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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Baby-Sitters Club #78: Claudia and the Crazy Peaches


Mrs. Kishi has some big news, but she decides to let Peaches tell Claudia herself. It turns out that Peaches is pregnant. A few days later, she calls and announces that they are moving to Stoneybrook but they can’t move into their new house for one month, so Mrs. Kishi tells them that they can move in with them. Peaches also lets them know that she quit her job so she can focus full-time on being a mother.

Peaches almost instantly puts a wrench in Claudia’s life. Peaches takes her shopping for baby furniture and asks her for advice on everything she buys. Claudia is so excited about having a new baby around that she asks Mary Anne to teach her how to knit. Since Mimi taught her, it will be like having something from Mimi for the baby.

One day, Peaches decides to cook a big dinner for everyone. She takes Claudia to a fancy gourmet food store, they spend all night cooking, and put on vests and bowties to serve dinner. Claudia quickly notices that she has no time for her artwork let alone school and she keeps getting further behind. Every time she makes some time for schoolwork, Peaches has another idea.

One night, she wakes her up because she has a craving for pizza at midnight. After disappearing for a few hours, they start home and Peaches sheepishly admits that she didn’t leave a note. Mrs. Kishi and everyone else are awake with all the lights on in the house. She lectures them both and Claudia explodes, telling her to blame Peaches for being the irresponsible one.

Peaches and Claudia are way too polite with each other after that. Peaches asks Claudia to help her pick out baby stuff, and she says she needs to wait so she can do homework. Peaches agrees and suggests the next day. Claudia comes home ready to work on a new sculpture and Peaches is waiting. They have another fight and Peaches tells her she has too much stuff to deal with to handle a sulky teenager too. Claudia stuffs the blanket in the closet, but Mary Anne asks her to keep working on it.

The BSC is having a problem with a new charge named Natalie Springer. She asks Claudia to be her friend and gets really clingy. She even helps Claudia clean her house. No matter who sits for her, she wants to be their best friend. They decide to get her around other kids to help her make new friends. Shannon invites a bunch of kids over, but Natalie gets really bossy and acts so mean that the other kids take off.

Jessi and a few other sitters try introducing her to other kids, but she either acts too shy or too bossy. Jessi takes her to her house to meet a bunch of kids and they run off playing games. She sees Charlotte and Becca playing jump rope and starts playing with them. Claudia talks to her about being a good friend and they make a list of things a good friend should do. She realizes that she broke some of the rules with Peaches and decides to apologize.

When she gets home though, she hears Janine on the phone and learns that Peaches lost the baby. Claudia blames herself, thinking that she put too much stress on the baby. When Peaches comes back, Claudia apologizes and Peaches tells her that it wasn’t her fault. They cry and bond together, and Claudia shows her the blanket, which she says will be for the next baby. At the end of the book, Peaches and Russ move into their new house and decide that they’ll try again in awhile.

*Peaches’ house sells and the seller demands that they move in something like two weeks. Really? There is no way in hell that I could pack up my rental house and get it all moved that fast, let alone move from a house I owned.

*What happened to Mimi’s room? In this book, Peaches and Russ stay in the den and no one mentions them having a guest room.

*I have a cat named Patches (kitten actually) and almost every time I wrote Peaches, I started to write Patches LOL.

*The timeline in this series really pisses me off. This is book 78 and Peaches loses the baby. They decide to take some time before trying again, but in around 20 books, she’s already had another baby.

*The entire club has suggestions for Peaches from playing the baby music to playing French language tapes. I’m not totally sure on this, but has anyone in the club ever met Peaches? I know that Claudia mentions how much Stacey loves Peaches and Russ, but I don’t think there was a book when she actually met them.

*Mary Anne suggests that she knit a pair of booties because her blanket design is too complicated, which just sounds crazy.

*As “strict” as the Kishis are, why don’t they ever tell Peaches to back off and give Claudia some space? Then again, Peaches knows how much trouble she has in school and still convinces her to put her homework off.

*I thought Peaches was little too rash in her decision making. She was only a month or two along and decided to quit her job, sell her house, and move to a new town.