Crazy for You

Wednesday morning, and I am awake ridiculously early. I actually woke up just before four, but stayed in bed until six–at which point I got out of bed and figured might as well be productive instead of just laying here staring at the alarm clock. It’s also my long day at the office, but c’est la vie. It is what it is. If anything, I should sleep really well tonight, at the very least.

I didn’t read any short stories yesterday, alas, as I spent most of my weekend reading Karen McManus’ One of Us Is Lying, a huge phenomenal bestselling young adult novel that’s being adapted as a TV mini-series, a la Thirteen Reasons Why.

Scan

Bronwyn

Monday, September 24, 2:55 pm.

A sex tape. A pregnancy scare. Two cheating scandals. And that’s just this week’s update. If all you knew of Bayview High was Simon Kelleher’s gossip app, you’d wonder how anyone found time to go to class.

“Old news, Bronwyn,” says a voice over my shoulder. “Wait till you see tomorrow’s post.”

Damn. I hate getting caught reading About That, especially by its creator. I lower my phone and slam my locker shut. “Whose lives are you ruining next, Simon?”

Simon falls into step beside me as I move against the flow of students heading for the exit. “It’s a public service,” he says with a dismissive wave. “You tutor Reggie Crawley, don’t you? Wouldn’t you rather know he has a camera in his bedroom?”

Well, that’s a start, isn’t it?

The book is sort of a Breakfast Club turned on its ear;  if one of the student archetypes from that film had died during detention and all the other kids in there had a reason to want him dead. It’s a clever idea (one I am kicking myself for not thinking of myself), and the story is, above all else, compulsively readable. The book is told in shifting first person point of view; we get inside the heads and see the viewpoint of all four of the kids who are now suspects, which isn’t an easy thing to do McManus not only takes us there, but by seeing their lives through their eyes–their families, their relationships with friends, their ambitions and goals and so forth–we as readers begin to care about them, which makes knowing that one (or more) of them might be a killer even more problematic for the reader because you become emotionally vested.

Like The Breakfast Club, McManus takes the typical student stereotypes–the brain, the jock, the criminal, the beauty, and the outcast–and turns them on their ears.

In the 1980’s, the teen movie was reinvented and made much more real, more relatable, and more fun than what those that had come before. Serious films about teens were usually told from the point of view of the adults (The Blackboard Jungle, Up the Down Staircase) with an occasional exception, like Rebel Without a Cause. The 60’s saw the teen movie evolve into beach and surfing movies, and of course the Disney films like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Now You See Him Now You Don’t–silly comedies that viewed teen life as though it were something frozen in time from the 1950’s (and even that wasn’t particularly realistic–malt shops, sock hops, etc) But beginning with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the teen films of the 1980’s evolved into something different, something else, and John Hughes was one of the driving factors of that with his films, like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, among others (those are the Molly Ringwald trilogy, probably the most famous and best-remembered). In all honesty–and don’t come for me–I never thought The Breakfast Club was that great of a movie; sure, the actors were appealing, there were some great scenes, some funny moments–but the most, to me, honest part of the movie was when they were sitting around talking and Claire said they wouldn’t be friends at school on Monday because that’s what I had  been thinking all along. 

But One of Us Is Lying completely subverts that and turns it  on its head; as it does with a lot of other y/a book tropes, and again, the story moves very well. As someone who has read a lot of crime (and all of Agatha Christie) I was able to figure out who the killer was early on; but most teenagers I suspect would be completely caught unawares.

I really enjoyed this and couldn’t put it down because I wanted to find out what happened to the characters, and I cared about them; and it even ends with a John Hughes moment, which was nice.

Save Me a Place

I have to say, one of the most interesting developments of the advances in television viewing (i.e. streaming) has been the development of interesting new programming from non-traditional sources. The cable networks have long been giving the traditional television networks a run for their money for quite some time, but Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix are now throwing their hats in the ring. I was skeptical, to be honest–but I really enjoyed Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, and so when a friend recommended Hulu’s Freakish, I was also a bit skeptical about it–I mean, Hulu?

I also recognize that’s very snobbish of me.

My friend told me it was kind of a cross between The Breakfast Club and The Walking Dead…which sounded intriguing, so Paul and I decided to give it a try.

Wow.

The description couldn’t have been more apt; it literally is The Walking Dead as directed and written by John Hughes, but rather than playing into the stereotypes Hughes lionized in his films, this show subverts them and turns them inside out.

It’s a Saturday, and some kids are arriving at Kent High School for all-day detention. just like The Breakfast Club; this was not a thing at my high school and I don’t know if it’s ever been a thing–but it’s always seemed weird to me. There are also a variety of others kids there at the school–playing basketball, putting up posters for the school election, etc. The basketball coach is in charge of the detention, and is checking in students. Grover, our main hero, shows up and checks in–but he doesn’t actually have detention (just like the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club), he’s just there because he’s interested in Violet, one of the girls who DOES have detention. As we are getting to know some of the characters–the basketball star, the cheerleader, the Type A girl who wants to be student body president, the violent thug bully, the nerdy smart guy–there is a series of explosions from the chemical plant nearby where most of the people in town work. As the explosions continue everyone rushes inside the school as the atmosphere outside changes–there’s a weird fog, debris falling–and no cell phone service.

And… people exposed to the outside environment have become infected with something that turns them into what the viewers know, from years of these types of films and TV shows, ‘walkers’ or ‘the living dead’ but the kids on the show call ‘freaks’; because in their universe there have been no George Romero movies or anything.

This, of course, is the beginning of their zombie apocalypse, and it’s all shown from the point of view of the teenagers; the coach, the only adult, is killed by a ‘freak’ early on.

The entire first season has them trapped in the school, as one by one the group dwindles as kids are either infected or killed by the freaks; and they slowly, as the season progresses, realize they have to kill or be killed, rather than just trying to save themselves or lock the freaks up somewhere. And those stereotypes I mentioned? As I said, as the show progresses those stereotypes are turned on their heads as the kids slowly begin to bond, a la The Breakfast Club, and as we the viewers get to know them better, as they begin to adapt to their new world and try to figure out ways to survive.

Each episode is only twenty-two minutes long, which goes to show you don’t need over an hour to create suspense or character, and lots of action. Each episode flies past. And yes, we kind of rolled our eyes at it at first, but by episode three we were completely sucked in.

And the last two episodes were a definite sucker punch.

I also liked the sly references to Hughes films, particularly this shot:

I guess it’s time for the 80’s nostalgia wave….but I’m certainly enjoying it!

Looking forward to Season 2.