Chapters Sixteen–Eighteen

Summary: Chapter Sixteen

Bronwyn waits for a television special about Simon’s murder and the investigation into it to air. All four suspects, now collectively called “The Bayview Four,” had refused to comment when contacted by the producers. Javier is upset by the coverage of his daughter and the scrutiny directed at their family. Maeve shows Bronwyn an online discussion of a school shooting in a nearby county a few months ago, with some comments by Simon. The shooter, also a teen, had shot himself after killing several others. Simon’s comments praising the shooter might have offended students at the other school. Maeve tries to decrypt Simon’s file about Cooper. 

Mikhail Powers, the TV special’s host, does a segment on each suspect. A lawyer from Until Proven makes some interesting points: who had a motive, and who had access to Simon’s admin site? Bronwyn mentions to Nate that she’s thinking about contacting the young lawyer, Eli Kleinfelter. Nate’s curt response makes Bronwyn wonder if he has lost interest in her. However, Nate offers again to come over, at 1:00 in the morning. Bronwyn has thought about spending time alone with Nate, but she worries about the implications of his offer. 

When Cooper breaks up with Keely on Saturday, she thinks he’s done it to distance her from the investigation. There’s been another Tumblr post, pointing readers to clues about the Bayview Four in old About That posts. This scares Cooper, but he calmly insists his breakup with Keely doesn’t have anything to do with the investigation. Exasperated by Cooper’s lack of emotion, Keely tells him that she kissed Nate at a party shortly before she and Cooper started dating. Cooper’s calm reaction infuriates Keely, so she accuses him of lying about his feelings for her and of lying about using steroids. When Cooper vehemently denies the steroid accusation but ignores her claim that he doesn’t have feeling for her, Keely knows that she has all the proof she needs that Cooper lacks true feelings for her. Cooper leaves before he says something he might regret, but wishes he could have given Keely the apology she deserves. 

Summary: Chapter Seventeen

In science lab, Addy is paired with a new partner, TJ. He tells Addy that he likes her better when she’s not with Jake and how haw how being with Jake made Addy become passive and disappear. Addy never realized that TJ liked her personality. After class, Jake approaches Addy and the two agree to talk in the afternoon. 

As Nate and Bronwyn hike through the woods after school, she tells him that she called Eli, the pro bono lawyer and she passes along several details from their conversation. Bronwyn says that Eli plans to look into Simon’s past and the other stories from About That and that Eli agrees that of everyone who might have poisoned Simon, Mr. Avery had the most opportunity. She adds that Eli plans to look into the car crash, which could have been set up as a distraction. 

Nate is irritated, not wanting to be reduced to being one of Bronwyn’s projects. He dismisses Bronwyn’s and Eli’s theories and jokes that Bronwyn is clever enough to have orchestrated Simon’s murder herself. They are interrupted with news that the police want to question Br onwyn again. Nate and Bronwyn can’t be seen together, so they plan to have Maeve pick up Bronwyn at Nate’s house. Nate is not eager for Bronwyn to see where he lives, but he takes her hand as they walk up through the unmown lawn. To Nate’s surprise, his long-absent mother (who Nate had said had died) is standing at the door. 

Summary: Chapter Eighteen

Bronwyn doesn’t wait for an explanation of Nate’s mother’s appearance before driving off with Maeve. Bronwyn doesn’t yet know whether Nate lied about his mother being dead or if he himself had been lied to. Robin Stafford, the lawyer, is waiting with Bronwyn’s parents at the police station. The police have found an About That post from eighteen months ago in which Simon wrote about the first high school party Maeve attended. Simon mocked “MR” and made light of her battle with cancer. A comment from someone using Bronwyn’s email address contained a death threat against Simon.

Having agreed to talk to Jake, Addy rides her bike to his house that afternoon, wondering if Jake’s motive for meeting is so they can make up. Not wanting to talk to him about the investigation, she makes up a story about Detective Wheeler eating a plate of donuts as a distraction. Seeing Jake’s irritation, Addy asks why he wanted to talk. Jake says that he’s tired of being bothered by reporters without knowing what is going on. Addy feels pressured to respond to Jake, but she doesn’t. She realizes that he doesn’t want to make up, but she also realizes that she’s done apologizing to him. She won’t apologize for the inconvenience of reporters bothering him, or even for cheating on him—particularly since it’s clear he wouldn’t forgiver her anyway. When Addy leaves Jake’s house, she feels free for the first time in years.

After Cooper and his friend Luis work out at the gym together, Luis offers to trade cars, so Cooper can get a break from all the media attention. Instead of driving home, Cooper drives Luis’s car to an apartment building. Kris answers the door, surprised to see Cooper. Cooper wants to talk to him about Simon, but Kris pulls Cooper in for a long, familiar kiss.

Analysis: Chapters Sixteen–Eighteen

These chapters illustrate how media bias affects the public’s response to scandal. Mikhail Powers’s show presents sensationalized versions of real-life cases, providing a stage for cases to be tried by public opinion and corrupting the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. After the show airs, the Bayview Four see their public profiles escalate. Social media celebrates and praises Cooper and Nate through the lens of their stereotypes. Addy and Bronwyn, however, are attacked and made into scapegoats, and racial slurs are directed toward Bronwyn’s family. The media’s negative portrayal of Addy is a hit to Addy’s self-esteem, and she worries because she isn’t getting the right kind of attention. Addy has made many positive changes, but she still longs to be seen as she once was. These chapters suggest that the media, like the police, attacks those who are traditionally victimized. 

The introduction of 4chan reinforces the perils of social media on a heightened level. Unlike Tumblr, which is a popular and mostly neutral social media platform, 4chan is a lesser-known platform for sharing conspiracy theories. Maeve’s technological skills recover Simon’s prolific past comments in support of school shooters. Simon’s words indicate that his motives for bullying his classmates are darker than originally thought and suggest that there are more secrets to uncover. Cooper’s experiences with his new Facebook fan page and media run-ins illustrate the unpredictability of social media. Cooper doesn’t understand his newfound fame or how he is viewed through the eyes of others. Social media has several channels to disseminate information, and these passages illustrate how it can be used to celebrate some and destroy others. 

While secrets continue to shape the conflicts that each character faces, the freedom of the truth is explored in these chapters. Nate has modified some of his behaviors so he can pursue a healthy relationship with Bronwyn, but he was not completely honest about his family history. Bronwyn proves that she is forgiving and nonjudgmental as she listens to Nate’s story and decides to trust him regardless of his past. Bronwyn’s ability to listen and forgive demonstrates her emotional growth. Finding freedom in the truth is not as easy for Cooper because in order to do so, he must confront his family. Cooper is caught between accepting himself as gay and living up to his father’s expectations. He has spent his life pretending to be someone he is not, and those years have left him broken. He wants to be with Kris out in the open, but he understands that in order to do so, he must face the disappointment and prejudices of his father. Cooper values his relationship with his family and strives to please his father. While exposing his truth will allow Cooper some freedoms, it could also jeopardize his future opportunities for success.