Warning: contains spoilers.
In Chapter 7, the team deals with stress by drinking cocoa. In Chapter 8, Jack and Christopher lead Loriel’s bones to her final resting place. These are both short chapters so I’m dealing with both of them at once.
It’s surprising how small details can endear us to characters in books. We learn a lot of little things, like that Nancy knows you can’t get blood out of taffeta, that Jack has been logging into other people’s Facebook accounts, and that Christopher appreciates a good cocoa. These aren’t exactly plot-relevant or thematic details in any way, they’re just there to make the people here seem more real.
We actually learn a lot about Jack and how she operates. She’s incredibly observant — she not only knows where Eleanor keeps her clotted cream, she’s figured out how to personalise each person’s cocoa. This is impressive, especially since these are people she doesn’t often talk to, or in Nancy’s case, has known for less than a week. (I can barely remember which of my friends likes sugar in their tea.) However, she masks her thoughtfulness through a brusque manner. She does not invite friendship. Jack’s attitude toward her sister is also very interesting. While she shows ‘all-too-real concern’ for her sister, she masks it, and can’t get out of the room fast enough once Jill shows up.
When you think about it, it is odd that Jack isn’t the protagonist of the story. After all, she faces the most suspicion, and therefore arguably facing more of an obstacle. She’s closer to the murderer than anyone else. It might be more difficult to introduce the world through Jack’s eyes, but certainly not impossible. I don’t actually have an answer for this yet, although hopefully I will be able to revisit it later. If you do, comment below, I’m always open to new perspectives! (Not a cry for help at all, I swear.)
It’s worth noting that the difference between our main group of characters and the others in the school isn’t necessarily the fact that they came from ‘creepy’ worlds. If that were the case, Kade would likely not be here. The difference is that they are more likely to accept the differences between the worlds, that they listen with interest rather than disgust. Jack is fascinated to hear how Christopher’s people cut into flesh to remove the bones from the bodies. Christopher does snark a bit about how ‘creepy’ Jack is, but he dials it down in Chapter 8, deciding not to comment on the fact that she once removed lungs from a living person.
The fact that almost none of the other characters share this level of openness leads again to the clashing of narratives. Lundy suspects Nancy because she thinks in stories, and in a story (that’s not this one) Nancy would be the most likely suspect. However, Nancy’s fear on realising this is short-lived, since Eleanor doesn’t suspect her, meaning she won’t be expelled. This shows that the narrative that takes precedence is the one told by whoever is in power. In this school, Eleanor outranks Lundy, and so what she believes is more important. Her story outweighs the other. If those more powerful than you agree with your narrative, you are in the clear. If not, you’re in trouble.
This comes up time and again. The other girls in the school have more social capital than Jack, so the narrative that Jack is the murderer is more widely accepted than Jack’s own version. If the school closed, Kade, Christopher and Nancy would be homeless without their parents, and so their parents’ narrative would be the one they would have to follow. If one has power, then one has the ability to shape the stories of others against their will.
This is basically what the murderer is doing. The things that went missing — Sumi’s hands, Loriel’s eyes — are representative of their core identity, the part of themselves that led them to their respective worlds. These are the things that the murderer is stealing for their own gain. So we see the thematic elements play out in both a figurative and a literal sense.
Plot and Mystery
We get what is possibly the most obvious clue, although I’m pretty sure I still missed it on a first reading. Loriel points at the space beside Jack, indicating the person closest to Jack is the murderer. A canny reader could link this to Jill’s mysterious absence over the previous chapter and hit on the solution.
We’re entering the home stretch of the story, and all the elements are coming together. It’s easier to see the connections between the plot and the themes, the themes and the characters. We haven’t far to go.