Chapters Twenty-Eight & Twenty-Nine

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Cooper brings Kris along to meet the rest of the “murder club” at a coffee shop on Wednesday evening. Cooper and Kris have been spending more time together, but Cooper still feels a bit uncomfortable being seen in public with Kris. Ashton and Maeve join their sisters, Addy and Bronwyn. Bronwyn updates the group with Sam Barron’s admission, and they all review their information on Jake. 

Eli Kleinfelter, whose office is above the coffee shop, walks in and recognizes Bronwyn. He reminds her that he cannot talk to the group about Nate’s case. However, he can talk to Ashton. She gives Eli an envelope with Sam Barron’s statement and contact information. Eli replies that Barron already called him and admitted to taking money from Simon to stage the accident. Kris suggests that if the Bayview Four and Mr. Avery are eliminated as suspects, only Simon remains. It appears that Simon was the killer and Jake was his accomplice. Addy is upset by the implication that Jake wanted to exact revenge on her for cheating on him, so Ashton takes her distraught sister home. Bronwyn and Maeve depart shortly after, leaving Kris and Cooper alone. Cooper pulls Kris into a deep kiss, and the couple leaves holding hands.

Nate has been navigating his life in jail, trying not to think about Bronwyn. He believes that Bronwyn is better off without him. 

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Nine

The next evening, Addy remembers that Jake carried her backpack for her on the day she was sent to detention. He would have been able to plant a phone. Realizing that Janae, another student the “murder club” was interested in, hasn’t been in school all week, Cooper and Addy drive to Janae’s house. Janae is clearly on edge and is very surprised to see Addy. Instead of asking a careful series of questions as Bronwyn coached her to do, Addy pulls Janae in and hugs her. Janae begins to cry. After Addy asks if Simon orchestrated his own death, Janae hands Addy a stack of papers: Simon’s manifesto.

Simon, having been depressed for a while, planned to exact revenge on his peers for not giving him the attention he felt he deserved. Simon’s app allowed him to frame those who he thought of as his enemies and rivals: Bronwyn, Nate, and Cooper. Simon resented Bronwyn for cheating her way into being valedictorian. He hated Nate for ruining his chances to be with Keely. He hated Cooper for humiliating him by asking Vanessa to exclude Simon from parties. 

Simon’s plan expanded to include a fourth victim when Jake discovered that Simon had rigged the votes for junior prom court so Simon could be on it. Simon used his information about Addy and TJ’s affair to convince Jake to help him—never caring if Jake got caught. Janae tried to stop Jake, but Jake threatened to implicate her if she went to the police. Jake tried to harass Janae into framing Addy for Simon’s “murder,” but because Addy had been nice to her, Janae instead planted the evidence in Nate’s locker and home and then tipped off the police about it.

Warned by a text from Cooper that Jake has just driven up to Janae’s house, Addy hides and sets her phone to record the conversation between Jake and Janae. When Jake arrives, Janae begs him to abandon Simon’s plan. Jake reminds Janae that there isn’t any evidence tying him to Simon’s plan, but just then, Addy’s phone rings. Addy emerges, then flees into the woods behind Janae’s house, but Jake catches her. As they struggle, Addy falls, hitting her head on a rock, and Jake stands over her and begins to choke her. Addy is starting to lose consciousness when Cooper pulls Jake away from Addy. An ambulance is called.

Analysis: Chapters Twenty-Eight & Twenty-Nine

These two chapters serve as the climax of the novel and further emphasize the book’s central theme of revenge. The revelation that Simon died by suicide is significant because it completes his character development and is the final piece of the mystery’s puzzle. Even in his death, Simon was bitter and hated his classmates. His desire for love and popularity drastically changed from a genuine desire to fit in to a dark desire to rule the school and ruin his classmates’ lives. Simon was so threatened by his peers’ successes that the only way he felt empowered was by bringing others down. Simon’s motivation for ruining his classmates’ lives was to get revenge on them for the typical teenage behavior they enjoyed but he didn’t have access to. Simon couldn’t handle the public rejection, and his cruel acts of revenge paved the way for Jake’s own revenge. No one would suspect a connection between Jake and Simon, and Jake uses that to his advantage. Like Simon, Jake is spiteful, and his bruised ego wants revenge on Addy. When he attacks Addy, he is fully established as a central antagonist. 

The damaging effects of social media dominate the novel’s climax. Simon was addicted to the anonymity and power that social media provided him. In real life he felt shunned and small, but on social media he was admired and powerful. The 4chan forum gave him a place to create his ultimate revenge through death as an art form, in contrast to the “banality” of school shooters’ approach. His sardonic view of the horrors of school shootings suggests that his online anonymity and power led to extreme desensitization. Because online content can never be erased, Simon viewed his suicide plot as the ultimate form of lasting art, which he felt would be revered far into the future. Simon viewed social media as a space that was safe for him and dangerous for others, though in the end, his orchestrations result only in his own death.