The next morning, as Bronwyn sits down in homeroom, she is still having trouble absorbing the fact that Simon is dead. As the bell rings, her homeroom teacher stands up in front of the class and makes a small speech informing the class of the details of Simon’s death—after suffering an allergic reaction, he was taken to the hospital where he died shortly after arrival. Almost the whole class is crying and swiping through Simon’s app, About That, on their phones. Though Bronwyn always hated the app, she admired it slightly; despite being a gossip app, every word reported on it was always true. Bronwyn herself was never featured on the app; there was “only one thing” Simon ever would’ve been able to write about her, but now he will never find out what it is.
Simon’s death throws his status at Bayview into a new light. Though his app was hated, it wasn’t inaccurate; Simon clearly had his finger on the pulse of what was going on at Bayview, and knew intimately many unpleasant details from his classmates’ lives. He was a controversial and not necessarily well-liked figure, but even someone like Bronwyn, who condemns rumors and gossip, could see that Simon had at least some kind of integrity in his “service.”
Mrs. Park tells the class that there will be a memorial service for Simon on Saturday, after a football game, and the faculty will keep students informed as to Simon’s family’s plans for his funeral. The bell rings and the whole class gets up to depart, but Mrs. Park asks Bronwyn to stay back; Bronwyn’s friends Yumiko and Kate tell her they’ll wait for her in the hall.
Though Simon wasn’t well-liked while he was alive, he’s certainly being mourned in death. McManus is exploring the effect death has on a community—even one like Bayview, where many people don’t seem to like or trust one another.
Mrs. Park tells Bronwyn that Principal Gupta wants all of the students who were present in detention to attend special one-on-one counseling; the school is bringing in a professional, and Bronwyn will meet with them at 11:00 A.M. Bronwyn steps out into the hall, where Kate and Yumiko shield her from other students’ stares as they walk down the hall towards calculus. Evan, a Mathlete Bronwyn has a crush on, approaches her in the hall and tells her that if she ever feels like talking, he’s around. Though Yumiko tells Bronwyn that Evan was asking about her at Mathletes practice yesterday, Bronwyn feels nothing—she has lost all enthusiasm for her crush in the wake of what has happened.
Bronwyn is so shocked and disoriented by her tangential role in what has happened to Simon that she feels disconnected from things that mattered to her just a day ago. This rapid change is part of McManus’s dissection of high-school stereotypes; when emotions run as high as they do at Bayview, nobody can stay the same for long, even if others try to impress an identity upon them.
After calculus, Bronwyn and her friends run into Nate in the hallway. He looks disheveled, as if he has just rolled out of bed. Despite his rumpled appearance, Bronwyn feels overwhelmingly attracted to Nate. She asks him whether he’s been to his counseling session yet, but he doesn’t know what she’s talking about; he’s just arrived at school even though it’s after ten in the morning. The two say goodbye, and Yumiko and Kate remark on how bad—and promiscuous—Nate’s reputation is. Bronwyn wishes she could tell them how carefully Nate drove her home on his motorcycle yesterday, but decides not to say anything about it.
Bronwyn is changing; between what happened in detention and the connection she shared with Nate in the parking lot, she’s learning to see past the harmful divisions that rule her school and examine individuals for who they truly are, not for what others have told her about them.
After her next class, Bronwyn heads to her counselling session. She sits down across from her regular guidance counselor, who tells her that the special counselor will be in soon. In the meantime, he talks to her about her college application to Yale, her many extracurricular activities, and her stellar grades, but Bronwyn is unenthusiastic; she doesn’t want to think about what she had to do to pull up her chemistry grades last year.
Bronwyn is a textbook overachiever with lofty goals for her future. This passage shows, though, that perhaps the way she has maintained her squeaky-clean image and perfect record has actually been less than admirable.
The narrative jumps forward two days, to Thursday, and switches to Cooper’s point of view. In between classes, an announcement over the loudspeaker at school summons Cooper—along with Addy, Nate, and Bronwyn—to the main office. He already answered several questions from Principal Gupta about the afternoon of Simon’s death a few days ago, but supposes she wants to do “another round.”
Despite the relative lack of common ground they share, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Bronwyn are being thrown together time and time again in the wake of what has happened; soon, the divisions between them will begin to morph and dissolve, though they are all still relatively committed to playing their “roles.”
Cooper joins Gupta, Addy, Bronwyn, Nate, and a police officer in Gupta’s office. The policeman introduces himself as Officer Budapest, and then tells the group that Simon’s autopsy results have come back—and indicate that he ingested a large amount of peanut oil shortly before his death. He asks the students about whether they saw any oil in the cup Simon took from the sink in Mr. Avery’s room, but none of them recall seeing anything.
The circumstances of Simon’s death—already odd to begin with—are now being cast as suspicious and perhaps even malicious.
Addy remembers Simon saying something about the cell phones that had wound up in all their bags, the result of a prank. Bronwyn elaborates, explaining to Gupta and the officer that all of them found fake cell phones in their bags and were given detention. The officer asks if Simon might have been responsible for the prank, but Addy points out that he had a fake cell phone in his bag, too.
The important fact of the cell-phone prank is a detail that many people have overlooked since the start of the novel—though it crops up again as a reminder that someone wanted all five students in that exact room at that exact time.
The officer asks if any of the students ever had trouble with Simon or his gossip app—Nate was the only one of them ever featured on the app, and though he admits that being gossiped about was irritating, he denies that he was very bothered by it. Officer Budapest asks if the other three ever worried about ending up on Simon’s app. Cooper speaks up and says that he wasn’t, but his voice doesn’t sound very confident. He notices that Addy has gone pale, and Bronwyn is blushing. Nate blithely tells the officer that “everybody’s got secrets.”
Nate, the rebel of the group, is willing to admit that not only was he connected to Simon’s app, but he believes that all of his classmates have something to hide. This seems to be true from the expressions on everyone’s faces, but the climate of gossip, secrets, and lies at Bayview has warped everyone’s perceptions of how precious their private secrets are.
That night at dinner, Cooper’s family sit down to eat and all begin talking about Simon’s death. Cooper’s little brother wants to hear all the gory details, but their grandmother, Nonny, shushes him. She has lived with them ever since their family moved to California from Mississippi so that Cooper could play baseball more seriously. Cooper’s father reminds him of an upcoming game he has that weekend, but Cooper can’t stop thinking about how Officer Budapest asked him probing questions earlier about the missing epi-pens.
This passage shows how much Cooper’s family has sacrificed in hopes of securing a better future for Cooper—he stands to lose it all if the investigation into Simon’s death takes a sharp turn and attempts to implicate someone from detention.
As Cooper’s family cleans up after dinner, the doorbell rings—Cooper’s girlfriend, Keely, is at the door, even though earlier he’d told her he was too busy to see her that evening. Keely hugs Cooper and gives him a pack of his favorite candy. Cooper’s cell phone buzzes in his pocket—he pulls it out. Someone has texted him “Hey, handsome.” He tries to hide his grin as he replies to the text (which asked if he’s available that evening) that it’s a “bad time.” Cooper watches Keely talk excitedly with his family—he knows how beautiful and kind she is, but nonetheless texts the mystery person that he misses them.
This passage shows that despite his clean, all-American jock image, Cooper is also hiding something serious—and even, seemingly, living a kind of double life that undermines everything readers know to be true of his outward-facing persona.