Recap: Remember Me 2: The Return by Christopher Pike
Posted July 6, 2008on:
Confession: I did not read this one as a tween. I found it in an airport bookstore, of all places, when I was 18 or 19. There’s even a Post-It stuck to the last page with the name of my high school on it (class of ’98!) that I must have used as a bookmark.
But let’s get right to it, shall we. We open with Jean Rodrigues, who does not want to be her mother. Mom is a miserable single mom who works too much, and Jean suspects a similar fate awaits her. Dad died when Jean was a child. They live in a shitty neighborhood. From all this we can glean that Jean is a Latina Stereotype.
Baby-Sitters Club Exposition: Jean is 18, two weeks away from graduating high school. She is half Mexican, half who knows, but of course she knows she is hot because she is a Christopher Pike heroine and not a normal teenage girl. Her long, dark hair is “her glory,” we’re told, and she washes it nightly with herbal shampoo, one of her few luxuries. “Her looks were one thing Jean felt good about. There were so few things.” Right.
The narrator exposits that if Jean had been paying attention to the papers, she’d know that the novel opens exactly a year since the death of one Shari Cooper. Jean is not aware of this fact, though. She’s on her way to a party for her boyfriend Lenny, and she’s got news for him: she’s six weeks pregnant with his kid.
Speaking of Latina Stereotypes, this reminds me of the flap some years ago over a pregnant Barbie. The pregnant one looked vaguely Latina, with dark hair and tan skin, but OB/GYN Barbie was blonde and buxom. I like to think of Jean and Shari as Knocked-Up Minority Barbie and OB/GYN Barbie, respectively. Incidentally, Jean got knocked up because the condom broke and also teenage girls who like sex must be punished in all media directed at teens. Luckily, this isn’t really one of Those Books.
Jean’s BFF Carol picks her up for the party. We get a non-sequitur about Jean working at a product-placed sandwich shop chain. Other relevant non-sequiturs: Jean is a pot-head. Carol is a lesbian.
Oh, also: Jean is brushing her hair when Carol pulls up and breaks the handle on her brush. The narrator tells us that even if she did read the papers–which, let’s face it, seems unlikely–she wouldn’t have known that poor, dead Shari Cooper also routinely broke the handles on her brushes. Dun dun dun!!
On the way out the door, Jean gets quizzed about the party by her mom. Mom asks if Lenny’s parents will be at the party, but Jean tells her Lenny’s parents are dead. Convenient!
More stereotypes: Carol’s a gothy femme lesbian who lusts after a girl named Darlene Sanchez, whose boyfriend (named Sporty) got gunned down in the projects recently, then died in Lenny’s arms. I think this is Christopher Pike’s attempt at a gritty novel. Like, oooh, projects, poverty, lesbians, minorities: controversial!
BSC Exposition of Lenny: He’s 20 and has had a Hard Life. He’s been in a gang and did time in juvie. He works as a mechanic and a drug dealer. He sounds like a winner, but he’s trying to change, which we know because he takes night classes at a community college. He wears his hair long and Jean thinks he’s sweet but also dangerous.
At the party, Jean and Carol take a few hits on a hookah and Jean takes the beer Lenny hands her. I think that pregnancy + substance abuse = we’re supposed to either not like Jean or realize she’s headed down the Wrong Path. Jean also tends to get depressed after getting high, and this night is not exceptional in that regard, and she winds up in Lenny’s bedroom with Darlene. Darlene tells her that she and Lenny are having a “special meeting” at the end of the party and Jean should be there. It’s about poor, dead Sporty. Well, you’ve read the recap of the first book in this trilogy, I’m sure you can make some guesses about what this meeting is about.
Darlene leaves. Jean angsts about a happy dream she had. Lenny comes in. They gossip about Sporty, then Jean tells him she’s pregnant. Lenny doesn’t seem completely horrified by the prospect of a baby; they have the abortion talk and conclude that abortions are expensive and that Jean is Catholic, so they don’t make a decision except to talk about it later. To remind us that they are Latino, they drop a lot of random Spanish words into their speech.
A while later, we’re at the post-party meeting about Sporty, and contrary to my expectations, Darlene is plotting revenge against Sporty’s murderer and is not planning a seance. Drats. The murderer, Juan, is a Bad Dude, the king of the drug dealers, high up in a gang called the Red Blades. Darlene tells this elaborate story about smuggling jeans (?) and another gang called the Bald Caps, who should probably be smuggling Rogaine and not denim.
Lenny suggests that they need to make Juan’s death look like an accident, lest they incur the wrath of the Red Blades, but Jean wants no part of it, thinking the risk is too high. She and Darlene and Lenny argue, and Jean turns the whole thing into a referendum on her relationship with Lenny and her life in general. She storms out of the room and, predictably, onto the balcony. She asks God for help out of her sucky life and feels like they’ve made a contract, that everything will be all right. Then the floor of the balcony breaks and she falls 30 feet. There will be no more pain for Jean Rodrigues.
Shari Ann Cooper is up in her happy place, reviewing her life. She tells a story about helping out a deaf girl when she was sixteen. She’s sitting next to a stream with a thirty-ish man who encourages her to realize how much love and joy her life held. The man tells her to call him the Rishi, which he helpfully explains means “seer.” There’s some tired New Age-y stuff about her soul still being alive and being on Earth but being in another dimension and how everything is part of one being and quack quack. Shari asks after Peter, who the Rishi informs her she will be seeing soon. The Rishi says off-hand that he once was (and currently is, because time does not exist, or whatever) an Egyptian Priest whom followers call Master. He launches into a speech about how people on Earth have permuted and perverted God and it’s a little preachy.
Shari gets wistful about seeing her brother Jim again, and the Rishi tells her that she can go back to Earth as something called a Wanderer. Since poor Jean’s given up on life, Shari can get another chance to live in her place, in her body.
Jean comes to in the hospital. Turns out she’s been out for a few days. She acts uncharacteristically affectionate towards her mother and asks after Lenny. Neither Mom nor Carol will elaborate on Lenny until Mom leaves and Jean pressures Carol into telling Jean that Lenny was on the balcony and fell, too, and he’s also in the hospital. He broke his back and is paralyzed from the waist down. Also, predictably, Jean lost the baby, thus avoiding a hard decision. Jean gets a little, “I’m so glad you’re my friend!” with Carol, which Carol is weirded out by.
Carol and Mom leave, and Jean is determined to go see Lenny, so, despite the fact that she just woke up from a coma, she goes gallivanting around the hospital until she finds him in intensive care. He wakes up and yells at her about how totally useless he is now that he’s paralyzed, and, even though he tells her to go away and never see him again, she promises to stick by him and feels like she’s never loved him more.
Back to Shari and Rishi, who are talking about Wanderers. Shari asks if any famous people were Wanderers, and the Rishi mentions Einstein, Martin Luther King (Junior, I assume), and Malcolm X, which spurs a conversation about the latter that’s a little racist and shows Shari never read his autobiography, but I did, so I will skip over this. The relevant thing we learn from this discussion is that most Wanderers don’t realize they’re Wanderers but do have a conscious knowledge that they are on a mission. Shari asks what her mission will be. Rishi tells her that the mission of any Wanderer is to find divine love and then to help others find it. As Jean Rodrigues, Shari will become a writer of stories about divine love that will inspire others. I gag a little.
Shari is concerned that she won’t realize who she is when she is in Jean’s body, and she wants to see her brother, so she asks for help to remember that she is a Wanderer once she’s back on Earth. Seems to me that if she didn’t know she was once Shari Cooper, it wouldn’t matter, but, okay, I sympathize. Rishi is not terribly helpful, telling her that she’ll just have to sit back and listen to the silence or something. She tries to figure out what this means, and the Rishi tells her that she’ll learn to meditate. Blah blah New Age blah.
Rishi reminds Shari that she wanted to see Peter, then asks where and how she wants to see him, and she cooks up an R-rated fantasy and tells Rishi not to watch. Good times.
Back to Jean, who is tying her 4-year-old brother Teddy’s shoes. Teddy touches her bandaged head, and she says that his hands are magic, that he can give love. Jean’s gone mellow and New Age post-fall. Uh oh.
It’s come to pass that Jean has volunteered as a candy striper at the hospital, and Jean’s mom wants to know when Jean got a personality transplant. I have some guesses on that. Mom asks how Jean feels now that she’s not pregnant anymore, and Jean makes a crack about Lenny’s inability to knock her up again. Mom tells Jean not to get too attached to Lenny and calls him half a man. Jean is, understandably, insulted.
Jean goes outside to wait for Carol to pick her up. She feels good, feels free and not depressed anymore. Carol pulls up and is smoking a joint, which Jean throws away. Carol, it turns out, is on her way out on a date with a man with a scarred face that she met at a product-placed fast food chain, and one suspects that the relationship is doomed given that the man doesn’t have girl parts.
Jean explains that she’s not doing any more pot because she’s tired of her old life and tired of living in a shitty neighborhood. She wants to clean the place up and lead a healthier life. Carol thinks this is weird.
At the hospital, Jean has bonded with an 18-year-old cancer patient named Debra Zimmerer. Christopher Pike shows off his nerdy side (like we hadn’t already guessed he had one, since his pen name is the name of the very first captain of the Starship Enterprise… and I’m a big nerd, too, but we’re moving on) by explaining that Jean and Debra bonded over their shared love of the Lord of the Rings books. And this was before the movies were made, so they can’t even bond over all the pretty men from the movie. (Mmm… Viggo…)
Debra clearly wishes she could rent the movie, though, as reading the big book is kind of a drag, so Jean promises to tell her the story and possibly also the story she’s working on writing, about a writer and her muse. The muse is a troll who steals her royalties. I hate when that happens. Anyway, Debra confesses that she’s afraid to die, so Jean quotes the Rishi and says something cute like “Only
dogs fools go to heaven.”
After her shift, Jean goes to see Lenny. Lenny’s totally miserable and tells Jean that he wants to die. He tries to talk Jean into killing him, and she refuses, so he tells her that he’ll just have to do it himself and it’ll be a bloody mess and that’s just no fun for anyone. Jean tells him to find something to live for, and he finally confesses that he maybe has something maybe, but that if it doesn’t work out, she has to help him kill himself. She reluctantly agrees.
Everyone refers to Lenny as a cripple repeatedly, which seems un-PC to me. Okay in 1994, I guess.
After work, Jean feels compelled to take the bus to the beach in Orange County for mysterious reasons, since other beaches are closer. She thinks about the perpetual headache she’s had and how it’s eased a bit. I don’t know if there’s significance to this beyond the fact that she fell on her head when she fell through Lenny’s balcony. She buys a bathing suit and goes swimming and her worries all float away. Then all of a sudden she gets tired and realizes she swam a half mile from the beach. She gets anxious, not so much about death but about leaving before her task is completed. She starts to swim back, then gets rescued by a lifeguard boat helmed by a man named Ken (as in Barbie and, proving my earlier theory). She takes a nap on the beach and dreams about an angel, then feels suddenly like she has to “go back,” but not home to her shitty neighborhood, somewhere else on the other side of town. We all know where this is going, right?
Jean winds up a the place where Shari died, and an elderly woman named Rita comes by to recap the first half of the previous book. Jean freaks out a little, but finds the Coopers’ address in a phone book and goes to pay them a visit.
She walked all this way, by the way, several miles. She makes it to the Cooper house and finds it familiar, then sees a young man in the front yard that she knows is Shari’s brother, and he looks like someone she’d known her whole life. This book isn’t as anvil-tastic as the previous, but sometimes…
Anyway, Jean walks up to Jim and they banter about her not being from around there. Jim volunteers a lot of information about himself, including that he doesn’t have siblings and that he’s moving to a studio apartment, and all is peachy keen until Jean calls him Jimmy, which gets his gander up because only Shari called him Jimmy. Since Jim is in the process of moving out of his parents’ house, Jean volunteers to help him move if he gives her a ride home in exchange. He agrees.
Back to Shari, who is having a fantasy about being 15 and waiting for Peter to ask her to Prom. There’s a weird typo where Peter has the wrong last name. Shame on you, copyeditors! Anyway, Peter asks her, they go to Prom, he’s rented a hotel room, they go to it, and they’re about to get busy when a metallic monster bursts from Peter’s chest. The monster is Peter. Shari yells at him for scaring her and for the fact that they were supposed to pretend they were at Prom and he wasn’t really playing along. We walk into continuity problem #2, wherein Peter assumes the form he had at Shari’s funeral, in jeans and a baseball cap, but we all know he was wearing a red tee-shirt and white shorts because we just read my recap of the previous book. Shari’s feeling a little put out because Peter says the Prom fantasy was boring, and he asks uninterested in sex when she offers that, too, so she suggests they go see the solar system instead. Peter’s game, so they float above the Earth. Some irrelevant stuff happens, like they go to Mars and see two demonic races of aliens. Shari then goes into a black hole where she literally loses herself, but she emerges an instant later with Peter by her side. She realizes that, because she is supposed to go back to Earth as a Wanderer, her destiny is different than Peter’s, and she feels sad about that for a moment then tells him she has to talk to the Rishi.
Two months after she and Lenny fell through the balcony, Jean’s trying to get into junior college. She and Carol are driving to the cemetery where Debra is buried. They talk and it comes to light that Darlene is looking to buy a gun in order to take out Juan. Jean’s surprised, but Carol thinks the timing makes sense because Lenny just got out of rehab, and he’s in a wheelchair but mobile. Jean hasn’t seen him since he was transferred out of the hospital, and Carol tells her to give up on him, but Jean says she can’t. Carol tells her she’s different after the fall. The imagery here, it’s killing me.
Jean gets to Debra’s grave and reads her the story about the troll muse. The whole story is included for our reading pleasure. It’s cute, I guess. The troll speaks ungrammatically, and when the main character, named Debra, calls him out on it, he says, “Grammar is for editors and pansies.” Hey! He also tells Debra that the novel she’s writing is the first in a trilogy, even though she is unaware of that. Of course. There’s also a funny bit where Debra points out they’re writing YA books so there shouldn’t be so much blood and guts, and the troll, whose name is Sam, tells her that he never compromises himself. Heh. Debra also says characters can’t have sex “onstage” which Sam objects to. Projection much, Mr. Pike? Sam insists he’s a genius, though; he was Tolkein’s muse, after all, and came up with orcs and ents. Anyway, Sam lusts after Debra’s sister so Debra decides Sam has to go, and she consults a local horror writer named Scott to help her. They conspire, and Debra manages to trap Sam in her closet. When Debra goes to see Scott to congratulate him, he’s gone and some woman lives in his house. The end.
Jean helpfully explains that the woman trapped Scott in his closet, so there’s symmetry, geddit? After she reads the story, she thinks about Jim Cooper and calls him to invite herself over to his place.
The first thing Jean notices at Jim’s, before she’s even through the door, is a framed picture of Shari. Then there’s this prosaic gem:
Holding the photograph, Jean’s hands began to shake, and she realized that the enchanted pool that granted the mysterious visions was not only found in the deep woods. Sometimes a senior picture in an unsigned yearbook pointed the way to profound mysteries.
It occurs to Jean that she knows the girl in the photo like she knows her own reflection in the mirror, and that she loves Jim more than anyone else in the world, but not in a romantic way. She asks Jim how Shari died and he says he doesn’t want to talk about it. Jean says she already knows what happened and they talk about Shari. Jean mentions a line from the troll story about wanting to be remembered, which echoes for Jim as the end of the story he wrote about Shari while sleepwalking (the first book in this trilogy was that story). Jean talks Jim into letting her read the story. We’re supposed to understand that the fact that Jean mysteriously knows so much about Shari persuades Jim to let her, but seriously, strange girl in your apartment, letting her see something you’ve never shown anyone else? Doubtful.
So Jean reads the story and knows almost immediately that she is also Shari.
Back in heaven or wherever, Shari goes to talk to the Rishi. Shari wants Peter to return with her but senses that Peter’s suicide is going to be a problem. The Rishi says that Peter’s progress towards post-death enlightenment or whatever is slowed down because he killed himself, but he’s not damned for all time or anything. The Rishi talks about karma. The implication is that it would be inadvisable for Peter to return to Earth until such a time that he’s more enlightened. (I can’t think of a better way to explain it. The Rishi goes on for pages about this and this is already a long recap.) Then the Rishi tells Shari that there are also bad people on Earth who kill Wanderers. Thus we have our set up for the next book.
Back on Earth Shari/Jean talks to Jim. It dawns on me that Amanda isn’t mentioned at all. Where did she go? Didn’t the Coopers adopt her? Ack, continuity, whatever. Anyway, Shari/Jean lists some things that happened between Jim and Shari that only Jim and Shari could know about. Amanda gets mentioned in the context of a first date, so at least she’s not forgotten, I guess. Jim is freaked out and asks Jean to explain herself then gets mad and asks her to leave, but Jean pleads with him to let her explain. They argue and Jim denies it, but he eventually understands that Shari is in Jean’s body.
The next chapter begins with Jim and Shari/Jean yukking it up like old times. Shari/Jean tells Jim about Lenny and says she loves him, then reflects on how integrated Shari’s and Jean’s memories have become. Jim takes his insulin, so we remember he’s diabetic at least, then he and Shari decide not to tell their parents she’s back but to go and tell Jo. We get caught up on how the old gang is doing. Shari’s dad sold Shari’s Ferrari to her ex Daniel, who is still going out with Big Beth. Okay, this whole sequence has me giggling because I kind of love catching up with old characters. It’s like seeing old friends. Aw. Okay, I’m done being sentimental now.
Jim and Shari/Jean go to see Mrs. Parish. Mrs. Parish lives in a tiny apartment (which Shari explains works out okay because Amanda’s still in the psychiatric hospital) and recently broke her leg and can’t work. Shari/Jean decides to convey what she needs to tell Mrs. Parish–that she loves her and is honored to have her as a mother–by making up a dream in which Shari tells a woman about Mrs. Parish’s age that she loves her.
Back at Jim’s place, Jean calls home to talk to her mother and finds out Carol’s looking for her. She calls Carol, who tells her Darlene’s got a gun. (“Ruun away, run away from the paaiiin…”) Worse, Lenny checked out of rehab (…I thought he was already out? Whatever, book) and went straight to Darlene’s, so the running theory is that Lenny intends to do a drive by and take out Juan.
Jean goes to Darlene’s, and Darlene is not happy to see her. She lies about Lenny being there, but Jean’s not fucking around, and she pushes her way into the house. Lenny is, of course, sitting right there and asks to talk to Jean alone. Mostly they fight; he’s still depressed about being a cripple. She talks him into going with her to “a friend’s” house.
So they go to Jim’s. Lenny assumes Jean’s banging him. Jean gets really mad and is about to tell him off when he pulls a gun and accuses her of getting pregnant with Sporty’s baby. Lenny’s gone totally crazy and says that Sporty had to go. I genuinely had forgotten about this plot point and this is the only thing in the novel I found surprising. Oh, Lenny. He didn’t shoot Sporty, but he put things in motion. Jean understands that Lenny feels he has to kill her to justify the fact that he was responsible for the death of his friend, who he had killed because he thought Sporty was boning Jean. He already tried to kill her once, on the balcony at his house. Whoops. He points the gun at Jean and forces her to go out on Jim’s balcony. Geez, Louise with the balconies!
So, Jean taunts him from the balcony, and Lenny shoots her in the thigh. He intends to keep shooting her in nonfatal places until the pain is so overwhelming she jumps to end it all, then he intends to shoot himself. She climbs up on the railing to appease him. Then she dangles from it and he tries to shoot her hands and misses. Shari starts to pray and calls out for her Master, at which time, Lenny looks surprised and says, “Shari?” He moves to save her, but she freaks out and lets go and starts to fall.
Back in the mystical magical place in the sky, Shari breaks it to Peter that she’s going back to Earth to inhabit Jean Rodrigues’s body. Peter wants to go back to, but the Rishi warns him he might repeat his mistakes. When Peter insists, the Rishi tells him he’ll have to go back as a cripple. Shari seems to think being a cripple is a fate worse than death (“You might not be able to have sex!”) and Peter tells her that he’d rather have love than sex and that he’d rather have Shari than legs that work. The Rishi is a sentimental old fool and decides to grant Peter’s wish, but informs him that he’ll have to face a similar moment of despair to the one he had right before he killed himself; he’ll have to hit rock bottom again but choose life instead. Everyone agrees this is what they want. The Rishi says that Jean and Lenny are waiting.
Back on Earth, Jean/Shari falls into the swimming pool behind Jim’s apartment. Jo and Jim come by then, and Jim’s about to pass out but Jo laughs and calls Shari the “Fall Girl” because she’s “still jumping off balconies.” Lenny calls out from the balcony to see if Shari’s okay, and Shari’s all, “Is that you, Peter?” and he remembers everything very suddenly. “This is turning out to be a very weird day,” says Jim.
The end! Stay tuned for Remember Me 3: The Last Story.