Thursday evening, Addy sits at home, reading through the About This blog and wondering whether Jake could really be responsible for it. She remembers an odd detail from the day of Simon’s murder—Jake offered to carry her backpack to class for her, though he’d never done something like that before. She wonders whether he put the phone into her bag then. She is sickened by the idea that Jake has done something awful, that she drove him to it, and that he’s been “putting on an act for weeks.”
In this passage, Addy is forced to reckon with the fact that her ex-boyfriend Jake may have had some seriously dark secrets and motivations that led him to try and actively destroy her life. The idea that Jake was hiding such a dark secret—and not to mention lying to Addy’s face every day for months—frightens her, as she realizes just how terrifying and well-concealed dark secrets can be.
Addy has been trying to get in touch with Janae all week, but Janae has been avoiding her texts and calls. Addy has finally decided just to show up at Janae’s house—Cooper has offered to drive her and wait in the car, just in case things “turn weird.” At Janae’s house, Addy rings the doorbell; when Janae answers, she looks miserable and frighteningly thin; her skin has broken out in hives. She lets Addy in, but tells her she’s not feeling well. Addy asks if anyone else is home; Janae replies that her parents are out to dinner, and then asks what Addy’s reason for coming over is.
When Addy finally lays eyes on the emaciated Janae, though, she realizes that whatever is going on with her new friend is just as dark as whatever is possibly going on with Jake. The web of secrets and lies across Bayview grows more serious—and more frightening—seemingly by the minute.
Though Bronwyn has coached Addy about what to say to Janae in order to slowly and carefully get information out of her, that all goes out the window—Addy suddenly wraps Janae in a big hug. Janae begins crying, and tells Addy that things have gotten “massively fucked up.” Addy and Janae sit on the living room sofa, and Addy holds Janae while she cries. After a while, Addy asks whether Simon “did this to himself”; Janae, shocked, asks how Addy figured it out. Though Addy isn’t “supposed” to tell Janae anything, she spills everything the Bayview Four have figured out.
Addy has been told that there’s a very specific way she needs to approach and talk to Janae—but the connection between them has grown so strong that she can’t treat Janae like an idea of a girl, or a stereotype of a Goth loner. Addy’s leap towards genuine connection works, and soon Janae and Addy are sharing their deepest, darkest secrets—information that could either tear them apart or bring them even closer together.
When Addy finishes speaking, Janae gets up and goes into the other room; Addy worries that Janae is about to do something drastic, but Janae returns with a sheaf of papers; she hands them to Addy, calling them “Simon’s manifesto”; the papers are supposed to be sent to police a year from now, “after all [of the Bayview Four’s] lives are completely screwed.”
Addy and the rest of the “murder club” had more or less already figured out that Simon was responsible for his own death, but the introduction of the “manifesto” makes their hunch real—and shows that Simon’s true motivations were even darker than they suspected.
The manifesto, written by Simon, reveals how much he hated his life, and how desperate he was to “get the hell out” of it—but not go quietly. Rather than buying a gun and shooting up his school “like pretty much any asshole in America,” which wouldn’t have enough of an “impact,” Simon has devised a plan that would keep people talking about his suicide for years to come.
Simon’s dark desire for popularity and renown morphed over the years from a desire to fit in, to a desire to rule the school, to a desire to ruin the lives of anyone who kept him from his unrealized dreams.
Addy looks up from the papers, shocked, and asks Janae how Simon reached this point. Janae reveals that Simon was depressed for a while—he always thought he should get more respect than he did, but became especially bitter in the past year. Janae speculates that all the time Simon spent on creepy web forums resulted in his having trouble telling “what was real”; his moods became volatile and desperate, and he started talking about suicide and using the app to frame everyone he hated for his murder.
Simon’s social media addiction—and his attraction to dark methods of gaining control over others—eventually spiraled out of control. The uniquely millennial problem of placing impossible stakes in one’s online persona wrecked Simon’s mind, and he retreated into a world where reality became dark, messy, and confusing.
Janae reveals that Simon was angry at Bronwyn for cheating her way to valedictorian, an honor that would have brought Simon glory; he was angry with Nate for secretly hooking up with Keely; he was angry with Cooper after Cooper had him blacklisted from his clique’s after-prom party. Simon originally planned only those three as his targets—but then Jake found out that Simon had rigged the votes so he’d be on the prom court. Simon, for once, was at the risk of being the subject of terrible gossip and drama—and so Simon decided to put his plan in motion. He had known about Addy and TJ, and used the rumor to “shut Jake up and bring him in” to the operation; Simon needed someone to keep things going after he died, and Janae had refused.
In this passage, Janae reveals all of Simon’s specific motivations one by one. She paints a portrait of someone who felt so threatened by the success of his peers that he needed to take control over their lives and bring them down in order to feel empowered. Moreover, Simon’s need to get back into Jake’s good graces materialized in a perverse, warped version of events which saw Simon entirely beholden to Jake, and not the other way around—not the way he’d been dreaming of for years.
Janae reveals that Simon and Jake were excited about working together because no one would ever realize what they were doing, since they hadn’t been friends for years. As Addy takes all of this information in, she feels like she might faint—and almost wishes she would. The realization that Jake had known about TJ for months and was simply biding his time, waiting to get revenge on her, frightens her.
In this passage, McManus shows how her characters actually used the fact that their classmates never would have believed an unlikely connection between them possible in order to wreak havoc on them.
Janae reveals that while Jake kept posting to the new About This blog, Janae urged Jake to stop before things went too far—but he got more and more into the “power trip” of watching the Bayview Four get hauled into the station every time new “evidence” came to light. Addy chastises Janae for not telling anyone about what was going on, but Janae reveals that Jake was blackmailing her—he had recorded Janae and Simon secretly during one of their trio’s “meetings,” and edited the audio to make it sound as if the whole thing was Janae’s mater plan.
As it becomes clear that Simon’s cruel machinations paved the way for Jake’s dark desire for revenge, Addy comes to understand even more deeply that she didn’t truly know anyone at her school.
Janae reveals that she was supposed to plant all the evidence not on Nate, but on Addy. The afternoon they hung out at Addy’s house she was supposed to plant the laptop, but couldn’t make herself do it after Addy had started being so nice to her. As a last resort, she dumped everything on Nate—it was easy, because he never keeps anything locked. When Addy asks about why Cooper’s entry was changed, Janae reveals that Jake made Simon change it, purportedly to spare Cooper’s reputation. Janae thinks, though, that Jake did that more out of personal interest, not wanting everyone in school to know his best friend was gay.
Addy realizes in this passage that Jake is truly a monster; he wanted to literally put Addy in jail for murder as revenge for cheating on him, kept Janae beholden to his whims through blackmail, and only saved Cooper’s reputation for a time because he was so homophobic that he thought Cooper’s being gay would reflect badly on him. Jake’s narcissistic actions are even worse than Addy thought, and she finally understands just how dangerous he really is.
As all of this sinks in, Addy begs Janae to tell the truth—she can’t let Nate go to prison for murder. Janae laments having no evidence other than the manifesto—she worries that even if she went to the police, she herself would be in trouble for “aiding and abetting.” She reveals that Jake has been reminding her of all she stands to lose. At that moment, the doorbell rings. Janae thinks that Jake is here, as he often comes by to taunt and intimidate her whenever her parents aren’t home.
It seems as if Jake’s showing up is a narrative convenience at first, but then Janae reveals that Jake has been systematically torturing her showing up when no one’s home in order to blackmail her further. Janae has become a tool in yet another narcissist’s twisted revenge fantasy, but her role in Simon’s game has made her appear untrustworthy and unbelievable to anyone who could help her.
Addy tells Janae to let Jake in and do to him exactly what he did to Janae. She offers to hide in the dining room while Janae and Jake talk, recording their conversation and incriminating Jake. Addy, trembling, runs into the dining room while Janae answers the door. She starts up the voice recording app on her phone and overhears Jake telling Janae that she needs to start showing up at school and making everything look like “business as usual.” As Jake and Janae argue, Addy’s phone beeps—a text message from Cooper has come in.
Addy wants to help Janae, even after learning the role Janae has played in Addy’s misery over the last several weeks. Addy wants to set things right, and as she tries to outsmart Jake once and for all, she falls victim to the very thing that could have saved her and Janae and indicted Jake: technology.
Jake enters the dining room and flips on the lights; he is enraged at the sight of Addy. Addy runs out Janae’s kitchen through the back door, heading for the woods behind Janae’s house. She runs and runs but eventually trips on a tree root and twists her ankle. She hears Jake pursuing her, and forces herself to run on despite the pain in her ankle. Soon, Jake catches up to her. He grabs Addy, calling her a “little bitch” and telling her she “brought this on herself.” Addy tries to get away, but Jake shoves her to the ground and slams her head against a rock, sending Addy’s vision blank.
As Jake chases Addy through the woods, she realizes just how badly he wants to hurt her. When he catches up with her and tells her she brought everything on herself, his speech echoes one of the first things Simon said to Bronwyn at the start of the novel, showing how intensely Jake has glommed onto Simon’s logic—that everyone else in school deserves all the misery Simon and Jake have inflicted upon them.
Addy can hear Janae somewhere in the woods, begging for Jake to stop, but Jake doesn’t listen and begins choking Addy. Addy feels around desperately for something to hit Jake with; as she looks up into his face, she sees the raw fury in his eyes, and wonders how she didn’t see this coming. Suddenly, Jake flies backwards—Cooper has come to Addy’s rescue. He folds Addy into his arms and she relaxes as sirens wail their approach.
This passage captures how virulent and intense Jake’s hatred of Addy is—he literally wants her to die for what she’s done to him. Jake felt entitled to Addy when they were together—and now that they’re not, he feels entitled to determining her fate, even if it means framing her for murder and then actually murdering her.