Books of Blood 1: The Principal by M. C. Sumner
Title: The Principal by M C Sumner
Summary: Talli knows a deadly secret – and wishes she didn’t.
Principal Volker is tough on discipline, and anyone who steps out of line is summoned to his office, and gets a detention. But no one seems the same afterwards and pupils start disappearing. Talli knows it has something to do with Volker. She follows him to his house and discovers he’s a vampire.
Tagline: You’ll die if you get detention… (Yeah, nope, another Nightmares tagline written by someone who’s never read the book.)
Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.
I have been dreading doing this. So I can only assume that this book is significantly better than I think it will be. Or at least it shouldn’t be as bad as Hall Pass.
I’m doing a Wing here, and recapping as I read for the first time. Usually I read through the entire book, then recap. I’ve only done it this way once or twice before. And generally it highlights how bad I am at guessing what’s going to happen.
One of the reasons I’m so loathe to recap this is that bloody cover to the right. It looks stupid. I remember when I was in primary school, aged around eight, Robert, a kid in the year below me, was sent out of assembly for goofing off. He spent the rest of the assembly pressing his face against the glass in the door and making silly faces to crack up anyone who could see him. This cover sums up that memory perfectly. This is going to be ridiculous. (Also, I get unnaturally angsty when I can’t find a nice high quality cover for my recap.)
[Wing: I love it when the summary just flat out tells me the mystery behind the principal.]
We open with a prologue of an unnamed man watching the hallway of a school. Basically all the students are complete shits and the unnamed man loves it. A group of boys wearing denim jackets with the sleeves torn off (sassy) laugh in a mean way and one of them has a gun. Well, gosh, this is another pre-Columbine book, isn’t it?
[Wing: Right? I love how it’s all bullying and sarcasm and ridiculous clothes, and then SURPRISE GUN.]
The unnamed man touches the hair of someone, and she goes pale, wobbly, and drops her books. Another kid kicks the books down the hall and the unnamed man takes note of that, he wants to remember that one.
He then goes to the principal’s office – Oliver Shay – and says that the school is in trouble. He doesn’t really explain himself, and Shay asks him to leave. Unnamed man grabs Shay by the throat, says he’s done playing games, and he needs to ask Shay some questions.
A few minutes later he walks out of the office and drops a piece of paper on the secretary’s desk.
Did we just open with an off-screen murder?
Now the book starts properly, and it tells the day, so I’m going to give each one a heading and see how this goes.
We meet our protagonist, Talli McAlister and her friend Lisa Taylor. Talli’s locker is covered in red spray paint. Last year, this would have been serious business, but this year, since Cushing High closed and every high school student in the district was merged into Westerberg High, there are too many students for anyone to care about anything. Class sizes have doubled, and there’s a bad element around. The name Cushing High is probably a reference to Peter Cushing, who was prolific in horror movies in the 60s and 70s.
There’s a reference to Talli reading horror stories and Lisa finding them too scary, so I’m sure that Talli’s knowledge of horror will come in handy later once we find out her principal is a vampire. What? That’s not a spoiler, the idiots actually put it on the summary.
McGuffin, ahoy!: 1 (An attempt is made to casually reference something that is clearly going to be a plot point at a later date. And it fails to be casual.)
[Wing: I am already delighted by this book and its horror movie references and its lead. Talli, will you be my girl? Because you are amazing.]
During class, there’s an announcement that Oliver Shay has resigned and the interim principal will be Henry Volker. Talli isn’t surprised, because Shay means well, but has come under a lot of criticism for how unruly the school is. Lisa hopes Volker will sort out the school, but Talli says unlikely, he’s renting a house down the road from her and he’s old.
On their way to the next class, the bump into Alex Cole, who Talli is pissed off with because he broke a date with her to go to a ball game with his friends. She blows him off as he attempts to make up with him, but Lisa says that Talli will forgive him soon because they’ve been together since third grade (that’s what, age 9-10?) [Wing: 7-8, I think, which means they are officially even more childhood sweethearts than Mr Wing and I are.], and they like arguing. Talli says all the arguing keeps the good stuff good. Well, I suppose if that works for her, go for it. [Wing: No, really, Talli, I love you and how you horror and how you relationship.]
They head to the auditorium, where they are stage managers, to work on set pieces for Hamlet. Seriously, is that the only play on the planet? This is the third book that’s had Hamlet in the background. I’m writing a teen horror where they’re studying The Roses of Eyam, and I’m going to make the metaphors work too.
They walk in and Talli “froze in sudden terror.”
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 (Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss Dove and Wing the hell off.)
There are three guys dealing drugs in there, which to be fair is pretty alarming. One is described as having dark hair, another yellow hair like straw, the third is not specifically described, but one of the three is shorter and wider than the others. It’s like a logic puzzle.
Talli and Lisa want to leave, but the lads gather round them and tell them to stay.
A voice asks if there’s a problem here. One of the guys pulls out a knife, and then a “streak of grey“ darts forward and knocks the knife away and orders them to put their weapons down. The voice is calm, almost helpful, but if gives Talli the creeps.
This scene is kind of like when The Lost Boys kill Shelley and Greg – there’s a lot of rushing air and reacting to that, but you can’t see what’s happening, but the result is that the three boys are now on the floor.
[Wing: That reference just makes this all even more amazing.]
Volker steps out of the shadows and introduces himself. He’s tall and thin with a narrow face. He notes that Talli – short for Tallibeth, a name which I can’t work out if it’s cool or awful [Wing: It’s pretty awful on the surface, but she’s so amazing I now love it.] – is the policeman’s daughter.
Volker calls for his assistant, Lynch, who is young, tall and muscular with long sandy hair and a drooping moustache. Up until the muzzie, I was found his look quite appealing. He has a slight accent, either English or German, so most certainly evil.
[Wing: Moustaches can be shaved. I’m down with the vampiric hotness, especially considering what he pulls later.]
Lynch and Volker leave with the dealers, and Lisa is really impressed with the new principal, but Talli isn’t utterly convinced – she felt revolted when he shook her hand. That’s never a good sign. Look how evil Leyland Gaunt was in Needful Things.
After school, while waiting for the rain to taper off so they can dash to the car, Samantha Deveraux – who hates to be called Sam – approaches, and tells Talli she has to go to a school board meeting tonight because she has to be elsewhere. Talli calls her Sam throughout the whole conversation, says no, it’s Sam’s job and the only time she’s actually done it is when the local TV station would be there, otherwise it’s been Talli the whole time.
Sam, by the way, is dressed in a teeny skirt that leaves nothing to the imagination and totters around on “too high heels“. Sam says that Talli has to be there and leaves. Lisa says she hates her and Talli asks why.
Lisa raised an eyebrow. “You mean other than the fact that she’s gorgeous? That all the guys hang around waiting for an excuse to drool all over her? That she treats every other girl in the school like dirt?” She planted her hands on her hips and tossed her head in imitation of Samantha. “That her hair doesn’t even have the decency to frizz up in the rain?”
And that right there is a textbook, if rather well worded, I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1 (Because girls can’t be friends, AMIRIGHT? For some reason, this girl, who is utterly desirable in the looks department, hates the ever-loving fuck out of our protagonist. And, despite claiming to not care, our protagonist makes digs about her all the time.)
Lisa then clarifies that she also hates her for the way that Talli worked her ass off on student council, and she got thrown out in favour of Sam, simply because Sam is hot. Talli is now a mere alternate, which is why she’s constantly going to these meetings in Sam’s place.
[Wing: That is a good reason to hate her, for taking something your friend loved and worked hard for away from her. I mean, not necessarily a useful or logical reason, but emotionally, I get it. The hating her because she’s hot and dresses sexy is patriarchal bullshit.]
They make a break for it to Talli’s car, and Alex begs for another chance. Lisa hops in the car, both to stay dry and give them space. When Alex offers to take her to the horror triple feature at the drive in, Talli agrees he’s forgiven.
[Wing: Talli, my girl, have I mentioned I love you?]
Talli gets home and has a quite secret confab with dad about the druggies/knife incident at school – don’t tell mum, she’ll get upset. Dad is impressed with Volker and tells her to go to him with any issues, and Talli’s certain she won’t. He’s worried because he’s going to be away at a conference. However, mum will be staying home. What’s up, family? Why aren’t you going to Europe? I don’t get it.
[Wing: Because this book is already a breath of fresh air, to use just as cheesy and overused a phrase as most books we recap would use.] [Dove: I know, I’m just thrown by how not-PH this book is.]
Talli goes to the school board meeting. Usually she doesn’t say a word, nobody ever asks for her input, and even when students speak to the board, they don’t go through her, they just speak directly.
They discuss the dealer/knife incident, and someone suggests they install metal detectors, but Volker asks for one week to prove he can crack down on this nonsense without having to search every student. They also say that there were two students harassing Talli and Lisa, not three. Talli asks about the third, and Volker asks if she’s on drugs, and when she says no, he says that she’s misremembering due to the stress of the incident.
So I guess he ate the third kid?
Lynch and Volker fix death glares on Talli, and oooh, scary.
Lisa and Talli go through the yearbook of Cushing High to try and find out who the third kid was. After a bit of searching, they find his picture, his name is Morris South and he was class president last year, so being a giggling druggie’s a bit of a comedown. Then Lynch shows up, tells them off for being disloyal to Volker, confiscates the yearbook and basically implies that unless they start going along with Volker, things will get bad for them.
Talli goes out with Alex on a date to see Daughter of Blood at the drive in. On the drive, Alex asks how he can take care of Tally when she doesn’t tell him when bad things happen to her. Talli says he’s not Tarzan, she’s not Jane, she doesn’t need taking care of. And yeah, Wing’s going to love Talli. I do too. Also, kudos for the other characters not constantly going on about how loving horror is weird, they just talk about it like it’s a normal hobby (which it is).
[Wing: NO SERIOUSLY TALLI I LOVE YOU.]
On the drive home, Talli’s all “What’s that????” and Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 (+1)
“That” is, in fact, Volker’s car, parked outside the school. Which totally didn’t need a cliffhanger. And to be fair, Alex says as much. Wow, the principal is at school late, shocker. But then Talli tells him about how Volker said there were only two dealers, and then gaslighted – gaslit? – her at the school board meeting when she corrected him.
They watch the school and a weird green light goes on, not a regular bulb. Talli wants to investigate, but Alex says no, there could be something strange going on, or they could be welding and giving off weird light, but either way, getting caught snooping probably won’t make either of them popular, which Talli agrees with.
They’re about to leave when Volker, Lynch and another guy come out of the school. The third is Morris. Once Volker & co leave, they agree something odd is going on, and Alex makes the logical conclusion that Volker’s in on the drug dealing, since he never mentioned the drugs and kept one of them out of the scandal. With all the available evidence, I’m fine with this. This is not idiot-balling.
They discuss what to do – they have no evidence, and her dad and the sheriff, who would give them a fair hearing are out of town at the conference until Saturday, and Lynsky, the guy who’s covering is quite pally with Volker, so they agree to wait until dad gets back.
Sam pawns off more work on Talli for student council, and also dresses like a hooker, so let’s hate that slut. Talli objects to the work, given that she’s already doing everything student council related, and Sam compromises with a promise to meet her after school to discuss it.
Volker instigates a new policy – everyone who dicks around in class gets sent to his office. [Wing: I am unsure why this wasn’t already the policy.] [Dove: In my school, sometimes you were sent to stand outside the class to “cool down”. I don’t think anyone was ever sent to the head for goofing off.] Throughout the day, Talli watches who goes and asks around what happened to those who got sent to Volker. Detention for a week is pretty standard, but some of them come back absolutely exhausted, nearly asleep at their desk. One comes back wired off her face, she gets sent a second time, but doesn’t make it back to class after that.
Om nom nom.
In one class, a guy is tormenting a girl called Ashley, tipping her desk over, so she slaps him. They both get sent to Volker, and Ashley comes back exhausted and pale. Once she’s sat down, he tips her desk again, the teacher snaps, wanting to know who did it, and Ashley screams in fear in response and then has a seizure.
Talli discusses it with Lisa and says she thinks Volker is drugging them, so they’ll get addicted and start buying drugs. I’m thinking it would be more likely he’d drug them to calm their boots. She suggests that they break into Volker’s house when he’s manning detention. But Lisa says no.
They wait for Sam, but she doesn’t show up. Talli sees Lynch moving around the school, and his eyes are glowing red.
When she gets home, her mum goes to the PTO (it’s PTA over here – Association, not, presumably, Organisation) [Wing: Weirdly, it’s actually PTA over here too, at least every place I’ve ever lived.] meeting, and then Talli’s left to investigate Volker’s house. Just as she’s leaving, Alex calls, so she invites him along. He’s reluctant at first, but knows she won’t be talked out of it, so goes along with her.
They look around outside, and Talli tells him to be careful of the pool cover – there’s no water in it, so you’d go straight through the cover and land on cement. McGuffin, ahoy!: 2 (+1) (Wanna bet it’s filled with bodies by the end of this book?)
Alex won’t go inside, because until they do, they can say they were looking for the cat – when a car pulls up. Talli is frozen in the headlights, then flees. Then a light goes on in the basement, and Talli goes back to see what it is. She sees a red purse but can’t place it. I bet it’s Sam’s, and that’s why she didn’t show up.
Talli hears a girl crying.
Mum makes breakfast, and says she’s a major fan of Volker – oh, and make sure you tell Lisa I hope her mum feels better soon. She had a seizure at the meeting.
[Wing: I love how he’s made everyone so casual about the seizures. Have a seizure, walk it off!] [Dove: Good point. I’ve been so gung-ho about head injuries, I breezed right past other serious medical issues.]
Talli is called to Volker’s office. She bricks it, sure that he saw her last night, but instead it’s just a chat with Volker’s secretary. Sam has gone missing, and people thought she was closest to Talli. Which both Talli and I find really sad. Talli is not much help, and for reasons she doesn’t even understand herself, she steals some keys from the office.
Talli tells Lisa that Sam’s missing. Lisa is flippant at first, then says that Cheryl and Paul are missing – they were the first two to be sent to Volker’s office for misbehaving.
First of all, nothing is up with Lisa’s mum – she never mentioned having a seizure. She was up early cleaning. It’s weird, because she doesn’t clean, just like Talli’s mum doesn’t do hot food. Second of all, everything’s weird, so they’re going to break into Volker’s office now Talli has the keys.
Talli later bumps into Morris, who is very sluggish and zombie-like and fucking reeks of rot and decay.
Talli’s still not into the supernatural thinking yet, so assumes he’s strung out, especially when Morris says to tell “him” that he’s “waiting”.
This book really has me thinking of a book I read as a kid. It was called Vampire, and it was about a plucky girl who takes down a heroin ring at her school (she even buys heroin as evidence), and she and her friends call the dealers “vampires” as code, because they’re sucking the life out of people. I’ve tried finding it but naturally googling “young adult book vampire heroin” doesn’t help. There are a zillion YA supernatural books out there, and google assumes I’m thick and actually mean “heroine”. I’ve tried other variations and not got very far. If anyone knows who the author is, let me know, because after this book, I really want to read it again.
[Wing: First of all, I’m surprised you don’t just get Twilight references with that sort of search. Second, we managed to find the werewolf books, we’ll find this too.] [Dove: Note to self: mention it on podcast.]
Talli goes home and her mum is sick, apparently with the flu. Oh, but Talli’s not buying it. She knows he’s supernatural, she just doesn’t know what. And the writing makes it really woolly. A girl like Talli would definitely know the word “vampire” (especially if she watched something called Daughter of Blood, which sounds like a vampy/campy boob-fest), but the text implies that she gets that he’s feeding, but there isn’t a word for what he is, when really it’s more plausible that she’d understand he was feeding, but can’t quite nail down which supernatural creature he is. Also, she’s thought this since day one, since he swooped out on the dealers like David from Lost Boys (no, she doesn’t make that reference) and since she was repelled by his touch like Brian Rusk in Needful Things (honestly, nobody would make that reference but me).
[Wing: Yeah, considering they throw the word around in the summary, the book takes a long damn time to let Talli actually say “vampire”.]
She and Lisa set their plan in motion, they’re going to separate but keep in contact using her dad’s police walkie-talkies, using a channel that nobody currently uses. Talli will be in the school office, Lisa will be outside Volker’s house, making sure he’s home.
Talli gets in the office and starts rifling through his desk and finds some comments about students:
- Cheryl Jean Fellini: “Very sensitive,”… “Will progress rapidly.”
- Samantha Diane Deveraux: “Her vanity will be her undoing.”
- Morris Bateman South: “An outsider. Bring him inside.”
- Lisa Marie Taylor: “A follower,”… “Give her something new to follow.”
Lisa calls her on the walkie to say that Volker has left, and she needs to get out, but forgets to let go of the talk button, to let Talli respond. As she leaves the office, she sees a file in her own name, and the comment reads, “Dangerous.”
[Wing: I LOVE HER SO.]
As she leaves, there’s a fracas in the auditorium, where she thinks she’s being pursued by some huge deep-breathing monster, but when she turns the light on, there’s nothing there.
Outside, there’s no sign of Lisa and a blizzard has started up. She ends up walking two miles home in the driving snow. (#ProTip: Listen to the Silent Hill soundtrack when you walk in the snow, it makes it more exciting.)
When she gets home, her car is parked outside, the door is ajar with the keys in the ignition, but Lisa is gone – and there’s no footprints in the snow besides Talli’s.
She calls the police, who say they can’t file a missing person report after only a few hours. Actually, that’s a massive myth. The first 24 hours are the most important in a missing person case, but still, this myth was heavy in the 90s, so I’ll grudgingly let it slide. [Wing: Here, he says he can’t file one for 48 hours, which is not what we heard in the 90s; everyone always said 24 hours, which, as Dove says, total myth. Especially for minors.]
She then calls Alex, who comes straight over, and immediately supports her worry and says he’ll do anything she wants him to in order to find Lisa. And that, ladies and gents, is how you write a good boyfriend. He may not believe Talli’s every suspicion about Volker, but he supports her worry about her friend, and even if he doesn’t agree with her methods, he’s going to help her and make it easier for her.
So they break into Volker’s house. Once again, Talli reminds Alex to beware the pool cover. McGuffin, ahoy!: 3 (+1)
They find clothing in all shapes and sizes – different enough to make it implausible that it belongs to a girlfriend – and Alex suddenly realises that Volker could well be a serial killer.
There’s nothing in the basement, so they head upstairs, and find empty rooms for the most part. Then they walk into one room and there’s an ancient wrinkled woman there, who brightens on seeing them. She looks familiar to Talli, but she can’t place her. (Sam, maybe?)
Someone says something behind them and Talli’s aware that behind her something’s going on, but she sees the woman’s reflection, and in the mirror it is Sam, looking young and beautiful as ever.
She’s manhandled by Lynch downstairs to where Volker is waiting. She asks what’s he going to do, and he says he’s called the police. Lynsky arrives and gives her a telling off, and Volker calms things by saying that Talli was only worried about her friend and if she and Alex do detention tomorrow, any charges would be dropped. Talli accuses him of kidnapping Sam, but Volker and Lynsky both say they’ve had a call saying she was spotted in another town.
They agree to the detention, and that’s that.
On the way to detention, they discuss the situation. Alex didn’t see Sam’s reflection, so isn’t convinced it was Sam. However, he does think Volker is sinister as fuck and will be standing by her side when she tells her father everything. Again, excellent boyfriend writing.
They are the only ones to turn up to the school, and Volker is done playing games. He says that they have been “sparring in the dark” and now it’s time to come clean. Talli says she knows he’s a vampire.
“Good evening,” said the thing with Dracula’s face. “I vant to drink your blood. Blah. Blah.” He opened his mouth to reveal fangs as long as a rattler’s, then he began to laugh.
Toll!Vampire!Headmaster – have ten points! Also, when he vamps, he’s young and handsome.
[Wing: I … kind of love him when he’s being sarcastic.]
There are three groups of people to him: 1) those that are open to him – they can learn to become like him; 2) those that are food (like Sam); and 3) those that are closed to him – like Talli. He likes the closed ones best. The open ones are usually weak, and never appreciate their gifts, but the closed ones do. Lynch was closed, Volker was closed, and they make great vampires.
Also, he’s not strictly a vampire in the movie sense, but movie vampires and werewolves are based on his kind. They feed, they shapeshift, and they can read the minds of the open and the food. They are sensitive to the light, but at Volker’s age, it’s not like in the movies. Talli remembers him being old and haggard in the morning light the other day.
Lansky comes in to check that they turned up for detention, and Talli uses the distraction to steal Alex’s keys, and run to his car and speed off. Without Alex. Not so great girlfriending there, Talli.
[Wing: She even points out that she’s more help to him gone and alive than dead and there, Dove.]
She drives off and notices a dark car following her, she can’t see the driver but assumes it’s Lansky or Volker. [Wing: BUT NEVER THINGS ABOUT LYNCH. GEE I WONDER WHERE HE IS LOCATED AT THIS MOMENT.] She’s looking for a place to go, when she decides that hiding behind a building might work. She slams on the brakes, and goes spinning about for about four paragraphs, before finally crashing to a halt. Then the dark car drives past and she realises that it wasn’t after her at all.
And, guess what?
THERE’S SOMEONE IN THE BACK SEAT!
[Wing: AND THIS IS WHY YOU ALWAYS CHECK THE DAMN BACK SEAT.]
It’s Lynch. He takes her back to Volker’s house.
He glared at her from his deep-set eyes. “I’d like to take you now,” he said. “I’d like to drink you dry and throw away the husk.”
His mouth area turns into a muzzle with sharp teeth – look, Wing! Part of a werewolf.
[Wing: WEREWOLF WEREWOLF WEREWOLF WEREWOLF WEREWOLF WEREWOLF. I’m fucking counting it. Two books in a fucking row! So far, 2017 is coming up werewolves, and I couldn’t be happier. WEREWOLF.]
Talli’s all, “Screw you, Volker wants to eat me, so you’d best behave.” Lynch takes her upstairs and tells her to get in the closet, because he can’t be bothered to watch her and the bedroom doors don’t have locks. (So, closets do? WTF?) When she says no, he throws her across the room and says the next “accident” might be fatal. What a nice man.
She gets locked in and starts pushing panels and finds one that’s loose, so she can push it out the way and get to the attic. She has a look around the attic and puts together a makeshift weapon of a hammer and a “spear”, which is a broom handle she snapped in half. Oh, gosh, do you think she’ll hammer that “spear” into the vampire’s heart?
She drops down via a similar panel into another closet, just like the one she was locked in. She comes out in Sam’s room. Sam asks if he promised to make Talli beautiful too, and is she here to stay with Sam, because she’s really happy to see Talli. This is pretty damned sad, Sam is a skeleton barely covered in thin skin, and it just sounds painful and wretched. At this point, I hope Talli kills Volker and Lynch and comes back to take care of Sam (this seems like the kind of book that won’t reverse the damage done) until she dies of old age – before she even gets out of her teenage years.
Lynch suddenly appears, he grabs Talli and shakes her, then throws her across the room. He says if she moves again he’ll bite her head off. Sam asks if he’s going to hurt Talli, and he pushes her away and she “tumbled back onto the red bed with a sound like children’s blocks being kicked over.” You bastard, Lynch. Leave Sam alone.
[Wing: The writing in this book is actually kind of amazing and creepy and wonderful. I mean, maybe only in comparison to what else we’ve recapped over the past few years, but I love it.]
They fight and Talli manages to get the stake into Lynch – just like the Buffyverse, while vamps are tough in hand-to-hand, drive a stake into them and it goes in quite easily. Though these vamps don’t poof. They kind of dissolve into ichor. It’s pretty gross for a teen book. Kudos.
She sees Lisa at the door, they hug and talk, but she’s off, and when Lisa asks if the bones on the bed are what’s left of “that girl” (RIP, Sam), then Talli knows something’s off. She thinks it’s Volker, but it’s actually Morris. Talli asks where Lisa really is, and he says gone, another midnight snack. Damn book, I’ll give you major kudos if you kill off the boyfriend or the best friend. (I bet she’s not dead. Killing Sam was enough to prove a point. Lisa will pop up in the last chapter, all fine.)
[Wing: Pretty sure with this book, Lisa’s fucking dead. Or the boyfriend is. One is dead, one is coming back, I’m just not willing to bet which is which.]
She fights Morris, and during the struggle they break a window, the curtains fall down and Morris burns up in the sunlight.
[Wing: Talli is such a fucking badass. I LOVE YOU TALLI.]
Finally she faces Volker – and I have spent the entire book thinking of Timothy Dalton in Chuck as Alexei Volkoff, every time I write that damned name. Seriously, what a great character.
OMG, Sam’s not dead. She just looks it. She gets up off the bed and tells Volker he shouldn’t have left her alone so long and Lynch tried to hurt her. Volker’s like, “Yeah, no, I’ve gotten all I can from you, so time to die.” And backhands her across the room. [Wing: And this time, she’s really gone, just disintegrated.] [Dove: *cries*]
Then Volker gives a recruitment speech to Talli, saying she could live forever, look how she wanted, do what she wanted, and Talli – you go girl – says that she likes herself the way she is, so suck it.
Talli throws a hammer – not at him, but at the window, then jumps out and runs across the roof and drops to the ground. As she runs across the yard, finally the pool cover tries to kill her. It starts to sag, she grabs the edge of the pool, but slips and hits her head on the landing. WOO, FAVOURITE COUNTER COMING UP! Head injury? Walk it off: 1 (Because a concussion is a mild inconvenience, not a medical situation and it can be cured by grit and determination.)
Oh wow. I called it. This pool is filled with the missing students, like Cheryl and Paul. They ask her to come into the shadows with them, rather than them come into the light. And they sound hungry.
Talli sensibly refuses to join them in the dark, and rushes to the ladder and climbs out, then she yanks off the cover, setting fire to them. She does this just in time. By the time she gets off of Volker’s property, the sun is down.
[Wing: She even thinks about how they are people she knew, some of them even her friends, and yet like this, they are not who they were and killing them is a mercy. And I love her.]
She runs home, upset that Lisa and, presumably, Alex are gone. Her mum is feeling better and out of bed by the time she gets home. Her mum tells her to wash up and then they’ll eat. While Talli’s washing up, her dad gets home, and she’s delighted to see him. Volker arrives seconds later.
“Dad!” she shouted. “It’s him, he’s behind all the trouble!”
Her father smiled at her. “How interesting,” he said. “Let me go get my other suitcase.” He stepped out into the darkness.
Talli’s mother came bustling over to Volker. “How nice to see you again,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”
Volker settled himself on the couch. “I think I’ll kill your daughter,” he said. “And when I’m finished with that, perhaps I’ll kill you, too.”
“Well, I’ll go check the fridge,” said Mrs. McAlister. She walked out of the room.
I kinda hope that this is going to be one of those bleak endings, where mum’s a vampire, and Volker kills dad, and Talli has to kill mum and Volker and her friends are dead and she’s all alone. That’s not going to happen, is it?
Volker says that he’ll leave her parents alone if she agrees to come with him, so she agrees, but before she joins him, she takes a corkscrew off the bar. He says take his hands, and it will start.
She does, and for a moment or two, she gets high off the power, wondering how this can be wrong, because it feels so good. Bits of other lives skip past her vision, and she knows that Volker has fed off all of these people. Then they get to Lisa and Talli remembers how wrong this all is.
She grabs the corkscrew and stabs him in the throat. He collapses and shrivels into nothing.
[Wing: BECAUSE IT IS A SILVER FUCKING CORKSCREW, I LOVE HER FOREVER AND THIS TROPE FOREVER AND OH MY GOD THIS BOOK MAKES ME SO HAPPY.]
Talli watches him – being savvy about how the horror villain always comes back for one last jump scare – but there’s nothing left of him to come back.
Then she goes to her room and cries.
Alex is a vampire. He’s hiding in Volker’s basement.
[Wing: CALLED IT! And since he’s in the deep freeze, you called it too!]
Well, colour me shocked, that was so much better than I expected. Good story, not too many clichés, good friendships, people actively doing stuff, as opposed to sitting in a dark corner, recapping shit that just happened while their BFF accuses them of being “crazy”.
I really enjoyed this. However, I guess I should rag Talli a little for fleeing and leaving Alex alone in a room with a vampire, right after Volker explained that Alex was one of those “open” people that he could either eat or turn. But, eh, screw it. This was a fun romp.
[Wing: I loved the hell out of this book, and don’t blame Talli for running at all. Again, better alive and fighting than dead and useless. She was no help to him there, she tried to get him to move and he wouldn’t, getting away to fight when she has a slightly better chance is the only way to save him.
I am so damn excited about the rest of this series. We’re really starting off the recapping year with a bang.]
Head injury? Walk it off: 1
I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1
McGuffin, ahoy!: 3
8 thoughts on “Books of Blood 1: The Principal by M. C. Sumner”
Well, that was a change of pace. :o) I might actually read that one.
In my area it was PTO when I was in school (80’s, 90’s) but PTA when my daughter went (2000’s). Not that you guys really care about that, but I needed something to say and I’m not interesting like Paul. :o)
I was amazed that this was as good as it was. I’ve been dreading doing this series ever since Hall Pass. Add the fact that it has an awful cover, and Wing had to drag me kicking and screaming. (Or, actually, Wing pointed out she did something like five recaps in a row at some point, and I threw myself on my sword in shame.)
You are definitely interesting, Mimi. You could just recite your shopping list and I’d be interested. 🙂
We think you’re interesting, Mimi!
PTO makes me think of the Patent and Trademark Office every time I see it. That change from PTO to PTA is interesting to me.
I really enjoyed this mini-series back in the day. The 90s YA trilogies were generally just a one-book story tiresomely dragged out over three books (“The Secret Diaries” nearly killed me), but this was the rare exception. M.C. Sumner has done a couple of other YAs I really liked. “Deadly Stranger” is one of my all-time favourites, and “The Evil Child” was silly fun.
Paul, is there any 90s YA you haven’t read? 😉
Also, we have to get you on a podcast soon. I’ll drop you and Wing an email, and we can try to figure out when we’re all free.
Scarily – there’s a lot I haven’t read! I’m currently cataloging everything I own. I’ll send you a list if you’re interested!
I am definitely interested in seeing that list, Paul! And if you keep a list of what you haven’t read, that one too.
Also, I feel like if we’d mentioned the missing book here much earlier, Paul could have told us what it was, and we wouldn’t have spent so much time looking for it. Next time!