Thursday, 30 October 2008

Teacher's Pet - Richie Tankersley Cusick

So, are you ready for….Teacher’s Pet?

I took a bit longer with my second post than I would have liked to, I blame TV. Particularly Dead Set, which is bloody brilliant.

So, the first half of this book is not terribly exciting, and is basically clumsy exposition and set up. Kate goes to a writer’s camp with her teacher (coooollll.) Supposedly, Kate is really good at writing horror stories – it’s too bad Kate couldn’t give Richie Tankersely Cusick a helping hand.

Kate is meant to be attending a number of seminars held by a legendary horror author called William Drew – but Billy D hasn’t turned up and nowhere knows where he is. Nobody’s too worried though, by all accounts this guy is kind of a douchebag.

At camp, Kate meets a whole host lovely and vaguely threatening characters, so readers can play the fun game of spot-the-killer. Point Horror books with this kind of blatant set-up are not my favourites. To throw the reader off the scent, the writer has to give us about 5 incredibly creepy characters who commit at least one horribly deranged act apiece, but 4 out of these will turn out to be perfectly innocent. Now, just because those other 4 potential psychos haven’t killed yet, it doesn’t mean they never will. Umm, I feel that I’ve lost my thread here – point is, characters are unrealistic and over the top. And surely we all turn to Point Horror for gritty realism and breathtakingly lifelike characterisations.

Anyway, the Teacher’s Pet creep count includes (in order of introduction):

The wonderfully named Pearce Cronan. His eyes are piercing and “black as smoke.” Hmmm, last time I checked , smoke was kind of a see through dirty white colour. Oh well. He’s the camp caretaker, and his family were the caretakers for the Drew family. Caretaking's what the Cronan's do, yo. His parents died with the Drew parents in one big smooshy car accident. Everything he says is crammed with pregnant pauses and delivered in a vaguely threatening manner. If you were to ask him the time he’d probably say something like ‘perhaps… is time….for….the sand of time in you hourglass of life and time… run out of time…..’ and then slip away into the shadows. You know, poetic shit like that.

Denzil Doyle – Denzil looks 13 but is 18. He’s also something of a sex pest, and there’s something very shrill about his character. Every time he had a line I’d instinctively clap my hands over my ears to block him out. If he was a cartoon character he’d be Artie Zipp (or is it Ziff?) from the Simpsons (my references are nothing if not current. And also accurate. Very, very accurate.)

Tawney is a beautiful but rather simple-minded girl. She’s basically written as a retard, which is something the other characters are terribly un-empathetic about, and they spend their time making cuckoo symbols at her behind her back and making her the butt of jokes that she has too many extra chromosomes to be able to understand.

Giedon Drewe – is teaching his brother’s class for him….. OMFG, typing out the name Gideon has just reminded me of something incredible – to go completely off track, when I was a kid I read this HILARIOUS series of books about a goose detective called Gideon who solved fairy tale crimes, like who pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall but in a really snarky way? Anyone with me? Man, I wish I was reading those goose detective books instead of Teacher’s Pet. Oh well, back to work.

Gideon Drewe – is teaching his brother’s class for him Gideon hates his brother, and to prove he's sensitive, he says stuff like, ““I love autumn, I love children and animals, and kindnesses make me cry.” Yeah? Well guess what I love? Punching nerds like you in the face is what. Gideon Drewe is as creepy as Pearce. In fact, the readings that I'm getting from their creep-o-meters are so similar that I found it nearly impossible to distinguish them from each other, except by, you know, reading their names.

A cat – this is a cat that has a knack for furrowing out hunks of meat. At one point, it kindly delivers Kate the gift that keeps on giving – a severed hand in a glove. What does Kate do? She freaks out and runs away. Then brings her friends back to look. Natch, when they get back both the cat and the severed hand have vamoosed. Well, I’m not surprised that the poor little puss decide not to hang around if a shriek of disgust was all the thanks he was going to get. That’s humans for you I guess.

Enough with the shoddy characters, on with the highly derivative plot! Kate and Tawney go skinny dipping, and someone steals their clothes and ummm, hangs around in a shadow with an axe. What’s so bad about that? I’m just chillin’ with my axe, don't be hatin'. I think this scene is supposed to ratchet up the tension. It only succeeded in ratcheting up my headache. BOO YA! Take that, Tankersely Cusick!

Kate finds a creepy old house in the woods, and meets the delightful Rowena. Rowena’s emo-ing around dressed in a black veil and long black dress and has a kanck for writing poetry that is just....awful. Here’s an example of her poetry: “scream, scream , trapped in a dream.” “Kate, Kate, doomed to your fate.” This understandably freaks Kate out as she is a) confused and worried as to how Rowena could know her name and b) appalled at the poor quality of Rowena’s poetry. Rowena also mentions a man who talks about Kate. This makes Rowena jealous and angrym, and I have a sneaking suspicion that making Rowena jealous and angry would be a Very Bad Thing. Hmmm, what creepy men do we know of who’ve displayed an unhealthy interest in Kate’s lovely young flesh?

So, like, OMG, Kate totally has a crush on Gideon yeah? Even though he’s, like her teacher yeah? And he takes her for a walk in the woods and pervs all over her and they get it on. When I say they get it on, you need to bear in mind that this is a Point Horror book and is thus limited to a fairly chaste kiss.

OK, now we’re in the mood for romance, I’m going to put on some music, lower the lights, and take a little break from telling the story to hit you with an innuendo I’ve plucked from earlier in the book and I’ve just been saving up for the right moment :

“Denzil skewered a fat marshmallow onto the end of her stick and gave her a wink.”

Phew, is it just me or is it getting kind of hot in here?

Onwards! Tawney, Kate and Denzil go food shopping and spot Pearce:

“I think he's handsome,” Tawney sighed, “even if he does make me feel creepy.”

And there, ladies and gentleman, is Point Horror in a nutshell.

Anyway, there are a bunch of clues and shit that point to William Drewe being dead and Pearce being his murderer, but the clues and the manner in which they’re discovered are just so boring and contrived that I’ll spare you that. Have another innuendo instead:
“’You’ll have… to pull,’ his breath choked out. ‘You’ll have – to – pull hard.”

Someone leaves messages written in blood for Kate In her cabin, Writing in blood? For realz? Didn’t people stop doing that in, like, the 70s? For sure the Amityville films should have killed that off. Pearce arrives and acts a bit threatening.

Gideon sends Kate off into a ‘writing assignment’ into the woods. Yeeehhhhh, a writing assignment, I’ve heard that one before. Pearce does his usual creepy appearing out of nowhere trick but this time…something actually happens. He gets caught in a steel man trap trap. And yes, the innuendo above does come from this scene, well spotted. Kate and Pearce bond, and Pearce basically tells her that he knows this trap was meant for her and she’s in danger. Before the rescue party arrives, they kiss. Nothing hotter than some steel man trap action, baby.

Incapable of staying out of trouble, Kate later ventures back into the man-trap axe murderer woods in search of the creepy house where she met even creepier Rowena, to try to find creepiest Gideon.

Oh man, she finds the house and I find the winner of the highly sought after Innuendo of the Book award:

“she lifted her hand….curled her fingers around the knob…”

*Ahem*, so Kate opens the door and inside it’s all black and crappy and it looks like a funeral parlour. Gideon’s there and he’s none too pleased to see Kate breaking and entering into his home. He tells her that Rowena is his sister….but she died a year ago. Kate tells him all about her little encounter with his dearly departed sister, and Gideon seems more than a little shaken by her revelations, chucking Kate out of the house.

The next night, there’s a Horror Hunt scheduled…like a scavenger hunt but more…horrific, I guess. Kate goes to visit Pearce in hospital, and eavesdrops on a conversation between him and Gideon about Rowena. From this conversation, the discerning reader can infer that there was a fire about a year or so ago in which William was burned a leetle bit and Rowena was burned to death. Gideon speculates that Rowena’s ghost has returned and killed William. Pearce, sensibly, thinks that’s sort of stupid.

Kate asks Pearce about Rowena, and he tells her that she was beautiful, but weird. At this point the book starts getting boring again with Kate and her little friends playing detective, blah blah blah, skip to the end….

Gideon tells Kate that Rowena was Pearce’s adopted sister but they were in love, gross, incest, and William was really mean to them about the whole kind-of-but-not-technically-incest-thing, so Rowena set fire to the house, presumably to try to kill William but only succeeded in killing herself.

Pearce admits to Kate and Gideon that Rowena really is alive, but her face is, like, all burnt off. More home truths revealed: Rowena was actually Gideon’s biological twin….his INSANE biological twin. Yes! This book suddenly got a hell of a lot better, it only took 178 pages. And Rowena did kill William, she chopped him up good.

Big climax: Kate’s cabin is set on fire. Gideon appears wearing a veil and spouting crazy Rowena-style shit about how if she can’t have Pearace noone else can either. Double yes!!! Gideon is, in fact, a mentalist, and is all dressed up like Rowena and is totally trying to kill Kate. And THEN the actual Rowena appears!! WTF?! And her hand is all hideous and rotting. And the Rowena-thing kind of switches back and forth between being crazy Gideon and being a zombie ghost thing. Kate passes out, possibly from sheer confusion.

Kate wakes up and Rowena has her tied spread-eagled to a four poster bed, I’m not sure if it’s Zombie Rowena or cross-dressing Rowena at this point, but who cares, either one’s a winner right? Rowena’s motivation for all her hate for Kate is jealousy that Pearce fancies her.

Umm, OK, and then the zombie-Rowena thing becomes PEARCE under the veil. And my mind is officially blown. I don’t mean that as a compliment, I am actually terribly confused. And Pearce-Rowena starts spraying gasoline everywhere and has kind of a confessional moment in which he reveals that Pearce started the fire (“we didn’t light it, we tried to fight it.”) all those years ago to kill William, not realising that Rowena was locked in a room, thus accidentally killing his kind-of-sister-ladylove. Haven’t we all, Pearce, haven't we all.

Jesus Christ, then GIDEON comes into the room (in his normal clothes) with the REAL ROWENA all dressed in black kind of propped in front of him, and he stops Pearce lighting the fire with the threat that he’ll kill Rowena again if he does. Pearce cuts and runs, and it’s actually TAWNEY dressed up as Rowena. Phew. I think that’s the last of the oh –it’s –her-no-it’s-really-him-no-it’s-that-other-dude-moment. Gideon is a good guy! Yay! And he's saved Kate's life! Double yay!

I’m not entirely sure my description makes any sense. I hope it does, but it’s not really my fault if it is nonsense, I didn’t have great source material to work with. And I’m so very very tired.

The end: Pearce is in the loony bin, turns out accidentally killing your sister/lover is a surefire way to send you nuts. Kate and Gideon share a little kiss, and Kate heads back home from camp.

The moral of the story is: man-traps are the perfect setting for sharing a first kiss with your psychotic cross dressing murderous love interest.

Phew, I’m really glad that’s over. Teacher’s Pet is NOT my favourite. I will admit that it gets pretty awesome towards the end but the first 150 pages or so are just so tedious.

Let’s hear what an Amazon reader thinks:

“Buy this book for your child. Don’t subject them to the garbage that you find in the ‘Goosebumps’ collection. This will help them grow into a person who appreciates literacy of all kinds. It has a good storyline and I honestly believe that this could be the greatest book ever written when considering the demograph (sic)”

Ooooh, did you hear that R.L. Stine? Did ya? She just said that your ghost-writers write rubbish, that’s smack talk if I ever I heard it.

Also, I honestly believe that this could be the worst book ever written when considering the demograph(ic), but I’m happy to agree to disagree. It kind of scares me that this comment was written by somebody of child bearing age.

I’m not sure which Point Horror I’ll be delving into next time…it kinds of depends what’s available at my library. I love browsing the kids’ and teenagers’ sections like a simpleton.

So I’ll be back soon with a mystery book, stay spooky.


Fear Street said...

I don't even know what to say about this one. Crazy.

I'm glad someone decided to blog about Point Horror!

Anonymous said...

That ending is amazing. The more screwy, the better. And I, too, am glad to see a Point Horror blog. I still have a couple up in my attic somewhere, but it would be hard to get to them.

Anonymous said...

Man, I recently re-read this and HATED it soooo much. It confused the heck out of me. I like unpredictable endings (isn't that the point?) but this was like unpredictable in the sense that it seemed like it kept changing the story and you were left not knowing what the heck was going on. It just seemed messy and implusive, not intelligent and well planned. I was rolling my eyes as I finished this book, and my boyfriend made the mistake of asking me what it was about. The only way I could give him any answer was to have the book in hand and skim through it at the same time, because I wasn't sure otherwise. At the end of my re-telling, he wanted to know what he'd done to deserve that. Anyway, I could go on a huge rant, (there's so many things I hate about it besides the ending) but I'll spare you. Plus, I want to try and just block this piece of junk out of my mind.

Sati said...

Sigh. I've been reading and reviewing for the last few weeks, but yours are so much funnier than mine.

I actually kind of liked this book. I have a thing for Cusick, and while it wasn't her best, I liked zee romancz. I didn't like the end, though. I think if it had been anyone other than Pearce, it'd have sat better with me. But then I have a creepy inappropriate crush on Pearce. (There needs to be a word for the creepy inappropriate relationship between real person and fictional character.)

Perhaps this is why I'm still single.

If it were me, I'd have had Tawney be the bad guy, and turn out to be really cunning and smart, à la Usual Suspects.

Ang said...

I regret saying that in my middle school crazy brain reading obsessed days, this was one of my all time favorites.
To what extent? At the ripe old age of 31, not having laid eyes on a copy of this book since at least the late 90s, I bet you I can still quote the "Bad surprises, Kate." One page chapter thing. VERBATIM.


Anonymous said...

I read this book an awfully long time ago at about 7 and i loved it i re-read it and re-read it and re-read it. I've read it over 50 times I'm completely obsessed with the book, some people get it and some do not. The ending gets me every time. As for the blog post i could fault so many flaws. The book is confusing yet brilliant. And I have also obtained a rather large crush on Pearce myself