Chapters Three & Four
Summary: Chapter Three
All eyes are on Bronwyn in homeroom the next morning. Mrs. Park, the homeroom teacher, makes an announcement about Simon’s death. Bronwyn never appeared on About That and is relieved that her one (unnamed) secret now seems safe. Mrs. Park tells Bronwyn that all the students who were with Simon in detention will be required to see a therapist. Outside Bronwyn’s next class, Evan Neiman, whom Bronwyn is attracted to, asks if she is ok. Later, between classes, Bronwyn tells Nate, who arrived at school around 10 a.m., about the required counseling. A friend reminds Bronwyn of Nate’s bad reputation. Bronwyn turns down an opportunity to tutor a classmate in chemistry, a subject Bronwyn struggled with before eventually earning an A.
Cooper is with his girlfriend, Keely, that afternoon when a loudspeaker announcement asks all the students who were in detention with Simon to come to the main office. There, a police officer, Officer Budapest, questions everyone about the events leading up to Simon’s death. Cooper remembers Simon getting a cup of water, but he didn’t see anything spill from the cup before Simon filled it. Bronwyn remembers that Simon didn’t drink right away. She tells the officer about the planted cell phones. Officer Budapest asks if Simon would have pulled such a prank; Addy doesn’t think so. The officer mentions About That. Nate says that his hookups were reported on it many times, but he didn’t mind much. The other three don’t admit to having worried about ending up on the app either.
Over dinner, Cooper’s family discusses Simon’s death. Lucas, Copper’s twelve-year-old brother, is fascinated. Keely arrives unexpectedly to check on Cooper. While she is talking to Cooper’s mother, Copper receives a text message: “Hey, handsome.” Cooper texts back a promise to call the sender later.
Summary: Chapter Four
That night, Addy worries about a pimple. She is jealous of her best friend Keely’s beauty. Once, before Cooper and Keely started dating, Keely let Simon kiss her. Addy thought that Simon was dating his only friend Janae, until Simon started asking out Addy’s friends. Jake arrives. Simon’s mother has asked him to be a pallbearer at Simon’s funeral, because Simon and Jake had been friends before Jake became a jock in high school. When Jake informs Addy about beach plans for the next day, Addy is alarmed to learn that someone named TJ will be there, too. After Addy’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend leave for the evening, Jake starts kissing Addy. Addy has been on birth control ever since her mother hinted that Jake would find someone else if Addy kept saying no. Now, Addy has sex with Jake whenever he asks.
At Nate’s house, his father is already passed out on the couch by 8 p.m. Nate’s mother, who left the family when Nate was eleven, had bipolar disorder. She had always liked Bronwyn when Nate and Bronwyn hung out together when they were in elementary school. Nate sells drugs now, but not anything strong. Nate gets a text from a girl, Amber, and invites her over. Then Nate receives another text, with a link to a Tumblr post by someone claiming to have murdered Simon. Simon had a severe peanut allergy that seems to have been triggered during detention.
Analysis: Chapters Three & Four
Chapter Three continues to build on the novel’s theme of the value of secrets. The tense atmosphere at Bayview High makes students feel constantly on-guard, and it leaves them with a warped perception of how important their secrets are. Nate believes that all four of the protagonists have secrets and are living in fear that their truths will be exposed. Their reactions to his claim indicate that he is correct. Bronwyn is a typical overachiever, and this chapter indicates that the way she has achieved her perfect grades is less than admirable. This chapter also implies that Cooper may not be as clean-cut as his image suggests and that he has a lot to lose if he’s implicated in Simon’s death. The text message he receives when Keely visits indicates that he is hiding something and possibly living a double life. His family’s efforts to secure a better future for him demonstrate that they long to share in his success and will likely be crushed by his potential failures. Simon, as the keeper of everyone’s secrets, is a complex character, and his death elicits a range of reactions from his peers. Some students, such as Cooper and Bronwyn, are sympathetic. However, others are relieved that they no longer have to fear the repercussions of having their secrets exposed on his app, making it apparent that they value their secrets more than their classmate’s life.
These chapters also establish the detachment of parents from their children and illustrate how their misconceptions of gender roles and social justice negatively affect the younger characters’ emotional development. Addy’s mother is one example of an adult character with a skewed view of gender roles, and her views on femininity are harmful. She is desperate to regain her youth and lives vicariously through her youngest daughter. Because she encouraged Addy to become sexually active at a young age, Addy now has a deeply flawed relationship with sex, and she views it as a way to maintain her popularity and keep her boyfriend. Addy uses sex as a currency, and because her mother never gave her advice about the emotional effects of sexual relationships, Addy’s self-esteem is low. In these chapters, Addy’s mother is more self-obsessed and out of touch with reality than either of her teenage daughters, and her opinions threaten Addy’s well-being. On the other hand, Nate’s parents are absent, and their lack of expectations is just as dangerous. Because Nate was raised in a home filled with mental illness and addiction, he was never taught to value himself. The lack of guidance he received as a child paved the way for his “criminal” stereotype as he was forced to resort to unethical ways of earning money just to survive. As a result, Nate is skilled at lying and is not fazed in the presence of the police. These chapters illustrate that the adults in the story fail to understand and support the needs of their children, and their failure has extremely negative consequences.