Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Title: Teacher’s Pet
Summary: Kate likes a little thrill. She likes a little scare. And she loves getting the chance to go to the exclusive week-long writing conference taught by the famous master of horror himself. He’s so good at being so bad.
With a teacher like that, you expect a little competition. With a teacher like that, you practically have to kill to get his attention.
Does Kate have what it takes to be teacher’s pet?
Tagline: Look at what the cat dragged in…
Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy.
SUPER SPECIAL NOTE: Gemma requested this, so Gemma, this is for you. And I will hold you personally responsible if this is not awesome, ok? (Just kidding, it’s Cusick, there’s no hope of it being awesome.)
[Wing: GEMMA, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.]
[Dove: Wing, don’t shout at our only commenter. We love Gemma. We just really hate this book.]
I know I have read this book. I know I did not enjoy this book. I couldn’t tell you what happened in it. Except there’s a cat. And at one point they think the cat is carrying a hand. Other than that? No clue.
[Wing: I’ve never read this book. My life was better from not reading it, clearly.]
Note: I’ve just realised that I bounce between “ellipses” and “ellipsis” in reference to DotDotDots in this blog. The second is correct. I’m just bad at typing, and because the first is a word, it’s not flagged as an error when I spell check. I’m trying to correct them as I see them, but there will be errors, I guarantee it.
Ellipsis used: 666
EnDashes used: 624
We open with a prologue, all in italics, basically every sentence ends with dot-dot-fucking-dot and we hit our first counter, because it’s a bad guy POV. I’m imagining it all said in a floaty voice, it feels like a female voice, and it has nothing to say, except for William is dead. Whoever he is.
Mwahahahaha!: 1 (Bad guy POV. Double points if the bad guy actually does an evil laugh.)
[Wing: I’ve started a fire, because I can already tell I will want to burn everything before I finish this book.]
The opening line for chapter 1 is:
“I love to be scared,” Kate insisted with a smile. “I’d love to write a book someday that would really terrify people.”
Bwhahahaha! Dream on, Cusick.
Kate Rawlins is our lead, and she is here for the writer’s conference, where awesome horror writer, William Drewe, will be giving lectures… wait, William. That either means the prologue is a flash-forward (fuck you, it’s pointless) [Wing: So fucking pointless.], or William is believed dead and this massive reveal has been saved for the third sentence, which seems un-fucking-likely. Well done, Cusick, you’ve wasted my time again.
Back to Kate, she’s just arrived with Miss Bunceton, who is fat. And judgemental about how ramshackle the building is. Which building? I don’t know, the text doesn’t say. I’ll take a wild stab and assume they mean the train station? *shrug*
She bumps into a “silent stranger who stared down at her. He was tall, with hair and eyes as black as smoke”. And I’m betting she ends up snogging him by the end of the book, after maintaining for 200 pages that he’s somewhere between an asshat and a serial killer. Also, smoke is fucking grey. So with the description that his eyes were as black as smoke, all we’ve established is that his eyes are not black. In other news, this website is as turquoise as a banana. [Wing: Smoke can be black, too. Or white. You have very limited experience with smoke.] [Dove: I smoke cigarettes, that’s my smoke experience.]
Asshat is Pearce Cronan. He suggests Kate immediately go home, since William Drewe is basically the Axl Rose of horror writers, in the sense that he has a habit of no-showing events, and is already late.
Pearce is then obnoxious to them, and Miss Bunceton is patronising in return (calling him “my dear boy”) and then threatens to report him. Kate takes no action at all, other than to shudder when she looks into Pearce’s eyes. I’m calling it now, by the end of the book, they’ll be in love.
He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 1 (The protagonist has spent 200 pages convinced he’s the bad guy, but now we’ve found the real killer, they’re going to start a relationship. Uh-huh.)
Ok, so something even I’ve noticed, Cusick does not bother to describe anything in her opening chapter. She says “train”, and then assumes we can see the train station/town area that she means. She says “retreat” and “cabin” and leaves us to fill in the blanks. And if I’m calling you on your lack of description, something’s very wrong, because I also cannot describe. So, they go to the lodge where people are snacking and mingling, and Kate wants to go to her cabin because she’s tired and everyone seems to know everyone else. Then:
With her eyelids almost closed, she suddenly started up and grabbed for the pinched spot on her arm. What she saw were two owlish gray eyes surrounded by steel-rimmed glasses, staring at her between the leaves of the potted plant.
I’m sorry, but was this Cusick’s first book? It’s bloody awful. I mean, I know that I can understand that Kate drifted off to sleep and snapped awake when someone pinched her, but – wait – the way I just described it actually makes sense. I’m only on chapter one and I’m already losing the will to live.
Anyway, the pincher is called Denzil Doyle, and he looks about thirteen but his voice seems older, he then clarifies that he’s actually eighteen. Good. I can’t deal with any more squick than I’m already used to from Cusick.
“Great! So you really do wanna be a writer! Me, too. It’s my one art I suffer for – otherwise you’d never see me set foot in a kitchen.” Turning toward a pantry, he sidestepped several workers carrying trays and tried to yell over a clatter of dishes. “Hey, Tawney, we’ve found us a soul mate! Oh, Kate” – his voice sank conspiratorially – “Tawney’s okay, just a little – you know.” He made circles with his finger alongside his head, then put his hands behind him and snapped to attention as a tall, pretty girl peeked out. “Tawney, this is Kate. She’s one of us.”
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 (Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)
Nice. I’m sure Tawney is a perfectly nice girl, so fuck you, Denzil. [Wing: I love Tawney.] Also, you used the phrase “soul mate” (admittedly in a sarcastic way, but I need to rant), which I find to be particularly distasteful. This is a Dove personal thing, I get that. I just feel that the idea of “soul mates”, basically eliminates any personal choice in a person’s life. It also implies that anyone who does not find “the one” is somehow either a failure or that they are not worthy for some higher power to pick out the one person in the entire universe that is perfect for them. It also invalidates any personal effort you and your partner make to ensure your relationship works – if you’re supposed to be together, then all those hours you’ve spent learning to work with, rather than against, your partner don’t matter, because, fuck it, you’re soul mates. And then there’s the whole other issue of anyone in a poly relationship. Do they get multiple soul mates? Is one person their soul mate and anyone else is just them being greedy? Is their desire for more than one partner depriving someone out there of their pre-ordained partner? So, yeah, in short, DOVE FUCKING HATES SOUL MATES.
You know what? Tim Minchin covers this better than me.
Right, I’m back. Oh, fuck me, does this book still exist?
Denzil says that Tawney is crazy because she likes poetry. I don’t like poetry, but Tawney loving it doesn’t make her crazy. It makes her someone who has a different interest to me. However…
“I want to be a poet.” Tawney nodded. “I mean, I really want to write poems and things.”
… it doesn’t really seem that Tawney has a way with words. Or, it’s possible that she knows that she’s in a Cusick book, and knows that everyone around her is a bumbling moron. I’m going with the latter. Tawney, you’re my new favourite character.
Until we meet Pet. The cat on the front of the book, she’s a clothes thief. Insert humorous “cat burglar” joke here.
So apparently there’s a welcome bonfire for everyone. Kate quizzes Denzil about the situation, and Tawney stays quiet because she is not important. We learn: Pearce is the caretaker (no update on what colour his eyes actually are); the Drewes own the retreat, and William (the speaker) is an alcoholic – and I’m already calling that he’s the tragic and romantic kind, not like the blundering buffoons that smash stuff, start fights because they’re insecure and fly into a rage over nothing which may or may not culminate in violence – and he lives in a house in the woods, which is off-limits to everyone. Pearce basically runs everything and the Drewes keep to themselves.
Kate asks more about William, and we get this:
“Hey, you really do have a writer’s curiosity, don’t you?” Denzil wiped his hands on his apron and handed Tawney a freshly stocked tray as she went by. “Bring the empty tray back this time, okay?” he reminded her, and then sighed as she gave him a dazzling smile and ran into the wall. “I’m not responsible, okay? if she causes a scene out there, it’s entirely out of my hands.”
No. No, she doesn’t have a writer’s curiosity. She came to the retreat to hear him speak, he apparently lives here, and yet he’s late or something, how does that even happen? I’d want to know if I’d given up my time and the reason I had no-showed. Also, Wing and I consider ourselves writers, and you would be astounded how little we care about shit outside of our lives. Also, WTF is going on with Tawney? I do literally mean that. I have no fucking clue why she has a tray, why it should be empty, why she ran into a wall, anything. I. DO. NOT. UNDERSTAND. THIS. CLUSTERFUCK. OF. WORDS.
(Note from the future: I figured out that Tawney and Denzil work in the kitchen and are allowed to attend classes because of this.)
This is literally the worst book I have ever read. I mean, 50 Shades is more offensive because of the pro-rape message, and Twilight is terrible because it’s boring and long and nothing fucking happens, but I am actually having trouble figuring out what the hell is going on in this dreck.
WING! WHY THE FUCK AM I DOING THIS? WHY AREN’T YOU ONLINE? WHY DOES MY LIFE SUCK? WHEN DID YOU FORSAKE ME?
[Wing: Because she is your nemesis. And you deserve it because you made me go into a fight with Stine.
And I hate you.]
[Dove: Remind me again why we’re best friends. Was everyone else on the planet already taken?]
[Wing: Pretty sure that’s the only explanation that makes sense.]
Motherfuck. That’s three meltdowns and I’m on chapter one. This could well be the book that causes me to drop the C-bomb. Just saying.
Right, so Kate’s assigned cabin 13. Denzil assumes Kate will fall for Pearce (I called it three pages ago). Then Kate and Tawney go outside and Pet is eating some meat from the garbage, and it smells spoiled. And the chapter ends there.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 (Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss me and Wing the hell off.)
Next chapter, Kate’s telling Denzil about it, and he’s mocking her for acting silly. And given the vague and unhelpful description, I can’t blame him. What I read is that the cat was eating some smelly meat from the garbage. I personally would have stopped the cat, because cats are spiteful little fucks and they do stuff like this, not because they’re hungry, but because they want to vomit on something you really enjoy owning, so you must prevent them. Still, this didn’t deserve the cliffhanger, and if it was that big of a deal, the description should have been clearer.
In spite of her mood, Kate laughed. “Why do I get the feeling you’re impossible?”
“Has my reputation preceded me?” Denzil feigned surprise. “Has Tawney been telling you how notorious I am?”
On his other side Tawney turned her attention back to them. “I never said you were glorious. Who’s ever heard of that, anyway, a person being glorious–”
Tawney: her one defining characteristic is that she’s moderately less clever than a toenail clipping. And still I like her better than anyone else so far. For some reason, I like stupid characters. I find in fiction stupid people have an adorable sweetness to them, whereas in real life, they’re more likely to fuck your life up and when they’re done, shrug and say “well, nobody told me not to.”
Tawney, you’re glorious. I’ll tell people.
Anyway, they tell ghost stories (including the hook man one, which lasts about three sentences), and there’s about a bazillion instances of murderers being referred to as “crazy”, and I’m going Wing’s way with this shit and giving it 20. Because, fuck you, Cusick, that’s why.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 21 [Wing: Deserves 100, but I have a feeling I should reserve some numbers for later.]
Anyway, Denzil walks her back to her cabin and once he’s left she thinks she hears someone whispering her name. And that’s another chapter over, complete with a:
Which obviously is not resolved, because fuck that shit, right?
The next morning at breakfast, Kate isn’t hungry because she didn’t sleep well, dreams filled with dripping blood and her name being whispered, and I still don’t care.
“Shame.” Denzil stood over her in his grease-stained apron, trying his best to look stern while Tawney waved from behind his back. “Think of those poor starving children.”
“Oh” – Tawney’s eyes looked worried – “do you know some?”
See what I mean about genuine sweetness? I just want to hang out with Tawney and learn how to be nice or something. I think I want her to write me bad poetry, and I’ll be her badgirl girlfriend, and she’ll come out of her shell and tell Denzil to fuck off, and I’ll learn to be sweet and I’ll deal with all of my fucking issues, and we’ll live happily ever after and Vampire Smile by Kyla La Grange will be our song. [Wing: I called Tawney first. And she likes to skinny dip. She’s mine, Dove. Mine. Good choice of a song, though.] [Dove: Screw that. I had to recap this nonsense. Tawney’s my girlfriend. (*sigh*, I suppose we’ll ask Tawney who she loves best.)]
In other news: that video I just linked? Not something you should watch when functioning on so little sleep you’re already seeing stuff out of the corner of your eye.
Anyway, back to the actual story, they have a sub in for William, and he’s called Gideon Drewe.
Alone in her corner, Kate noticed him at once as he pulled the door shut behind him and paused for a moment to check the time on his pocket watch. He wore jeans and a bulky knit sweater the exact color of his violet eyes, and light brown hair fell stubbornly over his forehead even as he gave it an absentminded swipe with one hand. As Kate tried to study him without being obvious, he began making his way slowly through the room.
His soft features and long-fringed lashes gave him a look of shyness, yet his voice sounded poised and self-assured.
AND WE HAVE A SPECIFICATION ON EYE-COLOUR! Well done, Cusick. You managed to not fuck up this one time. Well, Kate has a wide array of suitors, we have Pearce, who has been a dick for a page, then vanished from the book; we have William, who has not shown up yet, but will be brooding and tragic and “Mmmm, Angel.”; we have Denzil, who has clearly been friend-zoned, not that he knows it; and now we have this specimen. [Wing: I’m noping out of this, because teacher-student is STUPID AND HORRIBLE AND WRONG.]
Then in class, Kate quizzes Denzil on what he knows about Gideon, acting like a complete vapid, love-struck, barely functioning moron. Usually this level of twat-hattery is reserved for the best friend. However, we’ve got Tawney, who’s busy trying to save me from myself, so Kate has to pick up the trait.
Gideon is a crap teacher – Exhibit A
“Perhaps William is dead,” he said softly. “Perhaps… I killed him.”
For a moment there was shocked silence. A gasp of surprise. And then… wary looks and an undercurrent of mutterings.
“So you see,” Gideon went on, moving back to the podium, “now your whole perception of me has changed. You’re wondering what really happened to William and if I really did have something to do with it. You’re wondering if I’m a murderer. You’re wondering if I’m a compulsive liar. You’re wondering,” and his eyes slid over Kate, “if I’m going to kill you, too.” His gaze lingered on her again, and then a slow, faint smile spread over his face. “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is manipulation. As a writer, you can manipulate your reader with fear, just as I’ve manipulated you this morning.”
I didn’t believe you for a second, I assumed it was part of your teaching shtick, and if any of the people in your class fell for it, then you guys have no right to mock Tawney. In fact, I don’t think you do anyway. She seems really sweet, just a bit literal, which is interesting for a poet. Oh my god, she’s so complex. Wing, I’m marrying her.
Kate decides Gideon is “wonderful”, because her vagina is making her decisions for her. Denzil decides Gideon is “nuts”, because everyone in this fucking story has an ablest attitude.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 22
It is then revealed that Kate’s teacher submitted a story to the Drewes without her permission, and then Gideon keeps her back after class, to schedule a highly inappropriate date an opportunity to discuss her writing. Denzil is jealous, but Kate doesn’t get it, he basically tells her Gideon’s been giving her “fuck me” eyes all class, and Kate is clueless. Oh good, another female character with no concept of sex. Thank god. I was just thinking we needed less women to own their sexuality.
There’s a bit of Tawney-bashing, then there’s a quick discussion about how over the summer, Gideon was the subject of a student’s obsession, she told everyone they were going to run away together. Then one day she was gone. (Tawney wrote two poems about it, one was called “An Unlikely Pair and the Great Affair”, the other I don’t know because Denzil cut her off.) Denzil says some people thought it was suicide.
Then Tawney, because she’s stupid, realises she’s put too much soap in the dishwasher, and as soapy carnage unfolds, Kate slips out and goes for a walk, because fuck helping her friends, right? Anyway, Pet is on the trail with a hand in her mouth.
Chapter end, and I won’t give points for “Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!”, because a cat with a hand in its mouth is a good place to end. We then cut to Kate with Denzil and Tawney in tow, and obviously there is neither a cat nor a hand to be seen, and Denzil points out it was probably a glove – and guess what? Cusick managed to describe it to the point where I believe Kate saw a hand, not a glove – she clearly described it as “one horrible glimpse of stringy red meat and dull white bone”. Not just a glove. Finally, in this case, I actually understand what the narrative is trying to convey. WELL FUCKING DONE!
Denzil suddenly decides this is Kate and Tawney playing a joke on him after he told the hook man urban legend.
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 1 (When the protagonist experiences something genuinely frightening, such as finding a corpse, or that someone has been in their room while they were home alone, and it is treated as an attention-seeking prank. Or, when something is done that is written off as a prank or a joke, but is actually pretty damned spiteful.)
“Yeah, okay.” He wagged a finger at them and laughed. “Okay, you two. But I’ll get you back! Two can play this game!”
“But there’s three of us.” Tawney frowned, confused. “And I don’t even know what we’re playing.”
Also, Tawney? Far too literal for practical jokes.
Then when Denzil leaves, and after Tawney invites Kate swimming, Kate suddenly decides that it’s Denzil playing a joke on her. And you two have the nerve to rag on Tawney’s intelligence level?
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 2
We then recap the fact that Kate fancies Gideon, because we hadn’t fucking noticed before.
This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 1 (Recap! Recap! Recap! Something happened last chapter. Tell us about it! Tell it again. Then tell it one more time. Because otherwise we’ll forget.)
Then Kate goes swimming in a secret place only Tawney and Denzil know about.
“I know!” Tawney hung over the rock, grinning down at her. “Let’s skinny-dip!”
“What!” Kate burst out laughing. “We can’t do that!”
“Sure we can!”
“No, we can’t. What if someone comes along and sees us?”
Tawney’s eyes widened, her face going serious. “Oh, but they won’t. I do it all the time, and nobody’s ever seen me.”
“But, Tawney, how do you know?” Kate shook her head in amusement. “They might have been hiding – just look at all these trees around here.”
“No, they wouldn’t.” Tawney sighed matter-of-factly. “Nobody would look at me. Nobody ever looks at me.”
“I don’t believe that. You’re so pretty.”
“No, I’m not. But I think…” she cocked her head, considering, “that I have a nice spirit.”
Yes, Tawney, you do. And it makes you pretty.
Kate then turns the conversation to Gideon, and we learn nothing new, but they do discuss how handsome he is. It’s kind of like Twilight in that the protagonist is a boring little non-entity who claims to have dreams and ambitions, but mostly just obsesses over boys, and I hate every word.
Tawney then strips, and Kate decides she may as well too. Sadly, no lesbian love scene happens. Instead one sentence conveys the passage of time, and as they get ready to leave, Kate notices a shadow on the shore, and it’s holding an axe.
The shadow vanishes, but Tawney now can’t find their clothes. Denzil shows up, and after being an ass for longer than is comfortable, he starts looking around for their clothes. He finds Kate’s stuff slashed. Kate says it was done by an axe, and Denzil gets to be rightly incredulous when he points out that an axe is not the weapon of choice for fabric-slashing.
Kate then explodes, deciding that Denzil is to blame for everything in the whole world ever. (Quick question: would Kate and Martha be BFFs or blame each other for all the shit in their lives?) She posits the theory that Denzil gave a glove filled with meat to Pet, managed to successfully get a fucking cat to find his intended victim, then he waited for her to freak out, crossed his fingers that she and Tawney would decide to go swimming, then cross his fingers again that they’d skinny dip, and then he stood by the shore with an axe, and then he disappeared, stole their clothes, slashed Kate’s clothes, and then turned up in time to search for the clothes and offer Kate his shirt so she doesn’t have to do a very cold walk of shame.
Denzil no-sells Kate’s brilliant theory, and all three of them suggest there’s a “crazy person” wandering around, and then Denzil refers to them as “hysterical women”. Cusick, why? Why must you do this? Stop hating women – every book you write has a designated good guy refer to women in this way. Fuck you.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 23
Kate heads back to her cabin and reaches into her pocket for her key, and is shocked that it’s not there. Except, obv, she’s wearing Denzil’s shirt, so why on earth would her key be in there anyway. She moseys back towards the lake to find her key – because that’ll be easy in the dark. Inevitably she gets lost, and bumps into this:
The thing standing before her was dressed all in black, long black skirts trailing limply in the grass a long black veil swathing the body… the head… the hidden eyes.
“My God,” Kate mumbled, “who are you?”
“I’m Rowena.” The visage swayed a little, blending itself into the cover of trees and shadows and fathomless night. “And you’re Kate. Kate… Kate… doomed to your fate.”
We all know I like twee little rhymes, but this pisses me off. I’ll accept shit like that in Robert Swindells’ Room 13, because: (a) it’s a work of fucking genius; and (b) it’s aimed at younger kids. And I’ll accept it in notes, because it makes it easier for any adult to use the “Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks” trope. But in actual speech? Nope. People who talk in rhyme to be scary just sound really fucking lame. I NEED TO STAB THINGS. I’M NOT EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH THIS SHITE.
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 500 (When the bad guy leaves whimsical notes for no apparent reason. Possibly he or she only does it to piss Wing off.FUCKING RHYMES!) Yes, I’m going to use Wing’s random method of assigning points. [Wing: Yay! Doesn’t it make you feel better to just slam the author with points? At least a little?] [Dove: It’s about as effective as rubbing Savlon on a corpse.]
Page and a half of dialogue condensed into one paragraph: “He fancies you. I have secrets. Stay here and learn them, but don’t tell anyone about me,” and “No, thank you, I find you creepy, but I absolutely won’t mention that I met you.”
Kate runs away from her and Denzil and Tawney show up, looking for her. Kate says she was looking for her keys, they point out the keys are either lost in the weeds or the mysterious axe man took them. And then Denzil reads her mind and pre-emptively reminds her that he didn’t stalk her/steal clothes/slash clothes, etc.
They head to the lodge and notice Pearce.
“He undresses me with his eyes,” Tawney said, her own eyes going bigger. “It’s not a very nice feeling.”
Denzil gave her a skeptical look. “More like he’s undressing your mind. You have nothing to worry about.”
“Oh,” Tawney breathed, “good. That’s a relief.”
“Denzil!” Kate scolded.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he said innocently. “How can I hurt her feelings if she doesn’t even get the joke?”
Tawney stared at him. “What joke?”
Let’s just take it as read that every time Tawney is around, someone is mean to her, usually Denzil, but despite Kate agreeing that Tawney has “a good spirit”, she never does more than make a token effort to chastise Denzil for being mean about her. In fact, let’s just assign 10 points on this, because constant spite in conversations is actually cruel, regardless of whether or not Tawney notices.
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 12
Then Tawney and Denzil leave. I swear to god, Kate only goes places to meet them in order to have her walk home alone in the dark. Anyway, she bumps into Pearce in the shadows, mentions that her key is missing, and he’s all threatening, and I’m not buying for one second that he’s the bad guy. [Wing: Well…] [Dove: Just saying that this trope is so overdone that I don’t buy it, even when it’s not a lie.]
Red Herrings: 1 (Fairly obvious, but in Point Horror, there’s basically a neon sign above them stating “sinister as fuck”.)
Kate then goes for her meeting with Gideon, and he showers her with compliments, talks like an upper middle class British gent, and is somewhat sinister. Remember Twilight? Yeah, this was probably what inspired it. Only piece of interesting (and I use that term in the loosest possible fashion) information in there? William did not write a book, Gideon wrote it and it was published under William’s name. No reason is given for this.
“We were a very creative family. My parents were in the theater, and we used to write and act out plays at home.” He guided her around a fallen log, smiling at the memory. “William had the ego, the self-centeredness. He loved to show off. Pearce – oh, yes, we go way back – he was superb at imitation… he could look and sound like anyone and anything. His parents worked for mine – his father was our caretaker and his mother was our cook – but he was like a brother to me. More a brother to me than William ever was…”
His voice faded, some long-ago emotion softening it even more. “How grand we were then. How very ignorant of our mortality.” He plucked a dead leaf, crunching it between his fingers. “My parents died in an accident. Pearce’s parents had gone to pick them up from the airport, and it was raining. They came to a railroad crossing guard that wasn’t working. All four of them were killed instantly.”
Two things: 1) Pearce and Gideon are in love and hiding it very badly; and 2) oh good, now we have the fucking tragic reason that William turned to alcohol. Is there nothing more sexy than a man who cannot face his problems and turns into a self-indulgent fuckwit, while leaving his younger brother to grieve alone? [Wing: Dove, we haven’t even seen William in this book. Why do you care so much?] [Dove: Romanticised alcoholics piss me off.]
Pearce is an “excellent craftsman… excellent with his hands”, according to Gideon. [Wing: Bowchickawawa.] The slash is so heavy nobody will ever notice the same word used twice in a three word span. Honest. Those ellipsis will hide it. Add that to his talent to mimic, and we’ve got Rowena. Not that Kate gets it, she just thinks Rowena is one of William’s “horror groupies”. No, seriously, that’s how they’re described.
Kate describes her writing process: “I’m not that good at plotting. I sort of put things down when they come into my mind.” Which totally explains why this book is such a clusterfuck of confusion.
They snog, they think they’re being followed, they find the other glove and Kate assumes it’s Denzil. BECAUSE GLOVES ARE FUCKING FRIGHTENING! RUN AWAY! IT’S THE ATTACK OF THE GLOVES! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
She and Denzil argue, and I’m not pointing out how stupid this is one more fucking time. However, I will give it a recap count, because I’m sick of typing the same things over and over.
This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 11
Yeah, I gave it 10 points. What of it?
“That glove must have some kind of meaning to Gideon for him to act that way.”
“He said he knew it,” Kate said seriously. “Whatever that means. He really wanted me out of there in a hurry.”
Gideon and the glove are old friends. In fact, they had a dalliance in college. It was quite the romance. Seriously, Cusick, do you never read your stuff aloud to check how stupid it sounds?
So, Kate, Tawney and Denzil go into town, and just as they’re about to leave, they see Pearce and Gideon get into a shouting match and then Gideon brandishes the glove, and then they leave. I believe they’re proposing a threesome with the glove.
Denzil, dickhead that he is, suddenly decides to be the voice of reason, and points out that it’s somewhat strange for this level of angst to come about because SOMEONE FOUND A FUCKING GLOVE WITHOUT AN OWNER IN THE WOODS. BECAUSE THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE EVER. NOBODY IN THE WORLD HAS EVER BEEN OFF HIKING AND SEEN A SOLITARY GLOVE ON THE TRAIL BEFORE. IT SO FUCKING UNUSUAL.
They decide it’s William’s glove, and Denzil asks if it was a hand was in the other glove, where the fuck is the rest of William? [Wing: William is in all of us. This is a cannibal joke, if you haven’t seen Criminal Minds 03×08 “Lucky”.]
Tawney wasn’t present for the conversation about William being dead, because she’s a tender fucking flower and/or too stupid to follow the conversation, so she was sent to the bathroom. I will take back every single, wait, no, well… I will take back 8% of the hatred I have slung at this book if Tawney’s the killer. And I’ll still marry her. And listen to her poetry. [Wing: Tawney is mine. We are off killing people with poetry.]
Right, I’m on page 10 of this recap and I’m getting nowhere fast. YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS, BITCHES? BULLET POINT TIME!
- Someone breaks into Kate’s cabin, ransacks only her stuff and writes “Teacher’s Pet” on the mirror. They leave blood in the shower.
“Who knows what someone might be thinking, Kate? You can’t always tell a crazy person by his face.”
“So you really think a crazy person did this?” She looked startled.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 33 – Yes, I gave it another 10. I’M ANGRY. “can’t always tell a crazy person by his face”. Like sometimes you can. Sometimes you can just look at a person and accurately diagnose mental illness. [Wing: STABS.]
- Pearce randomly turns up, gives Kate a key and she “felt the hidden strength in his upturned palm.” Fuck you, stupid description. Just fuck you.
- Bad Guy POV. Nothing new. Every sentence ends with an ellipse. Mwahahahaha!: 2
- Kate takes a class with Gideon. It’s dull. Everyone gets an assignment to go somewhere specified by Gideon and describe it. Yeah, like that won’t end in tears. Kate waits after class, all love-struck and concerned.
His hands were on her shoulders, paralyzed, and Kate winced from their unexpected strength.
“Ouch, Gideon, you’re hurting me–”
“I’m sorry.” And suddenly his voice was distracted, his body moving quickly toward the door. “Forgive me, Kate, but I’m afraid something has come up.”
Insert penis joke here.
- Then Gideon goes and argues with Pearce. Is Kate his fluffer or something?
- Kate goes on her walk to the place where Gideon assigned her. Please let her get killed now. Sadly, Miss Bunceton, her teacher, tags along and they reach a place that inspires Miss Bunceton, she settles down and utters these choice phrases:
“The wounded hero lying there, suffering, while the heroine ministers to his needs?”
As Kate shook her head in amusement, the woman added, “A stoic hero, mind you – one who would never want his weaknesses and vulnerabilities known to a woman!”
And at this point, I invent a new counter:
Misogyny is for pussies: 20 (Ah, fuck wimmin, right? I mean, they’re only good for being hysterical weird creatures. It’s not like they’re people or anything.)
Yes, I gave it 20, because of all of the shit that has gone before it. I was giving it 10, then I remembered the author is a woman herself, and doubled it, for enabling this shit.
- Kate carries on alone, and finds Peace, who steps into a steel trap and he hits the ground. He tells her to get Gideon, but Kate decides to stay where she is. Excellent. She’s just the person I’d want in a crisis, you know, if Martha wasn’t available. And I was fucking stupid.
“You’ll have… to pull,” his breath choked out. “You’ll have – to – pull hard–”
“Yes, yes, I’ll pull, just show me what to do.”
Is anyone else getting flashbacks to Forever by Judy Blume? If you only read the dialogue of this scene, it’s kind of porny.
- Kate manages to remove the trap and then ties his wound up with a hankie, then says that all is well because Miss Bunceton is further down the trail and will send for help if Kate doesn’t return. Of course, I reckon Miss Bunceton will be too busy imagining misogynistic porn, but let’s hope anyway.
- Kate takes a concussion seriously (Pearce whacked his head when he fell). I’m shocked. And sort of impressed. No, actually, I’m very impressed. Concussions are serious business.
- Kate kisses Pearce (called it). He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 2
- Gideon rocks up with Denzil and Tawney (presumably, the only other people at the retreat?), and Pearce is saved! Yay! (Who cares?)
- Kate finds a watch, and assumes it’s Gideon’s and it fell off while he was helping Pearce. I’m thinking it fell off when he set the steel trap, but I say this as a person whose ladyparts don’t quiver every time he’s around, so I may be a little more unbiased than Kate. The watch is engraved “To Gideon… Love, Rowena”. Even the fucking engravings ABUSE PUNCTUATION!
- Miss Bunceton is not going to be around for the rest of the book because she has poison ivy. Convenient, now Kate’s alone. [Wing: And yet, despite all the attacks, she continues to not stay with Tawney. I mean, eventually she does, but it takes forever and way too many threats.]
- Kate feels that Gideon and Rowena must have been laughing at her the whole time, so she asks Denzil where Gideon lives so she can return the watch. Awesome, this means we’re into the grand finale, and if Cusick keeps wasting pages and pages with unattributed dialogue, I might finish this fucking monstrosity of a recap in a few more pages! (Note from the future: Nope.)
- Denzil asks to see the watch, Kate says no, he pulls the watch out of her jeans pocket. Yet again, no means yes in these books. On the other hand, in Denzil’s defence, Kate is acting like a stalker with a crush in this scene. On the other other hand (just go with it, she says, quoting Wing) Denzil clearly has a thing for Kate and has been jealous of her attraction to Gideon, so ultimately the message is still creepy.
- Kate goes alone to Gideon’s house. Good thing she had the above exchange with Denzil, so everyone can rock up and save her when he inevitably tries to kill her. It is described thusly:
It looked like a funeral parlor.
As her shocked eyes swept over the black-draped canopy bed to the black-skirted vanity table, she sagged weakly back against the wall. Everything in the room was black – bedspread, curtains, a pile of clothes dropped carelessly upon the floor, even the walls – and though the air was chilled and damp, an overpowering smell of dried flowers hung in the air.
Stunned, Kate’s gaze went to the nightstand. A vase of dead roses stood beside a black velvet ribbon. A wreath of dead vines entwined with black streamers and black lace hung upon the wall. A sampler, cross-stitched with black thread, lay half finished upon a chair: YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH… death… death… death…
Just FYI, Dove used to work for a funeral director, and this is nothing like it. First of all, the viewing room was not a bedroom. Second of all, nothing in the room was black, we leant towards light colours, beiges, whites, and pale blues, and we kept it aired out, because life is hard enough on the recently bereaved, without being sickened by the stench of old flowers. No quotes from the bible anywhere because death comes to us all, not just the Christians. The above description is probably an accurate representation of an Evanescence fan’s bedroom circa 2001. [Wing: I love how the cross-stitch has echoes. That takes work. Impressive.]
- Gideon finds Kate there. He tries to make her leave, she asks who Rowena is. He reveals that Rowena was his sister and she died a year ago.
- They used to have a game of talking in rhyme, Rowena was best at it. Kate says she’s seen her. Gideon hurries her out of the house, and Kate bumps into Denzil, who is always handily around whenever she needs him.
- They follow Gideon to Rowena’s grave, and they find a veil on a tree. Nothing happens.
- They talk. Nothing happens.
- Kate goes to sleep. She wakes up and peers out of the window to see a face looking in on her, she thinks it’s Gideon.
- She tells Denzil, then rationalises that Gideon didn’t do anything, so the stalking’s the totally hot kind, and not the creepy illegal kind.
- Tawney burns down the kitchen while making muffins and because she’s not allowed back in she pens a poem entitled “Muffin Madness, My Early Morning Sadness”. She’ll read it at our wedding, and you guys will listen politely and not make her feel bad or I will cut each and every one of you.
- Kate visits Miss Bunceton, who is in the hospital, then listens in as Gideon visits with Pearce. Rowena died in a fire, William didn’t see the body because he was too burned up and still in the hospital, Gideon wasn’t around, but Pearce was there, and maintains that she was buried. They have some kind of argument, but I’m not really sure what about, and Gideon storms out, bumping into Kate. Pearce advises her to stay away from both himself and Gideon.
- She asks about Rowena and Pearce says she and Gideon were “Closer than anyone could guess.”, then adds that Rowena would be jealous of Gideon’s interest in Kate. Incest is relative: 2
- Denzil tells Kate that the girl who was obsessed with Gideon died in a fire. Which is an interesting and in no way question-raising way to commit suicide. And last time they spoke about it, they only speculated she’d died, mostly people believed she’d run away. Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 (Because why stick to what was said last chapter? Or even last sentence. Make it up as you. If your lead character says it, it MAKES IT SO!)
- Gideon cancels class, Kate goes for a walk in the woods and finds him cutting down a tree. WITH AN AXE. He then says the axe gives him power. Instead of finding this sinister, Kate swoons and changes the subject. DED FROM STUPID: 1 (Exactly what it says on the tin. If you do not understand this trope, then you are the cause of this trope.)
- Exposition: William was a jealous prick, and tormented Rowena. He hated Pearce because he believed Pearce was “beneath” him. Pearce and Rowena were in love. William tried to keep Pearce away, but he wouldn’t leave without Rowena. They tried to run away, but William “did something to their car” (that’s all the info we get) and Pearce was in a coma for days. Gideon tried to bribe William to back off, saying William could put his name on Gideon’s book if he stopped. And yeah, that didn’t work, so while Pearce and Gideon were away, Rowena set a fire to kill William and instead killed herself.
- Kate returns back to the main lodge to a note written in rhyme stating that she’s next. I mean, nothing’s fucking happened to anyone but her, so yeah, we already got that. Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 501 and This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 12
- They then have to fucking discuss it, and Denzil makes a couple of “crazy” digs given all the grief Gideon has in his life. This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 112 and Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 133. Yes, I did just give them 100 points each. I’M BEING WING! [Wing: *preens*]
- Then Kate walks back to her cabin alone, and that’s the fucking problem with this book. Something happens, Kate talks it over with Denzil, then she walks away by herself and something happens again, and I WANT OFF THIS SICK CYCLE CAROUSEL!
- Kate bumps into Tawney, they think they’re being followed, then Denzil shows up, then he leaves, then Tawney implies (in her clueless way) that Denzil is evil.
- Kate bums a lift with Gideon to the hospital where she visits Miss Bunceton, then Pearce with Gideon. Gideon finds the rhyming note and Pearce admits that Rowena is alive, and then outs her as being “insane” and that William and Gideon kept her locked up because of this, also, Gideon was Rowena’s twin. Rowena killed William. Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 143
- Back at the camp, Gideon tells her to stay away from him and Pearce, so she lurks around and waits for Denzil and Tawney. Once Tawney is out of the way, she recaps everything. Again. This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 122 and, obviously, Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 153
- There is a horror hunt going on today, and Denzil and Kate decide the safest thing to do is join that. After all, when there’s someone who wants you dead, you’ll want to make it easier for them by wandering off to isolated areas in the woods, where it’s hard to run for your life, and, I have no doubt, this will take place in the dark. DED FROM STUPID: 501. Yes, I gave it 500 points for this. I AM WING! [Wing: *PREENS*]
- The horror hunt sounds awesome, they’re given cryptic lists, and each item is worth a certain amount of points, and the group with the most points after two hours wins. I’d love to do this with Wing and our partners. The last item on the list is “teacher’s pet” (not really very cryptic), and Tawney points out they mean the cat, but Kate freaks out.
- A bit into the hunt, they notice smoke, and it turns out Kate’s cabin is on fire. Kate tries to go in – why? Bunceton’s in the hospital, there’s nobody in there. Why kill yourself for a few items you brought with you on a retreat? DED FROM STUPID: 511
- Denzil heads off to call the fire department and tells them to wait for him. Kate immediately heads off towards Gideon’s house with Tawney in tow.
- Gideon is the bad guy. Or maybe not. I swear I read chapter 19 three times, and given how vague it is, I can’t figure out what happened. I’m really hoping Wing can explain chapter 19 to me. It ends with Kate being strangled by “Rowena” (whether it is Rowena or just Gideon/Pearce/Denzil/Tawney/the fucking cat dressed up as Rowena is still unclear).
- Kate wakes up tied to a bed (kinky). It is actually Rowena, and her motivation is that Kate wants both Gideon and Pearce, and that Rowena needs at least one of them to take care of her, but neither love her anymore because she’s all ugly and burned. Wait, no, it’s not Rowena. There’s a second when it might be Gideon, but it’s actually Pearce. Well, fuck. I got that one wrong, didn’t I?
- Actual motivation: Pearce set the fire that killed Rowena. He didn’t know that William had locked her in her room. And now Pearce-as-Rowena is going to burn Kate to death.
- Gideon to the rescue with “the real” Rowena in tow (betting this is Tawney in costume), threatens to kill her if Pearce doesn’t stop. There’s three sentences of fisticuffs, in which Pearce escapes.
- It is Tawney in costume. Denzil is there and he knocked Pearce out. CONCUSSIONS, PEOPLE, THEY MATTER. Also, Kate now kisses him, so… Denzil got the girl?
- PEARCE IS CRAZY – ROWENA WAS CRAZY – THE CRAZY MADE THEM DO IT! Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1,153 (1,000 points awarded) [Wing: BURN EVERYTHING I SEE WHY THEY SET THINGS ON FIRE MY CRAZY MAKES ME WANT TO BURN THE AUTHOR. BURN HER.]
- Final chapter is a round-up as follows:
- Denzil spearheaded the rescue mission, every bit of the plan was his idea.
- Gideon admits to stalking Kate for her own good. And Kate’s ok with that. And I’m not ok with that.
- No, Denzil didn’t get the girl, and neither did Gideon, Kate’s keeping her options open – good for you, Kate. And Tawney’s writing a poem about it called, “Passion’s Wooing Takes Persistent Doing” – good for you, Tawney.
- Denzil ruins any good favour he had with me by stating he will track her down and no place is big enough for her to hide. Stalking is SEXY.
AND WE’RE FINALLY FUCKING DONE.
Ok, some things I will say about this book:
- While I made note of some prevalent tropes in this series, I did not know who the Bad Guy was.
- However, that’s only partly because the characterisation was better than most. It was also partly because the description was the worst of the series, and at some points I couldn’t easily follow what the hell was going on. [Wing: Right? And since very little was actually happening, I don’t understand how she could have made it so confusing.]
- Cusick’s problem in this book (aside from punctuation abuse, abelist language and woman-hating) is that her dialogue is quite good – not quote-worthy, but she manages to convey what she wants. Her description falls somewhere between completely absent and woefully confusing.
- There was an infuriating cycle of events was never deviated from: Event; Kate finds Denzil to discuss; Kate walks home alone; event; repeat until the end of the book. The lack of variation just made it impossible to care. There was nothing interesting going on.
- I will give it props that it’s probably the best idea for a book Cusick has churned out, and I didn’t call everything before it happened (check how many times I was wrong), so it wins on those points. However, it’s just awful. I didn’t care, I couldn’t get into it, and lots of it was confusingly written. So it’s yin and yang, well done for surprising me every so often, however, this book really needs an editor. [Wing: For once, it could have been an awesome story, but then she got ahold of it, and failed.]
[Wing: This is the strangest writers’ retreat ever. There are basically no classes, no one is actually supervising the underage student, and people keep swimming and hiking and riding horses. It really sounds more like summer camp than a writers’ retreat.]
In honour of Rowena’s game of talking in rhyme, I will summarise in her favourite format:
I just finished Teacher’s Pet
much to my regret
Punctuation was abused
Suspense was misused
This is by far the worst Point Horror yet.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1
DED FROM STUPID: 511
He’s the killer! He’s the killer! He’s … my LOVAH!: 2
Incest is relative: 2
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1,153
Misogyny is for pussies: 20
Oh you wacky kids, with your hi-jinks and your pranks: 12
Red Herrings: 1
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’m going to fucking kill you: 500
This recap is sponsored by the WWE: 122
Total: 2,328 – beat that, Wing!
[Wing: Already did. “World of Fail: 1 billion”. Loser.]
7 thoughts on “Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick”
Yay! Thank you and I’m sorry, Dove. I think the reason I liked this aged 11 was the setting, which sounded exciting and obviously distracted me from the punctuation abuse.
Even when I was reading your recap I knew it was Gideon who did it so I was amazed anew that it was Pearce – I don’t know why that won’t stick in my head! I have this on my bookshelf so I’m going to give it another try.
And you’ve reminded me that I never did re-read Room 13 so I’m definitely going to track that down.
Hi Gemma, sorry it took so long to get through it. And for some reason, even longer to post it. Not sure what happened there.
It was a good idea for a book, but it was a bit of a mess in execution. As I’ve said, it was the first time I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was, because there were enough red herrings floating around that actually worked, unlike something like The Lifeguard, where there’s only one guy who behaves in a mean way, so it cannot be him.
Definitely hunt down Room 13. I keep toying with the idea of recapping it, but I love it so much it probably won’t be fun to do, just pages of me (and Wing chiming in) yelling “OMG, I LOVE THIS BOOK!”
I see nothing wrong with that. I will join you. 🙂
Excellent recap as always. I actually have this book sitting on my shelf. I think Kate and Martha would have been BFFFL. Connor is still too good for any of them.
I like to believe there’s a support group for post-PH survivors, and every time a protagonist walks in, the IQ in the room drops by about 100 points. They sit around drinking coffee, talking about their problems and, in the case of Martha, blaming everyone else. Connor probably just accompanies her and puts up with it. Maybe she and Kate met there and became BFFs.
Few years late to the site but you guys have cracked me up. Thanks for all the recaps – I’m using them to decide whether or not I track copies down to give to my brat.
And I’m totally with you on Cusick.
Aww, thank you! And never too late for ridiculousness like this. Do let us know what your brat thinks of what you give them.