Warning: contains spoilers.
In Chapter 9, we find and fight over yet another corpse. In Chapter 10, it’s the big reveal! We finally learn who the murderer is.
“We went to good, respectable worlds,” said Angela. “Moonbeams and rainbows and unicorn tears, not … not skeletons and dead people and deciding to be boys when we’re really girls!”
Oooh, ouch. Let’s pick this apart a little. It’s important to remember the story has already established that the worlds these people have been to are the core of their identities. I’ve mentioned before that our central group of characters are the outcasts, shown by how their worlds are different and considered weird by the majority. But many of them are also from real world marginalised groups. Kade is trans. Christopher is Hispanic. Nancy is asexual. By lumping the ‘weirdness’ of the worlds they’ve been to with real world marginalisation, the subtext becomes actual text. There’s no reason why unicorn tears are ‘more respectable’ than skeletons, except that most of the students here can relate more to unicorns. Our main characters are outcasts, not due to any fault of their own, but because the story told by the majority doesn’t fit them.
Eleanor’s offer of well-intentioned help hurts for the same reason. She can only save the children who could survive in her world, who have personalities similar to hers. To be safe, students need to be similar to someone in power. Now this doesn’t mean that Eleanor was wrong to offer a way out to those who could take it, and it doesn’t mean the people who take her way out are bad. It just means that, well, it’s not fair. That’s what privilege is. This is why privilege is such a difficult thing to deal with. It’s not wrong of Eleanor to offer this path of safety. Everyone here deserves to live. It’s just unfair that some people don’t get that chance.
Just as Chapter 8 focused on Jack, Chapter 9 focuses on Kade. We not only learn that he’s basically the heir to the school, we also get our first glimpse into his head, even if it’s only for a few paragraphs. It’s also Kade’s identity that is used as an insult to draw the link between the in-universe marginalisation of students who went to weird worlds, and the real world marginalisation of trans people and other minority groups.
Let’s have a moment to appreciate Kade’s deciding to wake his friends before investigating mysterious nighttime screaming, just because ‘he didn’t want to worry them.’ Aw, Kade. Such a sweet sentiment. Maybe you should worry more about being alone, near the source of mysterious nighttime screaming, when a murderer is on the loose.
While Chapter 9 is a Kade chapter, Chapter 10 focuses entirely on Nancy. Other than being a dramatic reveal, which it is, it also shows that when faced with the worst, Nancy reverts to her true self, and her true self is something that only survives by being still. This is in essence a foreshadowing of the ending. Nancy doesn’t belong here, and she won’t stay here. Take note.
At last, the murderer revealed for those who hadn’t spotted the clues! What I find interesting is the pacing decision of having the reveal happen in a very short chapter that really describes what happens over a minute or so. In a way, this is the literary version of slow motion, emphasised through the notion of stillness. There’s no action here – it’s just Nancy standing, watching Jill walk past with blood on her. But the fact that it is kept apart and in a separate chapter calls attention to it.
I also can’t help noticing that in general, the chapters are getting shorter. Some of that helps to indicate changes in point of view as we saw in Chapter 8, and some of it is to make small moments dramatic, as we see in Chapter 10. The net result is that each event is being given more importance. While there was very little action in the beginning, it’s all coming to a head now.