At first I was a little embarrassed carrying this one around town. Partly because the serial decapitator struck again*, but also because Wuthering High is published under the MTV Books imprint. Being the snobbish alt-country/old country/real country (as opposed to CMT country)/folkie girl that I am, I usually avoid anything MTV-related.
But they got me. Because, COME ON. How could I pass up a book called Wuthering High?
After crashing her father's BMW and charging $1000 worth of push-up bras to her stepmother's credit card, fifteen-year-old Miranda Tate gets shipped off to a boarding school located on Shipwreck Island in Maine.
Yeah, I know. A book with a tagline of "At boarding school, no one can hear you scream" that is ALSO set on Shipwreck Island sounded a little excessively ridiculous to me, too. But what could have been lamely over-the-top becomes just plain awesome when Miranda asks, "I mean, where am I? A Scooby-Doo cartoon?" Throughout the book, the characters continue to bring attention to the B-Movie-ness of their situation. My favorite line occurs when the kids are researching the history of the school: "Does it say the academy was built on an ancient Indian burial ground?"
By page sixteen, I'd done an about-face. My embarrassment disappeared and I started waving the book at my patrons, my co-workers and my relatives like a lunatic, blabbering on and on about how hilarious it was. This is what did it:
At the dock, there's a shuttle bus waiting for us. It has BARD ACADEMY written on the side. The bald driver--who's wearing a green sun visor, giant amber-shaded aviator sunglasses, and a cigarette in a holder like Cruella De Ville--gruffly grabs my bags and throws them into the storage compartment by the bus door. He's wearing shorts and knee socks. Definitely the weirdest bus driver I've ever seen. On his jumpsuit uniform, his name patch reads "H. S. Thompson."
"You holding?" he asks me in a voice so gruff it sounds as if he's been smoking since he was born, which from the look of him was a long time ago.
"Holding what?" I snap.
He narrows his eyes at me and clenches his teeth around his cigarette holder.
"Never mind," he says. "What are you waiting for? Get in." He mumbles something else under his breath that sounds like "spoiled damn kids. Can't believe I'm stuck here without quaaludes."
Yep. You got it. All of the teachers at Bard Academy are dead authors. Ms. W., Miranda's dorm mother, has an "unfortunate nose" and leaves wet footprints wherever she goes. Coach H. has a big white beard and drinks a lot.
That's not all. On the bus, a dark, brooding and heavily-accented young man mistakes Miranda for someone called "Cathy". Miranda's new roommate is adamant that there is a vampire terrorizing the campus. There's a giggling arsonist on the loose. And there are, of course, plenty of run-of-the-mill boarding school woes to contend with: Horrible Popular Girls, The Cute Boy and Dish Duty.
It isn't a Great Work of Literature.** But it's a clever premise, it's very readable, Miranda and her friends are likable and their interaction with the teachers -- especially when The Secret Is Out and the teachers start bitching about the kids knowing the classics from movies rather than books -- is often hilarious. And, wow. Just wait until you find out who the Big Bad is. So, overall, it's very, very fun, like a B-movie version of the Jasper Fforde books.
*Happily, the girl on the cover of the sequel actually has a head, though her face is obscured by her hair.
**I was quite irritated by some of the dialogue -- or by what surrounded the dialogue. A lot of "I joked", "he teased", "she stammered", "he grumbled", etc., which I found distracting and oftentimes redundant. If the character's lines are written out as a stutter, there's no need to tell me that she's stuttering, you know?