The Party had claimed one victim... The Dance would take another.
The Dance - Christopher Pike
1988, 226 pages
I wasn't too excited to read this. After the crushing disappointment that was The Party, I didn't think I could handle another dose so soon. WHY did I/everyone else remember this series being so swank? Here's what happened in Book 2:
About 2 months have passed since Alice's death. Mike's devastation hasn't lessened, and he still wants answers. Why was Alice holding the gun in her right hand? She was left handed. Did the mysterious Clark have anything to do with what happened? Blah blah. I'll leave it at that because Mike could easily subject you to, like, 80 pages on it. But I won't even spend another paragraph on it. You wanna know why? BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO FREAKING MANY OTHER CHARACTERS.
Sara still craves the attention of the bastard, Russ Desmond. Mike and Jess haven't spoken since the big blowup they had re: Alice's "suicide". Jess is still chasing Bill Skater. Nick and Maria haven't spoken. He thinks it's because he was held as a suspect in Alice's death, and it is. Maria's parents of course think that Nick killed Alice because he's black. Clair and Bubba are still going together. Bubba - still pervy. Who else??
OMG - Polly! Polly has lost 20 lbs and is a doll once again. Here's the sad thing: Polly eats only carrots and drinks only Coke this entire book. When I was a kid, I thought that sounded awesome if it made you skinny. Friggin' bastard Pike, giving me body image problems/eating disorder tips.
Sara, as school prez, has made some changes to homecoming this year. It will take place at the beginning of basketball season, outdoors in a tent. She takes $3000 from the school account to book food, music and build a float, and we know this can only end in failure.
Sara's newest hobby has been to stalk Russ Desmond at his grocery store workplace, but usually he's not there. Today he is. She follows him into the stockroom freezer, harassing him and being generally annoying. He doesn't respond in a respectful manner, which, as we learned before, is just how Russ operates. No need to take it personal. But Sara does, and locks him in the freezer. She leaves, forgetting her purse filled with 3 large of the school's money in the stockroom, never to be seen again.
Jessica spends time staked out on Mike's street, looking for a way to reconnect with him. He comes out when he recognizes her car, thinking she's meeting another classmate who lives across the street. Jess says she still owes him a movie, and they make a plan to go out.
The mysterious Clark shows up at Polly's for the first time since Alice died. He opens with "You look exotic, Polly, real tender." That's an... odd compliment. Polly tips Clark off that Mike has been looking for info about him. They kiss a little, then Clark leaves out the back just as there's a knock at the front.
It's beat-up Russ Desmond! For some reason, he thinks Polly's would be a good place to stay for a few nights, even though he's pretty much a professional at ignoring her. I get it though - I usually like people better when I'm using them, too.
At school, the homecoming nominees are named. Jessica and Clair were givens. Cindy "The Book Can't Mention Her Without Mentioning Her Tits, So Neither Can I" Fosmeyer is kind of a surprise pick, but the BIG upset is when Jessica's "tiny Hispanic friend", Maria, is also called as a nominee.
The homecoming dance draws closer and Sara is desperate for money to replace what she lost. Bubba has a rep for being a stock market wiz, so she goes to him for a favour. Bubba is a loathsome human being with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and agrees to help Sara in exchange for sex.
Sara is desperate and says OK. OMG - he's not even attractive! Why does no one notice this? He's FAT. You've got to have some standards. Like, risk missing limbs with your local loan shark. But don't have sex with Bubba. Never have sex with Bubba!
Polly's Aunty is bedridden and senile, so she doesn't get in Polly's way in her mission to get laid by Russ. Russ, a track superstar, enjoys running in the rain, like, away from Polly. "The rain and I are old friends." This guy is in high school? That sounds like something that Shaolin priest would say on Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Polly, totally oblivious that there's nothing going on between her and Russ, makes an appointment at the family planning clinic to get birth control.
While at the clinic, Polly sees a haggard-looking, totally out-of-it Clair coming out of one of the offices. Bubba is there to help her, but I still hate him.
Speaking of preventing pregnancy, and possible abortions, remember Mike's mom? She's pregnant again, and she doesn't care WHAT her boyfriend says, she's keeping her baby. I think Mike preached too much after the last abortion.
It's date night for Mike and Jess... or is it? Sorry, no. Jess spent the day with Bill Skater, and hopes to spend the night with him too. She hopes it will be The Night, the "Get lost, virginity! Yo, beat it!" night. So Jess calls Mike to cancel. Yeah, she wants to try to turn on Bill Skater by LYING to him about how bad her grades are. Jess, you are a tool. I don't understand that in these books... even Rela lied about poor school performance to impress a guy - and she was a friggin' robot!!!!!
Jess compliments Bill on his zipper. Oy - she meant his belt. The longer the better, right? She tries a few more tactics before he gets his keys. Huge fail.
Now let's add some CREEPY to the mix: Clark shows up at Polly's, threatens to rape her, tries to turn her against her friends, and tells her to smother Aunty, then leaves. What the hell is up with this guy? Psychological problems, much?
Friday night, there's a basketball game at the school. Nick and Mike play on the team. Mike and Jess schedule a make-up date for Saturday night, after they take their SAT exams. Jess sits with Polly to watch the game. Polly mentions seeing Clair at the family planning clinic, without thinking of why Clair would be at the family planning clinic, in front of the entire cheerleading squad. Rumours run wild about abortions and people (i.e. Jessica) still think Bill Skater could be the father, even though Clair is pretty public about being with Bubba now.
The next day - SAT day! - Jess takes some No-DOZ caffeine pills to combat her all-nighter study fatigue. OH NO! Those aren't No-DOZ! Those are VALIUM! Now what? Mike manages to slip Jess some answers, while she barely remains conscious during the exam, only finding out later that there were 4 different versions of the test and Jess is a total failure.
Meanwhile, at school, some of the b-ball guys have been practicing. The Rock is alone in the locker room when Nick comes in. Nick wants to know why the hell The Rock still has a beef with him? Does he have a death wish, or what? Rock explains that he's a Big Brother to ghetto children, and he's seen Nick there pushing drugs. This is obvious bullshit, which is proven when Nick takes Rock to the hood and makes him knock on a crackhouse's door. The knock is answered by a Nick doppelganger-in-the-eyes-of-white-people, who of course is Stanley, the crack dealer. Well, that settles that.
A bunch of stuff - nothing good, don't worry - happens leading up to the mofo dance to end all dances. Jess is going with Bill Skater. She realizes that Bill is boring as hell, but his body just won't quit. And she realizes that SHE. LOVES. MIKE. OMG. In the meantime, Mike investigates Clark. Abort this mission, Mike. It's boooooring. And I won't judge you the way you judged your mom, I promise.
Bubba found a way to hack into the autopsy database so Mike can see Alice's report. Clair wants Bubba's technical know-how used for another purpose: to make her Homecoming Queen.
It's creepy-time in Pollyland. Russ moved out, leaving a note for Polly. Clark finds the note, and then lurks in the dark until Polly climbs a ladder. Man, she spends a lot of time on ladders. I haven't been on ladders as much in my whole life as she has been in two books! Clark shoves her violently. He is deranged. He runs ahead of injured Polly to go smother Aunty. But he doesn't do it. What a gem of a guy.
Homecoming night, y'all! There are many, MANY pages of basketball strategy. How does that benefit me/the story? Like, I like Nick and all, but come on! Anyways, Nick free throws to win the game, and his pa showed up to watch him succeed. YAY! Maria's parents admire Nick's athleticism, and allow her to reunite with him! Best night ever!!
Sara is pleased with how the float to carry the nominees turned out. Everything is great, except that she's totally overworked. Last year's Queen can't complete her queenly hand-off duties because she gained weight in college. Because of course she did. And now she can never be seen in public again.
And - OMG - Kats is driving the float! KATS is driving the fucking float. You don't ever let Kats drive your float. There's no precedent for that scenario, but don't do it anyway. It gives me that "bad-idea" vibe.
Everyone packs into the tent for the dance, except Mike. He's still computer-geeking it up, looking through records for Alice's autopsy report. Sara and Russ hit the dancefloor, and, as school president, she can't be seen engaging in any scandalous behavior. She doesn't want to be making out all over Russ in front of the whole school. Russ thinks an appropriate reaction is to say, "If you don't kiss me right now, I'll fondle your breasts in front of everybody." Um, how dare he? He better be joking.
Sara takes off in a hurry to help guide the float into the tent. I warned you about Kats, you guys... actually, nevermind. He pulled it off. I mighta misjudged him.
The nominees are all called to the stage. Clair, Jessica, Maria, and "Dog Face/Fun Bags" Fosmeyer await the decision.
And the homecoming queen is................... MARIA GONZALES!!!
Holy crap, Maria winning the crown is like an episode of Murder, She Wrote where the killer turns out to be a janitor who was only on-screen for 6 seconds.
After the dance, Mike finally gets satisfaction: he has Alice's report up on his CRT. Alice had a broken nose. But how? So, there's Mystery #1 to lead us into Book 3.
After the dance, Sara and Jessica clean up the tent, while Maria celebrates by dreamily wandering around on the float with her crown. She climbs to the upper throne part of the homemade stage, only to have it collapse under her. She falls many feet, breaking through the float floor and landing amid rubble and glass. Sara and Jessica run to Maria, and find her twisted and bloody on the ground. Mystery #2: Did someone tamper with the integrity of the float's construction?
After the dance, Polly arrives home to see Clark leaving her yard on his motorbike. Inside, she finds that Aunty is dead. She is still warm though, sooooo Clark probably just killed her. Mystery #3: What did Clark have to do with the death of Aunty... and why?
Jess, Nick, and Mike wait at the hospital for word about Maria. She has a broken back and will likely be paralyzed. Maria asks to see Jessica. She tells Jess that she never should have sold hope that Maria could be popular. Now look what happened, and it's all Jess's fault. Never speak to Maria again, Jess. Do you hear me?
Maria knows a secret about Nick: that he was running away from the upstairs after Alice was shot. She makes it very clear that if Nick thinks he can sit on his ass and not try to find out who messed with the float to sabotage her - well, that just ain't gonna happen.
Mike leaves the hospital and decides to flip through some yearbooks he'd taken from other local high schools in his search for Clark. He spots the guy in a group shot, but not in the singles section with names. But wait! Under the students who didn't pose heading, there he is: Clark Halley. You will not be able to hide from Mike for much longer. Even though I'm pretty sure you already weren't.
I'm sure no one can wait. Yeah. So, get this: I had a dream night before last that there was a movie being made of Pike's book Master of Murder. And Emile Hirsch was playing Marvin (the lead). Dunno why I dreamed that, but there it is.
See ya next Thursday!