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College applications and the SATs are already part of a stressful time for young people without adding murder. Similar to their contemporaries Nicole Davidson knew that death could strike anytime, anywhere. The young author uses this familiar rite of passage as the backdrop for her 1990 novel crash course. The setup is suspicious enough; Eight teenagers seeking higher education hole up with their strict teacher in a lakeside cabin during the Thanksgiving holiday. This recipe for danger is self-fulfilling once a student dies under strange circumstances. And until help arrives, the other students succumb to their isolation and growing paranoia.

The youthful characters of crash course are more or less strangers who have been sentenced to five days in prison along with Mr. Alexander Porter, a badass teacher who runs a program for students who want to take the SATs. The story’s 16-year-old protagonist, Kelly Peterson, is surprised to learn that she was enrolled without her consent; Her dad signed her entire Thanksgiving hiatus. It’s not all bad because Kelly’s friend and crush signed on too.

In addition to the four popular Thomaston High children, there are four other characters whose social status varies. Isabel Smith is the new girl whose Native American heritage leads to some awkward moments of being different. Kelly is particularly guilty of exoticizing her potential new boyfriend. By now, Chris Baxter is well known at school, but not for good reasons; The only black character in history is a hulking athlete with a reputation for violence. Nathan Grant, who Jeff was somewhat acquainted with prior to the trip, is an outsider in the more traditional sense of the word. Bringing up the rear of this mixed crew is Angel Manson, the spacey girl from another school.

If so, they might all have survived the Thanksgiving holiday.

Davidson doesn’t exactly jump straight to the murders, but once someone dies, the mystery engulfs the rest of the book with no breaks or escapes. Eventually, the cast is stuck in this remote cabin until the bus picks them up on Sunday, and there’s no phone nearby to call for help. Curiously, the author chooses to practically reveal the identity of the perpetrator in the prologue. Who really wants to read crash course It would be wise to skip the preface, let alone this whole synopsis.

The first and only true death in the story happens after Isabel scares the others with one legend of the area’s aborigines; Unhappy young lovers make a suicide pact and drown in Deep Creek Lake so they can be together forever. Kelly’s best friend Brian Lopez is visibly shaken by Isabel’s campfire story, but the reason for that only becomes clearer when you remember what’s going on with his character. Before embarking on the trip, Brian was found fighting with his longtime girlfriend, Paula Schultz. The possessive cheerleader is upset at the idea that they would inevitably break up after high school, especially when Brian plans to skip college and go to an Air Force Academy instead. However, the couple doesn’t get a chance to make things right – Brian disappears after getting off in a rowboat in the middle of the night.

With Brian’s body nowhere to be found and Paula claiming a stranger is responsible, Mr. Porter goes in search of help. The remaining characters then attempt to solve the puzzle on their own, which amounts to nothing more than convenient finger pointing. Chris twice displays his violent temper, but it turns out he’s suffering from a serious case of ‘roid rage’. The sensitive athlete injected himself with anabolic steroids so that scouts would notice him. Nathan’s drug abuse and generally awkward behavior all stem from a bad home situation. Isabel just heard that popular students were going to this retreat and she wanted to make friends. Of course, her story about the lovers had a higher purpose. Finally, there’s Angel, the runaway who talks to animals and inanimate objects. However, she is too caught up in her own world to ever hurt anyone. Also, Angel is a witness to what Yes, really happened on the boat.

When odds are excluded, crash course is of course aimed at the cool kids. Jeff Mitchell, the Harvard wrestler and Kelly’s crush, is a suspect for a hot minute before we’re reminded he has no real motive for hurting Brian. With that in mind, Kelly finds out who really is to blame here. After Nathan is brutally stabbed and pronounced dead with Isabel’s hunting knife – after learning the assailant’s identity – Kelly exposes the culprit. There, on the lake shore, where everyone was desperately looking for Brian that horrible night, Kelly is confronted with the culprit.

Because if he fell forward onto his chest, the blade would pierce him straight through.

There’s a touch of the uncanny in there crash course, although the author does not perform. The mysticism and tokenism surrounding Isabel already borders on the outrageous. Still, it’s Isabel’s storied story that partly inspired the crime. As Kelly suspects, Paula is the one who meets her on the shore. She may have tried to shut up Nathan, but Brian was a total accident. Like Isabel, Paula knew the legend of the Deep Creek Lake lovers in advance and that was why she took Porter’s SAT course and convinced Brian to come. In a dark twist set out in the prologue, Paula backed away from her own suicide pact with Brian once they were on the lake. Brian, in an attempt to scare Paula right after hearing Isabel’s version of the myth, took his girlfriend out on the rowboat. Paula actually had a change of heart about dying with her lover. Unfortunately, Brian slipped and drowned.

Brian’s death was an accident; he was not murdered. But Paula feared that no one would believe her, or that everyone would shun her. Despite her three reports of attempted murder – Nathan and Kelly, along with Mr Porter, who escaped lightly with a broken leg – Miss Schultz was sent to a psychiatric institution instead of jail. The continuation crash landingreleased in 1996 but takes place just over a year after the events of crash course, takes place at a mountain resort near Deep Creek Lake. And as Kelly continues to mourn Brian, she becomes involved in yet another murder. This time however she is the prime suspect.

The mystery of the sequel begins with the death of Paula during a rather wintry spring break. She secretly escaped from the asylum to visit the place where Brian died and to make amends with everyone she had hurt. But after Kelly forgives her, Paula is found dead with a knife wound. Kelly eventually becomes the prime suspect as part of the local police’s plan to lure out the real killer. While the ruse doesn’t quite work out as intended, Kelly not only gets to the bottom of Paula’s murder, but also another crime under investigation.

Kelly turned her head and saw the snowmobile recklessly hurtle through an opening in the trees and then barrel straight toward them.

crash landing spoils the dominant PSA culture of the decade. First there is Nathan’s heavy drinking and then there is Kelly’s eating disorder. Neither of the two issues is 100% resolved in the end, so at least Davidson doesn’t raise unrealistic expectations. Finally, there is the other crime that coincides with Paula’s death; A classmate named Will was smuggling guns up and down the east coast. If Paula hadn’t discovered one of Will’s caches of weapons, she could have lived much longer. The undercover cop who is tracking Will’s undercover activities and protecting Kelly, a 21-year-old named Troy, suspects drugs rather than illegal guns. Regardless, this story was one of many in the ’90s that sought to educate young people about drugs, gangs, and guns.

crash course is sold as an Agatha Christie-style story for younger audiences, but it’s more like that The Breakfast Club if this movie had been a teen crime thriller set on a low flame. crash landinghowever, feels like a 21 Jump Street Consequence; In the end, it’s what can best be described as an after-school thriller. Not much happens in the first book, while the second might have too much going on. However, for a better pace and a less predictable plot, the sequel is the better of these two Deep Creek Lake stories.


There was a time when horror and suspense flooded the young adult bookstores. These books were easily recognized by their bold fonts and garish cover art. This remarkable young adult fiction subgenre thrived in the 1980s, peaked in the 1990s, and finally came to an end in the early 00s. Horrors like this may be a thing of the past, but the stories live on Buried in a book. This recurring column reflects on the nostalgic novels that readers still haunt decades later.

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