she can identify where a whisper is coming from, from inside a car. Nope.
She at first isn’t having any of this shit, but then she gets pissed off, gets out of the car, and starts walking toward the playground, yelling that she’s not afraid of whoever this is and for them to show themselves.
Then someone starts strangling her.
Somehow the strangler has dragged her across the playground, and she’s now on her hands and knees on the “sliding board.” My apologies to whoever uses this phrase, but it makes no sense and literally no one else in the country knows what the fuck you’re talking about. “Sliding board” implies that the board itself slides, not that you slide on it. Also, “board” generally implies wood, and I wouldn’t advise sliding down a wooden slide. Just get an ass full of splinters, wouldn’t you?
I’m sorry. Clearly this got farther under my skin than I thought.
Anyway, Vicki is on her hands and knees on the (metal) slide, and I guess the strangler still has their hands around her throat? I’m having trouble picturing this in any way that doesn’t look like bad homemade porn. Then again, with this book, that might be exactly what I’m supposed to be picturing.
Vicki is made to stand at the top of the slide, and her tormentor starts chanting “This little sister went to market. This little sister stayed hoooome. This little sister had roast beef. This little sister had nooone . . . . And this little sister cried . . . are you crying, little sister? This little sister cried . . . .”
Well, that’s totally normal.
Then Vicki remembers the night of the accident, remembers Alaina on one side of her, holding her legs, and Marty on the other side. Then someone let go of her legs and pushed her.
So now she realizes it’s Alaina trying to kill her. Alaina left the bad poetry for her, and made papier mache bloody feet to put in her shoes, and tried to kill Marty because he knew she’d pushed Vicki out of the car. She gave Vicki her bad dreams by sneaking into her room and holding her hand over Vicki’s mouth while she slept. When Vicki asks why, Alaina tells her it’s because she loves her. Uh . . . . She goes on to say that Vicki needed her when she was little, and Daddy was so proud of the good care Alaina took of her, but then Vicki got bigger and didn’t need her anymore; no matter how much trouble Alaina got Vicki in, Daddy only loved Vicki more. Vicki should never have been born, Alaina should have been the only girl, Daddy loved her best until Vicki came along. Okay, creepy, but also aren’t they only like a year or two apart? How many memories could Alaina possibly have from before Vicki was born?
Vicki tries to talk Alaina down, but Alaina’s just so tired, and she’s not having it. A car comes tearing onto the playground, shining its lights over them, and Vicki falls forward, off the slide, grabbing Alaina’s hand and taking her down with her.
Sure, okay, but I don’t think this is nearly as dramatic as Thacker wants us to believe. Aren’t playground slides only about five feet high? Six at most? Like, what’s the worst injury you’re going to sustain from that?
Oh. Apparently it’s a broken collarbone. The next chapter has Vicki once again happy to be back at school, and Janet telling her to chill or people are going to think she broke her head instead of just her collarbone. So, this chapter is a big ol’ info dump. Janet asks how Alaina is; she’s awake but doesn’t remember anything. Vicki now realizes she wasn’t an accident-prone kid after all (I honestly don’t think anything was ever mentioned about her being especially accident-prone, but sure, whatever), it was all Alaina, who would act all loving and caring to her afterward to prove what a good big sister she was. So, this is a little bit Munchausen-adjacent, yeah? Anyway, Mom and Dad were starting to catch on, because Alan suspected what had happened the night of the accident. Instead of approach this in any head-on sort of way, they decided to just get really strict with Vicki instead. So, your big sister tried to kill you, and the best course of action is to make sure you never leave the house . . . that your sister also lives in? Yup, that makes sense, nothing to see here.
They also told Principal Sewell, which is why she’s so strict, too. Except, maybe it’s not, because Janet heard Sewell isn’t a failed nun after all! She was a drill sergeant! Oh. Cool. Now I’m just picturing R. Lee Ermey in drag.
Then Janet spots Alan and her face lights up, prompting Vicki to think, “All in the family.” Oh my God what are we on about now that’s not even what that expression means asjdfkl;
Dace rocks up; Vicki asks if he has a sister – yep, she’s ten years older and lives in San Francisco. Then they start kissing on the steps of the school, and are interrupted by Principal Sewell, who informs them that public displays of affection are strictly off-limits . . . inside the school. She walks off, and Dace and Vicki kiss one more time before heading in.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
So. This book. It sure does exist, huh?
I have no idea what to say about this one. I don’t think it’s good, but I had ridiculous amounts of fun reading (roasting?) it. It’s so fucking bonkers; almost every chapter brought me a fresh round of “what the fuck?!”, and . . . I just don’t know, guys.