Guys, I totally forgot how dark Ann M. could get. What she tried and failed to do with Missing Since Monday, she succeeded doing here. Writing a dark book for teenagers that actually is fairly gripping. (In it’s own Ann M.ish way of course). So gather ’round children and let me remind you of a time before Facebook and before bullies were prosecuted.
Anna Wallace is about to start high school, and damn is she nervous. While she’s at an end-of-summer family reunion, her cousin Peggy, a high school senior, shows her something. It’s called a slam book. It’s basically a composition book with each page devoted to one student in school. People write what they really think of their fellow classmates for all to read. I mean, absolutely nothing could go wrong here, could it? Anna is psyched about it, sure that it’s her key to popularity. To Anna, popularity is very very important.
We are introduced to Anna’s circle of friends. Jessie is her closest friend and she comes from a troubled home. Dad is abusive to mom, ignores Jessie and is constantly fighting with Jessie’s drug-addict brother. Randy is one of the few black kids in town and is a pretty average good girl. Randy has been slightly less happy since she’d lived in the big bad city for a couple years (before moving back to the good safe small town) and being called Oreo by her black classmates. Thank god the nice white kids in Calvin are better than those mean city-dwelling black kids, eh? Finally Paige is the total badass of the group. Her divorced parents are rich as hell and Paige has been kicked out of numerous private schools, finally ending up at the local public school. Mom is a drunk. How do we know Paige is a badass? She shoplifts.
We’re also introduced to Cheryl Sutphin. Cheryl is fat and friendless. Her mom has been dead five years and she takes care of her layabout father who tends to drink away the paltry earnings he makes hauling junk.
High school starts and the slam book is an instant success. Anna is popular! The girls have a slumber party at Paige’s (where they pointedly ignore Paige’s wasted mother) and they decide to read their own slam book pages for the first time. Anna is pretty happy with what she reads, people think she’s nice and pretty. But everyone else has a bad reaction. Paige is upset, sure that Casey Reade wrote about her drinking and shoplifting all because Paige is in love with Casey’s boyfriend, the ridiculously named Gooz. Paige gets back at Casey by writing on Casey’s page, What a liar. We all know you didn’t really do it with Gooz.
Then Jessie gets upset about what’s written about her, a dig at her fucked up family. Calling her father Hitler (because he’s dictatorial), her mother Cinderella (because she’ll get beaten if she doesn’t clean properly) and her brother Houdini (because he disappears all the time.) Jessie runs out of the party. When Anna goes to check on her the next morning, she overhears a terrible fight between Jessie’s dad and her brother. Where he basically admits to smoking crack. Jessie, as she does so often, stays the night at Anna’s house.
Next day at school, the girls find out that Casey and Gooz broke up. Paige tries to go play flirty pants with Gooz, but he’s having none of it. But he does seem to have eyes for Anna, who he asks to work on a history project with him. Anna is over the moon happy! But then she sees Paige glaring at her from across the cafeteria. In the next period, Cheryl Sutphin gets a hold of the slam book and sees what’s written in it about her. That she’s fat, she smells bad, she dresses terrible (and shops at the Salvation Army! Horrors!) and that her mother isn’t really dead but is locked up in a loony bin. Cheryl runs out of class crying.
The next day, Anna discovers on her own page that Paige had written Gooz’s next conquest? How far will she go? And someone else had written Boy-stealer. Anna wants to get back to Paige. But how? She thinks and then that night turns to Cheryl Sutphin’s page and writes, in Paige’s distinctive handwriting If only Cheryl knew how much Kirk Norris likes her, maybe she’d fix herself up.
Anna and Gooz go to the library and really hit it off. Personally and they think they’re going to do well on their history projects. But when Anna gets home, Jessie is there. Her mom finally grew a spine and is leaving her dad. Jessie is upset, because she was always sure her mom would leave and take her with her. Jessie’s mom goes to New York. But really, back to the Slam Book. Anna fixes it so Cheryl reads her page, with Anna’s comment about Kirk Norris. Cheryl wants to fix herself up, but she doesn’t have money for new clothes. So she goes through a box of her mom’s old things and finds a pink flowery dress her mom had worn to the prom in high school. Cheryl wears that to school and puts her hair up (but doesn’t wash it first) and puts on a little lipstick. She gets a lot of attention. Cheryl follows Paige around, trying to talk to her but Paige is annoyed and angry that Cheryl is following her. Anna thinks this is hilarious and goes one further by adding in the Slam Book, in Paige’s handwriting I’m so proud of Cheryl. Kirk may ask her out.
Not to be outdone, Paige adds an entry to Anna’s page. Sweet on the outside, evil on the inside. Pretty to lok at but don’t touch! A rattlesnake boy-stealer. And Paige writes on Randy’s page Black on the outside white on the inside. A human Oreo. Anna is fuming and decides to confront Paige about what she wrote. In the cafeteria in front of everyone. It kind of backfires on Anna though, because Gooz overhears and what he finds out is not only that Paige wrote that comment about Casey, but that Anna knew Paige wrote the comment and never told him. He’s really annoyed with the whole lot of girls at this point.
Anna firmly believes that everything is all Paige’s fault, and gets back at her by writing a note to Cheryl Sutphin in Paige’s handwriting telling her that Kirk Norris likes her and he wants to double date with them. Everyone is going to meet at Paige’s house. Cheryl is thrilled and that Saturday puts on her mother’s old prom dress and bikes over to Paige’s house. Once there, a drunk Paige greets her at the door and lets loose a stream of insults. Paige calls her a pig, fat, a psycho, she smells, her hair is oily and on and on.
So Cheryl goes home and kills herself.
Anna can’t help but feel guilty (really???) and Paige is outright distraught over the news of Cheryl’s suicide. They’re the only two students to attend Cheryl’s funeral, where Paige is crying uncontrollably. All Anna feels is fear. A few days later, Paige drinks a lot of vodka and swallows a bottle of valium. She calls Anna as soon as she’s done it and Anna is able to get the paramedics to Paige’s house in time to save her.
Anna comes clean to her parents about what she did. They’re unhappy, but assure her that Cheryl had problems and was basically a ticking timebomb. She has to tell Paige what she did, and they don’t exactly make up, but they do kind of agree that neither is to blame for Cheryl’s suicide. Also, she throws away the slam book.
In the end, Paige is shipped off to boarding school in England. Jessie moves to New York to be with her mother and Anna’s sister has a baby girl who she names after Anna. Blah ending.
- See, what Ann M. is doing here is letting us know that Anna’s the youngest and that there are a good number of years between her and Hilary. But it just sounds bad.
- Also, Hilary got married at twenty and now at twenty-three is expecting her second child. Oy.
- But really, I’m not sure what Cheryl was thinking coming to school in a 1950’s prom dress.
- It’s never really explained why Anna went the route of using Cheryl Sutphin for her ridiculous revenge on Paige. Why wouldn’t she just have written some other shitty thing on Paige’s page?
- This is going to sound really fucking morbid, but I totally learned the right way to slit my writs from this book. I can’t believe Ann M. of all people had to research the most effective wrist-slitting method and then put it down on paper. When I was in high school, some girl tried to slit her wrists. When I heard she lived, I thought she must have cut herself horizontally not vertically. Then I felt like all kinds of shit for even thinking that. Thanks a lot Ann M.
- Immediately after Cheryl dies, Anna is hesitant to get rid of the slam book, “Anna felt sure she’d be dead without it.” No Anna, only Cheryl is dead. And your soul.
- After Cheryl dies and Jessie decides to move to NY, Anna feels like her safe world is falling apart. Right Anna, it’s all about you.
- Seriously, this is a freaking dark book. And one of those books that will never ever be re-released because the need for a slam book just isn’t there anymore.
- Also, did anyone else think of Martha Dunnstock (aka Martha Dumptruck) when reading about Cheryl?
- Slam Book on Amazon!