Chapters Seven–Nine

Summary: Chapter Seven

After Simon’s funeral, as Addy looks for Jake outside the church, she is approached by Detective Laura Wheeler, who asks Addy to come to the Bayview Police station. There, Addy is introduced to a family liaison who will sit with Addy during Detective Wheeler’s questioning. On her laptop, the detective shows Addy some unpublished content Simon had queued up for About That. The posts, which refer to individuals whose initials match the classmates in detention with Simon, imply that Bronwyn cheated on her chemistry tests, Nate is selling drugs, Cooper is taking steroids, and Addy was unfaithful to Jake. Detective Wheeler pressures Addy to confess to killing Simon, assuring Addy that she may be the least responsible of the group if they had all worked together. The detective believes that Addy tried to lie about not being in the nurse’s office, but Addy insists that her omission was an honest mistake. Addy then calls her sister Ashton to come pick her up.

Simultaneously, a Detective Chang is showing the same content to Cooper, who is relieved to see that his secret is about steroid use. When pressed, Cooper denies any collaboration with the others and insists that they were all framed. When Detective Chang declares that the evidence does not implicate anyone else, Cooper asks to call his parents. When he Cooper and his father talk, his father tells him to leave and that there will be no more talking to police without a lawyer present. The detective tells Cooper that the others in the group are being questioned, and that the first of them to cooperate will be treated differently than the others. Cooper politely thanks Detective Chang for his time and leaves.

Summary: Chapter Eight

When a Detective Mendoza asked Bronwyn’s parents for permission to question their daughter, they refused. They are, however, disturbed by Simon’s post about Bronwyn’s cheating. Bronwyn, overcome with guilt, confesses that the post is accurate. Her mother is shocked and concerned that the post gives Bronwyn a motive to murder Simon. Bronwyn’s father, Javier, asks her if there is anything else she hasn’t told them. Bronwyn, who was lying when she told the police that she had no reason to dislike Simon, lies again, telling her father that there is nothing else.

That evening, after Officer Lopez sits with Nate during his police interview, she takes him home. Nate is glad he had cleared the drugs out of his room that morning because the police had a warrant to search his house. As Officer Lopez drops Nate off at home, she warns him that if he is caught dealing drugs, he will likely become a scapegoat for the other students. Inside the house, as Nate cleans up his father’s vomit and feeds his lizard, he reflects that Cooper and Addy would probably implicate him, but he doubts that Bronwyn would. Nate rides his motorcycle to Bronwyn’s house. Nate wants to ask her about the post and about Simon’s death, but he is turned away by Bronwyn’s father, Javier.

Summary: Chapter Nine

On that same Sunday evening, Addy visits Ashton’s apartment where they talk about the case and the revelation about Addy had sex with TJ. Addy resists Ashton’s suggestion that some part of Addy might want Jake to find out about her and TJ. Addy tries to deflect by bringing up the fact that Ashton and her husband Charlie’s marriage has been strained, but Ashton does not back down. She urges Addy not to let Jake find out about her unfaithfulness from someone else. Addy relents and asks Ashton to drive her to see Jake. Addy explains to Jake that the police believe she had a motive to murder Simon, namely that Simon had been planning to reveal a secret Addy had kept from Jake. Addy tells Jake that she slept with his friend, TJ, but she can’t explain why. All she can do is apologize. Jake, enraged, tells her to leave.

Analysis: Chapters Seven–Nine

These chapters illustrate the flaws of the criminal justice system, and no one is free from suspicion in the investigation following Simon’s death. Cooper and Bronwyn have the least stressful experiences because they have supportive families and are aware of the legal implications of police questioning. These scenes also imply that the criminal justice system is biased against those who do not have the educational resources or money to afford legal representation. The police officers investigating Simon’s death do not have any concrete evidence against any of the teenagers, but they have decided on a theory based on their stereotypes: all four students were involved, but one is more guilty than the rest. Addy is the least culpable because she appears to be clueless and easily manipulated. Cooper is the most likely to admit involvement or implicate one of the other students because of his bright future and desire to please others. Bronwyn comes from a good family and is a consistent high achiever who has made one mistake. Nate is the most likely suspect because his secret, a violation of his probation, could land him in jail. To his benefit, Officer Lopez is well aware of how stereotypes are used to create a scapegoat. Perhaps the most egregious failure of the investigating officers is their unwillingness to listen to the students’ insistence that they were framed. This failure highlights how the justice system often threateningly imposes its own theories based on bias in lieu of actual evidence. 

The perils of technology emerges as a central theme in these chapters.  Throughout the novel, technology is used as a weapon and a tool for deceit. One primary example is when Bronwyn uses technology as a means for cheating. In this case, technology enables Bronwyn to make a choice that tarnishes her reputation and threatens her credibility and future academic success. Bronwyn’s cheating could be viewed as accidental (the teacher left his files open on the computer she happened to choose), but technology allowed her to exploit the situation for her benefit.  For Nate, technology offers both advantages and pitfalls. His cell phones allow him to maintain connections with people, but those connections drive his illegal activity in the form of drug sales. The students are also consumed by social media and the About That app, and it’s undeniable that technology exerts a largely negative influence over their lives. In a society driven by technology, the students are made vulnerable by a tool meant to keep them safe.

The danger of telling the truth is also illustrated in these chapters. Bronwyn’s experience during the police questioning allows her to trust her parents enough to tell them the truth, even though she knows that she runs the risk of hurting and disappointing them. Her admission causes her parents to view her as a foreign entity. Addy understands that she is not the only one with a secret, but she comes to realize that in the revelation of her truth, she must own up to her mistake. When she does, her seemingly loving boyfriend reveals himself to be the controlling and potentially dangerous person that her sister Ashton has already seen hiding under his façade of charm. In facing the truth, Addy has lost the fairytale romance that defined her. Nate is able to hide his truth by removing the drugs from his house, but he knows that one more mistake could have serious consequences. Cooper’s reaction to the allegation that he’s using steroids suggests that it might not be true, but he also appears to be hiding a truth that could be more dangerous for him if revealed. Though two of the accused are compelled to reveal the truth and face the consequences, the other two must keep the truth hidden to avoid their own destruction.