Sunday, February 5, 2023

"A Dangerous Education"

Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twenty novels, including A Splendid Ruin, Bone River, and An Inconvenient Wife. She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest.

Chance applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dangerous Education, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a scene with the three senior girls at Mercer Rocks School for Wayward Girls—Maisie, Sandra and Jean—as they sneak out of the school in the middle of the night to go down to the beach to drink (as bad girls do) and discuss their plan for the new Home Economics teacher:
Silently, they go down the stairs. Sandy hands Maisie the flashlight she’s stolen; Maisie is always the leader. Jean tucks a bit of folded cardboard into the lock to block it so they can get back in. Then they race out into the night, past the tennis courts and the brick fireplaces and picnic tables and the big willow tree in the middle of the grounds. None of them speak. The only sounds are the rush of their breathing, the shush of their shoes through the grass. The school lights lend enough illumination that they don’t need the flashlight. But at the boathouse, where the path disappears into the grove of white oaks, Maisie switches it on. The beam bounces against the gray weathered planks of the boathouse, glints upon the chain blocking the steps, the sign reading “Danger. Keep Out.”

Jean slaps at her hand, forcing the beam away. “Stop it,” she says in a harsh whisper.

Maisie laughs quietly. “What’s wrong, Jeanie?”

“Turn it off,” Sandy says. “Someone will see.”

“Look—no one’s repaired it yet.”

“They’ve left it like that on purpose,” Jean says crossly.

“Turn it off,” Sandy says again.

Maisie keeps it on another moment to show that it’s her decision, not Sandy’s and not Jean’s, and then she does turn it off until they round the corner, until they’re out of sight of the school, and it’s really too dark to see the path—
Interestingly, this is one of the only sections in the book that is written in present tense, and it is one of four short sections written in the point-of-view of one of the girls—in this case, Maisie. While the vast majority of the novel is written in past tense, and in the point-of-view of Rosemary Chivers, their teacher, and details her past and her dilemma in getting too involved with this particular clique of girls, this snippet gives a very good idea of the book’s overall tone, which has mystery and gothic elements.

This scene also gives the reader a glimpse into the danger of the girls. It shows that Maisie is their leader, and begins to reveal the way they interact with each other. It also hints at the important role the boathouse has played in their past and will play in the novel’s unfolding. So, while page 69 is misleading in that it’s not indicative of the main character or action, it gives a very good idea of the overall mood and lends a nice creepy edge, which winds its way (hopefully) throughout the story.
Visit Megan Chance's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Splendid Ruin.

The Page 69 Test: A Splendid Ruin.

Q&A with Megan Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue