PART TWO: HIDE-AND-SEEK
Summary: Chapter Ten
On the morning of Monday, October 1, Bronwyn meets with Robin Stafford, an attorney hired by Bronwyn’s father. When Robin learns that Nate tried to to visit Bronwyn, she asks Bronwyn about her relationship with Nate. Robin then encourages Bronwyn to avoid the other suspects. Nonetheless, at school Bronwyn asks Nate why he came to her house. Nate says he was hoping to apologize: years ago, in fourth grade, he pranked Bronwyn during a Nativity play and was impressed with how she handled herself. When Bronwyn asks for Nate’s number so they can talk about the case, he gives her one of the phones he uses in his drug-selling business instead.
When Cooper sees Jake punch TJ in the locker room, he suddenly understands Simon’s queued-up post about Addy. When Cooper tries to reassure Addy by saying, “It’ll be all right,” Addy senses that he’s not just talking about Jake. Keely and a friend, Vanessa, are looking at Cooper’s phone when it rings. Cooper insists that the caller, “Kris,” is a male friend from baseball. After school, Coach Ruffalo meets with Cooper to discuss the various colleges interested in recruiting Cooper for their teams. Looking down at his phone on his way out, Cooper almost runs into Mr. Avery, who makes an oddly pointed comment about teens being obsessed with their phones and gossip. Cooper wonders if Mr. Avery has also been questioned by the police, but his thoughts are interrupted by a text message. Cooper’s grandmother is in the hospital.
Summary: Chapter Eleven
That evening, Nate shuts down his drug-selling business for a while, and then reaches Bronwyn on the “burner” phone he gave her. Although it’s late, neither of them can sleep. The two reminisce about the time they spent in elementary school together. Nate admits that he has sold drugs but insists that he didn’t kill Simon. Bronwyn then reveals that the rumor about her—that she cheated on a test—is true as well. She feels ashamed, but Nate doesn’t want her to worry about what people think. Bronwyn doesn’t want to disappoint her father. Nate and Bronwyn discuss Simon’s death. Bronwyn tells Nate that she believes in his innocence because he tried to help Simon. Bronwyn remembers how as a child, Nate tried to protect his mother. Nate tells Bronwyn how much his mother had liked her, but he acts distracted when Bronwyn volunteers that she had feelings for Nate at the time. After Nate ends the call with Bronwyn, he invites Amber to come over.
Addy tries to stay home on Wednesday, but Ashton gets her out of bed and drives her to school. When Addy tries to talk to Jake, he brushes her off. When Addy reaches her locker, she sees that someone has written “WHORE” on it in permanent marker. Addy believes it was done by (Keely’s friend) Vanessa and cries in the bathroom until third period. When Addy runs into TJ and interrogates him about the rumor, TJ swears he didn’t tell anyone about their night together. He reminds Addy that other people saw them kissing at the beach. Addy wonders how much Simon actually knew about her indiscretion. TJ offers to let Addy sit with him during lunch, despite the gossip that would result.
Summary: Chapter Twelve
On Thursday, Simon’s revelations of the four suspects’ secrets are published on Tumblr, with an added note challenging the readers to figure out who killed Simon. Again, Bronwyn and the other three suspects are summoned to the main office. While Principal Gupta takes a phone call in another room, Addy reminds the group how many lives Simon ruined with his gossip app. Bronwyn remembers working with Leah Jackson on a competition; they accidentally told Simon the wrong date for a deadline, and he missed it. The way Simon started berating Leah on his site seemed personal. Just before Leah attempted suicide, she asked if Bronwyn had intentionally misled Simon about the deadline. When the principal returns from her call, Cooper informs her that they, the suspects, won’t be speaking with her.
When Nate calls Bronwyn that evening, she asks where he was when Mr. Avery confiscated his phone. Bronwyn wonders whether Addy and Cooper were behind Simon’s murder, or possibly Mr. Avery. Bronwyn wishes the police would look into the planted phones. Nate and Bronwyn pick a movie to stream together, in their separate homes, as they had already done several nights that week.
Analysis: Chapters Ten–Twelve
The development of unlikely connections continues in the opening chapters of Part Two. Bronwyn has just begun to expand her social circle and feels drawn to Nate despite their differences. They have been thrust into a situation beyond their control, and both have felt the effects of the tense climate at Bayview High. By establishing a connection, Bronwyn and Nate are creating a sense of mutual respect and defying the odds in a place where connections are few and far between. Additionally, Nate cuts ties to significant parts of his past in an effort to rekindle his faded connection to Bronwyn. This action is significant because it illustrates how much he values his relationship with her. Nate and Bronwyn continue to be transparent and honest with each other throughout their phone calls. They both understand how rare and important trust is. However, Bronwyn and Nate’s open and honest conversations and growing connection also highlights their vulnerabilities. Nate’s invitation to Amber is an attempt to keep up his guard and maintain emotional distance as he develops feelings for Bronwyn. He feels safer in defining their connection as unlikely and Bronwyn as ultimately unattainable.
In these chapters, technology as a useful tool is juxtaposed with its potential to be a dangerous weapon. Nate and Bronwyn communicate through the antiquated technology of flip phones with prepaid minutes. Their use of these outdated phones illustrates that they both realize how risky more contemporary modes of communication are. Additionally, the use of phones without apps and cameras forces them to verbally communicate and not hide behind filters and emojis. Mr. Avery’s hatred of technology, specifically social media, can be seen in two ways: as an odd quirk or a suspicious flaw. However, as an adult with significantly more life experience than the students he teaches, his stance on technology is not wholly unusual. The publication of another Tumblr post about Simon’s death illustrates how someone is still weaponizing technology and exposing the students’ secrets in an effort to keep Simon’s rumor-mongering legacy alive. Mr. Avery has seen how technology has been weaponized and wrecked the lives of many students.
These chapters provide a depiction of the damaging double standard used against female students. Addy and Bronwyn are immediately judged by their peers for their mistakes. Cooper observes that the social landscape is changing as a result of the revealed secrets, but he also realizes that his experience is vastly different from Addy’s because as a guy, people are more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Addy is now forced to confront her social downfall and is emotionally and socially ostracized. She realizes that her friendships are superficial when her friends abandon her without even asking her for her side of the story. Her friends disregard their own shameful secrets and vindictively hold Addy “the princess” to a higher standard. As a part of Vanessa’s public punishment of Addy, she recasts Addy as “the whore.” Addy is also forced to recognize that her social acceptance was solely based on her relationship with Jake. Addy’s superficial relationships are juxtaposed with the genuine connection that Bronwyn and Nate are establishing. Though Cooper does his best to support Addy, he soon realizes that gossip holds more weight than friendship, and the ostracism of certain female students is considered entertaining rather than reprehensible.