Let’s get the important bit out of the way first: CAT WATCH: Teacher’s Pet edition does indeed include a cat. A black cat. It’s name is Pet, and it belongs to the teacher.
I gotta be honest, that gave me a chuckle. In fact, a lot about this book gave me a chuckle in the best way, because there were some genuinely funny characters in this book who popped up to give us a little comic relief when it was most needed. Especially after the relentless doom and gloom of Trick or Treat, I heartily welcomed the playful tone of Teacher’s Pet. Or, you know, playful-er.
‘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?’
Oh, Tawney. You are so stupid it’s hilarious and so sweet it’s endearing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a little context to get us all in the mood:
Cusick’s third Point Horror offering, Teacher’s Pet, takes us to camp: High school student (obvs) Kate has written an award-winning short horror story, so her teacher–wannabe romance author Miss Bunceton–takes her to a writers’ camp/retreat given by bestselling horror author William Drewe. But William’s an unreliable drunk, so he disappears and his hot-as-balls younger brother Gideon teaches the seminar instead.
[I’m gonna take a moment here to add a few more entries to the Improbable Name Fetish wall: Gideon, Denzil, Pearce, Tawney, Rowena. There. Had to get that out.]
While Kate makes friends with fellow aspiring-writer teens Denzil and Tawney, Gideon takes a shine to his star pupil and Kate begins to attract attention from someone else at the camp–the ‘animal sacrificed in the shower and its blood smeared all over the bathroom’ kind of attention that no one wants. And what’s this? The same thing happened to a girl who had a crush on Gideon at the camp last year? Uh oh, sounds like Kate’s screwed.
Or is she?
As I mentioned in Part 1, Teacher’s Pet was my favourite Cusick Point book (as far as I remember), and I have to admit that I was a little worried about reading this one after my old person’s opinions of The Lifeguard and Trick or Treat. They just didn’t work for me, at least not the way I think they used to. But with Teacher’s Pet, I’m happy to report that I must have had pretty good taste in teen horror books back when I was actually their target audience. Sure, I had some issues with it, but overall it was far more enjoyable than the previous two books.
‘I LOVE TO BE scared,’ Kate insisted with a smile. ‘I’d love to write a book someday that would really terrify people.’
Well, would you look at that. In a complete turnabout from Trick or Treat‘s scared-of-her-own-shadow Martha and The Lifeguard‘s drippy Kelsey, the protagonist in this horror novel for girls is a Girl Who Likes Horror. Go figure.
I think my big issue with this book is the characterisation of our protag’s main love interest, Gideon Drewe. Putting aside the fact that he’s in his early twenties, is a teacher, and immediately starts macking on some high school girl in his writing class (I’m putting this aside because this is precisely the kind of thing I probably would have found desirable when I was thirteen and ignorant of the ways of this big bad world), this dude is a total fucking mess. Take this, from when he and Kate are trying to fix a time to go over her story:
‘Say…tomorrow morning? About eight?’
‘Sure. That’d be great.’
‘Eight…yes…eight would be great.’ A faint smile flickered across Gideon’s face, then slowly faded, his voice drifting off to a whisper.
For serious? I actually highlighted this on my Kindlemabob because this is our very first meeting with the guy we’re meant to be falling in love with and he’s basically wearing a sign that says, ‘I’m a nutjob. Shlobblypants.’ But once again, I have to make concessions: Did I find this creepy and crazy when I was a kid, or was it mysterious and intriguing? I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure it was the latter.
‘Kate…. You’re really so extraordinary, you know…so extraordinary that…it frightens me–‘
One last point and then I’ll shut up: This story is somewhat about writing, fear and the nature of horror, and I can’t help but think our Richie’s gone a little bit meta with what her characters say they want to accomplish in their writing and what Richie (arguably) does accomplish in this book.
‘He told me once that he’d love to write a mystery where he’d have everybody completely fooled and the ending would be totally unexpected.’
I can’t really comment on how surprising the book’s ending is because, as with all these books so far, I’ve remembered the ending while rereading the first chapter, but it’s certainly constructed and presented to be hella surprising. So nice work, girlfriend.
Denzil wiped his hands on his apron and handed Tawney a freshly stacked 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.
Tawney, you slay me.
I’m giving Teacher’s Pet 4 our of 5 thieving black cats for the terrific supporting characters, the horror loving female protagonist, getting rid of our authority figure with a bum-full of poison ivy rather than criminal neglect, and the Touch of
Next time on Pointless Horror: it’s April Fools, bros.