Prom queen. Captain of the cheerleading squad. Girlfriend of the most popular guy in school. Westerly High senior Helen Miranda Revness—Hallie to her friends—has it all. She just wishes everyone would stop talking about where they're going to college—and asking her why she's not applying to schools. Hallie has zero interest in four more years of teachers and term papers.
After graduation and an unforgettable summer of parties and romance, everyone—including her boyfriend, Jaz—heads off to college. Hallie is no longer part of a couple or a crowd. Her family, in which she had to grow up fast, is more chaotic and scattered than ever. She tries to get a job, but discovers that a high school diploma will only take her so far. After a shattering heartbreak, she finally has to confront the reality of who she is and where she's going.
“This sensitive picture of a young woman coming to terms with hard truths about adulthood and growing up in the process is well populated with believable characters. An involving . . . depiction of what it means to rethink basic values.” —Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
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|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Caroline B. Cooney (b. 1947) is the author of nearly a hundred books, including the famed young adult thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, an international bestseller. Cooney's books have been translated into several languages, and have received multiple honors and awards, including an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award and a nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. She is best known for her popular teen horror thrillers and romance novels. Her fast-paced, plot-driven work often explores themes of good and evil, love and hatred, right and wrong, and moral ambiguity. Born in Geneva, New York, Cooney grew up in Connecticut, and often sets her novels in dramatic New England landscapes. She has three children and four grandchildren and currently lives in South Carolina.
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The Party's Over
By Caroline B. Cooney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Caroline B. Cooney
All rights reserved.
Everybody loves to swear.
I know I do.
I started swearing in seventh grade when I failed an exam. I was completely demoralized, especially because Flavia got her usual 98. I succumbed to temptation and whispered "Damn!" under my breath.
How wild and criminal it sounded! I felt quite a bit older after my first swear; more worldly and sophisticated. Flavia says I even swaggered a bit. Instead of being a total humiliation, the failed exam became something I could (almost) joke about.
Swearing turned out to be a siphon; you turned the valve and let out the bad. (My mother, of course, felt differently. Swearing, Gloria said, turns the valve and lets in the bad.)
The years passed. Flavia continued to get 98 in everything, and I continued to swear because I didn't.
My best friends keep their knowledge like a wardrobe, pulling it out, adding to it, accessorizing it. They groom their knowledge the way I groom my hair.
I study, get passing grades, and retain nothing. When the final exam is over, my knowledge vanishes as if I'd never had it. Cumulative subjects, like math, are tricky, since I don't accumulate. One-time subjects, like European history, aren't so bad; I can hang onto a specific war, peace treaty, or river boundary until the tests are over.
However, learning is so far down on my list of interesting activities as to be invisible.
I like to run things. Each year I pick up another activity to run, along with school, and this year I carried Drama Club, the school paper, the Biking Expedition, and Students Against Drunk Driving. All senior year I've been busy with Class Spirit. I wanted our senior year to be not only the most memorable year of our lives, but also the most memorable in the history of high schools. This required effort. My fellow seniors at Westerly High, I regret to report, preferred to lie down, daydream, or doze.
I do not believe in rest. I believe in Spirit.
"There are only forty-seven of us," my class protested last fall. "How much spirit can forty-seven seniors raise?"
"More than this," I insisted, swearing at them. At that time the class-wide hobby was swearing. Delete the swear words and nothing was left. Listening to myself that day, I decided that swearing does not go with Spirit. Maybe turning seventeen made me conservative; who knows. At any rate, I went on a swear diet.
But like being on a team, it's so much easier to exert yourself if somebody else is sweating on each side of you. So I ordered the senior class to go on a swear diet with me. I've stuck to my diet without lapses, but this is one place where I led and nobody followed.
Including my boyfriend.
"Damn," Jaz said, glaring at the platform he was building. "We need two more sheets of plywood. Who measured this, anyway?" He swung his hammer threateningly. Jaz is very thin, very tall, with silky, scalp-colored hair. I tell him nobody will notice when he goes bald. He tells me thank you, Hallie, that's so reassuring. I adore him.
"I measured it," I said with dignity.
"Oh, no, we let Hallie the Math Wizard measure something?" Flavia said. Flavia is elegant. Since elementary school she has worn her yellow hair the same way—a man's soccer cut, like a layered bowl. She hasn't grown taller since elementary school, either. There is a timeless element to Flavia; as if, world without end, fashions may change and TV sitcoms go off the air, but Flavia will go on forever, being smarter, lippier, and more yellow-haired than the rest of us.
"Give me your hammer, Jaz," I said to my boyfriend. "I need to put dents in Flavia."
He laughed and hung on to the hammer. "Forgot about the diet. Sorry."
"Just because she's on a swear diet doesn't mean we have to be," Flavia said. "I'm so nervous about college I have to swear. Yesterday a letter came about freshman orientation."
Everybody building Athletic Banquet platforms set down their tools. Everybody stuffing purple and white paper flowers into chicken wire stopped making the ten-foot baseball player. (Actually our tallest baseball player is five nine. We don't run to height in this town but for a banquet you need drama.)
Talk turned to college.
The only thing I hold against senior year is the amount of college talk in it. We have had assemblies to discuss choosing colleges, visiting colleges, applying to colleges, paying for colleges. Both the principal and guidance counselor start every speech with "Of course " because of course you're going to college. Of course you aren't content with a pathetic little high school diploma. Of course you understand high school is merely a launching pad for college and not an end in itself.
Kyle discussed Penn State, where his dorm alone would have twelve hundred people. Susannah talked about her plane flight to California, where she was going because her single criterion for college was Distance From Parents. Max repeated what his cousin said about the cost of textbooks.
"You're slipping into a coma," Jaz murmured to me.
"College talk does it every time."
"I wish you'd go to college, too, Hallie. Come with me. I want you."
"Jaz. Drop it." College holds nothing I want. It's full of what I don't want: more studying. Besides, college is so far off. How can you fully enjoy June when you're bogged down worrying about next September?
"Your grades are high enough," Jaz said.
They aren't, actually. I give off an aura of academic success, but there's no reality to it. Even Flavia and Jaz, who know me, have seen my report cards, and looked at my quizzes, are taken in by the aura and think I'm intelligent. It's rather nice to go through life sounding as if I know what I'm talking about. Spares me the trouble of actually learning anything. "Maybe so, Jaz, but my interest is zero."
It makes me nervous, the way my friends are so obsessed with college. On the other hand, it probably makes them nervous the way I'm so obsessed with Jaz.
Jaz's parents decided to spend the winter at their summer home this year and expected him to stay gracefully at boarding school. He refused, flew to Maine, and entered Westerly High. Mr. and Mrs. Innes were appalled. Their only child was not only attending a "local" school, but graduating from it, thus forever staining his name. They use the word "local" as other people might use the word "sewers." They are genuinely surprised that Jaz got into a top college in spite of this. They insist it's only because three of his four high school years were at a prep school, and the colleges "overlooked" a senior year in a "local" school. I need hardly say Mr. and Mrs. Innes are not my favorite people. However, they are Jaz's favorite people, so I watch myself.
At the time Jaz entered Westerly High, we were having yearbook elections for Best Liked, Best Dressed, Most Likely to Succeed, and so forth, all of which I intended to be. Flavia said I just smiled at the new boy because he was a vote. (This was not the case; I had no competition.) No, Jasper Innes walked into my English class, and I knew this was a boy I could study for hours. Months. Possibly years. I felt a literal wave of interest in him, like surfing.
Obsession is an interesting thing. It's time-consuming, portable, invisible and taboo.
Intensity terrifies people.
I think about Jaz all the time, in all ways. "Demented," people would say if they knew. "You need counseling, Hallie. You have difficulty with normal human relationships."
The only two acceptable obsessions, at least here in Maine, are sports and cars. If a boy got up at dawn, and spent hours lifting weights, swimming laps, and shooting baskets, people would say respectfully, "Do you know he works out for two hours before school every day?" Or if a girl sacrificed everything, never so much as bought a Coke, to save for a new truck, people would be in awe of her. "She's so determined," they'd say, impressed.
But look at Brittany, who is obsessed with knitting and is always sitting in the back row of class, needles clicking, yarn pouring off her lap. Never mind that she has the most beautiful sweaters on earth. "So pathetic," everybody says behind her back. "Like an old lady." Or Kyle, who sings madrigals. When I was organizing the Biking Expedition and being Editor of the yearbook, Kyle was starting up a madrigal choir, which sings the most anorexic, undernourished little songs you've ever heard. "Such a geek," they whisper behind Kyle's back.
Love is not sports or cars. It is not a valid obsession. If people knew how much I love Jaz, they would want me to love him less. They'd slot love right in there with knitting and madrigals. ("Weird kid, that Hallie Revness, obsessed with Jaz. It's sick, isn't it? I feel sorry for her parents.")
So people don't know. They think it's just a high school romance.
Jaz separated out some strands of my hair (I have armloads of long, thick, wavy black hair) and tied them under my chin like a bonnet. "I still say you should consider college, Hallie."
"Shut up about college, Jaz," I said. "I'm on a swear diet and I don't want to break it."
"You'll write me a million letters, won't you, Hallie?"
"No, but I'll make a million phone calls."
I'm always phoning Jaz. His mother usually answers. Mrs. Innes breathes slowly, calming herself before calling Jaz to the phone. Mr. and Mrs. Innes are not happy that Jaz is in love with me, and they certainly never refer to it as love. (Whenever I show up, they act startled, as if they had not expected a return performance. "Oh, are you going on another date?" Or, "Why, hello, uh—Hallie.")
College talk went on around me.
I molded chicken wire around a basketball. I ran curving rows of purple paper flowers around the form, to represent the stitching, and filled in the rest with white. Then I wired it to the hand of my ten-foot baseball player. Westerly High won the States this year, can you believe that? A school this small? First time in eighteen years!
"I don't want to be unsophisticated," Flavia said. "I'm worried about my clothes and my shoes and my accent."
Flavia and I have been best friends since birth, sharing everything from tennis lessons to peanut butter-and-Fluff sandwiches. (We used to call them PB and F, leaning heavily on the F, which back in elementary school was the closest we ever came to swearing. "Well, Fluff you!" we'd insult each other.) It irritates me that she worries about measuring up. "Fluff off," I muttered in her direction.
"At Princeton," Flavia said, "every single freshman will have been number one in high school. I'll be average. I'll blend in. Nobody will know me or notice me."
"Oh, no!" said a voice dramatically. "She'll be average! Oh, poor baby." The voice went thick with anger. "You're not worried about being average, Flavia. You just want to say out loud one more time about how you're going to Princeton."
I was a little surprised to see Johnny D'Andrea in school this early in the morning. My crew was here to prepare the Athletic Banquet, but even though Johnny was captain of our winning baseball team, he has no school spirit at all, will not join things, will not work on things, and certainly will not arrive inside the building one minute before he has to.
Johnny is a true local, the kind Mr. and Mrs. Innes worry might infect Jaz. Mr. D'Andrea manages a marina, and Johnny, who loves motors, has been getting his fingers oil-stained with repairs since grade school. There's nothing wrong with Johnny, exactly, except that he's ordinary.
Our senior year is the total eclipse. His is plain old noonday.
I stuffed a few more flowers in my "baseball," keeping busy. I pretty much feel this is my senior class: I created it, I'm in charge of it, and I'm responsible for it. I like us to be a forty-seven-member family, with no cliques, and I hate evidence to the contrary.
Flavia put her hands on her hips, swung around to show Johnny D'Andrea her back, and surveyed our ten-foot baseball player. "Hallie, what is that huge tube?"
"Six feet long?"
"We need drama. I want my centerpiece to be the best ever. Center front and newsworthy."
"You want center front, Hallie?" Johnny said. "What a surprise."
Sarcasm should be outlawed. The only thing it ever does is make a person be sarcastic back, till everybody's spitting at everybody else.
I handed over a box of doughnuts that still had some good ones in it, chocolate covered or jelly filled. "Be a sport, Johnny. This flower man is for you. In fact, he is you. I'm even going to put the cap backward in your honor."
Johnny never wears his baseball cap frontward, but jams it down backward with such vigor that his forehead has added a crease. A short, eighteen-year-old Italian muscleman with a fifty-year-old forehead. Johnny, Johnny, he's our man, if he can't do it, nobody can. "Did you drive your truck to school, Johnny?" I asked. "Would you take Jaz and get two more sheets of plywood?"
Johnny was not interested in doing any favors for the rich kid. "Whatsamatter? Can't fit plywood into your Jaguar?" said Johnny to Jaz.
Can you imagine a high school senior driving a Jaguar to school every day? In a village where every kid is driving a rusted-out hundred thousand miler or a fourth-hand pickup truck, that sleek metallic gray Jag with its red leather interior is pretty noticeable.
How I love that car. His Jaguar is our private world. Our party; our phone booth; our hideout. The horn is sharp and piercing; Jaz beeps my initial in Morse code whenever he sees me, thinks of me, or drives past my house: H is dit, dit, dit, dit. Nobody in this graduating class will ever forget H.
"Sure," Jaz said, "we can carry four-by-eights in the Jag. My father won't notice if we knock out the windows."
I thought it was funny, but Johnny took it literally: a father with so much money that a destroyed English sports car would be beneath his notice.
I have a lot of charm; I really do. It even works with a Johnny D'Andrea. I love being charming. I plan to conquer the world with it, which annoys Flavia. She plans to conquer the world, too, but she has a different one in mind. She wants to be a President of a Fortune 500 corporation, or else Ambassador to Moscow. She's always talking about getting her master's degree. Without an MBA, she likes to tell me scornfully, you might as well be a hairdresser.
So I charmed Johnny, who agreed to take Jaz in his truck and charge more plywood at the lumberyard. Jaz was grinning; he knew exactly what I was doing. But then, so did Johnny. Johnny fished in his jacket pocket for his keys. "How are you two lovebirds going to survive college?" he said. "You'll be a thousand miles apart come September."
"Mid-August, actually," corrected Jaz. "Orientation. Seventy-seven days till I leave."
"Eighty-one for me," said Michael.
"Seventy-eight for me," called Susannah.
I could not believe what I was hearing. We had the rest of senior year still to go! The best was yet to come—Senior Prom! "You worked out countdowns?" I said.
"Of course," Flavia said. "College is the most important thing on earth. You have to know when you're going."
Fluff off! College is not the most important thing on earth! "You're not going for ages," I protested. "We haven't even graduated. There's all summer yet. The beach. Sailing. Tennis. Going out to the islands."
"You make it sound like a thousand years of sun and sand," Jaz teased. He pulled my hair. "Come with us to the lumberyard."
"Too much to do," I said. "If I'm not here, this bunch will fade. Sit around and eat jelly doughnuts or something."
Michael waved his index card. (I write out people's assignments; otherwise they manage to forget their fair share.) "Nine chores on my list alone," he said, grinning. "I feel as if I'm going to graduate from Hallie instead of high school. I think I date Flavia just to have somebody standing between me and Hallie."
Our class took up kissing at about the time I ordered the swear diet. We kiss for everything, as though agreement and laughter can be sealed only by lips. We kiss hello and good-bye, kiss good luck before exams, kiss congratulations on awards.
Michael gave me a kiss: enjoying how I organize us all—cheek location.
Johnny gave me a kiss: apologizing—forehead location.
Jaz gave me a kiss: in love—lip location. (Greater duration than the previous two; round of applause from bystanders.)
I surveyed my Athletic Banquet, my purple-flowered baseball player, and my graduating classmates.
The world was perfect. I owned it, I ran it, and it was mine.
Excerpted from The Party's Over by Caroline B. Cooney. Copyright © 1991 Caroline B. Cooney. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hallie is the focal point of her class, the queen of senior year, but after high school--what? All her friends go off to college, but Hallie is sick of school. But what else is there?
I love this "anti-romance" of how Hallie, former high school centerpiece, does not enter college and must struggle to learn to live in the "real world" alone and four years earlier than her friends. She must make new friends, get to really know her mother, and find a job she is truly suited for. Hallie is likable and her struggles very real.
The Party's Over is a really good book! It is about a girl, Hallie, who starts out having the perfect Senior year, Boyfriend, looks, friends, and captian of the cheerleading team. Summer coems and everybodys talking about college. Hallie is not going to college. After everybody leaves she finds it very hard to find sometihng to do. She finally finds a job she likes very much.