I felt like I needed a treat after the boredom and the sheer awfulness of Teacher’s Pet – and boy have I got one in the guise of The Accident:
Together with The Twins, this was my favourite Point Horror. You know how everyone has a book that scared them so deeply they’ve never really forgotten it and has probably psychologically scarred them for life? The Accident is mine, so forgive me if I can’t bring myself to criticise this one too heavily. Rereading it, there were obviously moments that annoyed me, but overall this book is just so creepy and so good. I used to be obsessed with drawing the front cover of The Accident, and even now I often find myself doodling the title in that scary font they used – see, even the FONT is terrifying!
Anyway, enough gushing – on with the plot.
This book opens with Jenny, Barbie and Cappie cutting class and driving at high speed into a pole. Ooops. That’s why you should stay in school kids. We don’t really ever see these characters again throughout the whole book, except through conversations between Megan and Hilary. Megan is our heroine and Hilary is her best friend – together with Jenny, Barbie and Cappie. Megan is going to turn 16 in a week and she’s pretty excited about the big party she’s been planning…
So Megan hears the news that three of her friends are in hospital in a critical condition, and things don’t improve much when the temperature drops, the lights dim and a ghost appears in her mirror.
The ghost is called Juliet. She was born in 1930, and shares the same birthday as Megan. Poor old Juliet’s birthday week was even worse than Megan’s however, having actually died on her 16th birthday. Megan’s a sensitive sort and she feels bad for the ghost, although she convinces herself it was just a dream, brought on by the shock of her friends’ accident.
At school, Megan finds out from Hilary that Barbie is okay, Cappie has a broken wrist and Jenny has a really bad head injury and a shattered collarbone. Everyone is really puzzled as to how the car accident could have happened and the sheriff is checking out the car.
Hilary talks to Megan about a creepy guy at their school who asked her out: “Donny Richardson asked me to a movie. Isn’t that a hoot?” Oh right, I didn’t realise Hilary was actually a 60 year old grandmother until I saw her use the word ‘hoot.’ Maybe this is a clue that Hilary is actually a ghost from the 1930s as well. Oh boy, if I turn out to be right about that I’m going to be feeling pretty pretty pleased with myself.
Megan knows that Donny isn’t Hilary’s type, describing him as “short, squat and moustached.” What is she, crazy? Nothing’s hotter than a 16 year old with a moustache. What? Sixteen’s legal.
They talk about Donny and how all the girls are always turning him down…in fact, Jenny turned him down only a couple of weeks ago. As did Cappie…and he seemed pretty upset about all the rejections….Donny is also highly unpopular and he has a shitty life at home. Nothing says 'I'm going to murder you and all your friends' like a broken home and a teenage moustache.
Someone has left Megan a drawing on construction paper of Jenny’s car filled with cryptic objects. So, there’s a candy bar and a bee – that means Barbie. And there’s a pea wearing a baseball cap (yes, you did read that correctly). That’s Cappie. And there’s a horse in the driving seat, but Megan can’t figure out what the horse means. Ummm, is there are a phrase about horses being called Jennies or something? Or a saying like, ‘dead as a horse?’ No? I didn’t think so. It's a good thing I don’t care.
So, turns out there are some rules that apply to being a mirror ghost– Juliet can’t talk to just anyone, it has to be someone exactly her age, who lives near the lake where Juliet died and who has “imagination and a belief that anything’s possible.’
Megan’s grandma owned the house until she recently died and Megan moved in with her parents. Juliet reveals that she knew Grams when she was alive, although she didn’t know her very well. This little factoid warms Megan to Juliet a bit more.
Megan emphasises with Juliet, thinking about how shit it would be to die at 16. Turns out Juliet wants more than to have cosy little chats from behind the mirror. What she really wants is to trade places with Megan for 7 days, so she can experience living one last time. Of course, Megan has to agree to the switch before it can take place. Jesus Christ, on what level would this ever be anything approaching a good idea? I don’t care how sensitive and thoughtful you are, you do not go around switching places with mirror ghosts. Lord knows I learned that the hard way. Ahem, anyway, back to Juliet and Megan. Juliet promises Megan that after trading for a week, Juliet would be totally at peace. Juliet leaves Megan to think about it.
Next day, Megan has wisely decided to keep quiet about the whole mirror ghost thing, and Hilary tells her that it turns out that Jenny’s car was definitely tampered with. Uh oh, so the accident may NOT have been an accident after all. The good news is that it looks like Jenny is going to be okay. Hilary suspects that the rejected Donny Richardson may be the culprit. This suspicion is backed up by the fact that he works in a garage. Ok, I’m going to get sidetracked for a minute here - if I worked in a garage, or had any kind of obvious specialised murder-y knowledge, say as an expert on poison, or a world renowned authority on axes, and I needed to kill someone, I would make damn sure that I didn’t use my unique skill. When I chop my avowed enemy up with the axe, who are they going to suspect but the axe expert with all that specialist axe knowledge? Stupid, stupid. But all this is probably irrelevant anyway as I’m about 90% sure that Donny is just a poorly written red herring.
Anyway, Juliet appears in the mirror again and picks up where she left off with her whining about dying young, trading places blah blah blah. Megan’s mind is somewhat open to the possibility because three of her best friends recently came so close to dying. But, Megan is worried that someone is targeting her and her friends – they cut the brakes on Jenny’s car, something could happen to Megan next. And what then – if Megan’s’ body died whilst Juliet was in it? Juliet hones right in on Megan’s worries and uses it to clinch the deal - Juliet should totally apply to go on The Apprentice or something. As a ghost, Juliet can sense evil, and she reckons she could find out who sabotaged the car for Megan. Megan promises to think about it some more.
Next morning, Megan chats to Justin about the car accident some more, and reveals that she too has turned Donny Richardson down for a date. I’m kind of proud of Donny Richardson, he must be pretty thick skinned to keep going back for more rejection. I mean, surely he realises that he’s just GROSS right?
Oh, and Megan shows Justin the weird drawing of Jenny’s car and he figures out what the horse thing is – it isn’t a horse, it’s a donkey – and a donkey is called a JENNY. Oh my god, that so wasn’t worth it. I mean, surely any idiot could have figured out that it was going to signify Jenny somehow? And knowing the donkey thing hardly adds any meaning to this information. Unless, like, a rage-filled donkey is released into Jenny’s hospital room and stampedes her to death, but sadly I highly doubt that that will happen. Megan and Justin arrange to meet later to discuss the drawing and its implications even further. I AM SO BORED OF THIS DRAWING RIGHT NOW.
Megan is really into Justin, but she’s too shy and sensitive to ask him out, even though she really wants him to be her date for her birthday party. Another character is introduced – Vicki Deems. Hilary really hates this chick, she calls Vicki a viper and says that she makes Hilary’s skin crawl – Hilary is mainly jealous because all the boys love Vicki Deems. Vicki makes Megan nervous as well, because she’s so sexy: “It was the way those cold, dark eyes looked at a boy that made Megan shiver: black spider eyes spotting a nice juicy fly.” Yeah, sounds hot.
Oh, FFS, now Megan finds another drawing. This time the drawing is of a hill. That means Hilary. Seriously, WHAT IS THE POINT of making your message cryptic if the clues are so TERRIBLE and immediately obvious???? This is making me very angry, I have steam coming out of my ears just thinking about it.
Anyway, Megan is like “Oh Noes – this means Hilary is next!” and she goes to find Hilary, just in time to see Hilary fall off a plank at the top of the school auditorium or something ridiculous. Luckily, Hilary manages to grab onto a rope. Hilary tells Megan that she didn’t slip – she was PUSHED. Unfortunately, nobody saw who pushed her, and everyone except Megan is pretty blasé about the whole thing.
Megan goes to meet Justin as planned, but she gets a pretty nasty shock – Vicki ‘Viper’ Deems is there, sleazing all over him and wearing one of those bright red halter tops and leather miniskirt combinations that we were all so into in the early 90s. Megan turns and runs home – she’s decided enough is enough and she’s going to swap places with Juliet.
Juliet reassures Megan that she will be able to take care of her body better than Megan could – she needn’t worried about the mystery attacker coming after her. AND, as a little extra, Juliet promises to ask Justin out for Megan. Juliet walks out of the mirror, and Megan walks in. They try it out a couple of times, Megan gets back out of the mirror by saying “I am Megan and I want to be me again.” They decide to do the official switch the next day, so Juliet can have a full week and they can switch back again in time for Megan’s big birthday party.
The real switch feels different than the test runs – instead of a sensation of weightlessness, it feels all wrenchy and cold and ick. Juliet is over the moon but, unsurprisingly, Megan starts regretting her decision pretty soon. Megan doesn’t have to stay in the mirror, she can get out and move around, it’s just that nobody can see her. So she goes for a little wander, does a little spyin’, and gets a little freaked out watching Juliet in her body interacting with Megan’s family and friends as Megan.
Juliet-as-Megan is far more fun and flirty than Megan herself, and she wastes no time in making a beeline for Justin. The only one who seems unhappy with the way Megan has changed is Hilary. HEllllOOoooOooo – earth to Hilary –surely everyone knows the symptoms of your best friend’s body being borrowed by a mirror ghost? They include – wearing out-dated heavy blue eye shadow, embracing life with a gusto suspicious of a 16 year old, and suddenly developing a voracious sexual appetite more suited in its intensity to someone who’s spent the last 60 years trapped behind a mirror with no human contact.
Ghost Megan finds her mother lying unconscious in the lake – jeez, it’s times like these when you really wished you hadn’t agreed to trade places with a mirror ghost. Luckily, her Dad and brother spot Mom and pull her out the lake. Mom says that someone pushed her into the lake.Megan tells Juliet that if one more bad thing happens to her family or friends they will have to switch back.
Megan spots ANOTHER drawing – this time on her bedroom floor, spilling out of her purse – where ANYONE could have slipped it. The drawing is of a convict and a knee. Connie. I just threw up a little in my mouth. I guess Megan's mom is called Connie? Megan also finds out that if anything were to prevent her returning into her body by midnight next Saturday, she would be trapped in Juliet’s world forever. Uh oh.
Justin and Juliet gets closer, Megan spies on them getting hot and heavy in Justin’s car. Megan’s feelings about this are understandably mixed. As Juliet grows ahem, *friendlier* with Justin, she gets colder towards Hilary. Basically the theme is “What’s got into Megan? Why has she suddenly become such a massive slutty bitch?”
Megan finds another drawing. I can barely bring myself to type about it. These drawings had better turn out to be massively significant by the end of this book. This drawing is of a tom-tom drum. Megan’s dad and brother are both called Tom. Ok, can we move on from the drawings now please?
Megan’s dad forbids Juliet-as-Megan from going out on a date with Justin that night, but she sneaks out anyway. Ghost Megan is all, “OMG, sigh, I’d better follow her to make sure she doesn’t go and get my body all killed.” On the way, she spots Hilary arguing with Vicki Deems. Hilary is standing up for Megan to Hilary and Vicki is really really mad that Justin and Megan are together. Mad enough to….KILL?????? (no)
Justin suggests a boat ride to Juliet-as-Megan, who freaks out - presumably because she died on the lake. Justin asks about the creepy drawings, but Juliet plays them down, which confuses Megan since Juliet had promised to help her find the murderer. Oh Megan, Megan, Megan. You should never trust a mirror ghost sweetie. Not that I have anything against them. Lots of my best friends are mirror ghosts.
Juliet tells Megan that her ghosty senses are tingling and there is definitely something weird about Donny Richardson. Juliet also discusses with Megan how much the world has changed since her time, raving about “MTV and compact discs and hot rollers.” This isn’t in any way important to the plot, but it tickled me so I thought I’d throw it in.
The next day, Megan’s 10 year old brother Thomas is knocked off his bike by a truck. Hmmmm. The brakes on his bike were tampered with, and he isn’t dead but he’s not in a good way and he gets carted off to hospital. The only thing that Juliet is worried about is that Megan’s party may get cancelled. Juliet goes on about this party an awful lot, despite the fact that she’s promised to be long gone by the time the party rolls around. Suspicious.
Juliet has a little surprise for Megan – she found a whole bunch of construction paper in the same style as all those little annoying notes Megan had been receiving in Donny Richardson’s locker. Juliet tells Megan that she left her body for a minute to sneak a peek into the locker, so there was no chance of her getting caught. Megan freaks out at this new information, entirely uncomfortable at the thought of her body being left unattended. Juliet is all “LOL, chill out, I’ll go to the Sheriff tomorrow and all these attempted murders will stop.” Naturally, she goes back on her word and doesn’t bother.
Later, Megan finds Juliet lying on her bed surrounded by voodoo-style candles with her eyes shut, looking strangely not present - hmmm, almost as if there's nobody in the body. At that moment, Megan's dad slips and falls off a ladder. Megan FINALLY starts to get suspicious about Juliet, especially now she knows that Juliet can leave her body whenever she likes. Could she be the one pushing people off of great heights and preventing brakes from working etc etc? Yes, yes she could. Megan also figures out that maybe Juliet isn’t actually intending on swapping back. Well done Megan, it only took you 132 pages to figure that out.
Megan confronts Juliet, and the whole sorry truth comes out Juliet was Megan’s grandmother’s stepsister (‘s dog’s dad’s uncle’s mother). Yes, she was her stepsister, and poor old Juliet really really hated her new family and just wanted her father to herself. It turns out that Megan’s grandmother (Martha) was there for the accident that killed Juliet. Juliet fell out of the boat, but Martha didn’t. Instead of helping Juliet get back in, Martha stayed in the boat and watched her drown. Megan calls bullshit. Juliet elaborates – her and Martha had started fighting in the boat, over Juliet stealing all of Martha’s friends. Struggling for control of the oars, Juliet fell in and hit her head. Megan reckons that Granny Martha would have tried to save Juliet, although being unconscious and all Juliet obviously wouldn’t have noticed. Juliet admits to causing all of the accidents in present day. It’s a revenge thing. Presumably she also drew the pictures.
Megan tries saying the magic words – “I am Megan and I want to be me again.” It doesn’t work – turns out Juliet left out a little detail – she needs to give her consent for them to switch back again. I’m guessing that consent won’t be forthcoming any time soon. And if Megan isn’t back in her body by midnight tonight, that’s it, she’s a ghost forever. Nooooooo!
Justin is at home, thinking about Megan and how she’s changed. He preferred the old sweeter, softer Megan. Awww. Suddenly he’s worried that there’s a reason why she’s changed so much, that something bad has happened and instinctually goes off in search of her.
Megan remembers Juliet’s terror when Justin suggested a boat ride. Ah ha. Next step of the plan – somehow try and get Justin to hear Megan’s wispy ghost voice and get him to take Juliet onto the lake, with the hope of freaking her out so much that she leaves Megan’s body voluntarily. Megan finds Justin on the dock and gets him to feel her presence. He can hear her but not see her. She tells him the whole crazy story. Justin agrees to the lake plan.
With half an hour to go until midnight, Justin finds Juliet-as-Megan. Her persuades her to go for a moonlit boat ride. Man, Juliet must be really really horny to agree to it. Justin steers the boat to the cove where Juliet died. Juliet freaks out. Megan pops up just to really send Juliet over the edge. Juliet realises that Megan managed to communicate with Justin and that she planned this little excursion with him. Justin and Juliet fight for control of the boat, and Juliet is sent flying into the cove. Juliet in Megan’s body is drowning, but Megan won’t let Justin save her – they need to wait until Juliet is so scared that she leaves Megan’s body willingly. Wow, things are getting pretty tense around here.
It works. Megan gets her drowning body back just as the clock bongs midnight. Phew. Justin and Megan leave together – “And only the wildest of forest creatures continues to hear the echo of a despairing, tortured wail in the soft whisper of the wind.”
WOW – I LOVE this book, although all that business with the stupid little drawings really got on my nerves. Especially because it turns out the drawings don’t even have any impact on the plot to speak of. Damn it.
Next week - we're still with Diane Hoh, this time for The Train.