Anna has gone down to Solitary to chat to Peter, because, if she doesn’t, the plot will never advance.
“’I…I just wanted to check that you were OK.’”
Peter is woozy and out of it, and Anna thinks it’s because Charlie and the others beat him senseless earlier. As it turns out, Evil Mrs Pincent and the random men had been interrogating him to try to find out more about his main character status.
“There were beatings – usually with a belt, sometimes with a ruler, and, very occasionally, with her bare fists.”
Evil Mrs Pincent is pretty horrific, but I can’t help feeling that the opening chapters of the book could have been used to show us all these things. Instead, we got loads scenes of Anna giving Peter the brush-off, and then we have this world-building shoe-horned into scenes where events might actually be happening. It’s a failure of pacing.
“’I’m not going to wake up anyone. I need to bang my head to wake myself up.’”
I guess any time Peter says something like this we can put it down to him being a kid, but even so, really? “I know what will wake me up – brain damage!”
Anna wants to go back to bed to get some sleep before the daily grind resumes, but Peter doesn’t want her to leave. He’s worried that Mrs Pincent is going to “terminate” him, and ideally he’d like to escape with Anna before that happens.
”Thanks, Anna. You’re…you’re my best friend.’
‘You’re my friend too,’ she said hesitantly.”
I get that YA novels have to be snappy with the pacing, but I still hate it when characters become good friends more out of narrative convenience than because of anything we see on the page. Anna and Peter have been anything but close so far in this novel, but even so, they are now best friends just by dint of both being main characters.
Peter tells Anna there’s a secret tunnel that they can use to escape, and Anna takes the opportunity to have a flashback to a time Mrs Pincent beat her for looking out at the falling snow and dreaming of outside, instead of mindlessly doing her chores like a good servant should. The memory is enough to make her not want to buck authority.
”’We don’t have forever, Anna. Not like the rest of them. We need to get out, before it’s too late.’”
We’re main characters, and if we don’t do something soon, the book with end without any plot development!
The next day, it’s business as usual, and once again Sheila is causing trouble by being useless. In a classic case of the abused becoming the abuser, Anna makes Sheila miss breakfast by insisting she go and sew a loose button back onto her overalls. Of course, Anna being a virtuous main character means that she feels guilty about this and instead slips Sheila her uneaten porridge. Sheila apologises, which is a big no-no for Surpluses since they’re all supposed to be mindless automata.