Who Killed the Homecoming Queen? or “A Cautionary Tale About Playing Practical Jokes”
I am very open about hating practical jokes, because they are extremely unintelligent, and just plain mean. This book exemplifies how wrong things can go:
Tania is Eva’s best friend. Tania is perfect, beautiful, popular, adored by men, has the cute quarterback as a boyfriend, her mother just married a wonderful rich man and they moved into a mansion and she has a cute supportive stepbrother who matches her back. (Sidenote: after reading the exposition, my immediate reaction was – the stepbrother did it. It just seemed so likely. But that plot has already been played.) On top of being perfect, Tania is really nice and grateful for everything she has, and is a wonderful friend. Clearly she cannot live.
Evan, through whom the story is told, is the generic sidekick and the only thing to note about her is she has a huge crush on Tania’s stepbrother, Jeremy. Oh, and she’s “psychic” and gets feelings about stuff. Much more interesting is Leslie, Tania’s arch-rival and all around bitch. At least she goes for what she wants. The cast is rounded out with Sandy, Tania’s Ken-doll boyfriend, Keith, the creepy filmmaker obsessed with Tania, and Cherise, the slut.
It begins with Tania winning Homecoming Queen, to no one’s surprise. I’m not really sure what a homecoming queen is, I assume it’s something the Americans made up when they gave up royalty because they missed the titles and elitism. Anyways, it’s a big popularity thing, awesome to win. The only person missing from the crowning is Sandy, who is macking on Cherise under the bleachers. Classic. Could you have picked a better time, Sandy, then in fact during your girlfriend’s crowning? This is witnessed by Eva, who is horrified, and Leslie, who is delighted. Eva emotes about how she must tell her friend, without letting Leslie tell her first meanly. Many opportunities arise, but Eva keeps on bitching out.
Meanwhile, Keith is filming a movie called Who Killed the Homecoming Queen? about a quarterback, played by Sandy, who murders his homecoming queen girlfriend, played by Tania, after she discovers him cheating on her. There are numerous scenes where she tells him off for cheating, and he strangles her … and CUT! It was for the film! Cute R. L., but you do it, like, three times. Finally, life follows fiction, and Sandy’s a little too rough on Tania, and kills her … FOR REALS. They freak out and call the cops. Leslie is also there, watching spitefully from the sidelines. Unfortunately, the body disappears. This is all pretty suspect, as the police tell them skeptically. Except then Leslie makes a break for it, claiming she was afraid of the cops. Because all innocent white homecoming court girls are afraid of the cops, Leslie, good one.
Everyone seems shocked that she’s disappeared, but Eva’s spidey-senses are tingling, and she knows someone is lying. Sandy then admits it was all a practical joke he and Tania were playing on everyone else. She would act like she was dead, then pop up and say boo, or something. Hilarious! Only she wasn’t supposed to disappear. So it’s less ‘Who Killed the Homecoming Queen?’ and more ‘Who Stole the Homecoming Queen’s Fake-Dead Body?’
Tania stays disappeared for several days, causing mounting disquiet in Shadyside. Jeremy thinks it’s Sandy – because he overheard Sandy and Cherise plotting to murder Tania. Um, that’s a pretty big clue, Jeremy, glad that only came out now. Eva doesn’t want to tell the cops, because it would get Sandy and Cherise in trouble. Well, yes Eva, that’s kinda the point, in trouble for murder. Eva decides to talk to murderess Cherise, to accuse her of murder, but while she’s there a threatening call comes in, saying the caller killed Tania, and would kill you next – unsure if you means Eva or Cherise.
Meanwhile, Leslie is being her usual lovely self and wants Tania’s part in the film – and gets snotty when she’s turned down. Next thing you know, she’s covered in blood. Kind of makes you think … hmmmm? But she claims her mirror shattered and sprayed her with glass, cutting her face. A metaphor to remind us of the evils of vanity, or gratuitous blood scene? We’ll never know, because right aways Eva finds Sandy’s corpse in her locker, stabbed to death and covered with blood. Hmmm …
Everyone gathers at Eva’s house. Thing is, though, none of these people are actually friends. Cherise is just around because she was screwing Sandy, who is now dead. Keith is a random creepy film guy, and nobody likes Leslie. While they’re all there, another threatening message comes in for Eva: First Tania, then Sandy, now you! But if they’re all there, who could it be? Let’s see, who’s missing …?
Eva is almost killed by falling off the bleachers, and who should turn up right away after but Tania! They’re happy to see her, until she tells them it was a practical joke. Nobody laughs. Tania reveals she did it to get back at them because they all knew her boyfriend was a cheating bastard, but none of them told her. I think faking your death is a fair reaction. Jeremy was in on it the whole time. Only, Sandy wasn’t supposed to die. And Tania had made the threatening phone calls – even after Sandy died! That’s cold.
Eva gets a terrible feeling that Cherise is in trouble. Jeremy killed Sandy out of anger for hurting his stepsister, and now it’s Cherise’s turn! They rush to Cherise’s house, to find Cherise shrieking and clutching a knife. Only, apparently Eva’s feelings are a little off. Jeremy is actually trying to get away from her, and Cherise covers it up when she is caught. Cherise is the real murderess, and admits it in front of all of them. All because of another practical joke Sandy and Keith were playing on her. Sandy was only pretending to like Cherise, for the sake of another film, the plot of which Sandy pretends to like Cherise, screws her a lot, then tells her it was all a joke on camera. That’s … pretty appalling. I’m not saying murder is okay, per se, but there must be some situations where it is understandable. It’s not really clear who was in on that “joke”, but Cherise decided to kill them all to be thorough. I say, fair enough. Sometime practical jokes can kill.
A note on the cover – this happens never in the book, but did happen on an episode of Buffy. At first, I thought the homecoming queen was tied to the chair with crepe paper. And if you can’t get away from the evil mastermind who tied you up with crepe paper, you probably deserve what you get. But now I think it’s just high school dance decoration, so that’s okay.