Chapters 11: All the Angst
The next morning, Jennifer is at the practice rink, in the conference room, in order to get some work done. Her little sister, Julia, the one whose bullying experience is driving Jennifer to get funding to make the documentary on online bullying, gives her a call.
Back when we first met Jennifer, the text described the situation with her sister only minimally, and it came up again in conversation with Axel a bit later. At that point, Jennifer described it as her 15 year old sister having a crush on an older boy. Some junior girls discovered this and made a fake Facebook page for him, and started messaging her (as him) as if he liked her. Then they printed out all the private messages and circulated them around school (which seems like an unnecessary step—why not circulate them, y’know, on facebook?) When the boy found out, he was a jerk, too, making things worse. Jennifer helped her sister get into a new school.
“I had hoped she would stay and fight through it, but she just wanted to get away. She’s at a new school now and seems to have put it behind her” (82).
Thirty pages later, when Jennifer gets this phone call from Julia, she learns that her little sister is not, indeed, settling in, but in fact hates her new school and wants to go back to her old one. Her sister is conscientious enough that she’d tried to talk her principal into giving Jennifer (who paid for the private school) a partial refund on the tuition, although he’d refused, and has decided to get a part-time job in order to pay Jennifer aback.
Jennifer’s reaction is to refuse.
“I want you to attend a school where you’ll be happy. Where you don’t have people whispering behind your back” (114).
But Julia insists and even, quite logically, explains that she’s over it and that if she hadn’t freaked out, the school probably would have gotten over it quickly.
The first time I read this, I, in fact, misread it, thinking that here Julia was claiming that Jennifer had forced her to go to a school she didn’t want. (She does say “I know you would have liked to attend a school like this, but it’s not for me” 114). Which would have irritated me as it would have meant either the author forgot what she’d written earlier (that Jennifer wanted Julia to stay and fight) or that Jennifer willfully misremembers the situation. Instead it’s a bit more nuanced, which is good. It seems like Julia freaked out, along with Jennifer being protective, and since then Jennifer has embraced the new school thing. For example, she questions Julia on how she can get decent grades “with the distraction of online gossip and negative cliques using social media to wage a smear campaign?” (114) which … is not how I think you should be chatting with a 15 year old. That reads a lot more like the pitch one throws to financial backers of your social campaigning documentary…
And speaking of documentaries, Jennifer even says she’s got a film project in the works about this sort of thing and Julia panics and demands that Jennifer not do the film. She insists she won’t be “one of [her] causes” (115).
So this leaves Jennifer in a tizzy. But as readers, we know it also leaves an open door for Jennifer to find a new project that will enable her to stay with Axel. Because there’s only 30 pages of novel left, so we’ll have to wrap things up in another 15 or so. She doesn’t get time to ponder the situation, however, as Chelsea comes in, looking for coffee.
I’m a little curious as to why a woman who works at the arena gift shop is wandering into conference rooms in the practice rink looking for coffee, but apparently she’s there a lot and knows where all the ingredients are. This isn’t explained—it may just be something she’s picked up as a Magical Groupie being allowed to go wherever she wants. Or maybe the author forgot that the practice rink and arena are two separate things.
But has Chelsea gotten her car back since it’s early the next morning? If so, where are the other groupies? If not, how did she get here? Although she did say her apartment is close to the rink, so okay, she could have walked. But if so, why bother? Given the way she left things with Vincent a few hours before, and having gotten no sleep, as she tells Jennifer in a moment, is this really a practice her groupie-self needs to be at? Is she literally at every public practice? Because if yes, that’s not being a groupie, that’s being a stalker.
(Also, it just occurred to me one of the reasons why the author might have chosen to create a fictional Philadelphia team instead of using the Flyers. The Flyers don’t practice in Philadelphia, they practice in New Jersey. Of course, paying the NHL for the rights to use “Flyers” probably had something to do with that, too, but the book does reference the Stanley Cup and the NHL specifically, unlike Body Check.)
Anyway, Chelsea, despite the narrative assuring us earlier that she’s intensely private, tells Jennifer that she had a misunderstanding with Vincent and that they’ll not be a story for the documentary. This surprises Jennifer, having seen them be all Displaying Public Affection on the plane the day before. This leads to Chelsea asking rhetorically what if they just can’t get through all the obstacles, and Jennifer is in agreement, given her own situation. So this Scene of Woe and Angst closes the chapter.