Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Retro Reading - April Fools

Okay, I thought I hadn't read this one before. I certainly never owned it. But once I started reading the sarcastic old British butler's lines, I realised I must have borrowed it from someone, because all the repressed memories came flooding back. Yes, there's an old butler in this book. SPOILER: he turns out to be the true love interest.*

April Fools is the story of what happens when you're involved in a hit and run and try to cover it up. So, first up, this book has nothing to do with April Fools' Day beyond the prologue. I did wonder if Cusick's book was so named to avoid confusion with RL Stine's Point Horror magnum opus, Hit and Run, but that actually came out a year later, so I guess Cusick just thought April Fools had a sinister connotation begging to be explored.

But beyond the story opening with a sort-of-flashback to the night of April Fools, where our intrepid teens, Belinda, Hildy, and Frank, are driving home from a party and Frank tries to run another car off the road "as a prank" because he's the fucking worst, the plot has nothing to do with April Fools. Basically, the other car does go off the road, there's an explosion, and Belinda runs to try to help despite her friends telling her not to because, and this cannot be emphasised enough, Hildy and Frank are the fucking worst. But Belinda can't get close to the car because, you know, it's on fire. So she's left staring helplessly at the fiery wreck when she becomes convinced someone is watching her...someone who saw Frank trying to run another car off the road, who saw the second car go up in flames, and who can identify Belinda as being there because Frank and Hildy keep yelling her name and telling her to get back in the car and abandon the scene of the accident because THEY ARE THE FUCKING WORST.

So that's the set-up! This is a Point Horror book, so Belinda starts receiving creepy packages and messages indicating someone blames her for the car accident. She's freaked out and traumatised and guilty, and the only people she has to help her cope are Frank and Hildy.

Oh, okay. So Belinda is all alone with her trauma, then. The trauma of knowing she was involved in a drunken hit and run where people burned to death. I mean, that's a hard thing to deal with as a teenager, right? That's scarring! Surely Hildy, who was there, and whose boyfriend was the driver, must understand...

Oh, okay. But maybe Hildy is in denial! I mean, her boyfriend might be directly responsible for the loss of innocent lives! Surely she understands why this is troubling her best friend so much and she's just trying to protect herself from the reality of the situ...

Never mind then.

Anyway! Belinda is distracted from her guilty conscience, terrible friends, and creepy stalkerish packages by a tutoring job. A rich, annoying woman asks Belinda to tutor her step-son, Adam, because HE WAS RECENTLY MUTILATED IN A TERRIBLE CAR ACCIDENT and she doesn't want him falling behind on school. Stop me if you see where this is heading.

Adam is a prototypical Byronic menace, brooding around in the dark, making cryptic threats and harassing people by screaming "DON'T YOU FIND ME HIDEOUS?" at them whenever they ask how he is. He torments Belinda and glares at her through his bedroom window when she leaves the house, like an asshole. Everyone in this book is terrible apart from Belinda and Cobbs the Butler, basically. Adam does have a nice, gentlemanly step-brother called Noel who is, of course, just dashing and treats Belinda nicely. Like Help Wanted, there's a strong theme of "rich families have weird secrets," although it was nice to see the villains in this book aren't mentally ill, just greedy and murderous in a normal way. And, to be honest, their motivations are logical.

You know who's not logical in this book? Frank and Hildy. Plot twist: it turns out Frank was the one sending creepy packages to Belinda, because he's such a character and thought it would be hilarious to compound her trauma over the fatal accident he caused.** So Frank is a sociopath and Hildy completes enables this because Frank is cute and hilarious, allegedly, and so Hildy allows her best friend to be terrorised by her boyfriend because boys, I guess. Hildy sucks. But Belinda forgives her after they both nearly get killed by the bad guys, and then Hildy dumps Frank, so maybe there's hope for her.

But Belinda should kill off their friendship anyway.

I like Cusick's books, and I liked April Fools, but god fucking dammit, Belinda, you can do better! If there's a lesson to be taken from this book, it's that your friends suck and you should get rid of them and get a butler instead.

*In the sense that the last lines of the book are the teenaged heroine and him saying "I love you" to each other in a way that could totally be interpreted as a declaration of romantic love. It's literally like, "Oh Cobbs, I do love you." "And I love you, miss," and that's the end of the book, so I choose to believe this May-December relationship blossmed from there on.

**Actually, it turns out the villains deliberately caused the car accident, but Frank was literally and actually trying to run the other car off the road "as a joke" so of course Belinda believes him (and indirectly herself) to be responsible until she learns that, and even if Frank didn't actually cause the car crash he was still drunkenly trying to run another car off the road AS A FUCKING PRANK.

No comments:

Post a Comment