Saturday, May 2, 2009

Driver's Ed

Brief Synopsis:

Remy Marland and Morgan Campbell are young rich kids in Driver's Ed. And they like-like each other! Instead of sending Morgan a note saying "DO YOU LIKE ME? __YES __NO," Remy writes RM+MC on her notebook. Instead of pushing Remy into a sandbox, Morgan stares at her tits and tries to be subtle. But Remy's best friend Lark arranges a date for the shy lovebirds. The kids will commit a senseless act of vandalism (stealing street signs). Morgan and Remy go, along with Nickie Budie (a creepy Bad Seed type who Morgan used to be friends with). Lark pulls out at the last minute but the others go on and end up stealing a stop sign that later results in a woman named Denise Thompson dying in a car accident.

Morgan and Remy feel super guilty (Nickie just denies all involvement). Eventually they confess and their parents make them go to the dead woman's husband and apologize. They do, but they basically face no punishment. Mr. Thompson, Denise Thompson's husband, says the police can only charge the kids with the crime of stealing the sign (incidentally, this doesn't happen. I don't know why not). Mr. Thompson could sue them, but he decides not to...because...well, I don't know, maybe he's sort of decent. If it makes you feel any better, Morgan and Remy also feel really, really, REALLY bad about what they've done. Oh, and it takes place around Christmas, so their holiday is ruined.
  • Let me give you an idea of the type of people contained in this book. No, they're not as bad as the ones in The Terrorist but they're bad. Remy is short for Rembrandt. Her parents named her for the famous painter. (They should have called her Andy. Andy...WHORE-HOLE! Heh.) Her parents also have a one year old kid who's technically named Henry. He's their pride and joy because her mother thought she was done having babies when she had him at age forty-four. Last year, Henry played Jesus in the Christmas pageant and he was so cute that his batty mother started calling him Jesus all the time. (I think the Botox has gone to her brain.) Morgan Campbell's name isn't so bad but I still hate him and his family. His dad is running for governor. And his little sister's name is Starr because Mama Campbell wanted a name that "rang and sang." We are now entering the rich and strange zone.
  • On principle, Mr. Fielding, the Driver's Ed teacher, doesn't learn his students' names. They're just too stupid. He also hates their designer spellings. Like Khrysten. Ugh. That's why they all wear name tags (which the kids all switch around so the ones who want to go driving can go whenever they want). Lark, Morgan, and Remy drive as much as they want. Mr. Fielding never notices because, "These kids, like their names, were fluff. Empty headed and personality free." Ooh, the bitterness is strong in this one. Uncle Joe, I changed my mind. Mr. Fielding is my new favorite character. (Sorry, Joe--you softened up and started loving on the Pikes.)
  • When Mr. Fielding takes the kids out driving, Lark goes through a red light and forgets several stop signs. Morgan rolls his eyes, thinking about how he'll tell the other guys in class how badly she drove. He says to himself, "Masculine superiority. Nothing like it." Okay, that tears it. I could write about how CaroB. just did a brilliant send up of sexism in the bourgeois adolescent circa the mid 90s, or I could come up with a new nickname for Morgan. I think I might start calling him MC. Not for Morgan Campbell, but Male Chauvinist. Or Monkey Cunt. Hey, MC, did you know? Years from now, dorky guys will be reading The Game to try to get to your level of misogyny.
  • Lark arranges the sign stealing date as a way to hook up Morgan and Remy. God, what is she, the Patty Hearst of yentas? As we know, Lark skips out, so Morgan, Nickie Budie and Remy go off without her. CaroB. doesn't point out how weird this set up is, but I swear to god I can hear Nickie Budie muttering something about "sausage fests."
  • Remy and Morgan flirt, touch hands, smile at each other, eventually kiss...and I really need something to make me stop puking. Dramamine? Sea bands? No, wait. A hatchet for Remy and a tire iron for Morgan. Incidentally, this little set up involves two testosterone pumped guys and one very sexy but dumb girl in a car in the middle of nowhere. No witnesses. Why couldn't they commit another crime that would be slightly more entertaining? I'm talking, of course, of cow tipping. (Remy being the cow.)
  • Where were we? Oh yes. Still on the sign stealing date with Pumpkin and Honeybun. Next time, we go to the malt shop, I swear to god. Remy says she wants to steal a sign called Morgan Road and all the blood rushes from Morgan's head. Remy smiles bashfully as she flutters her eyelashes. Morgan nearly takes flight, squealing, "She thinks I'm cuuuuuute!" and I glance over at Nickie Budie and wonder if he'd like to stick his cigarette in Not So Starving Artist's eye and then take off with me. Really, you guys don't have to steal crap as a sign of affection. MC, just tell her she's only a woman and too inept to steal anything, and besides, it'll ruin her nails, and Rembrandt Jr., you can just spread your legs to indicate you agree that he's a fine, fine specimen of manhood--there, book over. Granted, there will be nothing to snark and watching you get it on in the backseat will result in so much projectile vomiting that I'll have to buy new carpeting, but I'll deal.
  • Remy's reaction after she finds out about the woman she killed indirectly: Hmm, will this affect my relationship with Morgan? While she can't sleep, she thinks to herself, "Nice, Remy. You kill a woman and all you're worried about is whether Morgan kisses you again." Remy, you're a heartless, spoiled little tart. And no, the fact that you feel guilty over your heartlessness doesn't make it better!
  • After they find out about Denise Thompson, Remy and Morgan look at kids waiting in line to talk to Santa. Remy says she knows what she'd ask for if she were sitting in Santa's lap (Remy, you dirty girl!). Morgan responds, "'I'd take the night back.'" Oh, just wait till you're in college, MC. You might want to lose the sexist attitude before your first march, though. And no, feminists are NOT easy, even if you do pretend to have read Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan. You also have to pretend to care about what they're thinking.
  • At one point, while taking some kids out driving, Mr. Fielding muses about how he used to care about his students and now doesn't. He feels bad because he overheard Lark talking about planning on a sign stealing excursion and he did nothing. He starts to think that maybe he should care more: "I was a good person once...I was like Max Willitt. I taught and they learned." No! Get back, Mr. Fielding. Get back to where you once belonged. Come on, let's laugh at all the stupid parents who named their kid Madison because of Splash. I pilfered Devil Dogs from Claudia Kishi's stash, Mr. Fielding. Aww, c'mon. Let's go hate on the kids some more. And it works! Mr. Fielding demands to know which of the kids in the car took the sign and since none of them is Lark, Remy or Morgan, they have no clue. He retreats back into not caring, and I high five him.
  • I don't usually make fun of authors for not being able to write well. I know, they try. But I just had to put this in:
I'm safe in here, thought Morgan.

And Denise Thompson. She was safe where she was too.

Safe in a drawer at the morgue.
God, CaroB., that was truly bad writing. On the plus side, punctuating the very last sentence with a rim shot makes it all kinds of hilarious.
  • Denise Thompson, the woman killed in the accident, was a 26 year old wife and mother. Much is made over the fact that she's young, beautiful, in her prime, etc. when she dies. Well, every time a pretty white girl or woman disappears, CNN won't shut up about it, so that's nothing new. I'm envisioning an alternate scenario.
MC: Remy, Remy, it turns out we're not in trouble for killing Denise Thompson!
Remy: We're not?
MC: No, you vapid twit. Denise Thompson wasn't a hot chick. Her husband just said she was because of that inner beauty crap. And she was partly Hispanic. We're in the clear, babe.
Remy: Wow, Morgan, you're so brilliant!
MC: I know. It comes with having a penis. Let's go knock over a 7-11. It'll be ironic because we're rich suburban teenagers.
Remy: Oh, Morgan, take me now.
  • Confession time. Remy tells her parents that she's a spoiled rich girl and that her parents should probably send her to Malawi in exchange for a teen who will be grateful for having nice things--uh, sorry, that she took the stop sign. Her mother screams at her to stop crying because she's not the one who got hurt. Okay, this is a pretty good rant, which would have been enhanced only by, "Stop crying, girl, I'll GIVE you something to cry about. You pull another stunt like this, and I will slap you into the next century!" I'll cut Remy's mom some slack, though--Connecticut suburbanites suck at angry rants. Unless it's directed at the help right before they discover that there's not enough ice for the gigantic frozen swan at the Summer Cotillion.
  • However, the kid directed screaming all goes downhill when Mrs. Marland says, "'Is this why you quit the basketball team? Is this why you didn't want Henry in the pageant? Are you trying to hide out? Blame others?" Um, Mrs. Marland? Not putting Henry in the Christmas pageant probably wasn't ALL about the manslaughter. I know that for you, your one year old son may be the triumphant symbol of how your ovaries aren't dried up menopausal raisins (yet) but to the rest of the world, he's like a less adorable version of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. And it worries me that you can think of basketball in a context other than bouncing one off your soulless daughter's head. Yes, the only thing worse than taking a human life is when it results in no longer being able to play JV b-ball. I heard that Roy Cohn's game really suffered after the Rosenbergs were killed and it ate him up inside till the day he died.
  • After confession, Morgan and Remy head to the mall. Nothing like celebrating a woman's death with nachos at the food court! No, no, I kid. They're contrite. Morgan to Remy: "'What shall I get for my mother, Rem? She'd really like a tire iron and permission to split my skull open.'" Me too! Sure, I wanted that tire iron well before Morgan committed felony murder, but who cares? Mrs. Campbell, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • When Morgan and Remy go to Mr. Thompson to confess, they tell him about what happened in detail on that fateful night. They spare no details because they want to make themselves seem like nice, normal kids out on a date, not like hooligans. Morgan tells Mr. Thompson that Remy and he were into each other, "'and the road sign was...romantic.'" Folks, it gets even tackier. Remy: "'We were flirting...we were...giggling and we had our first kiss and even though the word stealing went through my mind was a really neat night.'" I want to kill both of you. First of all because of the whole murder thing. But also because when most people hook up, it's fueled by alcohol and you have to pee the whole time and then you wonder if you'll get the herp and if he's really eyeing the blonde down the hall. These kids got the perfect first kiss and they're not going to jail.
  • Speaking of dates, Remy tells her mother that they didn't mean to fuck up, that they were on a date, yadda yadda yadda. Mrs. Marland says: "It was not a date. A date is something happy and good. They were vandalizing little--" Oh, Mrs. Marland. You need to start reading Psychotic Letters From Men and I've been on dates that made Ted Bundy's escapades look downright romantic.
  • Towards the end of the book, Mr. Fielding takes Morgan and Remy to the grave site of Denise Thompson. I feel a very important lesson coming on. NO! Baby, baby, where did the cynicism go? But you can redeem yourself. I've got an ice pick and a book on partial lobotomies. Fifteen minutes alone with the kids, please? Mr. Fielding sighs and says, "'It was my fault...It's always the fault of the grown-up in charge, and so it's my fault.'" Where have you gone, Mr. Fielding, a nation of disgruntled Caroline B. Cooney readers turns its eyes to you. The kids say that it isn't Mr. F's fault (no shit). Mr. Fielding muses that he's just trying to spread the blame, and Morgan helpfully adds, "'It isn't peanut butter. Blame doesn't spread.'" With soundbites like that, you're on your way to following in Daddy's footsteps and running for public office--that is, if Don Draper and the boys on Madison Avenue don't snap you up first.
  • Finally, they have the Christmas pageant. Oh yeah, Morgan directed it. When your dad's running for governor, that's the kind of thing you have to do. That and stuff the skeletons back into the closet. In, in, damn skeletons! As he watches, "Morgan [slides] into a coma. It's my pageant, he thought, and I'm so bored, I think it's already February." Shut up, Morgan, snotty rich boys on the political scene who cause car accidents don't get to snark. For real. Teddy Kennedy showed up here last week and he even had a Portuguese Water Puppy and I told him the same thing.

What happens to everybody? I'll make an educated guess. Morgan goes off to create a local chapter of the He Man Woman Hater's Club. Remy decides that wearing her hair in bangs would be a fitting tribute to Denise Thompson. Mr. Fielding thins his hair, dons thick glasses and demands, "How do I reach these KEEEDZ?"

Mr. Thompson sends his motherless son away to be schooled in the judo arts so he can grow up and go medieval on the kids who killed his mother. Morgan's dad gets caught up in the hustle and bustle of politics, but learns that there's no place like home. And I finally return this book to the library and exorcise the demon that moved in the day I put it on my nightstand.