Recap: Remember Me by Christopher Pike
Posted June 23, 2008on:
I think my copy of this book was purchased in 1993-ish. Copyright page says it was first published in 1989, but there’s an ad in the endpapers indicating that Remember Me 2 was due out in August 1994. (I’ve got that book, too, so a recap is forthcoming!) Anyway, this means I was about 13 when I read the book the first time. I remember really loving this book, too.
You may recall that this is the ghost-solves-her-own-murder book. I couldn’t find an image of the cover I have online anywhere. The cover illustration shows a blonde girl with a yellow blouse and green pants dead on the ground below a balcony. And, yeah, that’s a good summary of the whole first half of the book.
So we open with Shari Cooper telling us she’s dead. She then goes into what I like to think of as the Baby-Sitter’s Club Exposition, in that that she informs us in the third paragraph that when she was alive, she was a pretty blonde girl. Except maybe I should call it a Sweet Valley High opening, because just like the Wakefield twins (perfect size sixes with eyes the color of the Pacific Ocean, don’t you know?) Shari is a little too perfect sounding: she goes on for most of the rest of the paragraph about how her eyes are this amazing shade of green.
Then there’s a whole lot of exposition as Shari takes us to the night she died. The gist is this: Shari’s family is ridiculously wealthy; her brother, Jim, sees all colors as brown, has diabetes, and sleepwalks; his girlfriend Amanda is achingly beautiful and also the daughter of the sometimes housekeeper Mrs. Parish; Shari’s getting ready for a party at the condo of Big Beth, who is so named because she has great big… tracts of land; Shari’s boyfriend is named Dan and he’s kind of a douche; Shari’s best friend, Jo, is Amanda’s cousin (their mothers are sisters); the kids all just graduated from a school named Hazzard High. I mean, really. Are they going to college at the University of Anvils?
At the end of Chapter 1, Shari catches Amanda with one of Jim’s insulin needles, then Jim tells Shari that he had a dream about her involving a balloon, and when the balloon got taken away by the wind, she cried. This is probably significant.
On to Chapter 2, in which the kids are all driving to Big Beth’s party. We’re still in Expositionville, so we learn that Amanda is colorblind and Jo is really into the occult. Of course she is. When Shari goes to Jo’s house to pick her up, Shari finds some pieces of paper that Jo informs her were a short story written by Peter Nichols, the dead older brother of Jo’s object of lust, Jeff. Peter’s story, incidentally, is about a girl with a VCR that can tape tomorrow’s news. (Hmm, that’s a familiar-sounding plot.) Shari was friends with Peter, and wonders if the fact that the character in the story is named Ann is because her middle name is Ann. She’s, um, a little self-centered, but acknowledges that she was pretty shallow when she was alive.
So the kids go to the party and it’s typical teen party stuff. Beth’s parents aren’t home, Beth macks on Dan, Amanda is quiet, and then Shari has a kind of nonsensical fight with Jeff Nichols in which Peter is invoked and they call each other assholes. Shari gets upset and goes to lie down in Beth’s bed. Amanda comes a while later to wake her up and informs her that Dan and Beth were naked together in Beth’s hot tub. Charming.
My middle-school BFF and I were mildly obsessed with ouija boards and similarly cheesy occult stuff, and I suspect scenes like the following were part of the reason. Jo breaks out a magnet and makes Beth lay on the floor with the magnet behind her head. She explains that the magnet will control Beth’s body and the kids can ask yes or no questions; if the answer is yes, one of Beth’s legs will grow longer than the other. Really? Okay. Of course, because this is a book in which we already know there’s an after life, the little trick works, and Beth’s body answers a series of questions accurately and Beth herself falls asleep (and/or goes into a trance; it’s not really explained). Jeff is convinced Peter’s communicating through Beth, so Jo decides to try to communicate more directly with Peter via a medium. She chooses Shari to be the medium, and in order to put Shari in a trance, the kids all have to pretend she’s dead. Shari, of course, has a weird out-of-body experience while the kids in turn describe how sad they are that Shari is dead, and suddenly she feels incredibly sad. She comes out of the trance suddenly, and gets up. Still upset about Dan and Beth hooking up, she decides to get some air on the balcony. Then she feels a sensation like falling and pow! She’s dead. I mean, obviously. She’s only told us about fifteen times with a slightly ominous tone that she was going to die that night.
Shari comes to the next morning in her own house in her own bed, and she wanders downstairs to have breakfast with her parents. She can’t pull a chair away from the table to sit in it and her parents ignore her… and, you know, we can kind of cut to the chase here. You know what’s going on. Shari doesn’t know she’s dead, gets mad at her family for ignoring her, follows them down to the morgue where she sees herself dead on the table. Also significant is that she sees these wispy cloud things in the air that she describes as “this stuff.”
So she knows she’s dead but is still kind of in denial about it. She follows her brother back to the crime scene and encounters the obligatory alcoholic cop, who is downing the booze right there in the cab of his truck. The cop, whose name is Garrett, walks into the condo where all the kids from the night before are sitting. He questions them. The questioning goes on for pages. There’s a lot of confusing talk about the kids whereabouts at the exact moment Shari went over the balcony, and some stuff about how the balcony door locks automatically when it closes, and this is probably all relevant, but it’s kind of a snooze to read through. What you need to know is that the kids’ story is basically that Shari got upset and jumped and we’re supposed to be suspicious of all of the kids. Frankly, the dialogue between the kids and the cop is so confusing that I’m not really sure which way is up, but there is, helpfully, a floor plan of the condo on page 89.
Shari sits with Garrett for a while after the kids leave and he drinks an entire bottle of something or other from Beth’s parents’ liquor cabinet. Then she follows him outside to the spot where she died and feels oddly compelled to lay down on the spot. Then she feels like she’s being pushed. She sees an ethereal dark thing that she calls the Shadow, and she runs from it on into the ocean (they are in SoCal) then calls for her mother and winds up safe in her mother’s bed. It’s supposed to be very scary. It’s not really, but then, I already know things work out because the book has two sequels.
So. Shari wakes up again at Amanda’s house. Jo and her mother come by and they all go to Shari’s funeral. (Uh. Shari’s only been dead for about 36 hours the way I figure, and there was probably an autopsy. Would she really be buried so soon? Should I let this plot point bother me?) Shari follows them out of “morbid curiosity.” Yuk, yuk. The funeral is sparsely attended, and Shari figures it’s because everyone thinks she committed suicide. Beth and Dan are there together. Shari sees a kid her age in a red shirt and baggy white shorts but doesn’t recognize him. Shari sits near Mrs. Parish, who prays through the whole service, and Shari can feel joy and love and sees a light. The light goes out abruptly as the service moves to the cemetery. It’s short and sweet, then Shari flips out when everyone leaves and her coffin is buried. She’s asking God to save her when Baggy White Shorts comes back. She tells him to go to hell. “We’re already there, wouldn’t you say, Shari?” he asks. It’s poor dead Peter Nichols.
The next chapter opens with a little reunion, wherein Shari hugs Peter and is happy that he can feel and touch her, then she peppers him with questions, and he’s a little vague, there’s some new-agey “God is everything” stuff, and Peter offers his help. Peter also uses the word “mustn’t” a lot. I get that he’s all dead and spiritual and stuff, but… mustn’t? What 18-year-old guy in the 80s said “mustn’t”? Anyway, we learn that Peter died in a motorcycle accident wearing the red shirt and white shorts. He tells Shari to go into the light (…sigh) but she hesitates because she wants to know who killed her. Peter doesn’t think the cause of her death matters and tells her she was meant to die, and she badgers him into admitting he was there the night of the party, but he didn’t see who killed her. He argues with her for a while, telling her she has to go into the light because it’s dangerous to stay on Earth, where the Shadow lurks. He also tells her that he can’t go to the light because he has to stay to help lost souls like her. She insists on staying to clear her name, and Peter reluctantly agrees to partner up with her.
They talk. Shari’s number one suspect is Amanda, but Amanda said she was in the bathroom when Shari fell. Somewhere in this talk, Shari and Peter flirt and Peter confesses to spying on Shari in the shower once. Creepy, but my 13-year-old self had OTP written all over these kids by this point in the book, and I think we’re supposed to find it endearing. “I found the entire experience spiritually exhilarating,” he tells her. Okay, ha. He died as an 18-year-old. Maybe he was still a virgin. Naked girls, yay. They cycle through the party attendees and discuss various motives and don’t really get anywhere. Any one of the kids could have done it and none of them has a compelling motive.
Shari and Peter have a lot of cute dialogue and there’s talk of how to transport and walk through things and Peter can conjure objects made from the stuff that floats around them. Shari has trouble transporting herself and walking through things, and we go to the “You can’t do those things because you think you can’t” place, and it basically comes down to Shari needing to let go of her human expectations of what she can do.
They go to Dan’s house, where they find Dan and Beth making out on the couch. Shari’s upset, Peter comforts her. Garrett shows up then to question Dan and Beth. There are questions, there are denials. Garrett finds a condom in Dan’s shirt pocket. Garrett nonsensically says, “You may think you’re practicing safe sex, son. But you’re not even close.” What?
Garrett leaves and Dan and Beth fight. Beth storms out. Dan goes up to his room and hurls a photo of Shari at the wall. Shari doesn’t know how to react. She and Peter leave to follow Garrett. He goes to Peter’s old house next. Shari quizzes Peter on what happened when he died, and Peter says that he was careless so the accident was his fault. They get to his house, and Garrett Jeff if he can ask a few questions. He asks for a beer, which Jeff provides but says it’s not cold. “That’s all right, I’m on duty,” says Garrett. Ha. I love Garrett.
Garrett questions Jeff and Jeff is evasive or just clueless, it’s hard to tell. Peter swears Jeff wouldn’t have killed Shari. While they’re chatting, Jo calls and tells him to be at her place that night. Garrett asks Jeff about his shoes, which Shari and Peter pick up on, so that must be A Clue. Our heroes then follow Garrett to a seedy part of town, where he spies on his daughter, who’s strung out on drugs. We’re made to understand that this is why he’s an alcoholic. Aw, Garrett has layers. When the daughter is high as a kite, she can see Shari.
Off to Jo’s house. The gang’s all here. Jo, of course, gets out a ouija board. Peter confesses to using Shari as a channel at the party, as if we hadn’t already figured it out. I… I like Shari and all, but, Lord, she is slow. Ouija board’s out, Shari makes Peter manipulate it, only he loses control of it and someone else spells out that Peter and Shari are burning in hell. Everyone is upset, Jim storms out, Shari follows him, Shari runs into the Shadow. Doom!
Okay, okay. I thought the Shadow thing was pretty terrifying when I was 13. I picture it now kind of like the black cloud of whatever on Lost and it makes me giggle.
Anyway, the Shadow chases Shari into the cemetery, she runs into Peter again, and the Shadow disappears. They talk, Shari remembers that her dead Aunt Clara came to her in dreams, so she decides to get into Jim’s dreams. Peter tries to talk her out of it and goes back to the “go into the light” argument, but Shari’s not having it. Peter says he can’t be a part of the dream shenanigans and vanishes.
Shari goes back to her house. Her parents are leaving first thing on a vacation to get out of the house. Amanda is sleeping over in Shari’s room. Jim is sad. That’s kind of all you need to know. Shari goes into Jim’s room after dark and tries to get into his dream but kind of fails. She goes next door and tries again with Amanda. Success! Amanda dreams of bubbles forming at the points of needles and there is no color in the dream. Shari doesn’t understand that this is Obvious Foreshadowing. (Uh. Spoiler!) She leaves and goes to Dan’s. He’s having a wet dream that Shari interrupts so she can yell at him for being a cheating bastard. Next, at Jo’s, Shari ends up passing out and having her own dream — or so she thinks, I guess — where Jo is an old fortune teller. She doesn’t recognize Shari, and Shari pushes her to look into her crystal ball. Some confusing stuff happens and Shari winds up in the crystal ball until Jo wakes up and thinks that Shari thinks Jo killed her. Then Shari hears Peter call for help.
He’s four blocks away and the Shadow is after him. Ho hum. Shari doesn’t see the Shadow. Peter couldn’t see Shari’s shadow earlier, either, so we already know that each, uh, ghost has his own shadow, but it takes Shari until now to figure it out. Peter’s kind of annoying because he won’t give Shari the information she needs to figure things out, but Shari’s also not the brightest bulb in the box. Peter, since he lurves her, thinks she’s “perceptive.” Whatevs. Peter explains about the Shadow, “It is the worst thing we could ever have to face. It is ourselves.” O… kay. He clarifies that the Shadow is a manifestation of everyone’s self-hatred, the worst things we think about ourselves reflected back at us. Peter, well, if you didn’t already know, he had a lot of self-hatred.
Shari has started to suspect that she did jump after all, since none of the friends whose heads she jumped into were the culprits. She and Peter have a philosophical discussion about the Shadow, Shari posits that confronting her Shadow will show her the truth, Peter tries to talk her out of it. Shari realizes they’re standing on the spot where Peter died. He says again that it was his fault he died (pretty much he’s saying, “I KILLED MYSELF!!!”) but Shari doesn’t get it and goes off to confront her Shadow, telling Peter not to follow her.
So Shari pulls a Spiderman and climbs up Beth’s building and over the roof and onto the balcony. She sees the Shadow hanging out by her stain on the ground. He beckons for her to fall, and so she does. She’s one smart cookie.
This is all a big contrivance so that Shari can have a dream in which she’s an infant and she’s switched with another baby at birth. Just in case we didn’t pick up on the fact that Jim and Amanda are both diabetic and color blind, and that Jo and Shari are nearly identical and everyone thinks they are sisters. I mean, we saw this coming, right? When she comes to, Peter shows up and informs her that she was out for 12 hours and he couldn’t get to her. She kind of shrugs him off and they go to see Mrs. Parish.
There’s some tricky math, but it boils down to Jo’s dad and Mrs. Parish having an affair and conceiving Shari. Thus, Shari and Jo are half sisters and also cousins, I guess. Ew. Amanda was born the day before Shari, and she’s Jim’s sister. Jo’s mother is a nurse, she switched the babies. Peter sputters as Shari calmly explains.
Garrett shows and weasels his way into Amanda’s room, where he digs up Amanda’s shoes. Clue! Shari recognizes orange chalk on the shoes as chalk that had been on the roof of Beth’s building. Garrett asks Mrs. Parish where Amanda is, and she lies. Garrett, being awesome, knows better and calls to have backup dispatched to Shari’s house. Shari frets about getting there in time and then she figures out how to fly. Right.
They find Jim and Amanda in bathrobes at Shari’s house. Amanda’s been feeding Jim cake, and because Jim is dumb, he’s been eating it. There’s some flirting during which it becomes clear that Amanda knows about Baby-switch-gate but Jim doesn’t catch on. She offers to have them do each other’s shots. Jim’s getting tired from lack of insulin, but Amanda persists then basically tells him they’re related, there are love confessions, Jim seems like he’s still willing to have sex with her, and Shari freaks out. We’re all, ew, incest.
So Amanda’s wearing the crazy pants. She gets a super dose of insulin and, after Jim warns her not to put it in his vein, she does just that, and he immediately gets all tired and nearly passes out. Then Amanda gets an empty syringe.
So, okay, I’m not entirely clear on Amanda’s motive, other than “Bitch is crazy.” When Jim starts questioning her, she says that her mother wants them to stop seeing each other. Jim’s slow to catch on, but I forgive him because he’s sick and about to pass out. Amanda says she thought things would end when Shari died. Jim is confused. Amanda goes on about how Shari led a charmed life but life sucked pretty hard for Amanda. Then she confesses to killing Shari, and gets all, “I love you, no one else can have you” on Jim. He calls her crazy. Yeah, where have you been, Jim? She goes in for a kiss and he bites her on the lip. Then she busts out the air-filled syringe.
Shari begs Peter to intervene. He says he can’t, but then he does, pushing into Amanda’s body. They struggle together, then he falls out and says his Shadow is after him. Shari tells him to confront it. He insists it will be different for him, because he killed himself. Shari argues. Shari is dumb. She finally gets it and tells him to leave. He doesn’t. Amanda tells Jim she loves him, then Peter starts to tell Shari that he loves her, but doesn’t finish because it’s showtime. Peter goes for Amanda again as she pushes the air into Jim’s bloodstream, but then his Shadow catches up with him and he crumples to the floor.
Acting fast, Shari decides to dive into the syringe, so she winds up in Jim’s body. She and Jim are in Jim’s dream from the beginning of the book. They chat, then Shari tells Jim to pop the bubble. He does, he lives.
When Shari’s out of his body, she notices that Amanda’s trying to light the whole damn room on fire. She’s got a needle trained on her own vein. There’s pounding on the door. Shari jumps into Amanda and makes her drop the needle, then Garrett breaks in. “You can’t have me!” Amanda cries. “Honey, I don’t want you,” says Garrett. Love!
Anyway, the cavalry shows and Jim comes to and tells Garrett about Amanda’s confession. So, with Amanda in custody and Jim on his way to the hospital, Shari turns her attention back to Peter, who wakes up and feels embarrassed. Shari presses him to explain about his suicide, and he tells her that he tore a rotary cuff and would never pitch again (guess he’d been a baseball star), so he was upset about that and also depressed and lonely. He tells Shari that he was always crazy about her, and she, of course, was crazy right back and suffered when he died. Peter tells her that, because he’s a suicide, he’s earthbound for all the years he should have been alive and can’t go into the light. Shari gets indignant on his behalf. It’s her turn to go to the New Age place and she tells him that he’s earthbound because he’s guilty, which he basically acknowledges. They go back to the shower-peeking incident and Peter tells her he didn’t peek, and there’s fighting about how Peter is a good person and he and Shari love each other and denial quack quack. Peter finally gets that he’s not all bad and tells Shari he thinks he can get into the light if he goes with Shari. They flirt cutely.
Epilogue! The truth about Baby-switch-gate is revealed via science, but it’s 1989, so they compare footprints and not DNA. Shari’s parents are overjoyed to have a daughter again, so they hire an awesome defense lawyer for Amanda. Um, what? You thought Shari was your daughter, and Amanda killed her and tried to kill your actual son! Gah. So Amanda gets 5 years in a psychiatric hospital and Jim stays friends with her though doesn’t let himself get caught alone with her. Shari says that this makes Jim not stupid, but I’m not convinced.
It’s implied that Jo and Jeff wind up together. I don’t think Dan and Beth are going to make it, though.
Shari visits Mrs. Parish in her dreams. There’s love and forgiveness.
Peter and Shari conspire to go to Garrett’s daughter in her drug-induced haze and convince the girl that Shari is an angel and Peter is a devil. Peter makes a lot of rhymes about eating the girls body parts (…yeah) and they manage to convince the girl to get clean.
The story ends with Shari telling us she inhabited Jim’s body while he sleep-walked and used his computer to type up the story so that people would remember her. Aw.
So that’s it! You know, the book is actually pretty good. Shari and Peter are totally adorable together and have some cute lines, and we’ve already been over my love for Garrett. It’s incredibly obvious, though. Anvils dropping all over the book.
I rescued both sequels from storage, so those are next. Shari and Peter get themselves reincarnated, sort of, and the New Age nonsense kicks into high gear. It’s fun. Stay tuned!