Thursday, November 15, 2012
Chain Letter (Christopher Pike)
Hey! It’s like I Know What You Did Last Summer on acid.
Brenda, Alison, and Fran are heading into Fran’s house when Alison sees a purple envelope in the mailbox addressed to Fran. After goofing around for awhile, Fran opens it and reads a letter addressed to them and some of their other friends. The note says that the writer will put an ad in the paper and Fran has to do whatever the ad says before passing the next task on to the next name on the list. If they don’t do what he says, he will reveal their big secret.
The girls all freak out a little, wondering if the note might come from someone in the group. Fran gets the newspaper and sees that her task is to change the koala bear mascot into a goat’s head. Alison feels bad for her because Fran spent hours painting the mascot head in the gym, but Fran is completely willing to do the task. The book then jumps to Neil, Tony, and Kipp, the guys in the group. They do a little talking about the note before their friend Joan calls to find out what’s going on. They discuss what happened that night, and then the book jumps back to the previous summer.
Tony, Joan, Kipp, Brenda, and Neil went to see The Beach Boys, and ran into Alison and Fran having car trouble in the parking lot. All seven ended up in Kipp’s car with Tony driving. Kipp played them a tape he made of the coach having sex with a teenage girl, and the girl sounded just like Joan. She got so pissed off that she started fighting with Kipp and hitting things on the dashboard.
Joan accidentally turned the lights off and they hit something on the road. Tony and Joan both wanted to leave, but Neil and Brenda convinced them to stop the car. They found a guy laying in the middle of the road, dead. After a short discussion, they decided to leave him there instead of risking getting in trouble if they called the cops.
Tony finally gets the courage up to ask out Alison, which pisses off Joan because they kind of date. Kipp gets his newspaper ad, which tells him to flunk his next test. Since grades are so important to him, he refuses. About a week later, he crashes into a wall after his brakes go out. Next on the list is Brenda who gets told to tell off the director of the class play. She wants to be an actress and he is one of the people who picks the scholarship winner from their school, but she tells him off.
Neil has to fake getting sick in class, so he pretends to a diabetic sugar crash. Joan gets told to come to school dressed like Bozo the Clown because she cares so much about appearances. When she refuses, someone throws a box full of cockroaches into her bedroom, and she’s terrified of bugs. She comes dressed like the clown, and Tony gets a message to come in last place at the big track meet.
Tony isn’t sure if he wants to do it or not, but he gulps down a few lemonade drinks before the meet and can barely walk. He finishes one race, but passes out during the second and wonders if someone drugged his drink. Last on the list is Alison who has the lead in the school play. The ad says to flub her lines, but she refuses to do it. She gets pushed/tripped during the play, falls into a wall, and the wall collapses, making her flub her lines anyway.
The group thinks that everything is done, but the list starts again. The man, who calls himself the Caretaker, tells Fran to streak naked through the cafeteria during lunch. She starts crying because she thinks that she has a terrible body, and Alison convinces her to run away for a few days. Kipp gets told to tell the school and his future college that he cheated on the SAT, which he refuses to do because it will ruin his life. They all get together to talk about things, and Alison notices that Neil has a new ring with a large emerald, which he says is a family ring. They start talking about Fran, and both Brenda and Neil reveal that they know she is with her grandma. Brenda calls to check on her and learns that Fran is missing.
Alison has a dream that same night. She sees a lot of smoke and hears someone knocking on the door. When she reaches the door, the voice tells her that she knows who he is, but she wakes up before she can put it all together. A ringing phone wakes her, and Tony is on the other end, telling her that Kipp is missing. She rushes over to his house to discover that the police found a lot of blood in his house and no sign of him.
Brenda then gets an ad telling her to tell every teacher in school to go to hell. Brenda gets through a few teaches before she encounters the coach, who immediately takes her to the principal. Just as everyone is starting to calm down over all the ads/requests, Neil gets a new one that demands he burn down the school.
Before Neil can do his task, Alison gets a call from Brenda. The police found his house on fire and they couldn’t save him. Once the smoke cleared, they found him still in bed wearing his emerald ring. At the funeral, his mom makes a startling announcement, telling Tony and Alison that Neil had cancer. It started in his leg and slowly spread throughout his body. He didn’t want to tell anyone about the cancer because he didn’t want their sympathy. Tony then tells Alison that Neil was in love with her, and she cries because he did ask her out once. Tony tells her that things are fine, but he starts avoiding her.
The girls plan to spend some time together when Alison’s parents go out of town. While getting ready, she hears a noise outside. It turns out that the Caretaker is in her house and tracking her. She manages to get to the garage, but he already took care of the car. She does find her dad’s gun and loads it, but she shoots at him twice and misses both times, hitting the house next door. He chases her through the house and she thinks she got away, but trips and cracks her head on the ground.
Meanwhile, Tony decides to go back to the spot where they buried the man last summer. When the Caretaker started the second round of demands, he started using a code filled with letters. Tony read the code backwards and realized that it was a message from Neil. He flashes back to odd comments that Neil made, especially about the ring. Neil said it was a family heirloom, but his mom didn’t know about it.
Alison wakes up tied to a chair with everyone else around her. Fran admits that Neil came to see her and slipped her a drugged soda, while Joan and Brenda encountered him on the way to Alison’s house. They saw him on the side of the road and thought he was a ghost, and he used that to kidnap them. Neil walks in, yellow and pale and barely able to stand on his feet. He basically rants and raves for a few minutes and Alison tries to calm him down.
She tells him all about how she dreamed of him before and trusts him. When he gets close, she grabs his gun and threatens to shoot him. She asks him about Tony and he tells her that Tony died. She tells him to let her go, and they do a little fighting. Neil says that he can’t trust anyone and that she lied to him, so he offers to give him back the gun to show her loyalty. When she does, he jabs her in the leg with a needle.
Tony bursts through the door and Neil drags her across the room. He starts rambling about how they all had these great lives and they overlooked him and how much he wanted the same things. He also accuses Tony of stealing Alison from him, but then he kind of just gives up. He lets everyone go and Tony refuses to leave. Neil passes out and Tony carries him out of the house.
Cut to a few weeks later and Tony and Alison are talking about graduation. Brenda showed up to sing and the school lifted her suspension for telling off the teachers. She also mentions that Kipp told the police a long story about being kidnapped by sex-crazed girls and Fran claimed that an old man kidnapped her and made her draw naked pictures of him. Kipp told a loving story about Neil at graduation that made everyone cry.
Tony tells her that he took Neil to the mountains and rented a cabin with his parents’ permission. They spent a week feeding deer, talking about old times, and skipping rocks in the lake. Neil was really sick and wouldn’t take any medicine, but he did make Tony promise to bury him in the man’s grave. It turns out that Neil faked his death so his mom could get the life insurance and have money to survive after he was gone. After he died, Tony buried him in the grave and said his goodbyes. As they walk off, a butterfly lands on Alison’s hand, and she wonders if she’s finally getting her innocence back after that night.
*I know that Pike wrote this prior to all the other IKWYDLS rip-offs, but I am so sick of these books! There’s this one, Cusick did one or two, Stine did at least two (one Fear Street, one Point Horror), and there were several Point books with basically the same plot.