Part 4 continues to show that Maddie is serious about pulling an 180° turn and really make progress in life. However, as she moves forward, it seems Stewart takes steps back.
Trigger Warning: Chapter 9 Has an Attempted Rape
Chapter Summaries (with Commentary)
Chapter 1: “I want you to help me go to a good college”
It’s May and Maddie currently has a 3.6 GPA, no attendance issues and, if she does summer school, she can graduate with her class. But, that isn’t enough for Maddie. She is looking beyond the goal of simply graduating high school, and wants to be accepted to college. Not a community one mind you, but accepted to a real deal college. Something her principal isn’t necessarily the most optimistic about, but his lack of enthusiasm doesn’t kill Maddie’s drive. Which, be it because he is impressed, or hoping for the best, it is agreed he will do his best assuming Maddie can keep up her study habits over the summer.
Chapter 2: “[…] this is not where I belong. I need to go to a real college.”
At Portland Community College Maddie’s summer begins and, like her personal life, the college is drab, boring, and featuring a lot of people hindered in their advancement in life. But, even with no Stewart support, and no vocal support from family or friends, she remains determined. For coming to a community college, which she makes sound like a second-rate experience, isn’t even presented as an option. Hence the “real college” statement.
Chapter 3: “[…] there’s something about Martin that brings out my inner smart-ass”
After being separated for some time, and despite the huge amount of studying Maddie has to do, she tries to get in contact with Martin. Someone who doesn’t really seem to want to be contacted. So, to work around this, Maddie calls the house phone instead of Martin’s cell – thus leading to success!
But, things are rather cold, at least at first. That is, until Grace is brought up. Someone who Martin is seeing and Maddie can help him with. It should be noted, though, Martin doesn’t want Maddie’s help at all when it is first brought up. However, with her seeming a bit enthusiastic about him dating, he gives in and asks her advice. Showing that, despite his outburst, and him not liking how she teases, he seemingly is coming around to understanding Maddie isn’t as big of an ass as she sometimes seems.
Chapter 4: Allison and Veronica
In chapter 2 Maddie speaks on these two girls in her class, these rocker chicks, and their names are Allison and Veronica. But, until chapter 4, they seem rather unimportant. Though don’t think of them like you would Emily, or even Martin, because they don’t last long. If anything, they just ask about Maddie’s guy situation, which seemed a bit random, and it sort of reaffirms that while Maddie still has feelings for Stewart, they aren’t stable and firm. It has transitioned back from being within physical reality to once again being a dream.
Chapter 5: He and Grace
Grace is finally met in the flesh and while Maddie is proud and happy for Martin, arguably she isn’t that into Grace. Be it because she is prissy, or thinks she is more fascinating than she is, she doesn’t seem to think she and Grace are going to hit it off what so ever. But, nonetheless, between the making out, and the eventual “experiment with petting,” it seems Martin is going to be a very happy boy.
Chapter 6: “I’m not mad. I’m not disappointed. I just want to talk to him.”
Being sober in the summer time Maddie paints as a lonely existence. Being a 3rd wheel for Martin isn’t appetizing; Stewart is here and there, but never as accessible as Maddie wants; and Emily, well she is in the San Juan Islands enjoying the sun, boys, and her sister’s latest scandal. Thus leaving Maddie all alone and just going out to get out of the house. Which leads to people watching, and her seeing Jeff Weed and Bad Samantha. Mind you, she only watches them, perhaps reminisces, but doesn’t interact. For it seems the closer she gets toward her goals, the farther the person those two once knew seems. To the point Maddie can’t even imagine interacting them and even, for a moment, going back.
Chapter 7: “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.”/ “Tell me where you are. Tell me exactly where you are…”
As noted in the overview, as Maddie progresses it seems Stewart is stumbling. Not forward mind you, as he seemingly would working for his father, but rather backwards. For, in a slightly random phone call, Stewart reveals he is drunk. Then, to add some icing to that lopsided cake, he has been on a bender for 4 days partying. Leading to the question: Will Maddie be there for the boy who wasn’t there for her when the closest thing to a best friend in years died? Well, answer is: Yes.
Chapter 8: “[…] I haven’t always been a great friend to people.”
With Stewart in trouble, Maddie needs to get to him as soon as possible. But! To show how far she has progressed, rather than simply take the keys and fly down the road, she speaks to her dad first. He, naturally, isn’t much for her making the sacrifice of her education but, between the possibility of her loving Stewart, and the recent passing of Trish, it becomes clear Maddie has to go see Stewart. After all, bad enough Maddie wasn’t called on when Trish could have used her, so to ignore Stewart when eh directly asks for her help, she can’t just ignore that.
Chapter 9: “My skin is exposed. The sensation is terrifying. I fight more, try to scream, twist, kick –“
Those who have watched Courage the Cowardly Dog, maybe familiar with the phrase “The things I do for love” and in this chapter, Maddie learns what she is perhaps willing to do for the man she loves. For it is 12:15 AM, she is in an unfamiliar state, in an unfamiliar town, looking around a bar looking for a boy she hasn’t seen in months, and hasn’t spoken to on a regular basis in who knows how long. Yet, here she is, she rushed, she sacrifices her safety and risks all.
Which isn’t even an exaggeration. Maddie sped down to Redland, goes behind the bar and damn near gets raped as she tries to get Stewart out of this bad situation. Thankfully, though, someone from inside the bar helps quickly end the two on one and while Maddie has ripped underwear, and trauma which surely will last the rest of her life, Stewart is safe. Question is, though, in the long term, will the sacrifice be made up for by her playing savior?
Part 4 is when things got interesting. Not necessarily because Maddie is progressing, for the fall is always more interesting than the rise, but because she has officially proved she does not need outside support to stand on her own.
In chapter 1 Maddie proved she didn’t need her principal to firmly believe in her to do well, and in later chapters she proved even her mom being a bit shady wouldn’t kill her determination. Then, even without Stewart, or even Martin and Emily to be consistent forces in her life, again she proved that she perhaps is no longer dependent on outside forces, be it alcohol, drugs, or people, to remain who she sees herself as, much less maintain that person.
With chapters 8 & 9, we begin to see Maddie as more than simply Stewart’s savior, but perhaps a beacon of some kind. Which isn’t to imply that she has considered social work or anything of the like, but it is hard to not become more fascinated with Maddie’s journey as we see her putting herself in a multitude of danger for someone who hasn’t necessarily been the rock she needed.
Though he isn’t a big part of the book, it is hard to not admire the progress Martin has had. His initial introduction made him come off shrimpy, and someone who likely would drift off with time, but he has become a rock of sorts. One who is consistent, can draw his own interest, and even without the most fascinating of backstories, it is hard to not feel a bit invested in him.
Not until chapter 9 of part 4 have we ever had a real chapter. Which sort of pisses me off for the detail and energy given to this chapter makes you wonder what could have been done with other chapters to not only beef them up, but make them interesting. Which isn’t me saying that chapter 9 was exciting due to the unfortunate attempted rape, but because you can tell there was something Nelson wanted to convey. As if he was waiting for this moment and wanted to actually build to it and then leave things with you wondering how would it be handled? This is in comparison to other chapters which often seemed like he was following that exercise of, “You need to write at least once a day.” Which led to this book having one to three-page chapters which seem so uninspired that it seems he was just trying to figure out how to get toward some sort of ending.
On The Fence
I honestly am unsure if things may plateau or swan dive from here. Chapter 9 was exciting, dangerous, and a bit frightening. Something which surely can’t be maintained, but one can only hope the energy can remain in some form or fashion. Especially since now there needs to be a focus on Stewart’s recovery, and perhaps Maddie’s after what she has just been through.
In part 5 Maddie has to face her past, and the end of one future she was possibly hoping for. Yet, despite what happens in this part, and what happened in the parts preceding, it seems she isn’t going to break. Question is, though, should there be an addendum to that last sentence in the form of “isn’t going to break… yet” or, as said below, and perhaps before, could Maddie’s resiliency perhaps be underestimated?
Chapter Summaries (with Commentary)
Chapter 1: “[…] three hours’s sleep, with a fat lip and bruises everywhere, I take my summer school finals.”
While the main thing that matters here is Maddie took her finals, it is really that last blurb which perhaps is the most interesting. It deals with the idea of Maddie telling her parents she was almost raped. An idea which she doesn’t know about doing, for she is unsure how to approach it, but then comes the question: can her parents even handle that?
I mean, based off the way Maddie has made things seem, the relationship she has with her parents isn’t tight knit at all. She and her mother are alright, but she isn’t at all trying to get her attention or affection. Then, with her dad, while he is more approachable and more likable, unfortunately, he isn’t as accessible. To the point, I wonder how did they handle Maddie hitting what they deemed to be rock bottom? Especially since, as of this chapter, it seems questions aren’t asked and she is pretty much left to her own devices.
Chapter 2: “[…] I have never seen anyone turn themselves around quite like you have.”
Final tally: 2 As, 2 Bs. All of which are good marks, but Mr. Brown is upfront about there being limited options even if Maddie did come through. The good thing, though, is that he verbally says he is making sure she has options. Now, what exactly are those options? That isn’t mentioned or noted. Either way, it is nice that someone is recognizing Maddie’s turnaround.
Chapter 3: “I’m gonna stay clean this time.”
Stewart calls and everything is rather uneventful. The rape attempt is brushed off by Maddie and Stewart was so out of it that he only knows there was some sort of commotion. But, nonetheless, he is grateful for Maddie sacrificing her time and coming to get him. Though, with what happened, there comes the thought if Maddie’s need to step back comes from the idea that Stewart perhaps isn’t good for her. Be it in terms of sobriety, or how taxing it is waiting for phone calls, as well as not being able to see him, maybe that is the reason she wants to walk away? In the end, though, she feels the words unspoken are still understood and with a hug and a goodbye, it seems to her they realize friendship is perhaps as far as the two should go right now. Leading to the question: Does that mean either one may move onto someone else?
Chapter 4: Serious and Mysterious
Everything appears to continue to be quite well for Maddie going into the month of October. She is a good student, has decent friends in Martin and Emily, some boy named Doug has a crush on her, and then, on top of all that, Stewart is doing well. But, even with things going so well, the past still does sort of haunt Maddie. Mostly that night she saved Stewart but, perhaps like most of her past, she suppresses old thoughts, feelings, and memories, and just presses ahead forward. Sort of making you wonder if some sort of therapist should have become part of Maddie’s life. For while she is handling sobriety wonderfully, there remains this constant fear that all that needs to happen is a major trigger to destroy her sobriety. Though, considering a rape attempt didn’t trigger her to drink, maybe I’m underestimating her commitment.
Chapter 5: Normal People Never Like Me
As noted in the last chapter, Maddie has become quite good friends with Emily, to the point that Emily seems to truly have gone beyond a simple curiosity, or perhaps even infatuation, partly due to her sister, to genuinely enjoying Maddie’s company. Which is sort of odd an idea until you realize the main reason Emily perhaps likes Maddie is because she isn’t about the partying lifestyle. For, as noted in chapter 4, Emily wants to be taken seriously and, arguably, perhaps one of the few, if not only, people to do so might just be Maddie. Hence why it seems rare that Maddie is ever around Emily when it comes to when she wants to party. Almost as if she shares this secret life with Maddie.
Those thoughts aside, perhaps the main thing to note is that Maddie meets a cute boy this chapter. One named Simon who is sort of like the guys she met when she went on vacation with her dad, but less of a douche and not offering her drugs. Now, as for what may come of Emily having these two meet, well…
Chapter 6: “Bad things happen if you keep getting trashed every night.”
With us being unable to fully experience Maddie during her Mad Dog days, the next best thing is Ashley, Emily’s sister. Someone who seems to drink, drug, and party like Maddie used to and perhaps has the same complacency. For, as Emily checks if the close is clear at home, Maddie and Ashley have a forced upon lecture. One in which Ashley seems to not care about death, or being raped, and not even if people thinks she is pathetic. Yet, then we see the crossroad as Ashley asks about rehab, and it makes you wonder, once more, what got Maddie to rehab? Who talked, or forced, her into the program, and convinced her to stay? I could have very well forgotten but, again, with no one really checking on Maddie’s sobriety, it is hard to say who that person was.
Chapter 7: “[…] their Lost Prince”
60 days sober! Stewart gets his AA anonymous chip and his newfound community make a nice little event of it. For, from what it seems, Stewart charm has captured their hearts the same way it has captured Maddie’s. He is, as Maddie puts it, their lost prince. And again, in my head, I wonder where is Maddie’s celebration, where are the people proud of her for remaining sober? Assuming anyone thinks she still is. But this chapter isn’t about Maddie, it is about Stewart, and it seems he truly may make it. Though, when it comes to Stewart and Maddie’s relationship, it seems the best times might be gone. For while the two are still into each other enough to have sex, it seems Stewart doesn’t feel they can go back to where they once were. Something Maddie isn’t happy about but seems to accept.
Chapter 8: One Year Clean and Sober
To further push the idea Maddie wants some sort of recognition, even if she never says so, she decides to go to the Young People’s AA meeting her and Trish went to in the past. There, she announces she is celebrating her anniversary and it seems she wasn’t expecting the positive response she got. Granted, it isn’t on the level of what Stewart got, since Maddie hasn’t come to the group in months, but you can tell there is something about people recognizing this accomplishment Maddie needed.
Chapter 9: “I can’t speak. My eyes blur. And then there’s no stopping the tears.”
With one year of sobriety comes the appreciation of carols and Thanksgiving traditions over scrubbing toilets and more conservative festivities. But then comes Stewart. As noted earlier, it seems that no longer was there a simple “Pause” on Maddie and his relationship. It, without any doubt, is over. Which isn’t said in a cruel manner mind you, more so with an announcement that Stewart has someone: Kirsten. Thus opening the doors for perhaps Maddie to date someone new, and not hold onto the hopes of one day having Stewart once more. There is Doug, the almost so shy he is a coward, boy, and of course Simon, but before they can become options the heart has to weep. Stewart, after all, was Maddie’s first good, legitimate love. Someone who cared for her outside of whatever sex or fun she could bring, and just liked her for she was there, matched his needs, and he matched hers. Yet now, it is all over. No questioning, no break, just over.
Chapter 10: “Stewart […] understands me in a way none of these people ever could, or ever will.”
During Midnight Mass Maddie looks around and sees boys everywhere, all clean, polite, and possibilities. Yet, they are not Stewart. A problem because Stewart knows her secrets, knows her problems, and accepted her, and didn’t mistreat her, despite all that. Plus, in the grand scheme of things, he was the only one who truly understood. For while Emily may understand how it is to not be taken seriously, and Martin may know the feeling of feeling like an outsider, to a point, they don’t know how difficult it is to recover from an addiction, deal with having to drastically change your life, and try to not only maintain, but do better. Then, on top of that, as Maddie cries in church, all her mom does is hand her a Kleenex. No question of what is wrong, or anything showing compassion, it seems more so she is trying to possibly avoid embarrassment. Perhaps the reason why Maddie was sent to rehab in the first place.
Chapter 11: “A terrible scene to have to report, Bill.”
This chapter is merely a setup. One which establishes the day, New Year’s Eve, and notes, once more, as much as Maddie would be willing to give Doug a chance, he is just too much of a chicken and she doesn’t want to do all the heavy work. But what really matters is what comes in the next chapter, if only because it represents the road Maddie could have taken if the Mad Dog era never ended.
Chapter 12: “In that way, maybe Ashley was blessed. She never had to think about what she had done.”
In an alternate universe, perhaps Ashley would have been the star of this book. Though, rather than track her time from rehab to stability, it would track her downfall. All of which came for Ashley due to, allegedly, a hoodie. One which caused a huge fight that ended up killing 5 people in a vehicular accident. On one side, three young ladies, Ashley, Rachel, and Jayna, and then the other vehicle, the elderly couple who shared the last name D’Augustinos.
All of it is really sad but, as noted in earlier overview/ reviews, this book is written like a diary so all we get is the facts, as per some boy. So, like with Trish’s death, all we get are details as told through 3rd parties and not Ashley’s, or the others, recount of what happened.
Chapter 13: “I’ve had enough.”
While the D’Augustinos just become a blurb in the story, so much is done to mourn the lives of Ashley, Jayna, and Rachel. There are three successive funerals, articles about drinking and driving, of which include the question of upping the age for teenagers to drive? Which Maddie laughs at since Ashley was 15 when she took the wheel and caused the accident. But perhaps what is worth noting here is that after all these funerals, and trying to be there for Emily, there comes a point where Maddie has had enough. Be it because this early end could have been hers, or because she just doesn’t strongly feel a part of the community, she just can’t do this collective mourning as long, and as much, as everyone else. Not to paint her as heartless, but it seems between Trish’s death, what is happening with Stewart, and her own recovery, there is enough to mourn, ponder, and obsess with, in Maddie’s life to the point Ashley, and the other girls, just can’t be added to Maddie’s cross to bear.
A part of me feels like Ashley’s perhaps sole purpose was to fulfill that need of us understand where, at one time, Maddie was. For she seems so much like the Mad Dog Maddie we have seldom heard about, and I’d argue represents what could have been.
It was good to hear Stewart stumbled, but eventually returned to regular sobriety.
I like how complicated things are between Maddie and Stewart. He is her first love, but she can’t sort of afford to heavily invest in him. Not because of his one lapse, but because it honestly seems she recognizes that giving herself over to him entirely, once more, is dangerous. Then, on his side of things, he realizes he can’t really be all Maddie wants, as well as needs. Plus, despite it only being brought up once, it shows their different social classes don’t make it seem like they could be anything but long term friends. After all, Maddie has plans to go to college out east, study English, and they could barely handle being long distance when he was 60 some odd miles away. Imagine being across the country from one another?
I honestly feel like Maddie’s parents aren’t within her story enough. They are like ghostly figures and it bothers me for you think they would check up on her more. But, alas, it seems her mom is just about appearances and her dad is her father when he is around, but otherwise is just the man paying for her lifestyle.
On The Fence
Often when I watch TV shows I often come to the thought that perhaps the character, especially if they are a serial monogamous one, should just be single. But I don’t know if I necessarily am hoping this for Maddie. Be it because I think Stewart was more so just a taste or introduction to a normal relation, or because he just doesn’t seem like her OTP. Either way, I hope she dates more. Even if it isn’t Simon or Doug, but someone in whatever college she ends up in. That is, assuming we will follow her story that far.
No matter what I do now, there are certain doors I have already closed, certain opportunities I’ll never get back. […] It is what it is.
— “Part 5/ Chapter 4.” Recovery Road
It’s not perfect. […] Which is different than not right.
— “Part 5/ Chapter 7.” Recovery Road
We’re both the same in that way, smart girls who somehow decided we shouldn’t be, or were afraid to be, or just decided to rebel against our own abilities for some reason.
— “Part 5/ Chapter 4.” Recovery Road
From February to Graduation isn’t as traumatic as the last few months of Maddie’s life. But, of course, some things still go awry or simply not the way Maddie would prefer.
Chapter Summaries (with Commentary)
Chapter 1: “I hope we’ll still be friends.”
As you could imagine, being that Stewart, previously, had an issue with just regularly keeping in contact with Maddie, her helping him move in with his new girlfriend is difficult. Though what makes things especially hard is he wants to stay friends. Which doesn’t seem necessarily horrible to Maddie, but you can tell the concept of “being friends” when she really wants something more, may take some adjusting. For, as she noted, and he notes in this chapter, they went through rehab together and share a special bond because of that. Unfortunately for Maddie though, that bond is strong enough for Stewart to maintain a friendship, but not really continue pushing for a relationship.
Chapter 2: “Maybe you didn’t say it right.”
On top of Stewart having a new girlfriend, Maddie losing her female best friend Emily. Reason being? Well, Emily, passive aggressively mind you, blames Maddie for not convincing Ashley to change her ways. Something which seems like utter BS, for even if Ashley did look up to Maddie, that is quite a weight to put on someone. But, in many ways, as I saw Ashley as perhaps who Maddie could have been without rehab, it seems Emily sees Maddie as who her sister could have been if she went. So, being that Maddie only brings up painful memories, and she sort of blames her for not trying hard enough, it seems their friendship is over.
Chapter 3: I have my own moments of dark thoughts
It seems Emily’s words have slipped into Maddie’s mind and have slowly brought her down from her former high. For now, she begins to question if perhaps her little chat with Ashley should have been more serious, does she deserve any blame, and with Stewart shacked up, and Martin dating someone as well, she doesn’t have anyone to turn to for reassurance.
Perhaps leading to the first falter of the book: She seems to no longer wish to go to college. In her own words, “The last thing I want is more school, more pressure, more stress.” Making it seem that between Ashley’s death, and Emily blaming her for it, to Stewart officially moving on, it seems Maddie is close to maybe breaking down. But, it should be noted, a bad day for Maddie isn’t being conceived to mean things are about to become utter crap. For she did get into the University of Massachusetts and, at the very least, her father is pushing her to continue what she started.
Chapter 4: The main thought I have when I see her is: small town.
Kirsten finally meets Maddie and, well Maddie isn’t too impressed. She explains her as someone who looks like a vegan hippie, and as someone who looks wispy. But, despite a somewhat harsh means of describing how she looks and acts, she is happy for Stewart. Mind you, she still worries about him, despite having a stable community surrounding and supporting him, as well as him having his own place and a job. As for why? Well, one could only assume because the lost prince courts trouble and people always seem to vie for his attention and company.
Chapter 5: “You’re back in hide-out mode again.”
With Emily, pretty much, ending her friendship with Maddie, it has taken her away from her main social outlet. Thankfully, however, Martin decides to check up on Maddie. But, let’s be real, perhaps one of the main reasons is because he sees the writing is on the wall when it comes to Grace, and so he would rather hang with Maddie than deal with his friends. Of which, we hear nothing about, but considering how Maddie is still fairly new, but she paints the picture they pretty much hang out with each other often now, since Grace does dump Martin, you have to wonder what happened to his friends?
I mean, first off, there is Doug who had a huge crush on Maddie. You’d think he’d be asking to 3rd wheel and get some time with Maddie. But, alas, from what it seems, the rest of senior year for Maddie is just hanging with Martin, looking at clouds, and reminiscing about the last 4 years.
Chapter 6: I mean it. I’m totally serious.
This chapter isn’t really about Maddie, or really about graduation, at all. Pretty much it is about Grace and Martin fighting during graduation. You see, Grace seems to have this image in her head of how things are supposed to be, and Martin just isn’t going with it. First, he hangs out with Maddie enough, while he and Grace were dating, to make her jealous, then, after they break up, she thinks he owes her a picture at graduation. An idea Martin isn’t for what so ever, and it becomes such a big deal that Grace’s mom gets involved.
Meanwhile, Maddie just stands off to the side and just seems to be amused by it all. Mostly because, this perhaps is the final moments she may really have with Martin. So remembering that once nerdish kid become this guy some girl is freaking out over, because she wants one final picture to remember him by, must have seemed comical. Also, with her noting she cheered him on, you can tell that the process is complete. Martin helped her break out of her shell, to the point of seeming approachable to others and, in a way, Maddie helped Martin become more stern in his feelings, stand up for himself, and even gain a bit of confidence. Leaving them on equal ground, to a point.
Though it shouldn’t be considered a good thing at all, I kind of liked the fact Emily did sort of blame Maddie for her sister’s death. If only because it represents that odd place people in recovery are sometimes placed in. That odd position where, just because you made it, others think you can play savior. Which, even as strong as Maddie has shown herself to be, isn’t, and wasn’t, always possible. For just as much as she might have saved Stewart, she lost Trish. Then, when it comes to Ashley, arguably as much as Emily is trying to place blame on Maddie, I think it is only to cover up what she did, and didn’t, do as a sister. After all, based on how Maddie talked about her, Emily pretty much did all Ashley did. The only difference is, Emily did it on a lower scale, had less lackey like friends, and puts more effort into her education. But, since Maddie isn’t in that mindset to make a grieving girl feel bad, she just internalized it. Something which I think speaks as to perhaps why, over time, Maddie is seeming like a more and more complex character. One which has made this book more interesting with time.
Taking note of what I said in the highlights, I do wish we would get more than surface level thoughts from Maddie. What I mean is, what Maddie often gives us are shallow observations or recollections of what happened. Yet she doesn’t strongly go into how things make her feel, how they make her think, and how that leads to certain actions. Which only bothers me for, despite being only 2 parts away from the end of the book, I still feel like I barely got to know Maddie at all.
On The Fence
Being that I’m so used to the female and male lead getting together in the end, I must admit I’m having some difficulty adapting to the idea that Maddie and Stewart won’t likely end the book together. Yet, a part of me is happy about this. If only because you can never say Maddie got better because of Stewart, broke down because of Stewart, or depending on him in either way. As noted by him, they share a bond and history, but there is no dependency between them. Their love, and friendship, is based on understanding and looking out for each other. Something rather sweet, and different, especially among YA novels.