Title: Dance of Death
Author: Jo Gibson (AKA Joanne Fluke)
Tagline: Shoes to die for
Description: They were the most gorgeous shoes Donna Burke had ever seen. An exquisite pair of scarlet high heels. And allegedly cursed. According to the old shopkeeper, the shoes endowed their wearers with incredible talent – and horrible misfortune. But that doesn’t stop Donna’s friends from buying them. One by one, the girls are drawn to the shoes. One by one, the girls suffer grisly fates. And learn a sinister, final truth: One size kills all.
So, we meet again, Jo Gibson. And here I thought your only teen thrillers were the three holiday-themed ones that I already recapped. How silly of me. For since that time, I have thus discovered four more, resulting in my immediate purchase of your collection entitled Afraid, wherein are contained both this novel, and one called The Dead Girl. Did you think you could hide these tomes from me, my dastardly arch-nemesis? Muah-ha, the hubris!
Apologies, folks. Something about Jo always makes me a little overly dramatic. In all seriousness, I’m not quite sure if I’ve read this book before. It seems vaguely familiar, but that might just be because it’s inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Red Shoes. The Wikipedia page for that story actually has this book listed as an adaptation, which surprised me to no end. I just figured this book wasn’t the sort of thing people remembered and put on Wikipedia.
Anyway, I always tend to have fun snarking on Jo (except for the Surprise!Rape in The Seance; that killed my fun right quick), so I’m looking forward to cringing my way through this one. And since I’ve never read it before (maybe?), I thought I’d go ahead and recap as I read, so you get my more immediate reactions. I have zero predictions; since this isn’t holiday-themed (that I know of), I don’t think we’re using the same story template as Slay Bells.
Deep breath. Here we go.
Donna Burke, new girl in school, is sitting at her desk thinking about how tough it is to be the new girl in school. Except she’s not at school; she’s at home, in her perfect room. Perfect except for one thing – it’s in Jefferson City (I’m assuming as in the capital of Missouri, but apparently Jo is allergic to naming the state), which is two hundred miles away from her friends and former life. She’s been in Jefferson City for two months, and despite volunteering for all sorts of school activities, she hasn’t made any friends or gone on any dates, and people still refer to her as “the new girl.” Also, she’s said “Jefferson City” three times in the first paragraph alone. I would suggest making it a drinking game, but even I am scared to attempt that at this point. (Also, I currently only have wine in the house, and I’m picturing trying to explain to Boyfriend why I’m giggling uncontrollably and the bottle of Chenin Blanc we just bought is empty.)
Donna has a great idea for making friends, though. See, the editor of the school newspaper just transferred schools, leaving the spot open. Instead of just appointing a new editor like any normal human being in reality would, the teacher in charge, Miss Adams, is holding an article writing contest, and the winner will be the new editor.
Oh, Jo, your shit is so unrealistic and convoluted. In a weird sort of way, diving into one of your novels feels comforting, like coming home. . . . I grew up in a very dysfunctional home; does it show?
For some reason Donna thinks being editor of the school newspaper will automatically make her the most popular girl in school. I . . . sure, okay. You really can’t fight Jo’s logic. Mainly because there is none. So, Donna sits down to figure out what to write her article about. Football? No, she doesn’t even know what a fullback is. Hey, me neither! I’m sure Boyfriend tried to explain it to me once . . . are they more like beaters or chasers? Speak to me in Quidditch terms!
She gets distracted by looking out the window at local neighbor-hunk Steve Harvey’s house –
Steve Harvey? Really? Well, there’s your article, Donna! Ask him about his weird misogynist assertions that it’s a woman’s fault when a man cheats on her because she’s not did-up and catering to his needs 24/7!
What? It’s not that Steve Harvey? Well, that’s just confusing. Huh.
Anyway, Donna gets distracted by literally just looking at his house, and I’m unclear on whether he lives next door or across the street. Both versions of Fright Night are still occupying a lot of space in my head right now, so if he lives next door, I’m gonna recommend making sure he’s not a vampire before proceeding. Donna is depressed because he’s practically engaged to some girl named Tammy Peters, whose dad seems to own about half the town. I’m wondering at this point if Donna has ever even spoken to this boy, or if she’s just moping because he doesn’t magically know she’s into him. She seems to be doing that with her non-attempts at making friends; she’s already told us that she could have joined some kids at the local after-school hangout, but she didn’t because they would make room for her, offer her fries, and be friendly, but . . . wait, what was the downside? They wouldn’t immediately jump all over her friendship boner completely unbidden? Oh, God, is Donna just Martha from Trick or Treat?
Then the unthinkable happens – Steve Harvey calls Donna! Hey, I forgot about Jo’s penchant for superfluous exclamation points! This really is like visiting an old friend whom you don’t necessarily like, but you come away with great stories to tell people.
Donna puts on a huge smile before answering the phone, because her grandfather always claimed he could hear a smile over the phone. Great, now men who can’t even see me are telling me to smile. Also, now all I can picture is Donna grinning like fucking Pennywise while answering the phone for some telemarketer.
It’s Steve, and he asks her if she’s going to the school carnival tomorrow. Her heart skips all the beats, and she remembers that he and Tammy reportedly haven’t been getting along lately. Donna is of course poised to swoop in at the first sign of discord, but it turns out Steve is just expecting some mail and wants Donna to bring it to him at the carnival if it arrives after he leaves the house. I’m pretty sure taking someone else’s mail out of their mailbox is a federal offense, but Donna readily agrees to embark on a life of crime for Steve. Groovy.
Donna waits for Steve at the carnival the next night, and apparently a “school carnival” is a full-fledged traveling carnival, but set up on school grounds. This seems unfeasibly elaborate, but Jo has weird ideas about how things work, so I’ll shrug it off. Donna has the letter Steve was waiting for, which is from the state university. We’re still not naming the state, by the way. Every time this university is mentioned, it’s just called “State.” When I Google Jefferson City, the only result is the one in Missouri, so why are you being coy about the state, Jo? Anyway, Donna has already gotten her acceptance to State, and she’s excited by the prospect of going to the same college as Steve. God, this girl is thirsty.
Steve’s BFF, Jerry Taylor (OMG, JERRY! He’s the vampire! Run! . . . sorry, slipped back into Fright Night mode . . . ), rocks up and tells Donna she’s looking good and asks if she’s waiting for someone. So, this is Donna’s definition of not being part of the group and not being able to get a date? Mmkay. She’s already had more social interaction in twenty-four hours than I had my entire freshman year, but yes, we all feel sorry for your clearly ostracized ass, Donna. She tells him that she’s waiting for Steve, and Jerry looks worried and confirms that she doesn’t have a date with him, does she? Because he’s off somewhere with Tammy.
Donna is disappointed that they’re not broken up, but then cheers herself up by thinking that maybe Steve did break up with Tammy and they’ve remained friends. I’m sorry; when did we go from “they’re practically engaged” to “he totally dumped her”? Either I or Donna have missed a step here.
Oh, also, totally betting Donna and Jerry end up together. I see your template bleeding through, Jo.
Steve shows up and opens his letter, which is letting him know he got a full ride football scholarship. Oh. I thought the implication was that it was a college acceptance letter. Well, whatever. I’ve learned not to look too closely at these things when it comes to Jo.
I’m not quite sure what the “Duck Pond” is in this context, but it’s where “everyone” is, so the three of them head that way. Donna goes all moony, noticing that the carousel is playing “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and she vows that she’ll remember this moment and the feel of Steve’s hand on her arm forever. Oh, fuck you, no you won’t, you silly bitch.
They meet up with Tammy, and Donna marvels over how pretty she is and realizes she’s crazy to think that Steve would ever want to date her when he’s got someone who looks like Tammy. Ah, yes, because physical appearance is the only thing women have to offer the world. Good thing I have books like this to remind me of that, because I just keep forgetting!
Tammy is annoyed that Steve took so long, and he has to remind her to ask him about his scholarship, because she’s just that self-centered. Also, she calls him “Stevie.” Like, could you just not? She tells him if he’s nice to her, she’ll buy him something, and he in turn informs Donna this means Tammy wants to go shopping and make him carry all her purchases around. Tammy tells us that’s what boyfriends are for, and . . . oh. I guess I’ve been doing this relationship thing all wrong. I must remember to drop all this namby-pamby mutual love and respect and enjoying each other’s company bullshit and endeavor to treat Boyfriend as nothing but a pack mule in the future.
Tammy invites Jerry along, but neglects to notice Donna’s existence, so Jerry invites her and offers to carry anything she buys. Donna doesn’t plan to buy anything because she doesn’t have much money, but she doesn’t tell them that’s why. Tammy says that of course she’ll buy something, after all, there are more than fifty vendors here tonight. What? I thought this was a carnival? You know, amusement park rides; games; a food court? Why are there fifty vendors selling material goods? And where is there room for this? I thought they had this whole thing set up on the football field. Football fields are not that big.
Well, whatever. Jo Gibson, after all.
They come across a booth set up under a huge oak tree, and it’s described as a tent draped with oriental carpets, with shoes hanging from the tree branches. And Tammy is impressed with this for some reason. It’s shoes. Hanging from a tree. And the name of the place is Magical Footwear. Why does this carnival have a shoe store? Was Jo aware that there’s an actual shoe store called Shoe Carnival, and somehow she grossly misinterpreted it?
They go inside the tent, which is somehow also a booth, and the purveyor of shoes has apparently just come from an audition for the wicked witch in the live-action version of . . . whatever Disney movie has a witch and hasn’t yet had a live-action remake.
Tammy wants a spectacular pair of shoes for her opening night performance in the unnamed fall play, and Donna cattily thinks that she’s seen Tammy’s rehearsals, and she doesn’t need new shoes; she needs to learn her lines! Ooh, burn! But she’s our protagonist, so it’s totes acceptable for her to be bitchy toward non-protagonist girls.
Tammy is super rude and condescending toward the shop owner, and spots a pair of red shoes in a display case. She insists she wants those shoes, even though the owner claims they’re not for sale. Then why are they on display in your vendor tent . . . ? The owner says she can make a copy of the shoes for Tammy, but Tammy wants originals only. She finally offers two hundred dollars for them, and the owner reluctantly agrees. She tells Tammy the shoes are cursed – whoever wears them will be gifted great talent; but also cursed with bad luck. Tammy, predictably, laughs in her face about the curse. Yeah, I’m betting the shopkeeper every once in a while agrees to sell these cursed shoes to the biggest see-you-next-Tuesday to come into her shop. Pretending she doesn’t want to sell them is just a ruse. She’s secretly delighted that this little shithead is going to get her comeuppance.
Somehow Donna and Steve end up leaving the carnival shoe store together, without anyone else, and I have no idea why. Donna is thrilled when Steve asks her to go on the Ferris wheel with him, and announces it’s her favorite ride. Fuck you; it is not. The Ferris wheel is the most basic bitch ride ever created. But she loves it because they can see the whole town from the top. She’s elated that the operator stops the ride at the top (many exclamation points are used), but if it truly is her favorite ride, she should already know that literally every car (seat? bucket? bench?) stops at the top at some point during the ride while passengers are being loaded and unloaded. Stop acting like this totally ordinary thing is some manic pixie dream moment, you fucking nitwit!
Ahh, Jo Gibson. It’s been too long.
Steve tells Donna that Tammy used to be nicer, but since her parents got divorced she’s had it rough. Now, my friend and sometime-recap-collaborator Dove (of the Nostalgic Bookshelf and Sweet Valley Online websites) hates the Dead Parent Trope with a fiery passion. I hate the Divorced Parent Trope with a fiery passion. Parents get divorced. It happens. It’s common. You’re not special, and it doesn’t give you license to turn into a fucking raging thundercunt while everyone tsk-tsk’s sympathetically and lets you treat everyone like shit because “the divorce was hard on them.” Gah! (I never identified with media where the kids twisted themselves through all sorts of convoluted plots to get their parents back together. I used to lie awake at night, listening to my parents fight, and just wish they’d fucking divorce already instead of continuing to make everyone involved completely miserable.)
Okay, rant over. For now, at least.
So, Tammy changed after the divorce, because Mom would buy her all sorts of shit; then Dad would find out and raise the ante by buying her even more shit, and so on and so forth until she started thinking money could buy anything, including friendship and love. Steve makes the excuse that Tammy’s not terrible, she’s just confused and hurting and never thinks about how anyone else feels. Jesus Christ. You wanna do this, Jo? Because my dad pretended I didn’t exist for nearly a decade, after his second wife told me she was going to turn him against me; now he and his third wife are doing the same thing to my sister and he decided to rip me out of his life yet again when I told him to stop telling me Sister is lying about what’s going down, because I’ve been exactly where she is and I know his pattern of choosing women who want him to have nothing to do with his daughter(s). And I’m bitter as hell over it, but you know what? I’m somehow able to not treat everyone around me like shit and use it as an excuse! Novel concept, huh?
I lied about not ranting any more, didn’t I? Oops.
Anyway, Donna is trying hard not to say anything, because her grandfather always told her
life was like a box of chocolates the best thing to say was nothing at all when you didn’t know how the other person felt. Eh. Then Steve tells her he wishes Tammy could be as nice as her, and finally she feels she’s cleared the minefield and is able to reply, “Thank you, Steve.”
The next day at lunch, Donna walks into the school cafeteria, walking on air. She’s decided to write an article about Tammy’s shoes. Yup. You read that correctly. Technically, her article is titled “Curses and Superstitions,” but it’s mainly about a popular girl’s footwear, as we will be reminded throughout this chapter.
A girl named Lisa waves to Donna, and Donna tells her to save her a seat while she grabs lunch. Lisa’s face lights up when she discovers that Donna wants to sit with her and she’s relieved that Donna isn’t really a part of Tammy’s crowd despite hanging out with them last night. Yes, Donna, clearly nobody wants to be your friend, especially not this girl. What the fuck.
Lisa is a Poor, and therefore not worthy of Tammy’s crowd, despite being pretty and smart. Or something. Then Jerry rocks up out of nowhere and tells Donna he heard she’s writing an article about Tammy’s shoes. How? And why is this news?! They’re shoes, for fuck sake! No one cares!
Jerry asks to sit with Lisa and Donna, and maybe I’m wrong about who ends up together, because it kind of seems like he likes Lisa? Anyway, Lisa is very good at calculus and Jerry asks her to help him study for the next test. She works after school, and hesitates to have him come over to her house, and Donna assumes it’s because she’s a Poor. I mean, that’s kind of a shitty assumption to make, Donna. Also, Lisa mentions that the diner she works at is famous for its ptomaine poisoning, and everyone laughs while I Google it to find out it’s just an outdated term for food poisoning. Funny stuff right there.
Then Jerry waves Steve over, and are we still supposed to feel sorry for Donna’s friendless existence? Steve has also heard that Donna is writing about the cursed shoes, and everybody’s waiting to read it! Whut. Even Tammy is super excited about it, because it will bring attention to her performance in the school play. When Donna questions how that could be since the play opens a week before her article is due, Steve informs her that Tammy talked to Miss Adams, and Miss Adams is going to ask Donna to make a flyer about the shoes. Then Tammy will have them passed out to every school in the county so that they all will come see her perform!
I really, really, really want to see a version of this in the real world, where everyone laughs at the idea of writing an article about a girl buying shoes, and then stares at Tammy when she presents her idea and just exclaims “What are you talking about?!” over and over.
Anyway, Donna is upset but trying not to show it, because she thinks Tammy is trying to sabotage her article – she’ll be expected to put all the best parts in the flyer, so by the time her article comes out, people will already have read part of it! I . . . what? This is a flyer, right? One sheet of paper; a photo of shoes; a blurb about the curse; time and place of the school play? What are you talking about?!
I wonder what Jo Gibson thinks a flyer is.
Steve senses Donna’s reluctance and points out that it could be like a serial in a magazine – give them the first taste and leave them wanting to read more. Donna agrees and thinks that she can turn Tammy’s dirty trick to her advantage. What dirty trick? It’s a fucking flyer! Your logic has no basis in reality!
I feel like I’m hate-fucking this book, except I’m enjoying it so much that I’ve momentarily forgotten my hatred.
Then Tammy makes an entrance, calls for everyone’s attention, and dramatically pulls the shoes out of her purse. She announces that these are the cursed shoes she’ll be wearing in the play, and . . . everyone claps. Instead of staring at her like she’s an idiot, which is what I feel would happen in the real world, no matter how popular the person in question is. Someone asks what the curse is, and she dramatically says that whoever wears the shoes will be blessed with incredible talent . . . but cursed with bad luck! And that’s basically it, you know. There’s not a lot to this curse.
Then Tammy announces that the new girl is writing a flyer for her, and she wants everyone to help plaster it up all around town. Donna is pissed because she’s not writing a flyer for Tammy; it’s her article! Whatever, Donna. Technically, if you agree to it, you will be writing the flyer for Tammy, so let’s not argue over it, okay?
Tammy rocks up to where Donna and Company are sitting, and tells Donna she better get started on that flyer. You know, if Steve hadn’t told her about this, this would be the first she’s hearing of it, since the teacher hasn’t found her to ask her about it yet. That would have been hilarious, if Donna just had no clue what Tammy was going on about. Anyway, Tammy laughs off the curse again and tells Donna she better not start in on her about it, then she tells “Stevie” to come with her because she’s not eating lunch. Steve tells her he’s not done eating lunch, and she leaves.
The group talks about the curse and Tammy, and Donna tells everyone that her grandfather used to have a saying about tempting fate. What the fuck is up with all your grandfather talk, Donna? Why are you so obsessed with your grandfather and his sayings?
Steve and Jerry suddenly remember the story this book is based on, mentioning to the girls that there’s an old story about red shoes and a dancer dancing herself to death. But since there’s no dancing in the school play, Tammy should be fine. I’m . . . not sure that’s the way curses work, but sure.
Donna isn’t worried about the curse, however. She’s worried she’s made a nasty enemy out of Tammy, because Steve wanted to stay and eat lunch instead of leave hungry with Tammy. Apparently Tammy gave Donna an angry look when she left, even though we weren’t told that until now. Jo Gibson books are where logic comes to die.
I guess we don’t get to see these flyers, because the next chapter skips to Friday, the night of the school play. Donna is an usher, and she’s at home trying to figure out what to wear, because this year Tammy has suggested formal wear for the ushers, to add some class to this whole affair. I’m not sure where to start with this, so I’ll just settle for wondering why a school play has ushers. I’ve been to my niece’s school plays, and there were no ushers, in formal wear or otherwise.
Donna has no idea what to wear, because she doesn’t own anything fancy. It’s at this point I start to wonder about her living situation, because so far no parents have been mentioned. Who does Donna live with? Apparently not another lady she could borrow clothes from. She settles for black pants, a white shirt, and a black velvet jacket she made for the Christmas concert at her old school. She thinks it looks too plain, so she opens up her great-grandmother’s jewelry box and bedazzles the fuck out of this jacket by attaching costume-jewelry brooches to every inch, front and back, of the jacket. She thinks it looks great! I’m laughing my ass off, because it sounds awful, and gaudy as hell. But hey, at least she’s not lacking in the “pieces of flair” department. Also, she’s now very reflective, so she probably won’t get hit by any cars while walking in the dark.
Donna thinks about Steve and Tammy, and the rumor is that Tammy might dump Steve if she does well in the school play, because it’ll be her doorway into stardom. See, Jefferson’s most famous alum, Keith Michaels (whom I one hundred percent will mistype as either Keith Richards or Bret Michaels at least once), is now a famous movie director, and this play is Tammy’s audition for his next movie. If he likes her, she’s in! Because that’s totally how the real world works, and isn’t at all some weird plot contrivance Jo is pushing on us.
Donna sets out walking for the school, and here Jo proves that amidst her weird ideas about human culture and how Earth things work, she’s occasionally capable of good writing:
The wind was blowing as Donna walked down the street and turned the corner toward the school. It was a cold, bitter wind and there was a sense of evil in the air as it kicked up the dry leaves and rustled them across the sidewalk like scurrying demons. The clouds were low, whisking across the full moon like ghosts.
Donna arrives at the school and starts putting out the snacks, because in addition to being an usher, she’s also in charge of the concession stand. She thinks about another saying her grandfather always told her about not borrowing trouble, which is what she thinks her doom and gloom thoughts are doing. Okay, forget Jefferson City. The real drinking game should be every time she mentions something her grandpa told her. Seriously, what is the deal? Also, most of it has been common sayings in no way unique to her grandfather. Except maybe the whole being able to hear a smile over the phone thing. That was weird.
Donna slides into her seat in the back of the theater (auditorium? – it is a fucking school play, after all) as the curtain goes up, and Steve sits down beside her and tells her she looks good. She wonders why he’s not in the front row where all the actors’ significant others usually sit, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. The show starts, and Tammy is excellent, which is confusing to Donna because she was terrible in rehearsals. One might ask how she got the role in the first place if she was that bad. One has clearly forgotten that we are in the world of Jo Gibson. Abandon hope, ye who enter here.
Donna and Steve worry about the curse, because Tammy’s never been this good before, and when the curtain goes down for intermission, the audience goes wild with applause. Steve helps Donna at the concession stand (why is there a – oh, forget it) instead of going backstage to see Tammy, ostensibly because the drama teacher wants her to be a method actor and stay in character, so no one is allowed to talk to her.
Meanwhile, in her private dressing room (the one with the star on the door, I shit you not), Tammy admires her shoes, thinks about how awesome she is, and wonders what Steve sees in Donna. Not that she cares, because she broke up with him before the play started. Hey, she’s going to be an actress now; she can’t be linked with some small-time high school football player! She needs someone rich and famous! No word on who that might be, but . . . yeah! You tell them, Tammy!
She looks down at her shoes and can’t believe her eyes! She had been planning on changing out of them for the second half of the play because they don’t match her wardrobe change, but they have now changed color from ruby red to a shade of bronze that matches her new dress! Instead of reacting like any normal person (normal people would scream, kick the shoes across the room, then take a flamethrower to them, right? No? Just me?), she’s delighted that she now doesn’t have to risk taking the shoes off, just in case it really was them imbuing her with acting talent.
Tammy goes to leave the dressing room, but the door won’t budge. The knob is turning and the latch is clicking, but the door just won’t open. Fortunately, the door opens out instead of in (which is against fire regulations, but no one has bothered to fix it yet), so she tries to shove it open, then rears back and kicks the door. Despite her thinking she didn’t kick that hard, her shoe connects with the door with incredible force, and her leg snaps. Oh. Eugh.
She falls to the floor screaming, and the last thing she thinks before she passes out is that Donna and the old woman were right about the shoes being cursed! The shoes are cursed and this is her bad luck!
I mean, you also just threw a tantrum and angrily kicked a door while wearing high heels. That might have something to do with breaking your leg. No? Definitely the curse then? Mmkay.
Also, it’s around this time that this book is feeling really familiar to me. I’m pretty sure I have read it before.
When Donna and Steve go back in for the second act, the drama teacher announces that Tammy has broken her leg and is on the way to the hospital. Her understudy will be taking over her role for the second half. Or act. Both terms have been used, so who knows. Steve and Donna run outside and find out which hospital Tammy is being taken to (County General; isn’t it always County General?), and Donna thinks that they have to get the red shoes away from Tammy before something even more horrible happens to her!
Man, Donna is exhausting.
They get to the hospital and find out that Tammy’s stable and her vitals are good (this seems like an overreaction to a broken leg, but I’ve managed to make it 38 years without breaking any bones, so maybe I’m being an ignorant asshole), but her leg is totally shattered so they’re flying her to a special hospital several hundred miles away. Then she’ll need several months of physical therapy, so she’s not going to graduate with the rest of her class. Bummer.
Then Donna butts in to ask where Tammy’s shoes are. Inappropriate, Donna. They find out the paramedics took them off and left them in her dressing room. Donna grabs Steve’s hand and drags him out the door, screeching that they’ve got to find the shoes before someone else decides to wear them!
Seriously, Donna. You need to calm down.
Back in Tammy’s dressing room, her understudy, a girl named Rondelle Green, is walking on air. She finished the play in Tammy’s place, and she was magnificent! She spots the shoes and thinks that the curse isn’t to blame for Tammy breaking her leg; her nearly legendary temper is. I mean, yeah. I totally agree. If Jo wanted us to fear the shoes, she needed to make it an inescapable conclusion that it could only have been the shoes that caused the thing to happen.
Anyway, Rondelle tries the shoes on, because that’s the type of book this is. I haven’t recapped it yet, but this book so far seems like it’s basically Prom Dress by Lael Littke, but with shoes rather than a dress.
The shoes fit perfectly, despite us not knowing if Tammy and Rondelle are the same shoe size. Oh, is this like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? The shoes just magically fit everyone, don’t they?
Mr. Carlson (the drama teacher) and Keith Michaels knock on the dressing room door and proceed to congratulate Rondelle on how amazing she was. Michaels has her read for a small part in his movie, and she slams it out of the park. She gets the part, and Michaels says he’ll call her parents to work out a contract. Okay, whew. This all seemed so unprofessional up until the contract was mentioned.
After they leave, Rondelle twirls around the room and then remembers the curse of the shoes. She laughs it off, because Michaels was impressed by her performance onstage, before she was wearing the shoes. She decides to keep them, because Tammy won’t need them for a long time, and she hates to think of them getting thrown away. I would think that someone would see them and take them to Wardrobe, Rondelle. But, justify your theft any way you see fit, I guess.
She takes them and decides she’ll only wear them when she’s alone in her room, so that nobody will know she took them. Yes. Shoes you only wear alone in your bedroom. Excellent.
Donna and Steve get the janitor to let them into the school, and through some small talk with the janitor, Mr. Parks, Steve lets it slip that he and Tammy broke up. Donna is internally overjoyed, but then starts wondering who broke up with whom.
Then for some reason we cut to Donna writing her article later that night, and we’re told, rather than shown, that they couldn’t find the shoes. Oh. Okay. They apparently tracked Rondelle down to ask if she’d seen the shoes, but the way she avoided their eyes made Donna think she was lying when she said no. It’s after midnight when Donna stops writing, then she lies in bed thinking about Steve, then wondering if the shoes were out there somewhere, waiting to claim their second victim.
Very dramatic. Also, so far, I’m a little disappointed by this curse. I thought it would be more ironic. Like, the broken leg ultimately isn’t going to stop Tammy from acting. If she were a dancer, or an athlete, sure. But an actor? Nah. Most arbitrary curse ever.
When she gets home from the cast party, Rondelle goes to her room and shuts the door. We’re told that the only reasons she shuts the door are to block out the sounds of her dad snoring down the hall, and to keep her nosy little sister, Janie, out. Those . . . those are the only reasons? Otherwise your door would be wide open at all times? I don’t understand. Growing up, if I was in my room, the door was shut. Do people normally just sleep with the bedroom door open? (I mean, I do now that Boyfriend and I have our own place, so the pets can come in and out, but as a teenager? HELL NO.)
Rondelle decides to hide the shoes up in the attic so Janie won’t find them. (She briefly considered hiding them under the mattress, and that thought is so ridiculous I wish she had tried it.) So she sneaks up to the attic and hides the shoes in an old wardrobe that Janie is scared of.
Then she goes to bed, happy because her family is going out of town the next morning and will be gone for a day and a half, leaving her alone in the house. She’s going to follow most of their rules while they’re gone, because if she doesn’t, she’ll be “on restriction” until she’s an old lady. You mean . . . grounded? Anyway, the one thing she’s not going to inform her parents of is that she’s going to Craig Ellison’s party as his date, and she’s going to stay until the party’s over – even if it’s all night long!
The next day, Rondelle gets up early to see her family off, then goes back to bed til two thirty in the afternoon. She’s somewhat miffed that Craig hasn’t called her yet. Was . . . was he supposed to? Tired of waiting for him to call, she starts getting ready. At two thirty. Sure. She puts on a slinky red dress that fits like a second skin. That seems a bit much for a high school party at a guy’s cabin by the lake, doesn’t it? I think she’s going to be way overdressed. Anyway, she can’t find any shoes that look right with the dress, so of fucking course she decides to go up to the attic and pull out the cursed red shoes.
Apparently she’s not too worried about people recognizing them, as they don’t look that unique, and she figures she’ll just lie and say she got them at the mall if anyone asks. I don’t think she has anything to worry about. How often do people really notice each other’s shoes? Only when it’s convenient to the plot? Honestly, Donna is the only one you have to worry about, Rondelle.
She gets up to the attic, which doesn’t have any windows, but is a full room, not just a crawlspace. I’ve never seen a full attic with no windows before, but okay. It’s convenient to the plot, anyway, which is the arena Jo plays in. Rondelle gets the shoes and puts them on, twirling around in delight. Jesus, why is everyone so twirly about these shoes? Then she hears a cracking sound, and the big antique mirror in the room has cracked down the middle. Oh, great, just what we need – seven years of bad luck, in addition to whatever the shoes are going to dole out.
Rondelle looks in the mirror and is horrified – the right-hand side of her reflection is fine, but the left side, where the mirror is already warped, looks like a corpse. Her reflection shows a shattered left leg with bone sticking out, and her skin peeling off her skull, eye rotting out of the socket, real gross stuff. R.L. Stine would be proud.
She panics and runs to the door, which slams shut. She pulls on the knob, which comes off in her hand. This isn’t a major disaster, however; she’s used to her bedroom doorknob doing this from time to time, and she knows how to fix it. But when she tries to put the knob back on the door, she pushes too hard and shoves the outside knob off, too. Well, now she is well and truly fucked, and she starts screaming and pounding on the door before remembering she’s all alone in the house. She falls to the floor, crying, and thinks that she’s trapped, there’s no way out, and not one single person knows where she is!
Please don’t tell me this book is just girls getting trapped in rooms and panicking.
Rondelle. Allow yourself ten seconds of panic, then take a deep breath and listen to me. If this door opens out, find something to stick between the door frame and the door and force the latch back. If the door opens in, find something to hammer the pins out of the hinges with, and take the door off the hinges. You’ll be fine. This isn’t that big a deal.
Also, please don’t try to tell me she’s going to wither away and die of starvation or some shit in a day and a half. I won’t believe you if that’s what’s going to happen, Jo.
Steve calls Donna to ask her to Craig’s party, and I guess I’m wrong about Jo using her usual romance template. Looks like our leading lady is going to get to be with the first guy she liked after all. Also, Donna has still not told us who she lives with. If she doesn’t mention a parent or guardian soon, I’m going to assume she murdered her entire family and fled to Jefferson City to start a new life.
Back with Rondelle in the attic. She’s fallen asleep, and a ringing phone wakes her up. It’s the phone in her bedroom, which is below her. There’s a crack in the floorboards so she can see into her room, and it’s right around now that I realize I have no idea what the fuck is going on with this attic. So, it’s not like a full floor in the house, because there are no windows, no heat, and apparently no lights? But it’s also not just like a crawlspace, because there’s plenty of room to stand up, and the floors are sturdy enough to store heavy furniture up here. But now you start talking about cracks in the floor and being able to see into your room, and I’m utterly confused. And also concerned, because what the fuck is going on with that bedroom ceiling?
Anyway, architectural weirdness aside, Rondelle’s personal answering machine picks up, and the call is from Craig, wondering where she is, it’s almost seven, and he’ll be there in an hour to pick her up. Also, he’s going to call her best friend, Alice, to see if she’s over there. Rondelle freaks out, because apparently Alice is a man-stealing hussy.
Rondelle thinks she hears a noise from the far corner of the attic, then almost screams when she remembers the horrible reflection she saw in the mirror. Seriously, calm the fuck down, girl. Then Alice calls and leaves a message, telling her that Craig called her, she told him Rondelle was probably in the shower and didn’t hear the phone, and since her car isn’t working, she asked him to give her a ride to the party. Rondelle again freaks out about her man-stealing BFF.
She hears another noise from the far corner of the attic, and starts thinking it’s rats. She’s deathly afraid of rats. She looks down into her room through the crack, and then starts clawing at the floorboards, hoping to widen the crack enough to jump through. Um, question? Wouldn’t it make more sense/be easier to try to kick your way through the floor, rather than clawing at the boards with your hands?
Craig calls again, and this time he sounds angry, wanting to know if they’re still on for tonight. Okay, he needs to calm down, too. Everyone just needs to calm all their respective tits.
Rondelle cringes when she hears how angry Craig is getting, and she wishes she had the “remote phone” with her. Do . . . you mean the cordless phone? I have literally never heard the term “remote phone.” Then Alice calls again, and asks if Rondelle left town with her parents after all. Craig thinks he’s been stood up and asked Alice to the party in Rondelle’s place, and if she doesn’t call Alice in the next ten minutes, she’ll say yes!
Cue lots of screaming from Rondelle. Then Craig calls again, tells her off for this imagined slight, and says he’s a fair guy, so he’s going to roll by her house and if the lights are off he’ll know she’s not in town.
None of this seems like stuff people would actually do, but again. Jo is only visiting our planet and hasn’t fully assimilated to human culture.
Rondelle is somewhat relieved, because her bedroom light is on. She figures she can scream through the vent in the attic wall when Craig comes up to the front door. But, wouldn’t you know it, her light chooses that moment to burn out.
Cursed shoes? What cursed shoes?
She desperately tries to think of a way to get Craig’s attention when he rolls by. She settles on ripping up a piece of fabric, attaching it to a fishing pole, sticking the tip (just the tip!) out the vent, and waving it up and down frantically. She does this when she spots his car come around the corner (my, the visibility through this tiny grate is great!), but the line snaps and sends the flag falling harmlessly to the ground. Craig does not stop.
She screams out the vent, hoping to attract the attention of any neighbors, but nope. Then she thinks about how cold it is up here, and grabs a fur coat out of the wardrobe so she doesn’t freeze to death. Look, I know there’s no heat in the attic, but bitch please. You are not going to freeze to death. Also, just humor me – try to go through the back of the wardrobe and see if you find Narnia.
She huddles up next to the door, where some heat is seeping in, and keeps thinking she hears rats scuttling around. For some fucking reason, she starts reciting nursery rhymes to herself, and then realizes the rats are quiet when she does. So she sits up, rocking back and forth, reciting every nursery rhyme she knows, for hours on end. We’re told that somewhere in the middle of her favorite rhyme, something in her mind snapped.
Oh. Cool. She’s not going to die, but let me guess – she spends the rest of her days in a mental institution, driven to insanity by imaginary rats, the poor insane girl.
Steve drives Donna home from the party, and mentions seeing her mom looking out the curtains at them. Oh, so there is a mom? But we don’t actually meet her, so I’m going to say Steve just saw a ghost twitch the curtain. Anyway, they’re under the impression that Rondelle went out of town with her family after all, so they decide to talk to her the next day, give her a chance to come clean about taking the shoes by confronting her non-confrontationally.
Steve leaves without kissing her, due to Ghost Mom supposedly watching them through the window, but he does bow to her and kiss her hand. She curtsies to him, then practically floats upstairs to her room. Without greeting her “mom” in any way, because she doesn’t really exist. All we’re told is that “the curtain fluttered again,” not that an actual mother was looking out at them. That fluttering could have been a breeze.
Back with Rondelle, I’m not sure why we were told that something in her mind snapped, because she seems . . . fine? Exhausted from reciting fucking nursery rhymes all night, but otherwise pretty okay. She starts to see sun coming in through the vents, and is relieved that she can sleep now since she’s read that rats only feed at night. Uh . . . pretty sure rats feed whenever the fuck they feel like it, but then again I doubt there are actually rats in this attic, so it’s cool. She thinks about how Alice is doing her dirty, and wonders what she can do to get back at her. Then a shaft of light (from these tiny little vents, uh-huh, sure) falls across her shoes, and she suddenly exclaims that she’ll give the cursed shoes to Alice!
Smash cut to Alice being woken up by a phone call at one o’clock the next afternoon. It’s Craig, wanting to know when she’s going to be there to help him clean up after the party last night. She agrees to meet him in an hour, then jumps in the shower and proceeds to sing enthusiastically but badly. She thinks how she won’t sing quietly in chorus even though the teacher has told her to, because chorus is supposed to be for everyone, and enthusiasm should count for something. Oh, okay, I can see where we’re going with the curse. Or, knowing this book, maybe not.
Alice thinks about how furious Rondelle is going to be when she finds out about her date with Craig, but hey, she’s not going to let a little thing like friendship stop her from enjoying her date this afternoon. Actual quote from the book, in case you thought I was just being facetious. Also, she’s helping him clean up after a party. Is that really a date?
We check in with Rondelle now, and she’s smiling as she gift-wraps the shoes for Alice. That’s right, almost every major event in this book occurs off-page. We’re told (rather than shown) that her father heard her pounding on the attic door when the rest of the family got home, and he took the door off the hinges to let her out. Okay, that means the door opens out, so she easily could have found something in the attic to pop the latch open with. God, I hate it when the plot only works if the characters are willfully stupid.
Anyway, she pretended she wasn’t terrorized all night, and her parents left her alone again to take Janie to a birthday party. Rondelle finishes wrapping the shoes; runs two miles to Alice’s house; then returns home exhausted and curls into a ball on the couch to rock back and forth while consoling herself that the shoes will punish Alice and she won’t have to do a thing.
Oh. Rondelle might not be fine after all, guys.
Steve and Donna head out to see Rondelle, and we’re treated to Donna thinking about her outfit, because once again Steve has complimented how she looks. Apparently she had a father at some point, because she’s wearing one of his old jumpsuits that he wore to inspect Alaskan pipelines. She’s taken this tan jumpsuit and shortened the legs, sown “wide elastic” into the waist (your guess is as good as mine), and thrown a blue belt around it. According to her, it now looks like something she bought at the mall. Oh, fuck you, Donna, it does not. It sounds like you’re dressed as one of the Ghostbusters.
As they drive, Donna is fretting about the shoes and the curse, telling us that she talked to Lisa, who said Rondelle has wanted to date Craig for years, and it’s weird that she would stand him up. Especially since they were right there and heard him ask her out and her say yes. I’m sorry; when was this? Because the reader sure as hell never saw it. So much shit happens off-page, that this book is practically just a recap of itself. This recap probably has more information in it than the actual book.
Anyway, they think that even if Rondelle had to go out of town with her family, it’s strange that she wouldn’t call Craig to cancel their date. As Steve points out, it only takes a minute to call. You know what else only takes a minute? It only takes a minute to fall in love.
I’m really showing my age here, aren’t I?
They get to Rondelle’s house, and she is most decidedly not fine. She looks terrible, and she starts reciting nursery rhymes at them and changing them around to tell the story of what happened to her last night. While this is actually pretty creepy and great in some respects, I also really hate this trope. I don’t have a witty, concise name for it, but it’s this thing where books of this ilk present the idea that the teenage girl psyche is so fragile that the merest whiff of trauma will break their little feminine brains and turn them into quivering puddles of insanity. I’m not here to downplay anyone’s trauma, but these books would have you believe no teenage girl can handle anything and will always have a mental breakdown. Locked in an attic overnight? Yup, you’re insane now, sorry, I don’t make the rules. Like . . . can we not do this every fucking time?
Anyway, they’re able to ascertain that Rondelle gave the shoes to Alice, and they start trying to call her while Rondelle starts screaming that the rats are here and the nursery rhymes are the only things that keep them away. Oh, honey. I’m sorry for what Jo is doing to you here.
They can’t get hold of Alice, and Donna very dramatically thinks that they have to convince Alice the shoes are dangerous before they claim their third victim! Yeah, let me know how that goes for you, Donna.
Meanwhile, Alice is leaving her house and almost trips over the package. For some reason she thinks the shoes are from Craig, because he’s the only person who would send her a present! Really? Uh, okay. She puts them on and twirls around. Why the fuck does everyone twirl around in these fucking shoes?! You twirl around when you’re wearing a pretty skirt that will flair out when you twirl, and that is the only reason ever to twirl you ridiculous girl! Twirling does nothing to show off shoes! Argh!
Alice stops by a drive-thru to get Craig some stuffed mushrooms she knows he likes, and starts singing along to the radio, surprised that she sounds better than ever! Then a guy gets out of the car behind her in line and gives her his card because one of his back-up singers is sick and he wants Alice to audition to replace her. Yes, this is totally normal, Alice. I’m sure he won’t try to make lampshades out of your skin when you “audition” for him. Then she realizes that he’s famous singer Shane Summers! Wait. Wasn’t the singer/actor guy in Slay Bells named Shane Winter? Is he, like, from the mirror universe? Does he have an evil little goatee? (Hey, Mirror Universe Spock was hot, okay? Don’t judge me.)
She’s so happy that she drives way too fast on the highway and almost misses the exit for Craig’s cabin. She slides on the gravel road and has to remind herself to take it easy. Then she starts wondering why her singing improved a thousand percent in an hour, and briefly thinks of the curse, but shrugs it off because Craig wouldn’t give her cursed shoes!
Steve and Donna wait with Rondelle until her parents come home (did she really fool them into thinking she was okay? because she is so obviously not okay) and take her to the hospital. Then they set out to Alice’s house, but of course nobody answers the door. They see the shoe box, and Steve recognizes Rondelle’s handwriting on the card, because she’s the only person he knows who dots their “i”s with a circle.
Wait. This random guy knows Rondelle’s handwriting, but her best friend doesn’t? Fucking hell, Jo fucking Gibson, I swear to God . . .
Donna conveniently overheard Alice telling Craig she’d help him clean up after the party, so they set out to the cabin, hoping Alice is all right.
Alice is . . . about to be not all right. She looks down at the shoes, wondering if they are the cursed shoes. It occurs to her that maybe Craig didn’t give them to her; the card wasn’t signed so it could have been anyone tricking her into believing Craig gave her the shoes! BITCH, NO ONE TRICKED YOU! YOU ASSUMED THEY WERE FROM HIM!
Then she realizes that she’s driving way too fast for a gravel road and tries to ease up on the accelerator, except she can’t. Something is pushing her foot down, and she realizes she is wearing the cursed shoes, and one of them is tromping down on the accelerator and trying to kill her! Huh. I wonder if one shoe is good and the other is evil.
Steve and Donna take a shortcut to the cabin, and get a flat tire on the way there. Hey, I thought the shoes only cursed the wearer with bad luck! Donna helps change the tire, because she’s a modern woman, and they get back on the road. When they pull up to the cabin, they see Craig’s Thunderbird, but not Alice’s Chevy. Craig is confused to see them, and annoyed that Alice is late.
They tell him the whole story of Rondelle and the cursed shoes, and rather than being concerned or upset that the girl he was calling and yelling at was trapped in her attic and being terrorized by rats/her own imagination, he’s just shocked that Rondelle might have sent the shoes to Alice for revenge. Yes, that’s the part you should focus on, and definitely not “I could have helped her if I hadn’t been such a huge, angry cuntwaffle.”
Meanwhile, Alice is trying to figure out what to do about her rapidly accelerating car, because she’s getting closer to Deadman’s Curve. Man, Jo likes to kill characters using runaway cars and Deadman’s Curves. She had both in My Bloody Valentine, and a runaway car and train tracks in The Seance.
She realizes that only her right foot is stuck, so she slams her left foot down on the brake. It works just long enough for me to wonder if the left shoe actually is good while the right is evil, but then her foot slips off the brake like it’s greased. She then pulls the emergency brake, and that works, slowing the car down to 10 mph before the handle breaks off and she starts accelerating again. Okay, silly question, but what if she tried pulling her feet out of the shoes? Like, she could have ditched out of the car when it slowed down. She could stomp both bare feet down on the brake. Anything but this, you know?
She pulls the key out of the ignition, which is a thing I’m pretty sure you can’t do while the car is in motion, but maybe you could with older cars. I’ve never really had occasion to try. The car starts slowing down with the motor off, and she miraculously takes Deadman’s Curve at 50 mph and survives. Now she can just coast to a stop!
Except then a tire blows out. And another. And then the last two. It’s just too much for her to keep the car on the road, and she ends up careening off into the ravine and flipping the car. I think she’s already dead when the gas tank catches fire and explodes, so that’s a relief for Alice, I guess.
Okay, is it just me, or are the shoes accelerating the time frame for their curse? I mean, Alice didn’t even get to reap any rewards of her “great talent.” Tammy at least got one act of the play in which to shine; Rondelle got to audition and get a role in a movie; what did Alice get? A business card? She didn’t even get to audition! What a rip-off!
Steve, Donna, and Craig hear the explosion and see the fireball roll out, setting fire to the surrounding pine trees, and somehow don’t immediately think it was Alice’s car exploding. Donna wonders if it was a gas line catching fire, until Craig tells her there aren’t any gas lines out here. They hop in Craig’s car and drive toward the accident scene, where a firefighter tells them it looks like a green Chevy lost control and went over the barrier. They ask about the driver, and the firefighter tells them he doesn’t think anyone could survive, and no one called for an ambulance. What? Isn’t it standard to send an ambulance to an accident scene? What the fuck are you telling me right now?
They go back to Craig’s and call Alice’s house, where a cop answers and tells them she crashed through the guardrail and is dead. Again, what? Okay, no. There’s no fucking way they identified her and got to her house in the five fucking minutes that have elapsed. Goddammit, Jo.
Steve drives Donna back home, and all she can think of is whether or not Alice was wearing the red shoes. Jesus Christ, this chick has a one track mind. Steve says he’ll try to find out and call her later. Then we’re told that Donna is glad her parents aren’t home, because she would break down if they asked her a single question. So, some parents are finally being referenced, but I won’t believe they actually exist until we see them.
Donna works on her article and cries, then Steve calls to tell her that his older sister is dating someone in the sheriff’s department, and he said the car was so thoroughly burned that there’s no way the shoes could have survived. Well, we still have thirty pages to go, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the shoes survived somehow.
The next day goes great for Donna – Steve walks her to every class; people call her by her name instead of “new girl;” Miss Adams said the new pages of her article are perfect. I’m not sure why she’s turning in the article piece-by-piece, but okay. After school she goes to Clancy’s with a bunch of kids, but mainly Jerry and Lisa. Lisa is glad to have her first day off work in three weeks, and luckily has Friday off as well, so she can go to the big dance with Jerry! Apparently it’s also her birthday, and her boss gave her the day off, and for some reason she’s getting paid for it. Um, say what now? Sorry, there are six paid holidays in the US, and some random girl’s birthday is not one of them. Unless she has vacation time saved up, which I doubt.
Anyway, Steve rocks up and asks Donna to the dance (what dance? who cares? there’s always a dance!) and they decide to all double date. Lisa starts looking worried, and Donna takes her aside to discover she doesn’t have anything to wear, and she can’t afford to buy clothes like Donna does. Donna lets her in on the secret that she buys all her clothes at thrift stores and then “makes them up.” I guess that’s her phrase for bedazzling the fuck out of them. Or adding elastic and belts. Very fucking chic.
Let’s play a quick game of “what thrift stores aren’t run by garbage people?”, shall we? Salvation Army kicks trans folks out of their shelters to freeze to death, and is generally horrible to anyone who’s not straight, cis, and Christian, so fuck them. Goodwill was paying their developmentally disabled employees literal pennies until they recently decided to stop paying them altogether, so they can eat my entire ass. DAV? Is DAV still okay? And locally owned stores, I suppose. Just . . . this has been an SJW PSA about why Salvation Army and Goodwill are literal garbage companies, I guess. (Also, in this current Chick-fil-A vs Popeye’s chicken sandwich war, I’d just like to remind people that Chick-fil-A still supports trying to torture the gay out of children. Just in case anyone had forgotten about that.)
Anyway, Donna offers to go with Lisa to the thrift store, then help her modify the clothes into some weird Franken-outfit, and Lisa is thrilled at the thought of having herself an original Donna creation. So, I know how this shit goes. (Also, I maybe vaguely remember this book? I still can’t say for sure.) I’ll bet every dollar I have that Lisa somehow finds the cursed shoes at the thrift shop. Also, the title of the book is Dance of Death, and so far no one has danced themselves to death, but we’re about to go to a dance. So. Lisa is going to find the shoes and dance herself to death, yeah?
Lisa’s dad, Charlie, is a tow truck driver, and he’s tasked with bringing Alice’s car back to the impound lot. The sheriff goes on for a while about reckless teenage drivers, and I’m just thinking there must have been some serious skid marks down the road from where Alice pulled the emergency brake, right? Anyway, Charlie winches the car up from the ravine and starts to drive off with it when he spots a beautiful red shoe in the bushes by the road. He searches around and finds the mate, and decides he can give them to Lisa for her birthday! Rather than tell her he picked up road shoes for her, he plans to lie and say he bought them at the mall.
Okay, so I’m wrong about how Lisa gets the shoes. Eh, I tried.
The night of the dance, Donna and Lisa are getting dressed in their new outfits, and we’re not told what these monstrosities look like! Very disappointing. Lisa’s is something black with red braid, though, and Donna asks if she’s wearing black shoes. Nope; her parents bought her red shoes! Donna gets very worried until Lisa says they got them at the mall. Uh, maybe we should put a moratorium on red shoes, just to be safe? Fucking hell, all these characters are morons. I actually like Lisa, but goddamn.
It starts to rain, so Lisa decides to put her new shoes on once they get to the dance, and even though it’s a thunderstorm, she’s so smitten by Jerry that she exclaims it’s a lovely night. Donna and Steve laugh at this, but hell, I love thunderstorms so I’ll agree it’s lovely. (My glasses make rain annoying, though. I have yet to find a way to enjoy a thunderstorm outside while still being able to see.)
At the dance, Donna is enthralled by the decorations, which include a bridge over an actual pool of water. In the gym. Uh-huh. The theme is “enchanted forest,” and the girls manning (womaning?) the punch bowl are dressed as elves. Um, excuse me, what the fuck. Donna and Steve go to find their table, because apparently there’s assigned table seating at school dances now, and she asks why they’re at the head table. Again, what the fuck is that? I guess it’s a special table for the class president, which is what Steve is. Sure, why not. Then he mentions that Jerry and Lisa will be sitting with them, and Donna is confused until Steve reminds her that Jerry is the vice president. I’ve never been to a school dance, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t assigned tables. I’m pretty sure there aren’t tables for everyone, because how would there be room to dance?
Steve and Donna have to go out and dance the first dance like it’s their fucking wedding or something, and then Jerry and Lisa have to join them. What the fuck kind of school dance is this? Jo, what is this shit? They take a break and get punch from the elves, while Lisa continues dancing with Craig, who used to compete in ballroom dancing competitions. Jerry says that Lisa warned him she’s not a good dancer, but she’s actually amazing!
Well, that’ll be the shoes, then.
Craig wants Lisa to be his new ballroom dancing partner, but she turns him down because she has zero free time, and what time she does have, she wants to spend with Jerry. Then Craig mentions the dance competition this dance is having, and asks her to be his partner. What. Why is there just a random dance competition at this school dance? Anyway . . . Lisa turns him down because she’s there with Jerry and it wouldn’t be right.
Jerry’s only an okay dancer, so he fakes an old football injury like he’s forty or something, and pushes Lisa to enter with Craig. She’s unsure at first, but her feet keep dancing under the table, so she’s compelled to agree. Then Jerry reveals to Steve and Donna that he set this up with Craig because the prize is a hundred dollars and he wants Lisa to win and get it all. Donna and Steve also enter, apparently just for fun.
Donna and Steve make it through the first two rounds, then drop out when it switches to disco. First of all, who the fuck enters a contest just to drop out after two songs? Second, they dropped out at the most fun part! I was looking forward to some Saturday Night Fever shit! Or whatever the fuck was going on in the “Waterloo” dance sequence at the end of Mamma Mia! Boo.
Lisa and Craig are doing great, and Jerry, Steve, and Donna go up on the bridge to watch them. Steve spots her shoes and is like uh-oh cursed shoes! Donna tells him no, Lisa’s dad got them at Delano’s in the mall, but Jerry says there’s no way her dad could afford anything in that store, even with overtime pay. They think they should stop Lisa to get a better look at the shoes, but she’ll be disqualified if she stops dancing! She needs the money! Oh, well, better just let her dance herself to death, then. Also, can’t you ask her to kick her shoes off while she’s dancing? I feel like so many of these “problems” have such simple solutions, Jo. Stop requiring your characters to be willfully stupid to make your plot work!
Lisa is thrilled that she’s picking up all these new dance moves out of nowhere, but Craig is starting to get tired. They win the contest anyway, and are presented with their prize, which Craig magnanimously announces he’s letting Lisa have in entirety. She wants to dance some more, but he’s too exhausted, so she gets all huffy and announces to the whole gymnasium that she’ll just dance by herself, then. I would really love it if the band started playing Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” right here. (And I’m pretty sure that song is about masturbation, no matter what the Wikipedia page is trying to make me believe about its origin.)
We have another “everyone cheered and clapped” moment, and Lisa dances by herself. At first she’s elated, but then she starts feeling the pain in her feet and legs, and realizes that she can’t stop dancing. She wonders what this compulsion is, and how long it will be before she collapses from exhaustion.
Oh. Okay, simple solution, right? Just tackle her and rip the shoes off her feet. Done.
Of course, that would be anti-climactic, so first they have to fight through the crowd of students idiotically cheering Lisa on. Then Lisa is dancing too fast for them to grab her. Donna gets the band to stop playing, but Lisa is still whirling like a dervish. Donna and I both yell at these football boys to tackle her, which they finally manage to do, but her feet are still dancing even in mid-air. Donna yells at them to hold her legs, and she wrestles the shoes off Lisa’s feet.
Whew. Lisa passes out, and they carry her into the ladies’ room where there’s a sofa. A couple girls coming out of the restroom screech at the boys, who quickly run away, even though the couch is in the vestibule where they can’t possibly hear delicate lady urination. Like, calm down, this is clearly an emergency. Donna sets the shoes down on a shelf, and some girl named Rita monitors Lisa’s pulse while Donna calls the doctor. The doc shows up and calls for an ambulance to take Lisa to the clinic. He thinks she’ll be fine after a few days’ rest.
Donna goes back to the dance with Steve, even though she doesn’t feel like it, because he’s class president so he can’t leave yet. I didn’t know school dances held the student council for ransom. Guess I’m glad I never went to any dances if this is what they’re like!
Then she suddenly remembers she left the cursed shoes in the bathroom and runs back to get them, but they’re gone! A couple girls she doesn’t recognize are giggling, and they tell her that an old lady dressed like a big black crow came and took them. She gets further description from them, and determines it was the Magical Footwear lady come back to claim the shoes. I mean, yeah. Also, I kind of want to slap Donna for taking her eyes off of literally the most important objects in the fucking book. “Cursed shoes that I’ve been worrying about throughout this entire book? Oh, let’s just toss them to the side and forget about them, shall we?”
Donna tells Steve they have to get the shoes back! But . . . why? Yes, the old lady might sell them to some other pushy bitch who won’t take no for an answer, but she might not. Either way, the shoes are going back in a display case instead of on anyone else’s feet. Maybe just let it be? Nope. Steve says he has an idea, then goes to talk to various members of the school staff. When he comes back, he’s grinning like he solved the problem.
What’s Steve’s solution, you ask? Well, he got Miss Adams to agree to let Donna add on Lisa’s story to her article. Brilliant. But wait, there’s more! Somehow everyone knows newspaper editors all over the country (including editors at the Associated Press and United Press International), and they’re going to make sure every newspaper in the country prints Donna’s article! Oh, fuck OFF. And, as the new editor of the school newspaper, Donna can send copies of their paper to all the schools in the state, so everyone will know not to buy these shoes!
Yes. Yes, Jo Gibson, this is how real life works. These certainly aren’t the ramblings of an alien who doesn’t understand earthlings. Nope, not at all.
Donna protests that she’s not the editor, and Steve tells her she is now; it was a unanimous decision among the staff. Oh. My. God. Shut UP! She wrote an article about SHOES! She did no research into the curse; she didn’t talk to the woman who sold the shoes and knew about the curse, therefore she didn’t find out the origins of the curse or why it targets people the way it does, or anything! She wrote about girls having accidents after wearing shoes. Period. Fuck all the way off, oh my God!
Anyway, she’s so happy that everything is coming up
Milhouse Donna that she starts crying. Apparently Steve has never heard of crying from happiness, because he is alarmed. They dance, and continue dancing even after the band stops playing. Because happiness.
Now, this could be the end of the book, but it’s not. We get an epilogue that takes place two months later, in a different state. Shirley and Ronni are shopping at the Grand Forks Mall (as in Grand Forks, North Dakota? why don’t you want to name states, Jo?) for shoes to go with Shirley’s Christmas dress. They’ve been there for three hours and no luck so far.
Then they spot a booth in the center of the mall. I believe the word you’re looking for is “kiosk,” Jo. Except it’s not. It’s a tent made out of oriental carpets. Oh, fuck me, the tent is actually made from the carpets? How? What the fuck? Also, it’s next to a tree in the mall, and there are shoes hanging from the branches. What the fuck is even being described to me?
Shirley drags Ronni over to the tent, and the old woman running the joint tells her the special shoes are in the back. What back?! Have you seen a kiosk in the mall? They’re smaller than a jail cell! There is no back! Whatever, the old woman immediately brings out the cursed red shoes, even as Ronni remembers the article she read and tries to warn Shirley off. Shirley laughs her off, saying that story was fiction written to sell papers, and anyway, the name of this place is Charmed Feet, not Magical Footwear.
Yes, that is quite the disguise. No one will ever suspect!
Shirley yells at Ronni to get lost when she continues trying to warn her, and Ronni starts crying because Shirley has never been this mean to her in all the years they’ve been friends. As she walks away, she hears Shirley tell the old woman not to bother wrapping the shoes up; she loves them so much she’s going to wear them out of the mall!
Welp, it was nice knowing you, Shirley. Hope you’re not a dancer.
Nostalgia Glasses Off
Well, this was certainly a Jo Gibson Joint. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d read it before until I got to the dance and Lisa’s misadventure, and then I was like, Oh, yup, I kinda do remember this. I can almost picture lying in my bed reading it.
So, I don’t know how to rate, or even talk about, Jo Gibson books. They’re not really good, but they’re not actually bad, exactly. Their plot contrivances and off-the-rails ridiculousness just kind of lift them to this transcendent level of pure what the fuck-itude that’s hard to describe until you experience it for yourself. If there’s a word that combines love and hate and wtf, then that’s how I feel about Jo’s work. There’s probably a German word for that, right?
This one was weird, because it felt more like an outline, or an abridged version of a book. So much happened off-page; I found myself wanting the story filled out more. It’s a short one – in my 2-in-1 collection, this book is only 112 pages, although Goodreads tells me the mass market paperback is 180+. But the 2-in-1 collection has larger pages than the mass market paperback, so maybe that explains it. At any rate, there’s so much to the story that we just didn’t get to see, and I don’t recall Jo doing this in her other books.
Also, I really thought the curse the shoes doled out would be more appropriate to each girl’s talent and situation. The girl who wants to be a singer? Something should happen to her voice. At the very least, the girl who nearly dances herself to death (you know, the title of the book?) should want to be a dancer! Lisa didn’t give a fuck about dancing until the shoes gave her some talent there. The curse was so random.
And we never met Donna’s parents, so I still firmly believe she murdered them and came to Jefferson City to hide out and start a new life. Can’t change my mind, y’all.