A teenager deals with her mother's breast cancer and the loss of her best friend who vanished during a school sponsored trip. Ariel is sixteen when she learns her mother is dying and her best friend disappears. Her mother sat her down one evening on the good couch to deliver the news that Jeni, Ariel's best friend had vanished while on a school outing to Berkeley. She'd sat on the same couch when she shared her cancer diagnosis. The test results were again positive and her parents wanted to assure her that her mom planned to to do everything she could to fight the beast.
Click here to see the rest of this review
Jeni's pictures on the living room mantel followed Ariel as she excused herself. She felt as if she were dying. She made it outside to run without throwing up. She needed to block it all out.
Ariel's parents changed their minds with the diagnosis. Ariel would be allowed to attend Berkeley while her recovered. Ariel thinks about the two announcements coming together. Her mother had cancer and she could go away to school were she Jeni would have been roomies.
At Berkeley Ariel has a hard time fitting in. She and her roommate Lauren don't have a lot in common. Lauren gets a boyfriend very fast and they often have sex on the top bunk while Jenny is down below. When she asks Lauren to either sleep in his room, or at least have sex before shene comes back to the room Lauren leaves a used tampon and nasty note on her bunk.
Ariel prints up fliers with Jeni's face and starts handing them out to anyone who will take one.
Ariel decides to do investigating and asking questions. Tommy is in the breakroom on the floor of their dorm when she introduces herself. Jeni had told her that he was in a band. Using the band to start a conversation she asks Tommy if he had attended the junior trip the year before. He had! His girlfriend shows up and puts Ariel off. Tommy is so horny he blows Ariel off.
Ariel sees the girl who was Jeni's room mate on the trip at the mall. She wants wants to talk to Ariel about something, and the something is Jeni. She tells Ariel that she'd been dreaming about Jeni and seeing Ariel had triggered the PTSD she now lives with. Her mother said tiny things can be triggers. She wanted to tell Ariel that the chaperone may have had something to do with Jeni's disappearance. When pressed she said it was the way he had looked at her. Ariel looks him up and visits him unannounced. He is creepy looking man who invites her in and when she starts talking about Jeni he freaks. The police have investigated him he tells Ariel, and he has an alibi. Something about his body language moves Ariel the wrong way. She accuses him and wants to know what he did to her friend. Just as offended he tells her to leave his home or he will call the police on her.
Earlier that day she'd paid twenty dollars for a tarot card reading. The woman gave Ariel her money back. She'd also seen a seven foot man with a hunch back near campus when her parents dropped her off.
She'd even given one to the seven foot giant. He covered his ears and screamed.
With fliers all over her dorm and in the hands of many college students and professors, Ariel decides it is time to go to the police. Clearly the giant knows something. The police tell her the case has been closed for a long time and what she'd already heard, the chaperone creepy teacher had an alibi that checked out.
The giant came out of the bushes and shoved a flier into Ariel's hands. It was advertising a Halloween Party at one of the three old Victorian houses not far from campus. Ariel isn't dressed up but passes three enchanting people dressed in 17th century clothing. Their faces are covered with masks and they seem to be in love with each other. Two men and a woman. Ariel is mesmerized she felt the magic they possessed when they swept past her. She could feel them checking her under the masks.
She follows her instincts with the flier in her hand and goes to the address. She's handed something to drink which makes her feel different. She has to be really badly and even though she knows not a soul at the party she asks where the bathroom is. She is inside for so long that a guy knocks and asks if she is okay.
She is at the home of the three characters she'd seen earlier, but now here she feels something that says she should leave. There was something freaky in the cup.
Back in her dorm room Ariel tries to piece together what had given her an eery feeling. She was sure she recognized the voice of the tarot card reader. And the guy on the other side of the bathroom door had a beautiful voice as well. She was drawn to it.
A few days later she is approached by a man. He says he had checked on her after watching her go into the bathroom. He introduces himself as John Graves. He asks her if she would like to catch a film. He explains he's working on his dissertation in English Literature and the party had been given by him and his two friends. Quick as a flash Ariel knows these are three people who had passed her just after dark on Halloween. She is enraptured with John and wants to spend more time with him.
Ariel doesn't hear from John for a couple of weeks. He sends a text asking inviting her to dinner at the house. She is there on time, but John isn't home. She's invited in by a man and the tarot card reader hugs her like they are old friends. She is told she is welcome to stay for dinner but she has to dress appropriately.
Perry and Tarot card reading Tania dress her up in a beautiful blue gown, a pearl water necklace, and silver shoes. They do her makeup and hair. Ariel feels transformed. A full course meal is served before John makes it home. They all talk sip and a joint is produced. Ariel takes her first toke. She feels open and clear and then John says he'll take her home.
The abruptness and change of attitude cause Ariel to cry. She's sensitive. Her mother has cancer, her best friend is missing and now the people who responsible for making her feel alive again don't want her as a friend.
She goes back to the house again. Tania and Perry have a request of her if she wants to hang out wit them. They take her to the yard and tell her to strip. They had seen her just about naked when she came for dinner and played dress up.
Now they want her in their birthday suit. Feeling foolish but wanting to be a member of their crew she disrobes. Tania wants her to roll on the ground, she hesitates and Perry agrees to go down the hill with her. Her last task is to get into a freezing pool. She does this as well.
Initiated she walks back in with them and finds John sitting in front of the fireplace reading. They talk for a minute and then he tells her he will drop her off. On the ride home John tells Ariel that the trio is going away and he'll see her when he gets back.
She looks for him to call to say “hey” or check on her. He doesn't and Ariel feels let down.
Instead he shows up out of the blue. He tells Ariel that he has tried contacting her and he had been thinking of her. He asks her to take a drive with him. He's moved out. Perry and Tania were really tripping hard and he couldn't take it anymore. He and Tania had had a baby girl who died and Tania had been trying to recreate her through her readings and collecting of weird things. John shares that he had left a year ago right when Jeni disappeared. He hands Ariel a skeleton key to the basement of the house and tells her to go in and see if she can find any clues about Jeni. He stays outside with instructions for her to call if she needs him. Perry and Tania were not expected to be home.
Ariel finds her way to the basement and flicks a light. She sees the closed door and uses the key John gave her. There were all manners of dolls on different shelves. They seemed to have a message for her. One of the dolls was the big headed clown with the changing eyes that Jeni had. It scared a lot of kids and Jeni's mom had made Jeni hold onto it because it was sure to be a collectors item. Just the kind of thing freaky Tania would be into.
When Ariel looks at the chair in the room she is pulled towards the Jeni's signature Hello Kitty bag. At that moment Tania bursts in wanting to know what Ariel is doing in her house. Cold busted there is no where for Ariel to go when Tania pulls a knife. She explains that Jeni was a naive college girl who had wanted their friendship too. Tania needed to feel something when John had left after their baby died. She had thought Jeni was the one who she would make the perfect sacrifice for her dead daughter. She killed Jeni and had the giant carry her body away. The giant acted out of loyalty to Perry and Tania and had spent time in a mental institution before going to prison.
John knows that Ariel is in trouble and the police are alerted. Ariel and Jeni's parents have closure. John and Ariel continue to spend time together. When Ariel runs into some guys that had been to the parties thrown at the trio's home she finds out the drink in the cup was potion that Tania concocted. Opium, and other drugs were what made her fall for the trio. She had been attracted to Trina in a sexual way and Perry was a part of that package. In the end, it was John who saw deeply Trina was falling into mental illness. So, it was John who had captured and held Ariel's interest for the long haul. That house and Trinia's magic had led her to the truth that Jenie wasn't ever coming back.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that Ariel was able to get closure on Jeni's death.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was Ariel getting away from Tania's crazy tail.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that Ariel didn't give up on finding what happened to her bestie Jeni.