Recap: Final Friends Book 1: The Party by Christopher Pike
Posted January 12, 2009on:
I think I’m about to ruin my teen years. The Final Friends trilogy was one of my favorite sets of books when I was about 13. I probably read it (if not the whole thing, then the last book) 3 or 4 times.
So let’s see how much I remember: this is a straight-up murder mystery without the supernatural stuff Pike put in his later books (this one’s (c) 1988). A perfect, pretty blonde girl bites it at the end of the first book, hot computer nerd Michael tries to solve her murder, and he’s joined by the love of his life Jessica (who falls for a probably-gay football player) and his BFF Bubba. There are lots of other characters, and they do typical high school things like going to sporting events and dances. And I remember how it ends, who the murderer is, but we won’t get to that just yet.
Can we start with the cover? As is the case with any good high school drama, all of the characters look about 35. And the guy in the bottom right corner is rocking an incredible red curly mullet. (I think this is Clark?) (You can see the cover at Like Pike, who also recapped this series.)
The curtain rises on Jessica Hart, who’s thinking that summering in Europe was maybe a mistake, because going to high school seems lame after conquering the Matterhorn. Plus, Jessica is starting a new school; the school district has decided the town doesn’t need 2 partially-full high schools, so Jessica has transferred with most of her friends from Mesa to Tabb High. (Mesa makes me think of Big Mesa, the rival of Sweet Valley High. Tabb makes me think of a soft drink.) One of these friends is Alice McCoy, who is two years younger than Jessica and “the sweetest girl in the whole world.” Alice wants to have a party so that the kids from Tabb and Mesa can get together.
Jessica knows she’s a knockout, but she hasn’t dated much, so she also thinks something might be wrong with her. Alice, however, is magnetic. (Also perfect, as you will see.) Jessica also gets jealous of a blonde girl in a cheerleader outfit that she sees in the quad. Alice knows that the cheerleader is Clair Hilrey, and she already plans to invite Clair to her party because Clair knows everybody. (*wink, nudge*) Clair is also gorgeous, according to Alice. Jess thinks, “She’s all right.” Heh.
They stop by Jessica’s locker, and Jess asks after Alice’s beau, named Clark. Clark and Alice are both artists. Alice is a little cagey about Clark. Jess feels protective, particularly because Alice’s parents died when she was ten.
Alice runs off, and Jess opens her locker to find that someone’s grape juice has leaked all over her new cashmere sweater. The owner of the grape juice appears. This is Michael Olson, who is sharing a locker with Jessica. (I remember adoring Michael when I read this trilogy initially, but Like Pike thinks he’s kind of a weenie.) Anyway, the sweater is probably ruined, but Jessica consoles herself by remembering her closet full of clothes and tells Michael not to sweat it. (We’re supposed to like Jessica, by the way. I don’t have much sympathy for her at this point.) She gets a good look at him and decides he’s attractive, particularly because he has intelligent eyes. Then she recognizes him from the basketball team. They chat and it’s established that she’s Rich but he’s Poor, then he runs off.
Enter Sara Cantrell, Jess’s BFF. Sara says Michael is the smartest guy in school. Sara and Jess have first-period political science together with a Vietnam vet named Mr. Bark. Sara falls asleep during a video about WWII, and Jessica has to wake her up. Short version of this scene is that Sara is kind of a class clown; she says something inappropriate and the class cracks up. Jessica then spots Bill Skater, the football quarterback, and is totally smitten.
We go through Jessica’s whole schedule: next, she has chemistry, where she lab partners up with Maria Gonzalez. Then she has a break where she meets up with Alice’s sister Polly, and we get some exposition about how Alice and Polly are gazillionaires and they live close to Jessica, so Jess and Polly are friends because of proximity.
Then there’s this: “[Polly] ate a lot of sweets these days, and it showed, especially in her face. It was a pity. When thin, Polly was a doll.” Ick.
Anyway, Alice didn’t tell Polly about the party, and Polly thinks it’s Bad Idea Jeans. She then changes the subject by saying that she sent one of Alice’s paintings to a radio contest for a heavy-metal band’s album cover, and the painting won. Jess thinks this is weird because Alice, being perfect, only paints flowers and bunnies, but apparently Clark has Alice painting whips and chains or something.
The chapter ends with Jess, as a prank, signing Sara up to run for student body president.
After spending some time pondering it, Michael comes to realize that he has a terrible crush on Jessica. He and his BFF Bubba have a free period, and they are spending it talking about nerdy things like the scene in War Games where Matthew Broderick changes Ally Sheedy’s grades, which I suppose would be an outdated reference, but I just saw that movie on TV last month. The boys go to the administration building to steal the codes they need to manipulate grades. I wonder if this will backfire spectacularly later.
Possibly relevant: Bubba is short and chubby but also a financial whiz with a lot of charisma, so he gets whatever he wants, basically, including enough money to outfit himself pretty well. He and Michael play around with grades in the computer lab, but Michael feels bad about it. He tries to tell Bubba about Jessica, and Bubba’s response is, “Ask her out.” Bubba also already knows about the party Polly hasn’t agreed to host yet. And he intends to ask out hot cheerleader Clair Hilrey.
And now for some creep: Bubba runs off for a minute and Alice bursts into the computer lab while Michael is scoping out Jessica’s grades. It’s revealed that they met the previous winter when Alice volunteered to paint the windows at the 7-Eleven where Michael works. Michael thinks of her as a little sister; in fact, Michael’s single mother had gotten herself knocked up two years previous and had an abortion (over Michael’s protests, we’re told, which: ew, why does he get a say?).
Alice tells Michael that she has a friend who she wants to introduce him to because she knows that they will fall in love and get married and live happily ever after with a partridge in a pear tree.
Then there’s the predictable scene of the assembly for student government candidates, wherein Sara is called to the stage not knowing she’s running for anything, and she gives an angry speech decrying what bullshit student government is.
Next, we meet Nick Grutler, who is our token black kid from the wrong side of town. During PE, he gets pulled into a fight with a dude named The Rock. (No, not that The Rock, unfortunately.) Nick wins the fight, then the coach comes in and gets all angry and mildly racist. Things are looking bad for Nick until runner Russ Desmond steps in to nonchalantly explain to the coach that the Rock picked the fight with Nick and not vice versa. So, Nick gets out of trouble, and tells Russ he owes him.
After he hits the showers, Nick goes to the school’s courtyard to get a Coke from the soda machine. He’s a few cents short, but it’s okay, because tiny Maria, for she is blessed and saintly, comes along to loan him the money he needs.
A few minutes later, Sara assaults the same soda machine. Then she goes outside and gets assaulted by Russ. Or not; he’s running a cross-country race, and she got in the way, so they collide. Sara is, of course, instantly smitten.
We switch POVs to Michael, who is working at 7-Eleven when Nick comes in. And we get this kind of genius (and pretentious) passage: “Once Bubba had accused Michael of being especially kind to minorities because he felt guilty about not fully trusting them. It was Bubba’s contention that everyone was prejudiced to a degree and the best anyone could do was to try not to let it interfere with how he treated other races. But Michael was genuinely color blind. People were people to him.” Yeah, right. I should note that earlier in the same paragraph, Michael was wondering if big, black Nick played basketball.
Anyway, Nick is there for a job, so Michael—who is, what? 17? with the power to hire people?—gives him one. Then the store gets held up. Of course. Michael plays at incompetent, but Nick takes initiative and starts to beat the crap out of the robber. The robber, however, knows Michael and reveals himself to be Kats, aka Carl Barber, a super senior who wants to be a marine who nobody likes or respects. Kats says the hold up was a prank, though he explains he acquired his .22 at a swap meet the previous weekend. I suspect this will be relevant later.
So, the shift ends, Michael and Nick go to the obligatory football game. They run into Alice and Clark, and Michael has a vague and pointless conversation with the latter while Alice runs off to find the unnamed friend she wants him to meet who is obviously Jessica because Mike + Jessie = soulmates OMG. Bubba shows up then and talks Mike into deserting his post, but not before Mike asks Clark if he’s high and Bubba comments that he looks dead.
Bubba goes over to the cheerleaders and talks Clair into going out with him by inviting her to a U2 concert, even though she’s dating Bill Skater and even though Bubba does not actually have U2 tickets. Then they run into Jessica and Sara. Bubba takes Sara to get a hot dog so that Michael and Jessica can talk. I should mention that Bubba gets in a lot of good lines and he’s very smooth, but recapping all of them would make this recap much longer than it already is.
Anyway, Jessica is at the game to take photos for the paper and/or yearbook. Michael had spent the previous summer constructing a telescope with spare parts because he is a Science Nerd, so when Jessica’s camera jams, he knows just what to do. (Yeah, okay. I swooned over Michael when I was a tween, but I’m finding him kind of annoying now. He comes from the Edward Cullen School of Teen Romance Heroes, I think. Smart and self-sacrificing, completely devoted to the girl, the sort of boy you want when you’re 14 and don’t know better, the sort of boy who, if you met as an adult, you would think was a weenie. Or a stalker.)
So Jess and Mike talk, and Jess explains that she’s looking for a friend of hers that Michael wouldn’t know because she’s a sophomore who went to
Big Mesa, but said friend has been trying to get her to meet some dude all night. This friend is, of course, one Alice McCoy, so now Michael, at least, knows that Alice is trying to set him up with Jessica. He does not share this knowledge with Jessica, particularly not after she tries to get a photo of Bill Skater. Michael excuses himself, and she thanks him. “For what?” he asks. “For everything, what else?” she responds.
Mike finds Nick. They sit down to eat a box full of junk food and have a weird homoerotic moment wherein Michael asks Nick to talk about himself. Nick asks what Mike wants to know, and Mike says, “Everything, what else?” (And a bunch of slash writers just cracked their knuckles.)
Polly is also at the game, brooding by herself in the top row of the bleachers. She reflects on the fact that she met Clark first and spent the summer trying to get into his pants. She had just rounded 2nd base when Clark ditched her for Alice. Alice shows up and complains about Clark, says, “He’s not very nice,” and he’s been saying things about their parents. She doesn’t elaborate further but does talk Polly into the party once and for all. Then she flounces off again.
Polly decides to go into the school for mysterious reasons, but on the way, she runs into a very drunk Russ trying to chop down the tree where the football team hangs out. Polly talks him out of it and confiscates his axe. He reveals that he’s drunk because running into Sara during his race that afternoon screwed up his time badly enough that he got kicked off the track team. Russ mistakes Polly for Sara and tells her she’s pretty, then Polly drives him home, deciding on the way that he might be a tasty treat, Sara be damned.
This series has too many damned characters and subplots. Are you keeping up?
On Monday, Mr. Bark informs Sara that she won the Student Body President election by a landslide. (Clair was elected VP even though she ran for prez. I smell Bubba.) Sara refuses the office, but she’s stuck.
Jess goes to chemistry class. There’s a pop quiz, Jessica panics, but Maria slips her the answers. Jessica has conflict about cheating. Yawn. Turns out Jessie is trying to get into Stamford and needs a 4.0, but the chem class is way over her head. She contemplates asking Michael to tutor her, but then worries that he’ll think she’s an airhead.
At lunch, Polly informs Sara that she got Russ kicked off the track team and now he hates her. The girls have party invitations to give out, though, and we’re in Jessica’s head, so the most important thing is that Jessica give Bill Skater an invite to the party. Her encounter with him does not go well (he calls her “Joan”) but he does accept the party invite.
Bubba coaches Nick and Michael on how to ask out a lady. So, they go off to find their assigned love interests. Michael reflects on the fact that he’s attracted to Jessica, but he also had A Dream. The dream is incredibly cheesy and so totally Pike (it mostly involves Michael being followed by a veiled woman who won’t reveal her identity), and, for reasons I can’t fathom, said dream has given Michael more confidence.
Jessica is very happy to see him. They sit down together, she asks him to tutor her, he agrees to do it free of charge, but she feels like she should give him something in return, so she invites him on the very date he was going to ask her out on. Then she invites him to The Party.
Nick goes to talk to Maria and fumbles for a while, squirting orange juice in her eye, before just blurting out that he’d like to take her to the movies on Friday. She says “yes” like she knew he was going to ask.
Sara attends the student council meeting and immediately takes over, being bossy to the teachers and calling sergeant-at-arms The Rock “Rocky.” She proposes that homecoming be canceled because of the low balance on the activities account, which is met with protests from Clair and Bill Skater (who gives a very sports-movie, “there’s nothing more American than football!” speech). They compromise on doing homecoming during the basketball season so that a) they can raise more funds, and b) the school gets to know the girls from Mesa so that they have a chance to compete for the coveted Princess spots, and c) the dance can be used as a plot device in the next book. After the meeting, Sara talks to the school principal about Russ and it looks like he’ll get reinstated on the track team.
The girls (Sara, Jessica, Polly, and Alice) go to a track meet. Jess tells Alice that she has a date with Michael and, oh, by the way, whatever happened to that awesome guy Alice wanted to set her up with? Alice says, “Ask me after your date.”
They spot Russ and Sara asks Jess if she likes Russ. Jess says he’s attractive, and Sara is all, “No, do you like him?!” like Jess can make that judgment without ever having a conversation with him. Jess gives Sara an awesomely dated and sarcastic response: “Yes, I really like him. He’s totally bitchin’.”
So, the race. All is well, and Sara stays silent, until the very end of the race when she shouts out his name in encouragement. Russ turns and waves, which causes him to stumble, which causes him to lose the race by inches. Sara and Jess talk to him after the race; he asks Sara where his axe is, she tells him she’s the one who got him reinstated, they argue and Sara stomps off, so Jess thinks it’s a good idea to set them up on a date. She tells Russ to come over to her house Saturday night to take Sara to dinner.
Date Night. Bubba, Nick, and Michael are at Michael’s house getting ready. They talk about football and Bubba mentions that there’s a rumor going around school that Bill’s quarterback days are over. (Michael: “Did you start the rumor?” Bubba: “I did, but it’s gathering momentum.”) Nick borrows Michael’s car and drives off, then Kats shows up. There’s some cute dialogue where Bubba offers Michael a couple of condoms, and when Michael refuses, Bubba offers some to Kats. (Kats: “How many of those have you got to wear?” Bubba: “You? Eleven.” Heh.) Kats picks up the invitation to Alice and Polly’s party and decides to invite himself.
Mike leaves and drops by Alice’s on the way to Jessica’s. He finds her out back behind her house, painting and deep in thought, so he decides not to bother her and instead goes to Jessica’s. At Jess’s, Sara points out that Russ is 32 minutes late, but Jess assures her he’s coming. Michael shows up, so Jess introduces him to Polly, who mentions that Michael and Alice are good friends. Jess was not aware of this fact. She and Mike leave, but she makes Mike stop at a gas station so she can call Russ and tell him to get his ass over to pick up Sara. He, naturally, forgot about the date.
Maria and Nick are in the car, talking awkwardly. Eventually, it comes out that Maria’s family is in the US illegally and they’re all paranoid about being deported. They bond over their outsider status.
Russ picks up Sara in the truck his father uses for his gardening business, so it’s full of dirt and grass. Russ is drunk, so Sara takes his keys. He proposes they go to dinner at McDonald’s. Sara’s about to give up on him when he takes off his shirt to cover the driver’s seat so she doesn’t have to sit on the dirty seat. She admires his chest and gets in the truck.
Michael and Jessica’s date is going very well. They talk, it’s kind of boring. They go to the movies and run into Nick and Maria. They can’t agree on which movie to see, so they go to get ice cream and run into Bubba and Clair at the ice cream parlor. Then they all go to the movies and run into Sara and Russ, who are on the Worst Date Ever. After their fine dining experience at McDonald’s, they got pulled over and the cops found all the beer in the car and arrested Sara on suspicion of DUI. (But she’s out and in line at the movie theater? Whatever, realism.) Then Russ is short money when they go to pay for the movie tickets.
Sara and Russ have one of those romance-novel relationships where they hate each other but will clearly be having teh hott secks at a later point. Sara explodes at Russ and they have a big screaming fight at the ticket window, which results in Sara paying for all the movie tickets than stomping off. Jess goes after her, and she and Michael decide to drive her home. Jess tells Mike she still owes him a movie. He offers to help her with chemistry the next day, she says never mind (she feels guilty about monopolizing the free time she’s sure he doesn’t have). At the end of the night, she wonders if he’ll kiss her, then she thinks about kissing him, but there’s no kissing, she just gets out of the car. When she thanks him, he asks, “For everything?” and she says, “What else?” (That’s like their equivalent of “I love you”/”I know.” This may only occur to me because I’m sitting through a Star Wars marathon right now.)
Finally, finally, it’s the night of the party. Bubba, Nick, and Michael drive in Bubba’s Jag with Mike feeling glum about how, through part of his date with Jess, he was pretty sure she thought he was “far out” (hee) but then, at the end of the night, she didn’t want his homework help anymore, so he guessed she didn’t like him so much after all. He spent the week between the date and the party avoiding her because he didn’t want to bother her and also because she’d been seen canoodling with Bill Skater. Nick asks Bubba how he got Clair to go out with him after it came out that he had no U2 tickets, and Bubba basically says they had a lot of sex.
Into the house they go. They see Russ playing a video game called “Demon Death,” with Polly draped all over him. Clair, Bill, and The Rock are hanging out in the living room, and Nick gets his dander up. They split up, Bubba gesturing Clair to go outside with him (it’s clear Clair doesn’t want to be seen with Bubba when the jocks are around), Nick looking for Maria, and Michael the King of Weenies getting on line to play ping pong. Just before he gets his turn, Jessie comes into the room and sits with Bill.
Michael is so jealous and hurt he feels physical pain. I’d complain that his reaction is not proportional to the situation, but he’s a teenage boy, so, yeah, that’s probably about right. He’s about to bail on the party when Alice walks up to him and admonishes him for being late.
Okay, so Alice is really weird. I don’t get why everyone loves her. I kind of get what Pike is doing here, trying to make her look troubled, but… no, she’s just weird. Michael notices that she’s gotten too thin, and that she’s wearing the same outfit she was wearing when they met. She tells him she wore the outfit for him, and he points out that she was dressed to paint when they met. She tells him she intends to paint that night after the party ends. Bubba walks up and calls her Crackers (Mike does not know why) and she calls Bubba Johnny (his real name is John) and then Bubba explains that the gang is getting ready to go in the pool. Alice tells Mike she has to talk to him, but they go to the pool instead. On the way, Alice accuses Bubba of manipulating the election results to make Sara president, which he denies.
Polly is irritated by how many people came to the party. She’s also irritated that Alice invited Clark. She’s helping Russ with the video game, and gets more irritated when he asks after Sara. Polly lies and says Sara’s home sick. Russ says he needs to get his axe back from Sara. He is also falling-down drunk. Polly sees Alice and decides to follow her upstairs. Once there, she sees Alice talking to Kats and, getting grossed out, Polly pulls her sister away. They go into a bedroom that is empty but for the closets, which are packed full of decorations and stuff.
Alice moves a ladder to the closet and climbs up to get more cups. (Why are cups kept in a closet nowhere near the kitchen?) She and Polly fight about Clark. (Short version: Alice dumped him—she didn’t invite him to the party—because she thinks he’s dangerous, she thinks Polly’s trying to get him back and tries to talk her out of it.) Alice climbs down off the ladder and storms out of the room, leading Polly behind to stare at a light bulb and think about how bad her headache is. She gets the great idea to change the bulb, so she gets on the ladder and realizes too late that her hands are wet. She unscrews the bulb and gets a shock intense enough that she blacks out for a moment. When she comes to, the bulb has shattered in her hand and she has cuts on her skin. She thinks first that she better bandage her hand before Clark shows up, then she condemns her sister’s insolence and vows to have a talk with her about how to be respectful. (What teenage girl thinks this way? I’ll let it slide because Polly is clearly crazypants.)
Downstairs, Jessica is thinking that Bill sure is cute, but he doesn’t have much to say. The Rock, however, is talking her ear off about the work he does with at-risk kids. Jessie thinks it’s weird that the Rock is so passionate about the inner-city black kids but he’s got that feud going with Nick. Then the Rock starts talking about football, so she zones out and thinks back on the other day when Bill asked her out to lunch. I’ll save us some time: Bill is a robot and the dynamic of the relationship between Jess and Bill is that Jess thinks he’s the hottest thing she’s ever laid eyes on, but they have zero chemistry. Jess wants to do it with him anyway.) Clair shows up to drag Bill to the pool, so Bill awkwardly asks Jess to come, too, and Jess declines. She goes to look for Michael, thinking she’d like someone to talk to. Ha.
Mikey is in the pool. A game of Marco Polo goes bad when the Rock becomes It and jumps Nick. There’s a fight that ends when Polly gets pissed off and throws chlorine powder in the Rock’s eyes. The fight is effectively over and Michael sends the Rock inside to take a shower and rinse his eyes out. Everyone gets out of the pool, leaving behind Michael and Alice, who talk about Jessica. Blah blah fate blah dreams blah. They get out of the pool and Alice goes back inside to get those cups from the upstairs closet.
Maria kisses Nick. Nick is over the moon. He and Michael talk about ditching the party, but Michael wants to find Bubba first. Nick breaks out of his reverie to acknowledge that, despite the loud music, the house feels eerily quiet now, and he thinks that late at night “on the streets” it feels the same way. That sound you hear is the anvil hitting the floor.
Jessica and Sara come into the room. Sara complains about the noise level and turns off the music. Polly comes in, and everyone asks after Alice, but Polly doesn’t know where she is and goes outside to check on the pool’s chlorine level.
Nick has to pee. There’s a bathroom on the first floor, but someone’s in there vomiting, so Nick gets directed upstairs. Now, this part’s important; take notes, there will be a quiz later. Or not, because this part of the book will get repeated ad nauseum over the rest of the series.
On the way to the stairs, Nick passes the kitchen, where he sees Bill bent over the sink, about to throw up (or, alternately, “upset,” which is what Nick tells the police later). Nick considers helping him but then remembers that Bill was at the Rock’s side during the confrontation in the pool, so he goes up the stairs. He tries a door and hears water running inside, so he presumes this is one bathroom that’s already occupied and keeps going. He tries another door and finds that it opens onto an elevated porch. He sees Kats out on the porch. He tries another door, finds it locked, and listens for a moment. Nick thinks someone is asleep in there. The next room is also locked, and he hears soft moaning. Nick thinks whoever’s in there—more than one person, he guesses—is in pain, but I think those are not moans of pain, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Nick walks into the last room in the hall and flips the switch. Nothing happens. The dark freaks him out and he doesn’t want to go into the room, but his need to empty his bladder overrides all, so he feels around in the dark, finds the bathroom, pees without turning on the light, and walks back out into the room. Something about the room really bothers him and reminds him of some kid named Tommy. (A story for another time.) He freaks and goes back out into the hallway, then all of his fears are confirmed when he’s at the head of the stairs and a shot rings out.
Instinctively, Nick runs down the stairs and collides with Maria, who gestures up the stairs. They go up. Meanwhile, Michael hears the shot and knows immediately someone has died. Sara and Jessica freak out and hug each other. Polly comes in from outside and everyone goes upstairs. They see Maria and Nick standing outside the last bedroom. Michael moves to go inside and Nick points out that the light is broken. Michael is the Big Brave Man and he goes in to turn on the lamp on the corner. He sees the body on the floor and steps over it. He already knows who is dead. He flips the switch and turns around to see the tableau of shocked faces. Kats walks up behind them.
There’s a really vivid description of poor, dead Alice. The relevant bit is that she’s got a gun in her mouth and her hand is around the trigger. Nick does maybe the most idiotic thing in this sequence by walking over and taking the gun out of her mouth, ensuring his fingerprints are on the murder weapon. He declares her dead. Polly faints, then Bill, Bubba, Clair, and the Rock show up, in that order. Michael has a lot of irrational thoughts due to his profound grief. End scene.
Alice’s funeral is the following Thursday. Michael gets spiteful that more people aren’t in attendance; he counts only 28 but thinks there should be thousands. Seriously, what is the appeal of this girl? She’s a spacey oddball who was cryptic and played mental games. Anyway, Michael thinks to himself that he’d liked to be alone for the rest of his days. It reminds me of that scene in The Wedding Singer when Adam Sandler is all “I hate the bride, I hate the groom, I want them to be miserable because that’s what I am.”
Mike hangs around the graveyard after the service. Nick shows up and tells Mike he just got out of jail. The Rock, Russ, and Kats were also detained. Mike already knows all this because he’s been talking to the homicide detective on the case. The cops are holding Kats longer than the other suspects because he had a bunch of unregistered guns in his apartment, but the detective is sure this is a suicide and has told Michael as much. Michael knows this was not a suicide.
Michael and Nick talk in the parking lot. Mike informs Nick he’s been fired. Nick figured as much, and says also that now Maria won’t talk to him. Mike quizzes Nick about what he saw that night, so we get the whole Trip to the Bathroom recounted again. The only new things we learn are that the police say Russ was the one sleeping in that one bedroom and the Rock was the one in the bathroom taking a shower. Bubba and Clair claim to have been out front looking at the stars, which Michael finds kind of unlikely. Also, the gun was the same one Kats pulled on Nick and Mike at the beginning of the book; told you that would be important later. (I think the real mystery here is why the cops would share all of this information with a couple of teenage boys, one of which was just arrested for the crime.)
Michael goes to Alice’s house and runs into Keller, the aforementioned homicide detective. Keller tells Michael that it’s a closed case, ruled a suicide, so Mike cross-examines him about the details, which we already know, so I’m not recapping that again. Mike mentions Clark and manages to put enough doubt in Keller’s mind that he seems willing to keep the investigation open. Mike then asks to see the autopsy and Keller tells him he needs permission from Alice’s aunt. Keller adds that Jessica told him that Alice was a deeply troubled girl, unable to get over her parents’ death.
Keller lets Mike into the house, then takes off. Mike repeats Nick’s Bathroom Walk of Doom and winds up in The Room. It’s probably relevant that the bullet hole in the wall is low enough that Alice would have been sitting when she ate that bullet, which Michael finds unsettling. There are some more nitty gritty details, and Michael makes a drawing of the house’s floorplan, helpfully included and labeled “Michael’s Diagram” for those playing at home.
Jessica shows up at the house to pick up some clothes for Polly. They wind up in Alice’s studio and contemplate the paintings together. Most of them are the sunny bunnies Alice usually painted, but there’s a batch that sound like bad sci-fi novel covers. Things between Mike and Jess are strained, and then Michael kinds of loses it and yells at Jess for telling the cops Alice killed herself. Jess dissolves into tears. Michael wants to apologized and comfort her, but doesn’t. He instead walks over to a painting that reminds him of the dreams he’s been having. Beside it is a photograph of Michael that Jess took the night of the football game. Jess says she kind of wanted to keep the photo herself, but Alice begged her for it, so she relented. Michael finally seems like he’s about to apologize, but Jess tells him they should talk, but talk later. Then she leaves.
The end! Finally!
So here’s the thing. Parts of this book are actually good. Bubba and Sara are the best parts of this book. The mystery is actually well-constructed; I’m not sure if I’m finding the details tedious because I know the outcome or because said outcome is obvious. I think it’s more the former. But, yeah, Jessica is annoying and Michael is kind of a dweeb. I can’t wait for Book 2: The Dance. Highlights: Homecoming! Michael on the basketball team, making him both a jock and a nerd in a fancy bit of clique blending! Lots of Michael/Jess angst! Very little forward-plot movement! I’m sure you’re beside yourselves with anticipation. I’ll try to get that recap up quickly.