Sunday, 19 October 2008

The Journey Begins - Twins by Caroline B Cooney.

OK, when I was (a bit) younger, I genuinely loved Point Horror books. I spent a lot of my money on Point Horror books. And when I say a lot of my money, I obviously mean that I spent a lot of my parents money. So here, I am re-reading them and recapping them. Will they live up to my expectations? I’m pretty sure the answer is ‘no’. And I’m setting myself up for a pretty major fall considering I’m starting with my ALL TIME FAVOURITE Point Horror: Twins by Caroline B. Cooney.

The book’s tagline is Twice The Evil. This is a good start to the book because it makes absolutely zero sense in the context of the story as there is only ever one evil twin, which sets you up nicely for the insane and nonsensical plot the rest of the book will follow. Also, is it just me or does the cover girl look kind of like a jazzed up Anne Frank? The Anne Frank-alikeness is actually vaguely relevant as this weighty tome's theme obliquely refers to how atrocities such as the holocaust could be allowed to happen. More on that later, history fans.

So, Mary Lee and Madrigal are twins – sorry, BEAUTIFUL twins. We kick off with their parents telling them that they’ve decided to separate them, and pack Mary Lee off to boarding school whilst Madrigal will stay at home ‘under their supervision,’ and the only contact the sisters will be able to have is by writing each other letters. Mary Lee thinks this is a retarded idea but Madrigal is pretty stoked to be getting rid of her stupid cry-baby sister. Madrigal already seems like kind of a bitch. Can you see where this is going yet?

Mary Lee gets to boarding school and just kind of lumps around feeling sorry for herself and not talking to anyone. Her Christmas vacation is really crappy because she finds out that Madrigal has a boyfriend, the wonderfully named Jon Pear, whereas nobody loves dumb old Mary Lee and she basically just feels like a worthless sack of shit.

Back at school everything is terrible again blah blah, until Madrigal announces she’s going to sneak away from their parents and come visit Mary Lee. Mary Lee is pretty sure that people seeing her with her twin will make her popular again, because beautiful twins are so great and everyone normally fawns all over them because they are so BEAUTIFUL.

Of course everyone loves Madrigal but Mary Lee is still a total drag so Mary Lee feels even worse than she did before. Her feelings of inferiority and jealousy are only compounded when they all go skiing and Madrigal rocks a HAWT outfit:

“Madrigal’s ski outfit was stunning. Jacket and pants looked as if they had begun life as a taffeta Christmas ball gown: darkly striking crimson and green plaids with black velvet trim and black boots.”

Yeah, whatever floats your boat Mary Lee.

Madrigal has a totally AMAZING idea: her and Mary Lee will swap outfits and pretend to be each other. That way, when they reveal the truth to all the others that evening everyone will love Mary Lee. I mean, it sounds like a good plan, I certainly can’t see any way that it might go disastrously wrong.

Madrigal gets dressed up like Mary Lee and gets onto one of those ski lift cable things by herself. The cable breaks and Madrigal dies. Oh shit. Everyone thinks Mary Lee is Madrigal and that she just has some kind of PTSD when she keeps telling everyone she’s Mary Lee. Her parents arrive and even they think Mary Lee is Madrigal, so she’s all what the hell, I’ll just go along with this. Again, what could possibly go wrong?

Let me just break in with a quick interlude at the end of Act 1 here. One of the things that Pont Horror books excel at is metaphors and similes, they are truly brilliant. Check this one out, from when Mary Lee is in the hospital and her roommates visit her: “Bianca and Maddy crept into the room like great big fashionable mice.” I love this. I had to stop reading for a few minutes to compose myself and just imagine ginormous hipster mice decked out in like rayban wayfarers and skinny jeans.

Anyhoo, Mary Lee-as-Madrigal heads back home. And starts worrying about what she’s done, and feeling guilty about being kind of narked off with Madrigal just before she died. Another great quote coming your way:

“Am I some sort of mental murderer, pushing my sister out of the ski lift with the hands of my hopes?”

The hands of my hopes, so poetic.

Mary Lee goes to school and meets the famous Jon Pear for the first time. Jon Pear is really a jerk with a terrible dress sense. He wears a silk vest for Christ’s sake. He is also “a combination of sweet and rough that had neither age nor gender.” Hmm, sounds kind of like Jimmy Cranky to me. Jimmy Cranky in a silk vest.

Yeah, Id totally hit that.

As well as the incredible sartorial statement that is a silk vest, Jon Pear also wears a vial around his neck that he uses to catch tears with. He catches one of Mary Lee’s tears in it and is all, oh chill out, I’m your twin now. This reading of the book was actually the first time that I caught the amazing symbolism of his name: PEAR = PAIR. Like a twin, right? I know, it is pretty well hidden so I’m not that surprised I didn’t catch that in my first 500 readings of this masterpiece.

Oh, there’s also this brother and sister called Van and Scarlett at the school who Mary Lee digs big time but whenever she tries to talk to them they get all mad and scared, and hint that Madrigal did something terrible to Scarlett.

Mary Lee decide that enough is enough and she should come clean to her parents. Unfortunately, she overhears them having a cosy little chat about how happy they are that the right twin died, and how it’s for the best and other completely awful and unrealistic things a parent would say if one of their children died. Obviously this messes with Mary Lee’s head a bit and she decides not to rock the boat.

By this point, Jon Pear has been built up as REALLY evil. There have been hints that him and Madrigal played some kind of ‘game’ and that it is going to be something truly DREADFUL and SHOCKING. Logically, Mary Lee decides to go along with whatever the game is so she can stop Jon Pear and make everyone at the school like her again. Yeah, that’s definitely how it works.

So Jon Pear and Mary Lee go cruising and JP chooses a girl they are going to ‘play’ with. Are you ready to HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN with how EVIL this game is going to be? OK….they drive into the…CITY…and they make this chick get OUT THE CAR!!!! I KNOW!! IN THE CITY!! How could they do that???!!!! I have to share with you a few choices descriptions of said city:

“the safe part – joke; this was not a city with safe parts – was contained in a very small area. People drive into the city only on the raised highway, keeping themselves a story higher than the human debris below.”

HAHAHAHA A JOKE!!! Oh, I’m laughing but only because I’m so scared, because they are in a CITY! And this city is all about garbage, graffiti and homeless people. God, I really hate homeless people. Anyway, they pull up in a nice little spot where “shadows moved of their own accord and fallen trash crawled with rats” and “a gang in leather chains moved out of the shadows to see what was entering their territory” and Jon Pear makes Katy get out the car. Although I think Jon Pear would have more to worry about from the leather gang than Katy would ifyouknowwhatImean.

Katy is totally freaking out, and Madrigal is too because what Jon Pear has done is SO EVIL. Jon Pear just finds it funny. I think I’m with Jon Pear on this one. It turns out they did this same thing to Scarlett and she ended up in a mental ward for two weeks getting rid of visions of rats. God, this bit of the book annoys me now. I remember reading this when I was younger and thinking it was soooo scary so I’m pretty disappointed by how lame the evil secret is, I mean nobody even gets hassled or raped by the gang or anything. I feel kind of dumb for being so haunted by this book.

Jon Pear makes Mary Lee get out the car as well, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. He loves to watch chicks freak out. Mary Lee has a spaz attack because one RAT follows her down the street. Yes, a single rat. Jesus, get over it, the poor rat’s probably more scared of you than you are of it. The penny FINALLY drops for Mary Lee and she realises that Madrigal was probably a bit evil and that she should have the confidence to be herself blah blah.

Jon Pear lets both the girls back in the car and drives them back to school. We have a big expositional chat with Jon Pear where he reveals that he never actually DOES stuff, he’s all about the evil of just letting things happen, and to return to my Holocaust theme, I see some pretty nice parallels with the rise of Hitler and people standing by and letting terrible things happen and stuff here, but whatever, this whole theme is pretty shoehorned in to be honest and I doubt many of the books target readers got that. (Apart from me because I am a genius and I am also better than a twelve year old. No offence, twelve year olds, but you know it’s true.)

Next they end up back at the school and a bunch of kids are still there, and there’s some huge dramatic scene where Mary Lee reveals she really is Mary Lee and hates on Jon Pear and everyone is really glad that it was actually Madrigal who died (nice.)

So now Mary Lee tells her parents what really happened, and GUESS WHAT??!!! They knew Madrigal was evil all along, and they sent Mary Lee away to try to SAVE her!! LOL!!! And they knew it was really Madrigal who died anyway, like DUH!! But they just went along with it because they figured that after your identical twin dies, the best thing for your psyche would be to pretend to be said dead twin and then have to listen to your parents having whispered conversations about how glad they are you are dead!!!11!!! LOL!!111!! This is so dumb it actually makes my eye twitch. I remember being bothered by this even when I was just a stupid twelve year old kid. I mean, I am totally into suspension of disbelief and all that jazz, but it’s one thing when you apply that to big tentacle monsters living underneath a school and quite another when you look at the way the twins' parents behaved. Seriously, they should actually be locked up. I wish they would stop being fictional characters and come to life just so I could give them a stern telling off or something.

Oh, and then at the end there’s some winter fair thing with an ice rink and Jon Pear talks about how he and Madrigal once watched someone drown. Yeah, we get it Jon Pear, you love to watch. There are websites for that you know. A bunch of the high school kids decide to attack Jon Pear with icicles and then drown him. Mary Lee votes no to the ruthless murder, astutely pointing out that that would pretty much make them as bad as him. But then she gets distracted by a shiny button or something and Jon Pear is gone and there’s some kind of bloody mess under the ice. Mary Lee is kind of annoyed that her friends may have killed him, but then she’s all oh, whatever, at least I voted no. And then it ends. I’m not sure what the moral is here. Don’t be a twin? That’s probably pretty good advice, because if you are a twin, one of you is definitely going to be evil.

Honestly, I still love this book even though it is incredibly lame. It’s very creepy the whole way through and it reads pretty bleak, which is what I want from a teen horror book.

As a postscript, I was kind of curious to find out what other people though of Twins. One eager reviewer on Amazon describes it as “the best book of the century.” I have a funny feeling that somebody has only read one book this century. Another sharp minded reader comments that Carline B Cooney “makes a point of leaving a few issues unresolved at the end, which is an interesting concept for a book in my oppinion (sic), but i did like it and would recommend it.” Yeah, I’m really glad that Caroline B Cooney invented that amazing literary device of leaving a few issues unresolved. What would happen if this guy read, like, The Magus or something? I think his brain would actually explode.

Stick around, and if you're good I'll recap Teacher's Pet....."look what the cat dragged in..."


Anonymous said...

I used to read Point Horror books all the time! I would get a couple out of the library each week when I was about twelve. I don't know if I read this one or not, but it does sound pretty good.

Sadako said...

Oh. My. God. I've been reading Caroline B. Cooney books again lately b/c I wanted to relive the pain, and whoa., this burns. I think you've saved me from myself.

Yeah, dropping girls off in the city = insanity? Only if you drop me off at H&M without my credit card.

michelle said...

i still love this book, i read it about ten years ago when i was eleven, but your review was on par and funny as hell!