All that anybody at the high school can talk about the next morning is Haley Whitehall’s gruesome murder and Ollie Larsson’s new pink hair. Makani sits with her friend Darby in his car. Makani wryly notes that Ollie’s hair seems a little less important than murder, but Darby reasons that in a small town like Osborne, Nebraska, a boy dying his hair pink really is as much of scandal as a murder. Makani heard that Haley’s throat was slit to resemble a smiley face. Makani and Darby’s friend Alex arrives and hops inside the car with her trumpet. Alex jokes that it was Ollie who killed Haley and then used her blood to color his white-blond hair pink.
The opening of Chapter Two reveals what happened to Haley after Chapter One’s abrupt end: someone—likely the person responsible for moving the egg timer—murdered her. The choice not to show Haley’s apparently gruesome murder is an interesting one, and one that contrasts with typical slashers, many of which are known for their exploitive, gratuitous violence. Perkins’s take on the classic teen slasher story has a more thoughtful, purposeful relationship to violence. Darby’s wry remark about a boy with pink hair being as scandalous as a gruesome murder speaks to Osborne’s culture. Darby is insinuating that Osborne is a place where breaking free from social norms and being different is frowned upon.
Alex senses Makani’s unease and teases her about still having a thing for Ollie. Makani has had a crush on Ollie ever since she moved to Nebraska a little under a year ago. He’s a strange, skinny loner who wears the same dark clothing every day and kind of looks like a skeleton. There are many rumors about him. Some people say he only sleeps with older women—or older men. Others claim that he uses or sells opioids he steals from his brother, who works as a police officer. Makani hooked up with Ollie last summer, though the only people who know about it are Darby and Alex.
It's unclear exactly what’s causing Makani’s unease—that her friends are gossiping about Ollie (Makani’s crush), or the fact that they’re apparently taking gossip as fact. Makani herself seems reticent about being the subject of gossip, which explains her relief that only her closet friends know about her summer fling with Ollie. From an outsider’s perspective, Ollie appears odd, out of place, and perhaps even nefarious. But rumors are often exaggerated or flat-out untrue, so readers can’t assume that Ollie is the person town gossip suggests he is.
Makani is grateful for Darby and Alex, her only friends. They took her in when she moved from Hawaii to live with Grandma Young in Nebraska while her parents navigated a messy divorce—at least, this is the part of the story she tells her friends. She doesn’t tell them about “the incident at the beach,” which is the real reason her parents sent her to Nebraska. It’s October now, and Makani has been in Nebraska for nearly a year. She and her friends are seniors, and none of them can wait for graduation. Makani is unsure of what her future holds, but she knows she wants to leave Osborne.
Makani seems to be hiding a secret about the reason for her move to Nebraska—something involving “the incident at the beach” that she’s too afraid to tell her friends about. She seems to have some unresolved issues relating to this incident, so it’s possible that the incident was traumatic or unsettling in one way or another. On the one hand, that Makani and her friends’ desire to leave Osborne is a common part of the typical teenage experience—it’s normal to feel stifled and bored in one’s hometown. Still, Osborne, with its rural location and apparently closeminded community, seems especially claustrophobic and restrictive.
Darby brings up Haley. He can hardly believe that she’s dead. Alex, the school’s only goth, assembles her long, black hair into an intricate twist and accuses Darby of inserting himself into a tragedy, since he never liked Haley when she was alive. Darby was assigned female at birth but transitioned socially earlier in high school. People gave him judgmental looks at first, but now they mostly leave him alone. He adjusts the suspenders he wears every day and scowls as he protests Alex’s accusation. Makani wonders whether Haley’s parents or boyfriend—or maybe even a serial killer—could be responsible for her murder. All three agree that even if they didn’t like Haley, what happened to her was awful. Inwardly, Makani wonders if she’s no different than Haley’s murderer.
Darby and Alex both know what it’s like to be an outsider. Alex dresses in an edgy, goth way that likely sets her apart from her peers, and Darby’s gender identity made him the subject of cruel high school gossip and bullying. Feeling alienated and unaccepted is a typical part of high school for many teenagers, and the narrative focuses on these students who seem to suffer from more than an average degree of ridicule to really explore this element of adolescence. Makani’s comparison of herself to Haley’s murderer is odd. She clearly thinks ill of herself for some reason; perhaps this relates to the mysterious incident at the beach in Hawaii the narrative referenced earlier.
By lunch time, Alex’s tasteless joke about Ollie’s hair has spread across the school, and everyone’s gossiping about whether he’s Haley’s murderer. The rumors upset Makani, though she knows that they’re only gossip. People are also spreading rumors about Zachary Loup, the school’s underachiever, who’s also a real jerk. Most students think Haley’s family members are the most likely suspects. If she had a boyfriend, nobody knew about it, though it’s not unheard of for girls to have secrets.
The fact that such a clearly goofy, baseless rumor as Ollie killing Haley and using her blood to dye his hair has gained as much traction as other, more logical rumors reveals gossip’s undiscerning and unreliable nature. The detail about girls having secrets recalls Makani’s hang-up about the mysterious Hawaii incident. The narrative suggests that having secrets is common among high school students—many teens have secrets they don’t want their peers or parents to know about.
Makani sits with her friends on the quad and considers Osborne, a dreary town surrounded by nothing but cornfields for as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, Alex and Darby continue to gossip about Haley. Alex wonders if Haley’s understudy, Jessica Boyd, might have killed her, though everyone agrees that it’s pretty unlikely. Alex thinks it’s suspicious that Haley’s best friend Brooke didn’t come to school today. Darby impatiently reminds Alex that Brooke is in mourning.
For Makani, the cornfields that surround Osborne contribute to and symbolize the town’s depressing atmosphere. The fact that only Darby and Alex are participating in the gossip about Haley—Makani largely remains silent about the matter—reinforces the idea that Makani dislikes gossip. Whether this is just a matter of principle or somehow related to the mysterious “incident” in Hawaii remains unclear, though.
Suddenly, the wind picks up, sending a flier for Sweeney Todd flying through the air. Makani wonders if they’ll cancel the murderous musical in light of Haley’s death. Alex hopes they won’t since she was looking forward to getting covered in fake blood. Darby teases his goth friend’s morbid sense of humor, reminding her that she used to love horses and Pixar movies when she was younger. Makani feels left out when they talk about childhood memories.
Makani is grateful for her friends but can’t help but feel left out when they talk about their early childhoods in Osborne, something that Makani, as a newer resident, has no context for. Her complicated relationship to her friends due to their different histories reinforces the novels’ insistence that it’s common for teens for feel lonely and alienated, in a variety of situations.
Makani shifts her attention across the quad. She’s memorized Ollie’s schedule and knows that he’ll appear any minute now to eat his lunch in a secluded nook beside the lockers. Like clockwork, Ollie appears. Seeing him makes Makani feel empathy for the odd loner. The entrance of a rowdy group of football players interrupts Makani’s musings. Matt Butler, the star player, jeers at Ollie, but Ollie ignores him. The jocks roughhouse among themselves, and somebody ends up ripping the Sweeney Todd banner. A fight ensues. Makani gets up to interfere, but Darby tells her she doesn’t owe Ollie anything.
The social atmosphere of Osborne High seems not unlike a stereotypical high school, where the archetypal “jock” students ridicule and bully the archetypal outsiders. That Makani gets up and walks toward the fight, presumably to interfere and defend Ollie, shows the reader that she’s a thoughtful, caring person who cares about the welfare of others. Makani’s empathy for others could be another clue about her past. Perhaps she has a low tolerance for bullying due to something that happened to her in Hawaii.
Makani ignores Darby and walks toward Ollie, who has just reentered the school. With her dark skin and coiled hair, Makani sticks out amongst her mostly white peers, and she walks with a false confidence to dissuade anybody from approaching her. Makani finds Ollie waiting for her inside. She tells him the jocks are idiots. Ollie acts cold and guarded, and Makani feels ashamed for being so obsessed with him. Ollie asks Makani why she’s talking to him now after ignoring him all semester. Makani angrily replies that Ollie could say the same about himself. Ollie is silent. Makani angrily gives up and returns to her friends.
Like Darby and Alex, Makani also feels like an outsider at Osborne High. Her identity as a biracial person makes her stick out in Osborne, which has a majority white population. Ollie’s animosity toward Makani seems odd and unprecedented. Did something happen between them that Makani is holding back? The novel has already established her as someone who’s guarded about her secrets, after all. Still, they seem mutually confused about why they’re avoiding each other, so it's also possible that they’ve just had a misunderstanding about their feelings and intentions regarding each other.