Prep Summary and Analysis of Chapters 2-3


Chapter Two takes place during the winter of Lee's freshman year, and it appears we've skipped at least a few weeks ahead—Lee is studying for a biology test with Dede, and they seem to have become friendlier, recovering from their earlier conflict. While they study in the common room, the outgoing Junior Amy Dennaker arrives and tells them not to bother, since tomorrow is a special occasion called "surprise holiday." Lee doesn't understand Amy's explanation, though Dede seems to know all about surprise holiday, including that its timing is supposed to be a secret and that it is announced with a green jacket of some sort. After Amy leaves, Dede explains to Lee that "surprise holiday" is a yearly occasion when all classes are canceled without warning. Lee reflects that she's become more cordial with her roommate in spite of them not liking her very much, especially now that Little has left Ault. In fact, Lee says, she told the school about Little's stealing, prompting her to feel so anxious that she vomited. In the end, it turns out Amy is right. The next day, during morning roll call, everyone acts unusually lighthearted. This includes Gates Medkowski, whom Lee no longer feels interested in. One of the deans gives an announcement about recycling bins, which ends up being a tricky way to reveal the famous green jacket. This announcement causes Lee's schoolmates to scream and hug each other with delight, though she stays quiet. The dean quiets the rowdy students and announces that there will be two buses departing from school for students to take. One bus will go to Boston, and another to a nearby mall.

Lee isn't sure what to do, since she doesn't really have friends to go with either way. She notes that free time is hard for her, since her loneliness becomes more apparent. Structured time, which is in fact the majority of her time at school, is easier. She remembers a few times when lack of structure made her feel loneliest—seeking a seatmate on a bus trip to Plimoth Plantation, or trying to make conversation at a school ice-skating party. Lee decides to stay at school and study for the day, though as she walks back to her dorm, she envies the boys playing football and girls blasting music scattered around campus. Boys tend to make her feel jealous because they seem to want less and have simpler desires, while girls make her jealous because they seem to understand social codes she doesn't, like which music to play. Even though Lee isn't playing music, Dede is, using a stereo that her parents sent her in a package. Her mother often sends packages full of expensive things, unlike Lee's, who sends her things like on-sale maxi pads. Dede is rushing to get ready and yelling across the hall to her friend Aspeth, the most popular girl in the grade, about a mutual friend, Cross Sugarman. Cross is the most popular boy in the grade, and, according to a huffy Dede (who seems to have a slight crush on him) he'll be skipping the trip into Boston, perhaps because his girlfriend is stressing him out so much. Dede's crush on Cross isn't going to go anywhere, Lee thinks—her Jewishness and her looks disqualify her from being truly popular, and Cross seems shallow to Lee, though they haven't ever spoken. Dede then starts to press Lee for information about what she's doing with her day off, and Lee, in a panic, announces that she'll be going on the bus to the mall in order to get her ears pierced.

Carried along by her own lie, Lee ends up alone at a somewhat dilapidated mall. She can't find a place to get her ears pierced except for a shabby store clearly marketed to men, where a gruff clerk impatiently greets her. She notices Cross Sugarman himself enter the store shortly after her, but pretends not to know him and goes ahead with the piercing. The unkind clerk pierces her first ear, after which she starts to feel somewhat woozy. As he pierces her second ear, Lee's vision starts to blur, and she finds herself lying on the floor. The clerk is talking to Cross about her: Cross says that they go to school together, but that he doesn't know her name. As Lee's consciousness returns, Cross begins talking to her. He introduces himself and asks for her name, asking whether she's diabetic, to which she says no. Even in her state, Lee finds it funny that Cross thinks he has to introduce himself—he's more or less famous in their small class. Cross then helps Lee get up and brings her to the food court, criticizing the clerk's rudeness under his breath. Sitting down with Cross in a diner in the mall food court, Lee is struck by how good-looking her rescuer is. Lee announces gratefully that Cross is being very nice to her, to which he seems almost to take offense. Then they make small talk—Cross explains that his sister fainted on a plane once. Lee notices that Cross is difficult to read, and that he has a quietly watchful manner. The two order milkshakes, but Lee urges Cross to leave, since she thinks he wants to go to a movie at the mall without her. Cross firmly stays put, and asks Lee questions about herself. She feels more like herself than she usually does at school, telling funny stories about Amy Dennaker, even though Cross doesn't laugh. She also feels suddenly attracted to Cross. Cross, meanwhile, talks about himself too—he's from New York, Lee learns, and always knew he'd end up at boarding school. The two end up gently teasing each other. Cross seems to know that Lee looks down on him, to an extent, and is good-natured about it, while he makes fun of her for knowing so much about him already. Cross also criticizes her girlfriend, Sophie, assuring Lee that he doesn't imagine they'll stay together in the long term. Cross mentions, somewhat bashfully, that he mostly stays with his girlfriend because she "loves giving blow jobs." Lee feels suddenly awkward, but this doesn't last long: Cross papers over the awkwardness by inviting Lee to see a movie with him and two of his friends. They arrive at the movie late and Lee barely pays attention to it, since she's so busy noticing the way Cross smells.

After the movie, Lee feels awkward, unsure whether to stick with the boys or leave them. They solve the problem for her by staying beside her, assuming she'll spend the day with them. Their group goes to an arcade, then, since Cross is hungry again, they go to a pizza restaurant in the mall. Cross continues to gently and even flirtatiously tease Lee, and she even does a bit of teasing back herself. That evening, the boys notice that they've just missed the bus back to school. Not wanting to get into trouble, and unconcerned about money, they decide to get a taxi. On the taxi ride home, Cross subtly puts his arm around Lee, even while carrying on a conversation with his friends. Lee ends up leaning on him the whole way, barely able to believe her luck. Back at Ault, the boys get out first at their dorm. Before she's dropped off at her own, the taxi driver tells her that her "boyfriend" has paid her fare. He's impressed to find out that the campus belongs to a high school, not a college. Back in her dorm, Lee is greeted by Dede and Sin-Jun. She doesn't tell them anything about her day, knowing that Dede has a crush on Cross. Instead, she thinks about how happy she'd surely be if only she could have Cross's affection in the future. Dede, meanwhile, is appalled to find out that the piercing store gave her roommate no supplies to clean her piercing. Dede pulls out her own and begins to clean Lee's ears, and Lee, thinking about Cross, starts to cry. Sin-Jun and Dede reassure her, thinking that she is crying because of the pain from her piercing.

The next chapter begins in the spring, at lacrosse practice. The team splits into pairs, and Lee, accustomed to having nobody to partner with, is surprised when a girl named Conchita Maxwell asks her to be her partner. Lee knows who Conchita is because she dresses colorfully and distinctively. She finds out during practice that Conchita is unusual in other ways as well. For one thing, she isn't from the East Coast, but from Texas, and her mother is Mexican. She has unusual taste in music, and asks Lee all about her shirt, which has Bob Dylan lyrics on it. Lee doesn't know anything about Dylan, since the shirt belongs to her dad, but Conchita invites her to come listen to his songs in her room sometime. Lee knows that Conchita doesn't have tons of friends, except for a girl named Martha who sits near Lee in Latin class and does well on tests. Most importantly, Conchita is extremely blunt. Unlike anyone else at Ault, she admits that everyone in the grade knows all about one another and has preconceived notions about each other. This means that Conchita knows who Lee is, and tells Lee that she seems unhappy at Ault. That's fine, though, Conchita asserts—anyone who's paying attention would have some criticisms of the school. Lee thinks about how sad it is to have somebody recognize you so thoroughly, if only because it happens so rarely, making you feel acutely how little people usually know about each other. Outwardly, though, she acts somewhat cold, unwilling to admit out loud that she feels unhappy. Conchita says, sadly, that she thought her and Lee might have been friends, but that this doesn't seem to be the case. Practice ends soon after.

The next morning at roll call, a boy named Adam Rabinovitz helps Henry Thorpe make an elaborate announcement, which includes a water-gun attack. Adam has something of a reputation for his boldness: Lee knows that he once publicly announced a friend losing his virginity during roll call, for instance. She also knows that he, strangely, has an extremely high GPA and will be going to Yale in the fall. Adam announces, in a relaxed, light way, that the school will be playing an enormous game of Assassin. He explains the rules. Every student will receive another student's name at random, along with some stickers. The student must find the student they have been assigned, their "target," and attach the sticker to some part of their body, thereby "killing them." However, if anyone witnesses the student killing his or her target, they should announce it, and the "kill" will be considered invalid. From her narration, which seems to take place in the future, Lee notes that nobody ever voiced real opposition to this game except for a few who were deemed somewhat humorless. As they leave the room to go to class, Lee winds up next to Adam, who is joking with his friend Henry Thorpe. She muses that Adam gave her a feeling of longing, since she, too, wanted to have the total confidence and sense of belonging that so many teenage boys seem to have.

Later, after lacrosse practice, Conchita catches up to Lee. Lee feels embarrassed about her earlier coldness, and she jokes around with Conchita—though she's shocked when Conchita announces that she's still a virgin, since Lee can't imagine anyone would volunteer this information willingly. Conchita again invites Lee to listen to Bob Dylan's music in her room, and Lee agrees. Conchita lives in a single, she explains. In addition to terrible allergies, she has insomnia, so she can't live with roommates. Conchita's room is meticulously decorated, though still somehow impersonal. Lee finds its eerie girlishness depressing, though Conchita remains as warm as ever. Conchita reveals that she has a phone in her room, though other students aren't allowed to, in case she has an asthma attack and needs to call an ambulance. Her mother, she explains, can be overprotective. She then calls her mother. Lee can't understand the conversation, since it's all in Spanish, so she gets comfortable and imagines being invited to Texas for Conchita's quinceanera, though Conchita herself hasn't mentioned anything of the kind. When Conchita hangs up, she asks Lee whether she calls home every day. Lee lies and says yes, though she usually calls only once a week, and briefly. It seems to her that her parents have gotten used to her absence even while she is still homesick. Then they listen to Dylan's music. Lee has mixed feelings about it, except for the song "Lay Lady Lay," which makes her imagine being in love with a shy, kind man who wears flannel. Conchita offers to loan her the album and then invites her to get dinner in town, something Lee has never done. Lee agrees to go, and says she'll borrow Sin-Jun's bike. Conchita, though, has to walk—she doesn't know how to ride a bike. On the walk to dinner, Lee offers to teach her how, and Conchita seems elated at the offer.

The next day, Lee kills her first Assassin target, an obnoxious boy who belongs to a group nicknamed the "bank boys" because their wealthy fathers work on Wall Street, or because they act in such a way that their fathers may as well work on Wall Street. The boy, Devin, is irritable and contrarian about Lee's win, which actually thrills her. She gleefully argues until he gives her the name of his own target, allowing her to advance in the game. Later, she meets Conchita to practice biking. The weather looks threatening, but Conchita comes anyway, wearing a hot-pink rain slicker. The girls discuss Lee's roommates while they practice biking, and conversation turns to Dede's friend Aspeth. Conchita reveals that she and Aspeth have known one another since kindergarten and that their fathers work together. However, she says bluntly, they stopped being friends several years ago, after Aspeth became too cool for her. She tells Lee to stop "playing dumb" by acting as if Aspeth and Conchita are equally popular. Conchita then asks Lee whether she plans to room with Sin-Jun next year. Lee responds noncommittally, though she's fairly sure that Sin-Jun will be rooming with a girl named Clara.

In the meantime, Lee "kills" two more people in Assassin—both girls who are good-natured about losing, unlike Lee's first victim. She wonders if she might win the entire game, and even if she doesn't, she likes the tension and excitement it injects into the school. She overhears Cross and Aspeth discussing the game in the dining hall—Aspeth disdains it, but Cross points out that Aspeth is only bitter because she lost early on. Cross and Lee don't acknowledge each other, but Lee hopes that they can both stay in the game of Assassin long enough that one of them gets the other as a target. That way, Cross will have to think about her and search for her around campus. Lee's next mission is to kill a junior lacrosse player named McGrath Mills. First, she tries to put a sticker on him while they leave their morning roll-call, but McGrath's friend catches her in the act. McGrath and his friend Max tease Lee, although their tone is friendly. In fact, Lee feels as if she's quickly developing a crush on them both. That evening, Lee runs into a boy named Edmundo, who seems to be following her around empty corridors. She accuses him of trying to get her out in Assassin. Edmundo is grouchy, and says that he doesn't understand why people care about the game anyway. Lee concludes that he's even more awkward and out-of-place than she is—another scholarship student, Edmundo's unusual background is made more noticeable by his curmudgeonliness. Afterward, Lee tells Conchita about the encounter at their biking practice. Conchita says that she knows Edmundo from the Minority Student Alliance, and Lee teases her, saying that she has a crush on him. Conchita denies having crushes at all, and then asks Lee whether she has one. Lee confesses to her crush on Cross. She even tells Conchita about their flirtation in the taxi back to school on surprise holiday. Conchita is surprised, not only because Cross belongs to such a separate social sphere, but because he has a girlfriend. Lee argues that his flirting doesn't "count" as cheating, and she reflects, from her future narrative position, that for a long time she did not believe a romantic encounter meant anything unless kissing was involved. Furthermore, Lee imagines that Cross's older girlfriend simply wouldn't care if he cheated on her. To Lee, it seems that the other girl simply has less to lose.

Conchita then asks Lee whether she'd like to room together next year. Lee hesitates, which Conchita assumes isn't personal—she believes that Lee has made arrangements to room with Sin-Jun and has to speak with her. Lee's reasons, though, are somewhat more complex. She worries that rooming with Conchita would establish her unalterably as a marginal figure in the school's social life. She imagines that they would have fun, staying in at night and listening to Bob Dylan, but Lee thinks that she might not be ready to give up her dreams of popularity. Conchita, undisturbed, tells Lee that she's invited to have lunch in town with Conchita's mom, who is coming to visit. In fact, she's invited her friend Martha as well. Conchita accepts the invitation.

That evening, Lee and Sin-Jun are eating cookie dough in their dorm's kitchenette when Amy arrives. She tells Lee that McGrath found her attempt to "kill" her earlier funny, and talks about him in such a way that Lee can tell she has a crush on McGrath. Amy ends up semi-jokingly offering to help Lee bring McGrath down in Assassin, which Lee sees is based on her own desire to tease and talk to McGrath. Sin-Jun, Amy, and Lee formulate a plan to grab a fishing pole from the dorm basement, which they'll use to dangle a message in front of McGrath's window. They need Madame Broussard's permission for this, though. The three knock on Broussard's door, and the teacher not only gives permission but joins them with enthusiasm. They decide that a fishing pole won't be necessary, since they can use a broom instead. This growing group troops up to the room above McGrath's, which belongs to a pair of girls named Heidi and Alexis, whom Amy knows. Heidi and Alexis are as enthusiastic as the rest and fish out a pillowcase to write on. They debate what to write until Sin-Jun comes up with the perfect message: "I'M ALWAYS WATCHING," with an illustration of an eye. Using a broom and a mop, Lee and Amy dangle the message out the window so that McGrath can see. Amy does most of the talking with McGrath and his roommates, and is so flirtatious that Madame Broussard eventually closes the window and ends the prank. However, McGrath jokingly promises Lee that he'll use the pillowcase every night.

Soon afterward, Lee winds up in a conversation with Conchita's friend Martha. Martha and Lee end up getting along. Martha tells Lee how much Conchita likes her, and they joke about rowing, the sport Martha participates in. After this short scene, Lee tells us about her new plan to get McGrath out in Assassin. She knows it's his turn to set one of the tables in the dining hall that night at the school's formal dinner, where everyone sits in assigned seats and dresses up. So Lee arrives in the dining hall very early, planning to sit under the table and wait until McGrath arrives—at which point she'll put a sticker on his leg. All goes according to plan until McGrath actually arrives. Lee is in a perfect position to "kill" him, but feels suddenly conflicted. She's unable to believe her good fortune, but she also realizes she doesn't actually want to win the whole game and be the center of attention, and she considers that McGrath, unlike her previous targets, actually wants to win and is simply too nice to say so. However, even as she considers these points, Lee finds herself putting the sticker on his foot. McGrath notices and is as friendly and joking as ever, but Lee knows that their rapport has died. From now on, she knows, their friendly relationship will feel polite and hollow.

In the next scene, Lee is going into town with Martha and Conchita to meet Conchita's mom for lunch—and it turns out that the car Conchita's mom has sent for them is a limo. Lee understands, based on this and on the polite but dismissive way that Conchita speaks to the driver, that her friend is rich. This comes as a surprise, since Conchita feels like such an outsider to her. In fact, Lee is confused: looks, ethnicity, and personality don't matter all that much in the Ault social scene compared to wealth, she thinks. Still, she realizes that Conchita's possessions do indicate that she's wealthy, even if Lee never noticed. Lee feels embarrassed about her previous assumption that Conchita, too, was on a scholarship. Outside of Lee's musings, Conchita and Martha bring up a lighter topic: the fact that two of their teachers once dated. Conchita explains that Aspeth told her this. The girls joke about this faculty romance, and Lee imagines the pet names her teachers might have used for each other, causing the others to laugh. The conversation turns to the girls' own sex lives—Conchita claims she won't have sex until marriage, and then only in the dark. Martha, who has more sexual experience than the other two, still says she wouldn't have sex if she had the chance, since her mom would be angry. Lee says that she would, depending on the person. Conchita seems shocked, which makes Lee feel more affectionately towards her, while Martha and Lee laugh uncontrollably together. The hotel where Conchita's mother is staying in Boston is extremely luxurious. Conchita and her mom are excited to see one another: they cry, hug, and chat in Spanish. Conchita's mom wants to know everyone's life story, so they tell her, laughing and eating enormous amounts of expensive food until the meal ends with a huge hug from Conchita's mother. Lee feels blessed to be in this world of wealth, one which feels generous rather than oppressive. After, Martha points out that a bodyguard was sitting nearby the entire time. She explains to a confused Lee that Conchita's father is the CEO of an oil corporation. Then she tells her all about the Maxwells—for instance, that they met because Mrs. Maxwell worked as Mr. Maxwell's cleaner, and that Mr. Maxwell has a reputation for ruthlessness and greed. Lee feels somewhat impatient, thinking about how easily Martha could fit in if she wanted to. Martha even points out, though not unkindly, that Conchita's health issues are partly imaginary. However, the school accommodates her hypochondria because they hope for a donation from her parents. Lee realizes that there are two kinds of wealth: the kind that is subtle and garners admiration, and an ostentatious kind that people gossip about. Lee asks Martha whether she would ever want to room with Conchita, and Martha gently says no. Lee then asks whether Martha would be interested in rooming with her, Lee. Martha says yes, sounding relieved and gleeful. At this, we hear from our narrator, Lee in the future. She says that this was the moment when her friendship with Martha solidified, and hints that their friendship will be a lifelong, meaningful one. However, the next day, Lee tells Conchita that she will be rooming with Martha. Conchita cries uncontrollably, and Lee can't comfort her. In fact, she ends up being somewhat dismissive, claiming that Conchita is overreacting. Conchita announces that she no longer considers Lee a friend, and the two part without reconciling.

Finally, the chapter returns to the game of Assassin. Lee's new target is a mysterious Parisian boy named Alexander, but it takes a few reminders for McGrath to hand over the piece of paper with the target's name and the stickers. When he does, Lee easily "kills" Alexander. She wonders how many people are left in the game and whether Cross is one of them. Eavesdropping on Cross, she learns that he is, indeed, still in the game. Then Lee goes to the infirmary, where Conchita has been hiding away. Conchita accuses her of being shallow and caring more about social status than friendship, a barb that feels almost refreshingly truthful to Lee. As she leaves, she feels Conchita's hand on her back and knows that Conchita has "killed" her—she's out of the game. Lee realizes that Conchita, who has maybe been protecting her from others so far, has now purposely blocked her way to Cross Sugarman. This, she reflects, is what truly killed their friendship: mutual resentment was harder to recover from than one-sided resentment. The chapter, though, ends on a bittersweet note. Lee remembers a final bike lesson before her fight with Conchita. At this lesson, Conchita rode a bike by herself, without Lee holding on. This, Lee thinks, is maybe the only memory of her friendship with Conchita that wasn't ruined by their falling-out.


As Lee herself explains, structure is reassuring for her. In her usual life at school, Lee feels completely unsure whether she should talk to a person like Cross. In fact, she often waits for "permission" to try new things, like going into town for dinner. The game of Assassin is the perfect permission for her to explore the school's social scene more widely, and to get closer to Cross. Because the game has a complex and strict structure, Lee can speak to people like McGrath Mills and feel confident that she's "allowed" to interact with them. This is one reason that Conchita "killing" her feels so personal, akin to her rejection of Conchita as a roommate. As Lee realizes, Conchita "recognizes" her: she's capable of seeing past Lee's facade and pointing out her flaws and vulnerabilities, in a way that makes Lee feel almost relieved. In this case, Conchita knows just how much this game means to her friend, and recognizes that Lee needs structure. Moreover, Assassin is the perfect vehicle for Lee because it lets her take advantage of her natural gift for observation. Much of the time at Ault, Lee feels awkward or downright creepy because of how much she knows about other people, who might know nothing at all about her. But her knowledge now helps her spot her classmates' vulnerabilities in the game, and her quiet watchfulness helps her remain undetected. For the first time at Ault, Lee's personality becomes a boon to her.

In fact, many things begin to get better for Lee in these two chapters. She makes a few friends, for one thing. At her peak, socially, she has a casual friendship with her roommates, and has developed a friendly relationship with various students such as Amy and McGrath, thanks to Assassin. Most importantly, she becomes close with both Conchita and Martha. Lee isn't the most popular girl in school by any means, but she's begun to develop real relationships and even a reputation on campus. What becomes apparent, though, as Lee moves up the school's social totem pole, is that her life isn't necessarily so much easier. It has more joys, certainly: Lee experiences laughter and real connection to an extent she never did in her first weeks at school. At the same time, Lee suddenly has more power, which she doesn't enjoy. When given the power to choose between Martha and Conchita as roommates, for example, she chooses Martha. Lee, narrating to us from the future, hints that this will turn out to have been a good decision: Lee and Martha develop a long and deep friendship. Moreover, Conchita's response is so intense and emotional that readers suspect she and Lee might have clashed at some point anyway. However, Lee clearly doesn't relish hurting Conchita's feelings. She feels a similar, though less dramatic, internal conflict when deciding whether to "Kill" McGrath. She is thrilled to advance in the game, but terrified to hurt a fellow student, even mildly. In general, while Lee advances through her school's game-like social life, she experiences both more excitement and more guilt, internal conflict, and sadness. Her previous position as an awkward outsider now seems strangely simple. Before making friends, Lee had nothing to lose.

More broadly, Ault's culture comes with both good and bad elements, and Sittenfeld portrays the Ault way of life with nuance. In these chapters, Assassin provides the best example of this mixture. Like the school's other traditions, this one is both vaunted and silly. Sittenfeld portrays the way in which this elevation of levity can be charming or even beautiful, creating an almost utopian environment in which playfulness is celebrated. On the other hand, this playfulness helps students and teachers avoid self-reflection. It also reflects a school in which most students have relatively low-stress lives: without financial stress, for instance, they can easily put all of their attention into games and traditions. The scene in which Lee and her classmates prank McGrath Gills is a perfect example: Heidi offers her pillowcase for Lee to write on, and Lee notes that the "sacrifice" is "distinctly Aultish." On the one hand, "Aultish" might be a good descriptor for the moment's spontaneity and youthful joy. At the same time, "Aultish" describes the nonchalance with which students treat material possessions, knowing their wealth can simply buy them more.

One student who seems to exemplify this "Aultish" blend is Adam Rabinovitz, the boy who announces the game of Assassin. Lee envies Adam, not only as an individual, but because of what he represents. He seems completely self-assured, and Lee knows him both as a sexually forward, vulgar person and an intelligent one. This strikes Lee as wildly foreign, emblematic of a uniquely male confidence and self-satisfaction. In Chapter Two, in fact, before encountering Adam, Lee feels a similar pang of envy watching a group of boys play football. It seems to her that boys have simpler desires and less self-doubt. This certainly seems to be true at Ault, where boys are far more likely to act showy or joke around in public. Even Gates, Ault's ideal female student, is notably demure and serious beside her male counterpart Henry. Elsewhere, Lee mentions that Dede always gives away the expensive chocolates her mother sends, because she's always dieting. Much of the route to popularity for boys at Ault seems to involve public displays of boldness and swagger, while for girls, it usually involves a literal and figurative shrinkage of oneself. This is one reason why Conchita's fashion sense is considered so distasteful by many students. Her clothes are colorful and unapologetic—completely antithetical to the ideal of feminine mildness to which most girls at Ault aspire.

Conchita herself is a complex figure, one who brings out chronic problems involving class and race at Ault in spite of her completely distinct personality. On the one hand, Conchita is possibly one of the wealthiest students in the grade. This fact alone, Lee realizes, is enough to propel her to popularity. However, Conchita seems to choose not to be popular. In fact, everything from her clothes to her personality constitutes a complete and open rejection of Ault's social standards. Moreover, as Lee points out, Conchita makes it known that she is half-Mexican. Since minority students are generally not as popular as their white counterparts, this insistence upon her own identity comes across as both a protest against the racism in Ault's culture and as a way to sidestep her identity as a CEO's daughter: if she emphasizes her relationship to her mother and her mother's culture, Conchita can escape some of the pressure that comes with enormous wealth. After all, as Lee realizes, wealth itself isn't a route to power at Ault. Unsubtle or over-the-top wealth is considered embarrassing, meaning that Conchita's money might actually make her feel like an object of judgment. Finally, Conchita's money seems to have shielded her in some ways, making her more vulnerable rather than less. For instance, Martha points out that the school goes along with her hypochondria, giving her a single room, for instance, in order to garner some of the family's donations. In this way money has shielded Conchita from some harsh realities, giving her an enjoyable innocence and bluntness while also making her difficult to get along with. Her insistence upon always stating what she thinks, for instance, is charming but can be alarming. Moreover, her reaction to Lee's rejecting her as a roommate reflects her vulnerability and innocence. She shares her emotions freely and spontaneously in a way that does not feel possible for Lee.

Finally, in these chapters, our relationship to the narrator deepens and shifts. Lee narrates her high-school experiences with varying degrees of distance, sometimes seeming completely wrapped up in teenage drama and school life, and sometimes backing away and revealing herself as an adult. In these moments, she bestows the reader with additional perspective. For instance, when describing the beginning of her friendship with Martha, Lee suddenly shifts into the future. She reveals to the reader that her relationship with Martha ends up lasting a lifetime. She even mentions, earlier on, that she will one day share an inside joke with Martha in which the two of them refer to Martha as a "laugh slut" because of how easy it is to make her laugh. This revelation is particularly touching and goes beyond straightforward foreshadowing because it allows us to see Lee herself changing. The high-school Lee we know would hesitate to use vulgar or sexual language in a casual context. In this moment, we have the somewhat freeing experience of seeing Lee as an adult, with a more adult, less self-conscious voice. Sittenfeld is disciplined in her use of this widened perspective, allowing Lee to drop just enough information about the future to create tension, but not so much that the story loses suspense or urgency.