Title: The Bully
Tagline: How do you stop the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? [Dove: Wait. How do you even find the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? Who compiled the initial list? Who narrowed it down? Were independent ombudsmen involved? Why isn’t Jessica the meanest kid in Sweet Valley? I have so many fucking questions.]
Summary: Dennis Cookman is the biggest bully at Sweet Valley Middle School. Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, along with the whole sixth grade, are trying to figure out what to do about him. When Dennis smashes Jimmy Underwood’s bicycle, some of the kids feel he’s gone too far.
Just because Dennis is bigger and older doesn’t give him the right to pick on the sixth graders. Something has to be done to stop this bully once and for all! That’s when Ken Matthews comes up with the perfect dare that will expose Dennis Cookman as the coward that he really is.
I love/hate this book. I’ll explain what I love and what I don’t. Oh, and I’ve been reading this book since 1990, and it was only on this read-through I was able to figure out the layout of the cave to make the plot make sense. Note from the future: Or did I? Someone draw me a fucking picture!
The cover: Why is Jessica gazing at a spot over Dennis’ right shoulder? Did she – SQUIRREL!
We open with Jessica announcing to the Unicorns that Grace Oliver wants to join the club. Jessica says that they should make new pledges do initiation rites, since she was the last person to do them and since then people have joined the Unicorns without doing them.
WHO? WHO JOINED THE UNICORNS SINCE BOOK 1? Nobody, that’s who. [Raven: I like to think there’s a lost manuscript in which Mr Nydick, in tight cheerleader garb, frantically tries out for the Booster Squad as a stepping stone to the Unicorns and, more importantly, the girl’s locker room.] Way to go ghostwriter, I don’t know what you think you read, but you didn’t. So you’ve just made Jessica propose something as if it’s new and edgy that the narrative has never disputed being set in stone. So much fail in paragraph 1 of this book. (This is one of the things I don’t like about it.)
So, Jessica decides that Grace has to recite a poem during Mr Bowman’s class today.
Then we visit the other twin’s brain. And she is literally skipping to class. Also:
Elizabeth was looking forward to English class even more than usual on this particular day. It was the day they would be reading aloud the stories they had written. She was proud of hers, about a boy who lived entirely in an imaginary world.
Elizabeth, you’re letting Bleak Valley seep into your daydreams! [Raven: So many Class Trip flashbacks…]
[Wing: It’s haunting you, Raven.]
In English, Grace blurts out a quick four lines of a poem. Mr Bowman says it’s a favourite of his, and was there a particular reason Grace recited it? Grace just says no. (I like to believe that Jessica would give a fabulous reason for doing so.)
While Elizabeth and Amy are making puzzled faces at each other over such odd behaviour from Grace, Ken Matthews taps Elizabeth on the shoulder and passes her a note.
“Dear Elizabeth,” the note read. “A group of us are holding a summit conference this afternoon to talk about Dennis Cookman. This is an emergency! Can you come? We’re meeting at the lot behind Mr. Larson’s house right after school. We really want you to be there. Bring anyone else who you think can help.”
I can’t imagine any twelve year old boy using the phrase “summit conference”. Also, of course Elizabeth needs to be there.
After class, Elizabeth overhears Grace and the Unicorns talking and pushes her nose into that for all of half a second before Jessica tells her to fuck off, because it’s none of her business. Ha! In your face, Elizabeth!
Then Dennis Cookman comes down the hall (the narrative uses the words: “lumbering”, “thundered” and “careened”). He is described as:
Everything about him was larger than life – his hands, his arms, even his big grin. He had short brown hair, a round face, and narrow slits for eyes.
I’m picturing a snake’s head on top of John Cena’s body. [Raven: You Can’t Sssssssssssssssssee Me!]
Also, way to break the stereotype by making him large and physically imposing. I was once bullied by someone who was probably about four years younger than me, and half my size. (This was at horse riding, where the social circle is so much smaller than school and it incorporates all ages.) With real bullying (as opposed to this Very Special Episode stuff, where the thug in a leather jacket takes your pocket money and will stuff you in a locker if you say no), it’s about who has the most power. This girl had it all. Whenever she said something bitchy, everyone else would join in because they were scared of being her next target. And she used her youth to turn the tables – if I ever said anything, like “Oh, fuck off and leave me alone,” she’d immediately turn on the waterworks and all the adults would be like, “You monster, you made this girl who is so much smaller and younger than you cry. We hate you too.” (She is also the girl who asserted that I wasn’t disabled because I wasn’t in a wheelchair.)
Anyway, back to this Very Special Episode, where Dennis just yells at everyone to get out of his way in the hallway, and everyone does. Amy and Elizabeth treat this like it’s a massively big deal, but it’s not. That’s not actually bullying, that’s just an entitled douche wanting a clear walkway. Actual bullying has a more personal and threatening feeling, rather than just telling a swarm of tweens to move. [Wing: If he were a real tween giant, people would just move, as they did for Ostrich. Ostrich is Mr Wing after the last podcast episode, FYI.]
We hop over to the Unicorner at lunch, where Grace is waiting for her next initiation task. Dennis rocks up and demands Lila’s pocket money. Like any 80s/90s cliché in a Very Special Episode about bullying. And this scene is actually the front cover.
Lila is petrified of Dennis and hides behind Jessica. Jessica tells Lila to woman up and not show any fear. Lila says that Jessica should deal with him if it’s so easy. Jessica folds her arms and stands between Dennis and Lila – she’s scared, but doesn’t want to show it. Her resolve crumbles as he inches closer to her until he’s almost touching her. At this point, Dennis takes $10 from Lila and moves on. Lila says he’s taken $25 in the past two weeks, which in 1988 was a sizeable chunk of pennies. Lila says that he beat up Jimmy Underwood yesterday and said he’d beat him worse if he “tattled”. Lila and Jessica agree to go to the meeting about Dennis. [Raven: I really like the fact that Lila is scared of Dennis. It humanises her, showing her in a much more positive light. This is the Lila I like, the Lila from The Older Boy rather than the Lila from Keeping Secrets.]
Next up we have art class with Elizabeth, and Dennis is in the class too, even though he’s a seventh grader. The rumours say that it’s because he beat up one of his classmates in gym, so has been transferred to art with the sixth graders instead. Really? You get excused from gym for beating someone up? Hell, I’d have found someone to hit just to get out gym, which is mandatory, and then get put into art, which is an elective.
Sarah Thomas and Olivia Davidson are working on a mural, and Dennis gives them a hard time. Again, the text demonises his appearance, because remember: only ugly people can bully.
Elizabeth glared at Dennis. She couldn’t believe how mean he looked. He was almost a foot taller than the tallest boy in the sixth grade, Aaron Dallas, and with his bulky frame, short light brown hair, and beady eyes he looked almost like a monster.
Elizabeth butts in for half a second, then goes back to her work. By the end of class, Olivia is in tears because she was trying to outline a sailboat on her mural in black paint (yeah, one of the first things we learned in art is don’t outline stuff in black), but Dennis kicked the table and the paint went everywhere. Apparently Sarah Thomas doesn’t give a shit, because she doesn’t say a word or react at all.
The kids all meet up after school at Larson’s Lot, which features Dead Man’s Cave. Everyone finds this place creepy as shit but apparently, “it was still a favorite meeting place.” Note from the future: literally nothing happens in this location ever again. So that’s a lie on a number of levels. (In fact, I created a new tag for it: That brand new tradition we’ve always had.) [Wing: Sweet Valley is far more 1984 than I expected going in.]
Jimmy Underwood is there with his black eye, which Elizabeth examines – not sure whether this is because she thinks she’s a doctor, or if she was sceptical of its authenticity and wanted to verify its veracity.
Randomly, Steven Wakefield rocks up – this might be the only scene in the entire series where he’s not eating – he tells the kids to tell a teacher. They’re like “We’re not tattles!” and Steven shrugs and leaves them to it, calling over his shoulder that they have two options: tell an adult or gang up on Dennis. [Raven: Snitches Get Stitches, Steven. Or…
The next morning Elizabeth and Amy discuss the Dennis situation. And this is some truly spectacularly parenting:
As Elizabeth and Amy walked to school the next day, they discussed the problem of Dennis Cookman again. “My brother really thinks we’re jerks,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “You should’ve heard him at dinner last night, going on and on about how babyish we’re being. The worst thing was that he got my parents going, too. My dad thinks if we don’t tell the teachers about Dennis, we’re–” She frowned. “How did he put it? We’re encouraging the bullying, that’s what he said.”
What. The. Actual. Fuck?
So I can only assume that dinner went:
Steven: Yo, the kids in the twins’ year are being pulverised by this kid Dennis Cookman. He’s beating up Jimmy Underwood and stealing Lila Fowler’s money.
Alice: That’s awful. Kids, you should be ashamed of yourselves for not reporting Dennis Cookman.
Ned: Absolutely. You are completely enabling and encouraging Dennis Cookman to bully you by not reporting it.
Steven: Totally babyish not to report this Dennis Cookman character.
Alice: You should report Dennis Cookman to Mr Clark, the principal.
Ned: I second that. You really need to report Dennis Cookman. I would report Dennis Cookman myself, but I’m a lawyer. I’m busy doing about eighteen different disciplines of the law. Because lawyer.
Alice: And I’m too busy being a part-time interior decorator and being a housewife in an attractive split-level house on Calico Drive. Oh, on that note, girls, can you cook dinner tomorrow?
Elizabeth: Of course.
Jessica: No, why can’t Steven?
Alice: Well, he’s a boy. And he eats. Now, go and report Dennis Cookman to Mr Clarke.
Honestly, these books only work if you imagine that they’re the daydreams of an abused child, locked in a basement and making assumptions on how adults operate. [Raven: Ludicrous.]
On another note, Amy says that Grace called her last night to say that she needed six people’s homework as another initiation stunt. Elizabeth immediately says that Jessica is far too moral to ask for homework. Last book she literally pretended your mother was dying to get a role in a musical.
Then they spot Dennis terrorising Jimmy in the corner of the school parking lot. Amy calls over that a bunch of eighth graders called him a wimp, so Dennis goes over to beat them up instead. So that’s cool. Remember, it’s ok to get strangers beaten up to save your friends.
Elizabeth tells Jimmy to meet her after class, and find Aaron and Ken, because she’s going to tell Mr Bowman. Also, why are Aaron and Ken involved at all? Dennis literally has no screen time with them. I’d take Lila. She’s lost money, and she’s an entitled brat, so her daddy will kick up a stink if he found out about that.
They tell Mr Bowman, who says that he’ll speak to Dennis immediately and there will be a change in behaviour. Also, bullies are sad, tragic creatures who need to be fuzzy-hugged through their issues. (Which is not completely and utterly wrong in real life, but this book… no. Surface is all you get.)
Elizabeth is immediately relieved. Everything will be fine now. I thought Elizabeth was supposed to be the clever one? Why is she the first to think “Well, that’s settled then,” when literally nothing has changed. She’s a fucking moron.
After school, Elizabeth walks with Aaron, Ken and Jimmy to the park. Dennis beats up the boys for telling, but politely leaves Elizabeth out of it. Can’t tell if this is because she’s a girl or a Wakefield. [Raven: She’s brilliant at everything else, so maybe it’s because she’s also a ninja.]
Cut to the Unicorns, they’re trying to come up with a final task for Grace, and then conversation turns to Dennis. Ellen notes that he has no friends. At this point, Jessica decides Grace has to have lunch with him. They’re forcing a scared girl to spend time with a bully for the lolz. And that’s not bullying, apparently.
Another meeting at Larson’s Lot. Aaron decides that Dennis needs to feel scared, and then he’ll stop bullying. I really feel like this Jamie Suzanne has never been bullied. Yes, fear is a part of it when there is a violent bully, but so much of it is emotional. It’s feeling outnumbered, being alone, having someone say hateful stuff to you, and anyone around either pretends not to see or joins in. This book is so goddamned shallow.
Aaron’s plan is to say that he’s going to stay all night in Dead Man’s Cave. Then Ken will, then Jimmy will. Dennis will feel so ashamed that all these younger wimpy kids are doing it, then he’ll have to. Only they’re not going to stay there all night. There’s a “big rain pipe” off of Dead Man’s Cave that leads into the woods. Not sure why Sweet Valley Town Council feel the need to interfere with nature, and force the cave to drain off into the woods, especially when it’s FUCKING UPHILL and therefore doesn’t work. I know the kids lampshade this, but honestly, who looks a cave, then gazes uphill at the woodland and thinks, “Yep, that’ll work.”
If it’s because the cave floods, why didn’t they just block the entrance? And if they didn’t create this bloody rain pipe, wouldn’t the cave not flood in the first place unless there was actual flood-level rain anyway?
Basically it feels like Sweet Valley Town Council saw a cave, decided it might be dangerous, and instead of blocking the entrance to keep people out, they created a flood pipe. And still didn’t think to block off the entrance.
Also, there were several streams/tunnels in my home town. You know what the town council did? Blocked off the fucking entrance. Every single time the water went into a cave, there was a massive grate over it, so nothing bigger than a tuppence could get through.
(These streams and tunnels were very close to my school… wait, did I live in English Sweet Valley? 99.9% white? Check. Wealthy? Check. Unadulterated hate for anyone not: white, rich, slender, able-bodied, straight, etc? Check. Bullying is an extra-curricular? Check. Fuck me. I really did live in Sweet Valley.)
Some dimensions of this cave, because I find this all very hard to picture.
Entrance of the cave is 8’. It gets smaller as you go in – to the point where Dennis (a large twelve/thirteen year old) won’t fit at the back (but the regular sized twelve year olds do). The rain pipe is 3-4’ wide and 8’ long. How bloody massive is Dennis if he won’t fit through the rain pipe?
“This is great!” Jimmy cried. “Aaron, you’re a genius! This is the best plan I’ve ever heard in my whole life!”
At the moment Jimmy says this, he’s still under the impression that they’re actually going to sleep in the cave overnight. Which makes this already stupid plan even dafter, given that Jimmy is terrified of the cave. Even this is a better plan:
Aaron then clarifies that they will go into the cave, then escape through the pipe and sleep at home, whereas Dennis will have to stay there all night. Because in the universe, the bully will do as you say.
The next day, the Unicorns tell Grace she has to sit with Dennis for lunch. Once she does this, she’ll be one of them, and allowed to wear purple. I really want to see the nerds having a “take back the purple” rally. Also, Jessica is still marvellous:
Jessica had just finished dyeing most of her white socks purple to add to her Unicorn wardrobe. If Grace managed to get Dennis to eat lunch with her, maybe Jessica would even give her a pair as an initiation gift.
Yes, Jessica. I’m sure Grace wants your second-hand socks. Oh, fuck it, that’s adorable.
Across the lunchroom, the self-dubbed “Fearless Five” put their plan into action. With Caroline Pearce there, it’s a rousing success. Aaron says he’ll stay there overnight, and Dennis says he’ll be there to see it.
Afterwards, Grace tries to talk to Dennis but he tells her to get lost. She cries to Jessica about this, and Jessica encourages her, because Lila and Ellen didn’t want initiation tasks, so if Grace fails or just quits, the Unicorns will look silly, and Jessica will look the worst because she spearheaded this plan.
The next morning, which is Saturday, Jessica barges into Elizabeth’s room and demands to know why Elizabeth didn’t tell her about Aaron staying overnight in Dead Man’s Cave, and actually, Aaron’s quite cute really. Elizabeth tells her to leave him alone, he’s got enough going on without a pretty girl finding him attractive – it’s funny, she always has time for Amy/Ken stuff, but Jessica/anyone can fuck off. Sinister. [Raven: Or probably because that’s exactly what it is…. Jessica / ANYONE.] Elizabeth wants Jessica gone for the day, so tells her that Alice asked them to clean the house from top to bottom – and Jessica is showered, dressed and at the mall before Elizabeth can finish her sentence.
(Why, oh why do the twins have so many chores, when Alice, Ned and Steven seem to do fuck all? I know this was just a ruse, but it’s not exactly an isolated event. Bleak Valley… I see you.)
Next we see Grace, who’s at Dennis’ house. She found his baseball mitt, and instead of dropping it in lost and found, she’s going to deliver it personally, so she can build a rapport with him. She knocks on the door, and his mother seems pleased that a friend is dropping in on him. Then Mrs Cookman leaves, and Grace feels scared. She hands the glove to him, and he asks if that’s why she was following him yesterday. She says yes, thinking it will make her antics look less weird. He nods and stops scowling. #Progress.
Next up, the Fearless Five rock up to Larson’s Lot. It’s twilight when they arrive and then it says “By a quarter to seven over a dozen kids had shown up to watch Aaron enter the cave.” so I looked up sunset/sunrise/twilight times for LA and I’m assuming they got there at 6:30pm, so from that I guess this takes place approx 22 February – or 24 December, which is not completely unlikely, given how many Christmases there are in each year, but it’s probably less likely than February, especially when April Fools’ Day happens in nine books time. So if Book 1 took place in October, we’ve already missed one Christmas! Thank god there are a billion more to come! [Raven: First up… Nerd. Next, do none of the kids in this town have a curfew?]
[Wing: In the 80s? In safe Sweet Valley? Maybe not, but if so, a vague one of at dark or dinnertime.]
So, Aaron goes into the cave, and one by one, everyone leaves. So what’s the point of the escape pipe? Surely Aaron can just go out the regular entrance?
The next morning, everyone gathers to witness Aaron coming out of the cave at seven am.
So Ken says he’s going to do it tonight, Dennis says no, Ken’s a coward. Someone needs to watch the entrance, so he doesn’t run off. He says he’ll do it, but someone has to stay with him. Aaron volunteers, but Dennis chooses Jimmy.
The Fearless Five go out for breakfast and discuss how great the plan is. Jimmy points out that it’s ok for Ken, he has to stay there for an hour, then he gets to run home, whereas Jimmy’s got to stay out all night with his own personal bully. And everyone’s like “THE GREATER GOOOOOOOOD!”
Yeah, no. This is silly. If Dennis truly delights in terrorising Jimmy, surely he will at night with only a short dude, who’s agreed to not step out of a cave for twelve hours, to stop him. And also, what’s to stop him from doing hourly checks on Ken to make sure he hasn’t run off?
Later, Elizabeth overhears Jessica advising Grace that she can find a way to have lunch with Dennis. So she points out that Jessica is no better than Dennis, and that finally hits home and she decides against the task. But Jessica being Jessica, she decides she’ll pitch it like she’s had an epiphany and make Grace feel like she’s being saved.
That night Jimmy has to keep watch with Dennis. For all this fear, it’s three paragraphs long: Dennis threatens Jimmy; Jimmy is allegedly terrified, cold and uncomfortable; then it’s morning, because he fell asleep. Despite the fear, cold and discomfort. [Raven: Right, this bit is bullshit. First, how can both Jimmy and Dennis both actually spend the night out of their respective parental homes without consequence? Second, when taken at face value, Jimmy is pretty brave here, spending twelve unsupervised hours with his abuser; shouldn’t this alone bolster his spirits a little? And finally, the biggest issue I have: surely spending the night watching the entrance to a spooky cave is pretty much exactly the same as SPENDING THE NIGHT IN A SPOOKY CAVE!]
Jimmy says he’ll go next, and Dennis is disbelieving and says he’ll do it if Jimmy manages it.
At school, Grace hunts down Dennis and asks if they can have lunch together. He says no. Grace feels like an epic failure and confesses to the Unicorns that she just can’t do it. Jessica says that they’ve changed the initiation to simply locating purple sweatshirts for the Unicorns (she doesn’t have to buy them). And seriously? You’re the coolest people in the school, and you want to look the same? Weird. [Raven: I think conformity was acceptable in the Eighties.]
Grace is actually late to lunch that day, and can’t find a space, so Dennis invites her to sit with him. He says that people are mean to him because he’s big. Grace corrects him, saying he’s mean to them. And he offers her a bite of his sandwich. Dennis decides that Grace is not so bad.
Aaron and Ken give Jimmy a final pep talk before he takes his turn at Dead Man’s Cave. After they leave, Dennis finds him and tries to talk him out of it. I honestly don’t get why Dennis isn’t just beating the crap out of him here. Actually, I don’t know why he’s not beating them all up. His bullying doesn’t actually follow much of a pattern beyond “do the 80s/90s cliché thing”.
Jimmy’s night goes without event, and then it’s Dennis’ turn, but he feigns an illness. Aaron rounds up the villagers and tells them to light their pitchforks and bully Dennis into doing it.
Dennis gets harassed all morning. At lunch he sits with Grace again, who starts to internally panic that this will become a habit. Dennis moans about being harassed and how sore his throat is. Grace no-sells this, and tells him that he’s been an asshole to everyone, so no-one’s going to give him a break now. He should man up, do the dare, and then apologise and be nice to everyone. Grace is a badass. Or she would be, if her sudden lack of fear came from somewhere, instead of “as the plot requires”.
Finally Dennis agrees. And all of a sudden, Elizabeth has a bad feeling about things tonight. Because… the plot says so?
They all go to Larson’s Lot and Dennis shows up wearing double denim. Dennis in Double Denim should be a tongue-twister. Or a 50s style pop song. [Raven: Denim Overload!
There’s a storm brewing. Dennis says nobody else had to stay out there in a storm, but everyone gangs up on him.
Dennis goes into the cave, a storm starts and most people leave. Aaron is the first to figure out what Sweet Valley Town Council didn’t: water doesn’t travel against gravity. The cave is going to flood.
The morons waste several minutes yelling Dennis’ name into the mouth of the cave, rather than walking in and hauling his ass out. Finally the boys go in to get him, while Amy, Elizabeth and Grace huddle under a poncho and feel bad about everything.
Dennis refuses to come out, thinking they’re trying to trick him into quitting early. They tell him about the rainwater pipe, but he doesn’t believe them. Jimmy runs outside to update the girls, and Grace bounds in there to talk some sense into him. By the time she gets into the cave, the water is deep enough to “wade” in. And here, Jamie Suzanne of the week, the tension would be a little higher if I had any idea how deep that was. Ankle-deep, shin-height, mid-thigh, these are all descriptions I understand. Also, what the fuck is at the top of the hill that feeds into this pipe? Niagara fucking falls? It’s been raining for eight seconds. Or maybe I just don’t understand Californian weather.
[Wing: It could be a flash flood type storm, I suppose, but I think that gives the ghost writer too much credit. ]
Dennis is too big for one person to drag out, so they have to make a human chain to pull him out. So they do that. Everyone lives. Yay.
And this is the part that never made sense to me, because the FUCKING CAVE WAS NEVER DESCRIBED. On every reading, I assumed it was a normal cave, much like this:
So I just assumed that everyone could easily walk out and the need for a chain was “because the plot says so”.
Having re-read it in so much detail in this recap, I have to assume that it’s nothing like the image above, and more like a hole in the ground (rather than in a wall face), that slopes downwards.
I don’t care much for description. In my opinion, less is more. Sometimes I even skip it, because the dialogue and my imagination fills in the blanks, but in this case less is absolutely hopeless. It’s impossible to care about anything if you’re just trying to picture a damned cave that could easily flood.
The Fearless Five confess their entire plan to Dennis. He thanks them for saving his life, apologises and says he’s heading home to do a lot of thinking.
The Unicorns say they’re proud of Grace, but a bit ashamed of using Dennis’ bullying as a part of their initiation game.
And all is well.
Setup for the next book: The Unicorns think Kent Kellerman, star of tacky soap All the World, is hot. And how exciting, he’ll be filming in Sweet Valley. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they could meet him?
What I have learned from this book:
- You can easily spot bullies by how big and ugly they are.
- Your parents can’t report bullying, even if you give them names and facts, because they respect your decision-making ability aged twelve.
- It’s totally fine to set a bully on some unsuspecting strangers who did nothing wrong, as long as it saves your friend.
- Since bullying is violent, it only happens to boys. Boys don’t hit girls, so they’re safe. (Therefore, Lila Fowler was overreacting.)
- Niceness tames the monster.
- Not a single person in Sweet Valley’s planning department understands gravity.
- Not a single teacher in Sweet Valley Middle School has noticed the bullying epidemic.
Things I love: the idea of Grace befriending Dennis and being his voice of reason. The idea of a few bullied individuals banding together to find the strength to deal with their bully. The idea of the cave plan getting flooded and having to save a bully.
Things I hate: the execution of all the ideas I loved. Grace’s abrupt lack of fear regarding Dennis for no reason. The fact that it’s not a few bullied individuals, but literally Dennis against every single human being on the planet. The fact that we never find out why he’s such a bully. The absolute lack of logic regarding that fucking drain pipe.
[Raven: I hate the fact that the adults in this book have no impact or interaction with the kids whatsoever. In a book about bullying, surely the message should be “tell an adult”…? But in this, the Wakefields are pretty useless, and when Mr Bowman “solves” things, the bullying actually worsens. In fact, aside from Lila being a victim and thus one of the gang for a change, this one completely sucked. Awful, awful book.]