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Literature / Losing Christina

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Losing Christina is a young adult thriller trilogy by Caroline B. Cooney (Janie), about a girl from an island who leaves her home to study on the mainland. She and her older friend, Anya, stay at a boarding house with the Shevvingtons. Mr. Shevvington is the principal of Christina's new school and Mrs. Shevvington is the English teacher. They seem like model citizens until they start to psychologically torture Christina and manipulate the people she loves into believing she is ungrateful and even insane. When Anya starts to lose her mind, Christina must engage in psychological warfare against the Shevvingtons to save her own mind and Anya's.


This series provides examples of

  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Even though Christina never lied to her parents while she lived with them, they do not believe her word against the Shevvingtons'.
    • Even after the end of Book 2 proves to everyone that at least some of Christina's wild stories were actually true, and some of the trouble of that book can be laid at the Shevvingtons' feet, there is still no serious investigation into the bizarre incidents.
    • Subverted with Mr. Gardner, though when he tries to talk to Christina about it, she naturally runs away from him.
  • All Abusers Are Male: Averted. In fact, Mrs. Shevvington is arguably more evil and insidious than Mr. Shevvington.
  • Adult Fear: Besides the Shevvingtons' vindictive psychological games, Christina puts herself in some pretty dangerous situations:
    • Book One: Trying to save Anya from drowning herself, she climbs along the roof of the inn during near hurricane conditions.
    • Book Two: Christina is nearly crushed to death by retracting bleachers. Then she and Dolly have to escape the rising tide on the cliffs.
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    • Book Three: Christina and Val are trapped in the manor as it burns.
  • Balcony Escape: Christina leaves the manor in this fashion twice; in the first book to save Anya from drowning herself, and in the third book with Val to escape the fire.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Christina and Anya, whose beauty is described with almost egregious detail. In contrast, Mrs. Shevvington's oatmeal face can never be mentioned enough.
    • Although Christina doesn't think of herself as beautiful, compliments she receives on her appearance can be interpreted to actually represent her native island; not necessarily beautiful, but interesting. She does love her silver, gold, and sable hair though.
    • Subverted with Mr Shevvington, who is repeatedly described as handsome and elegant, but just uses this to help cover up his evil.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jonah and Christina have this at the start, and even after they become friends (and sort-of boyfriend and girlfriend) they argue quite a lot. Notably, this is not because Christina's trying to tell her Cassandra Truth (as Jonah's one of the few people who actually believes her) but because of more personal disagreements.
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  • Break the Cutie: Christina, Anya, Val, Dolly, and countless others chipped away by the Shevvingtons.
  • Blatant Lies: The Shevvingtons tell these all the time.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Or boarding house in this case; the school is fairly ordinary.
  • Broken Bird: Val in the third book.
  • Cassandra Truth: Christina suffers the most when it comes to this as time after time she's ignored.
  • Creepy Basement: A basement that echoes weirdly with the tide, floods regularly and is home to the Shevvingtons' giggling, murderously insane son.
  • Cute Bruiser: Christina is very quick with her fists. She punches a classmate named Jonah on the first day of school. She apparently does this quite a lot, as both Michael and Jonah in later books know when a punch is coming and pre-empt her when they know they've annoyed her.
  • Empty Shell: What their victims are left as. However, it is shown that this needs to be maintained, as both Anya and Val are able to recover to some degree when they are no longer being actively targeted. In book 3, Christina has her spirit broken and briefly enters this state, but gets saved from it by Val, who she had saved earlier.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Played with. The Shevvingtons are aware of how good Christina and others are but see that as the fun, to destroy them so effectively. They are surprised that Christina keeps fighting back but see it as a challenge to break her.
    • Played straight when the Shevvingtons put out the story that Christina is crazy because her parents have long abused her. Having been so successful with their lies, the couple assume this will be believed as well. It turns out that the friends of the family know for a fact this can't be true and it becomes the first step to exposing the Shevvingtons.
  • Evil Gloating: In Book 3, as they prepare to burn the evidence of their crimes, the Shevvingtons finally admit to Christina how much they've enjoyed having her as an opponent. Before this point, they had always feigned innocence, even in private conversations with her.
  • Evil Teacher: Both Shevvingtons are this, as well as being the sadistic variety.
  • Food Fight: Book 2
  • For the Evulz: The Shevvingtons have no motives for their cruelty beyond being sadists who find it an amusing challenge. This is part of the reason why nobody believes Christina, as there appears to be no motive.
  • Funny Foreigner: Christina is from Burning Fog Island, and girls on the mainland laugh at her island dialect expressions like "goffle" (to mean "gobble") and "yarn" (to mean "exaggerate").
  • Gaslighting: Naturally. With Anya and Dolly, this is all that was needed, though Christina's extreme resilience means they focus more on convincing other people she's insane.
  • Girl Posse: Vicki and Gretchen.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil:
    • In the final novel, the adults finally admit to Christina that they didn't want to face the truth about the Shevvingtons and "that we invited a pair of genuine sadists into our town."
    • It's hinted that this is the reason the Shevvingtons got away with this in other towns. Even when they were suspected, the authorities wasted time trying to figure out what the motive for their actions was. The idea that "their hobby was ruining people's lives" was too much to take.
  • Heroic BSoD: Christina suffers one during book three. It's Val who manages to get her back.
  • High-School Dance: Christina gets invited to one by Benji in book three. Makes for a sweet finale.
  • I Know What You Fear: The Shevvingtons operate by gaining trust of their targets, learning their fears, and then turning that knowledge against them, usually with the pretense of helping them to overcome their fears.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Liar, liar, house on fire!
  • Kill It with Fire: The Shevvingtons end up trapped inside their own burning house and their remains are dumped out in front of the beach party guests.
  • Laughing Mad: The Shevvingtons' insane son never speaks except for giggling.
  • Madness Mantra: Anya continually says, "the sea" With Val it's "The Alone."
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Or rather mad son in the basement. The mysterious figure in the wetsuit who haunts Christina throughout book 2 has a perfectly mundane explanation.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    Anya: I won't let you down, Mr. Shevvington, I'll do everything you say.
    Mr. Shevvington: I know.
    Dolly: I won't let you down, Mr. Shevvington, I'll do everything you say.
    Mr. Shevvington: I know.
  • Mind Manipulation: The Shevvingtons' modus operandi.
  • Most Writers Are Adults / Wise Beyond Their Years: Christina wins psychological warfare against two abusive adults when she is thirteen.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Shevvingtons try to claim Christina's parents have abused her in order to completely destroy her. It ends up finally exposing them, because friends of the family know for a fact that they have never abused Christina.
  • Ominous Fog: In the first book, from which it gets the title.
  • The Ophelia: Anya was always this to some extent, being melodramatic and tending to ascribe evil intentions and fateful machinations to the sea even before meeting the Shevvingtons, as well as being extremely beautiful. Following her mental collapse, she becomes this trope in full. However, when she is no longer being actively targeted and undermined by the Shevvingtons at every moment, she recovers.
  • Passive Aggressive Combat: Both the Shevvingtons are good at this, though Mr Shevvington is better.
  • Psychological Horror: The entire story.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Miss Frisch is a psychologist personally working alongside the Shevvingtons to help enforce the idea that the girls she examines are mentally disturbed. She's the one who helped put Valerie away in a mental hospital and tries to have a one-on-one with Christina.
  • Put on a Bus:
  • The Quiet One: Benji never says very much until the third book, and even then he gets easily flustered.
  • Sadist Teacher: Played with in the case of the Shevvingtons. Mr Shevvington's facade of kindness and understanding never cracks in public, while Mrs Shevvington is openly psychologically and emotionally abusive to her class (albeit usually in a passive-aggressive way). Each is also a full-blown Evil Teacher, however their only motive is sadism, though with an attitude behind it that's got more in common with a Serial Killer than is usual for this trope.
  • Saying Too Much: The Shevvingtons finally cross the line when they try to make Christina look crazy by relating her parents have been abusing her. However, they overestimate their influence as the adults who know Christina's parents know this can't be true and is the first clue the Shevvingtons are not as good as they seem.
  • Stress Vomit: Christina vomits after an encounter with Frisch, right onto two girls who had been giving her a hard time.
  • Survival Mantra: Christina frequently thinks of herself as "island granite" to reassure herself of her own resilience.
  • Terms of Endangerment: The Shevvingtons often use the term "dear", usually with their victims.
  • There Are No Therapists: There are, but...
  • Unholy Matrimony: It is unclear what level of emotional attachment there really is between the Shevvingtons; they function extremely effectively as a pair of serial soul-destroyers, but we never see anything between them beyond the practicalities of basic life and the discussion of plans for their victims.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Christina has this with various romantic interests throughout the trilogy. By the end of the series it is still unresolved, as she simply decides to dance with both of her suitors in general celebration, rather than treating it as a serious commitment. Which makes sense, as she's only 14.
  • Worthy Opponent: What the Shevvingtons come to see Christina as. Their early shifting of their efforts from driving Christina herself mad to convincing other people she's mad is an early acknowledgement that she's stronger than they thought.


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