It's just a normal middle school, with normal people. Tierney is hanging out with her friends, discussing various topics such as...
Books, grades, religion...
Why the trip has been scheduled for Thanksgiving Break instead of Spring Break, why almost every eighth grader is going on that trip, what would happen if a plane full of two hundred students crashed in the middle of a forest, this rumor about a Forest Basement that traps people and their souls (also known as a Hell complex)...
And this is why fate should not be tempted. The plane crashes in the wilderness, killing several people even before it starts falling. The children have to work together to survive.Nature isn't that big of a problem, despite the freezing temperatures, harsh winds, and the fact that the climate changes every few hundred feet. There are people out to get the middle-school kids, and they waste no time killing anyone they see.
There are seven books in this series: The DC Trip, Culprit Revealed, The Laboratory, Infection, Last Chance, Broken Heart, and The Final Battle.
This series provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Mrs. Jensen exists, and she survives, yet she doesn't do anything in the story! Some of the kids even forgot that she exists until the end!
- Anyone Can Die: Most of the kids die, and some of them are really close friends. Nobody, not even Tierney, is exempt.
- Author Avatar: Tierney is the author as she was in 8th Grade.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The entire lab and its 25 Safehouse branches, created by Rowena in an attempt to survive in the Forest Basement. There are gardens, steady water supplies, fresh clothing... Many types of clothing for countless occasions that will never happen here, training machines for fighting evil people who will never come, research stations to find the nature of this Hell complex... The students are dumbfounded by this all.
- Bi the Way: Setareh admits to being bi. It causes Tierney, who suffers from being Mistaken for Gay, to push her away even more.
- Big Bad: Tony Riveras, Maria DaCosta, and their children. They do have a motive, but it's just a Freudian Excuse. Also, they've only been around as long as the students have.
- Big Damn Hero: Most of the characters have these moments at some point.
- Bittersweet Ending: The majority of the students are killed at some point of the story, and most of the survivors have crossed the Despair Event Horizon. However, the survivors get to resume their normal lives, albeit with holes in their hearts where hundreds of people used to be.
- Crying Wolf: Rose lies a lot. Tie falls for it too many times, so she refuses to believe when Rose tells her she is Dead All Along.
- Dead All Along: Tierney falls off a cliff in Broken Heart, but she doesn't realize this until the others spell it out for her. She thought Rose pulled her up, but both of them were spirits at that point.
- Despair Event Horizon: Nearly every survivor crosses this line by the end of the book due to all the deaths and betrayals.
- Deus ex Machina: At the end of The DC Trip, rescue planes show up, ready to take the survivors home. Subverted in the next book, when the planes are shot down, killing almost everyone.
- Disney Death: Oh, so, so many. There are countless cases, which may or may not have been zig-zagged. Of the main eleven...
- Averted with Evelyn, Eliza, and Ai, who never come back after their deaths.
- Zig-zagged with Joy, Rose, and Setareh. Joy is permanently an angel, Rose runs away and is never seen again, and Setareh commits suicide.
- Played straight with Tierney, Liane, Kaylene, Denize, and Justine.
- Distress Ball: Just about everyone will receive it at some point, but Denize, Kaylene, Samuel, and Philip get it the most.
- Driven to Suicide: Setareh discusses this to the point that it annoys Tierney. She almost jumps off a cliff in The Laboratory, and she actually goes through with it in the epilogue.
- Eye Scream: In The Final Battle, Tierney's left eye gets slashed. She still has the scar in SWAP Ensemble.
- False Friend:
- Tierney's friends insist that Evelyn doesn't like her. Tierney decides to test this by inviting Evelyn to her birthday celebration. The plan falls through when Evelyn admits she only accepted the invitation because it would be better than spending time in day care with the boys.
- Rose pretends to be Tierney's friend when they are alone but is rude and dismissive towards her otherwise.
- Fair Weather Friend: When Tierney and Evelyn's friendship falls through, Eliza refuses to talk to the former.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Tierney peppers her dialogue with all the Tagalog she knows.
- Gratuitous French: The majority of the main group is in French class. The prologue alone has several uses of "Tu me rends folle."
- Happy Ending Override: The DC Trip ends with rescue planes flying down to save the children. Culprit Revealed begins with the planes being shot down and Joy (among others) dying in the crash.
- HeelFace Turn: Three of the villains survive to realize their errors.
- Heroic BSoD: In Culprit Revealed, when Liane punches Maria, saving Tierney's life, she stands traumatized for a second, then sprints toward her doom.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Tierney seeks real friends. She admits to feeling left out by her friend group, searching for a friend who truly cares, finding such a person, realizing there are too many flaws in the friendship for it to count, realizing her real friends were her original friend group, and repeating the vicious cycle.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Who even fights in dresses? Tierney and Rose. Of course, they switch to more practical adventure outfits later on.
- I'm Standing Right Here: The title of one of Tierney's songs. She sings it during Adopt-A-Beach after overhearing her friends making plans to hang out when she desperately wants to join them. Later, she calls them out for not noticing taking any note of her song or its lyrics.I'm standing right here. Did you really think that I wouldn't hear what you said?
- Invisible to Normals: When people die, their spirits can still roam around. Spirits can see each other, while their living companions cannot. Tierney does not suspect anything when her dead friends are mysteriously alive, and she hardly interacts with the students who are actually alive. The seventh graders can see the spirits because they entered at different times.
- I Work Alone: By Broken Heart, Tierney is so alienated by the lack of people to trust that she stops trying to team up with anyone. When Rowena calls her out on that, she asks why anyone would care if she dies if they never showed concern for her before.
- Kids' Wilderness Epic: Subverted in that nature isn't really an antagonist; Tony and Maria are.
- Kill It with Ice: In Last Chance, Tierney and Justine make it back to the lab while Justine is soaked in freezing water. Tierney leaves Justine's room for a moment to get a change of clothes. She returns to find that someone tampered with the thermostat, making it well below freezing temperature, and Justine has been frozen solid.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Whatever You Want" is a cheerful song about how great Tierney's friends are, except the song is actually a Wishful Projection.
- "Wasted Lifetime" is in the same cheerful key, but it recounts the events that led to the massive "breakup" with Evelyn.
- "Gone Forever" is in the same key as the reassuring "Anything for a Friend", but it is about hopelessness and loss of identity.
- Magic Music: Magic music is actually common in the world, but it is less common where Tierney lives.
- In Last Chance, Tierney earns this power on her 14th birthday.
- The Final Battle notes that Elisia Harmony and Abigail Sound will get this power if they survive the predicament.
- Mistaken for Gay: Played for drama. Rumors about Tierney and Setareh dating leads to the former pushing away the latter. It gets worse when Setareh admits she's bi. Tierney tries to eliminate any possibility that they could be mistaken for a couple and that Setareh could harbor feelings for her.
- Name One: Setareh always asks for five reasons she should or should not do something. "Jumping off a cliff" is the worst of these.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: Tierney will never forget Evelyn's last words to her, but she refuses to write them down. She later puts the words into a song with a Sound-Effect Bleep when necessary."If you really are sorry..."She told me to get out of her life.I can never write the words she really said, but I can never forget them for the rest of my life.
- Off with His Head!: When Samuel and James go out without a qualified eighth grader, James is decapitated and Samuel barely escapes with his life.
- Overwhelming Exception: Tierney tries to convince herself that her friends care about her, but she keeps coming up with major exceptions to each example."They have always included me. Except when I tried to offer my thoughts in a conversation and they didnt pause a moment."
- Parting Words Regret: Tierney never speaks to Evelyn again after their falling out. She regrets not trying to patch things up, but she was still too angry to say anything to her as she watched her die. She then told Eliza to run for her life and regretted not apologizing instead.
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Inverted with Tierney, Rose, Liane, and Denize. The former two wear dresses even in the wilderness, but they're more action and adventure oriented than much of the main cast. Liane and Denize don't wear dresses, and they're always catching the distress ball. Played straight with Kaylene and most of the others.
- Reality Subtext: Tierney and Evelyn were supposed to make up before Evelyn charged into the cockpit to find out what was wrong and die, but the author was mad at her friend for six months after the argument. A week simply would not have been enough time for Tierney to approach Evelyn for forgiveness. Instead, Tierney finds a heartfelt apology postcard after the events of the 8th Grade Wars.
- The Reveal: In Broken Heart, Tierney learns that this is a cursed ground. Everyone who dies becomes a ghost and can only be seen by other ghosts or people who entered after the ghosts have died. The fact that she can see her friends means she is dead. She did not die when she was slashed all over, but when she was shoved off the cliff.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Tierney and Evelyn had one since second grade, complete with break-ups.
- Scars Are Forever: Tierney still has the scar over her left eye in SWAP Ensemble, fourteen years after the events of the 8th Grade Wars.
- Sound-Effect Bleep: Tierney will not write down Evelyn's last words to her, but she sings them in a sound snippet that would become part of "Wasted Lifetime". She mashes a bunch of piano keys in anger when the swear word comes up."Get the *angry piano mash* out of my life!"
- Stepford Smiler: Tierney tells the prologue as a perfect set of middle school friendships. The first chapter quickly reveals that she feels left out of her own group.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: Tierney convinces Setareh not to jump off the cliff. Unfortunately, as soon as Setareh gathers her resolve to live, Christian shoves her off.
- Tempting Fate: In the synopsis of The DC Trip, Tierney imagines worst-case scenarios before dismissing them as a joke. Of course they happen."Whats stopping a huge falling out at any second? Whats stopping the plane from crashing down? ...That was a joke."
- That Man Is Dead: Tierney's song "Gone Forever" is about how all the traumatic events have changed her so much that she can barely even recognize her name. She tries to take a name that nobody will call her."That girl is gone forever."
- Too Dumb to Live:
- In The DC Trip, Evelyn rushes straight to the cockpit and gets a shard of glass in her eye. Eliza refuses to leave her side.
- After Rowena explicitly tells everyone not to go out without a qualified 8th Grader, Samuel and James decide to sneak out and go snowball fighting. Maria decapitates James, and Samuel barely makes it back alive with a huge gash in his back.
- Samuel learns nothing from that experience; he has to get rescued every single time. While Tierney has no problem with that, her friends heavily imply that she should.
- Eventually, Violet sets a trap for Samuel, and he wanders right into it. When Tierney finds Samuel hanging from a tree by his ankle, she just slaps him and keeps walking. Tony later comes in and chops off Samuel's ankle.
- Tragic Keepsake: Many of them lose their meaning as a symbol of Tierney letting go of her old friends.
- Tierney gets little gifts from her friends some time before they die. She loses some of them along the way, symbolizing how distant those friends really were from her.
- Her Swiss-army knife becomes one in the aftermath.
- When she finally gets home, she finds birthday gifts from Evelyn and Eliza: video games that she really wanted. The gifts come with apology cards. While she enjoys the games through high school, she loses interest in them over time. Meanwhile, she loses the cards in an abyss of papers that she doesn't feel like sorting out.
- Tuckerization: The students' first names are their real-life counterparts' middle names if known.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: One of Violet's friends gets stabbed in the back shortly after she steps out of the plane.
- Wish Fulfillment: This story contains all the drama of the author's eighth grade life with several added stakes.
- Wishful Projection: "Whatever You Want" is a song about how great Tie's friends are, sung from their perspectives. It turns out that each verse says the opposite of how Tie really feels about each friend. For example, Rose promises to be honest when she has lied so many times, Evelyn assures Tie that she truly values her as a friend while she really does not, and Eliza insists that Tie is an important part of the group despite always making her feel excluded.Whatever you want, whatever you need,
Ill always be here. You can just come to me.
I love you as a friend, and Ill never let you go.
Were all here, in one place, at one time, as good friends you know
- You Are Not Alone: While Tierney recovers from major injuries from an ambush, all of the friends she ever doubted give her encouraging words to continue fighting. She doubts their sincerity, but, in the epilogue, she accepts that they have some merit and should not be completely ignored.