I am paralyzed by the idea of sharing my favorite book, because I am incapable of picking a favorite. So instead, I’m going to plagiarize a post I wrote for my book blog about Prom Dress by Lael Littke, one of the most epically, wonderfully, equisitely bad books I have ever read.
I had a vague memory of reading this book in late elementary/early middle school and procured a second hand copy because it is sadly not on Kindle. I was an addict of the uber melodramatic scary/cursed item/ghost story that was so ubiquitous in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I even wrote part of a short story called “The Curse of the Silver Teddy Bear Necklace” in high school. I’ve devastated that my story doesn’t seem to exist anymore. (I’m holding out hope I’ll randomly stumble over it in a box of papers one day).
Prom Dress by Lael Littke
Originally Published 1989
Robin is too poor to buy a new dress for the prom. Then she finds a perfect, beautiful dress in the attic of her mysterious employer’s house. She “borrows” it to wear to the prom…and dances into her worst nightmare.
Then Felicia finds the dress. The price she pays for wearing it is more than any girl should pay…
But Nicole is too smart to be caught by the dress. Isn’t she? Poor Nicole!
And then there’s Gabrielle, Robin’s little sister. Did she find the dress? Or did the dress find Gabrielle?
Can anyone stop the fatal attraction of the…Prom Dress?
OHMIGOD you guys—could this book BE any better? Maybe, but only if it were longer. I LOVED it. So much love I can’t stop with the CAPSLOCK.!!!!111!!!!111!!!!1!!
I hope you guys were all fans of soap operas back in the day because this plot has a lot of convoluted plot points that only work if you’re willing to pretend we’re in Salem/Pine Valley/Port Charles. Strap in for caplock and run-on sentences like I’ve never capslocked or run-on before.
Robin is a new-to-town gold digging social climber dating the hottest/richest boy in school–Tyler. Tyler drives a red Trans Am, which I think is supposed to compensate for him saying things like “Between your dancing and your working, I hardly get to see you. Where do I rate on your list of priorities?”
Alas, Robin must work because Daddy’s dead and college tuition doesn’t grow on trees. Apparently, though, new houses DO grow on trees. Right around when Robin’s Dad died, her mother inherited a house from a family member who also died at the same time which is great because they couldn’t afford the mortage on the old house they’d lived in with her dad, and so they moved because this house was free and there are no inheritance or property taxes and who the hell knows—just go with it. Dad died, they moved, they’re broke–but they live in a mansion next to an even bigger mansion.
How very lucky for all of us that Tyler ‘s girlfriend needn’t slum it at McDonalds. In the mysterious mansion next door lives Miss Catherine. She’s an elderly recluse with a scarred cheek from when her twin sister Rowena threw acid on Catherine’s face because Rowena was jealous of Catherine’s hot boyfriend Michael who never looked at Rowena even though Rowena lusted after his bod. Robin is Miss Catherine’s lackey, and her job duties seem to consist of keeping Miss Catherine company and talking about how hot Miss Catherine used to be before “the accident.”
One day Miss Catherine and Robin get to talking about how Robin is going to be in some dance show doing the Charleston and there might be college scouts there to give out college scholarships. She has to find her own costume–and Miss Catherine has the perfect dress. All Robin has to do is go upstairs, find the secret closet, and take out the flapper dresses—being certain to NOT TOUCH the white prom dress that JUST HAPPENS to be the only other thing in that closet. Don’t even LOOK at it, Robin.
Duh, of course Robin looks at it, and instantly wants it. She’s going to be Tyler’s prom date and if she shows up in anything less than the perfect dress, he’ll dump her because she won’t be worthy of being seen with him or something.
The dress was made of deep scallops of creamy lace. It had long sleeves and a high lace collar. Like the flame colored dress, it had a dropped waistline, but the two dresses were worlds apart. While the red one called out blatantly for excitement and dancing the braying of horns, the lace one spoke softly of elegance and muted music and romance.
Robin asks Miss Catherine if she can borrow the Prom Dress. HELL NO, Miss Catherine says. She got the scar on her cheek while wearing that dress–it’s BAD. Robin decides that the ends will justify the means and when she borrows the flapper dress, she “borrows” the prom dress. Did she see a shadow on her cheek when she took it? Nah, it was just a trick of the light.
Apparently Robin looks smokin’ in the red flapper dress at the Charleston contest. Tyler tells her that his dad thought Robin was so hot that he’s sending them to a top shelf restaurant before prom, and is going to throw a limo their way. Robin says she could get used to this lifestyle, and I contemplate that she’s chasing the wrong man–it’s Tyler’s dad who controls the purse strings.
They go to Prom and are crowned Prom King and Queen after many more mentions of how the dress is so gorgeous that every girl there is jealous of it and that Robin is so bodacious in it. But just as Robin is about to take her throne and accept the pinnacle of high school success, the stairs crumble and she falls. The throne she was about to sit on falls too and lands on her legs and feet, crushing them.
No more dancing for Robin.
Robin is taken to a hospital, where her nurse is a woman named Felicia. Felicia is a reformed slut who is now in love with a divinity student named Mark. She wants to grow up and be Mrs. Mark, future minister’s wife. The first major hurdle in reaching her goal is impressing Dean Goudy at a special dinner he throws for his divinity students. Apparently the dean evaluates all potential spouses, and if the spouse doesn’t measure up the marriage isn’t going to happen and the student will be penalized for even thinking about dating such an unworthy candidate. No pressure.
If only Felicia had the right dress…
It was to be a dress-up affair, and the only fancy dresses she owned were bare backed or off the shoulder or spaghetti-strapped. What she needed was something sweet and demure.
Something like Robin Wilson’s dress.
Felicia asks Robin if she can borrow the dress. Robin says no. But during a drugged out dream, Robin’s eyes flicker open and she sees Felicia holding the dress up to herself.
Felicia is looking in the mirror–and thinks she sees a smudge on her cheek. Gee–is it shadowing or FOREshadowing? Felicia steals the dress.
Felicia goes to the dinner and is all demure and shit. But the dress keeps feeling tighter and tighter. So tight she can’t breathe. But when she looks in the mirror, the dress looks just like it did–it’s not too tight at all. But she can’t breathe. Finally, she excuses herself and goes upstairs to the “bathroom.” Felicia goes into the Dean’s bedroom and rips the dress off her body.
Oh noes! Now she’s in her underwear and the dress HAS to get back to Robin tonight because otherwise she’d be a bad person or something. So instead she steals some clothes from Mrs. Goudy to wear. But why stop there? She steals a bag to carry the dress back to Robin. She tries to sneak out, but Mrs. Goudy shouts that someone is fleeing the house with her BLUE BAG!
Felicia runs for the bus stop and the RIGHT bus just HAPPENS by at the RIGHT MOMENT. What luck! She hops on the bus and feels so lost and upset. Now what can she do? Telling the truth is clearly out of the questions–it is a FAR better solution to change back into the dress, sneak back into the house, and go back downstairs saying that she had glimpsed a man running off with a blue bag. NO! NO! What she should REALLY do is go to the hospital and return the dress and throw out the clothes and….I don’t know, say that God had taken her from the house to the hospital because she was more needed at the hospital?
Before she can get off the bus, Felicia needs her shoes. She reaches into the bag for her shoes…and discovers a velvet bag with pearls in it. I know I leave my expensive jewels in a random bag in my closet instead of a jewelry box or a safe. Oh NOES!!!
People get onto the bus–and it’s Mark and another guy from the party. Rather than confess and do penance or say some Hail Marys or whatever, she says
“Mark. The man with the cap…. He took it. He made me take the dress off at the house and he put it in a blue bag that he found in a closet…. He got off a few stops back. …. He made me come with him. He said he’d hurt me if I didn’t come. He threatened all sorts of awful things. I didn’t dare call out or anything. I just did what he said. I’m sorry he got away. But I was afraid. See, I’m still shaking.”
Mark is incredibly dumb and believes her. He escorts her from the bus, while she plays sad maiden.
The bag is left on the bus.
No more integrity for Felicia.
Nicole is a genius. Her high school academic decathalon team is taking the exact same city bus to a rival high school for a major competition. Her foot bumps something under the seat, and she finds THE BLUE BAG. Inside is the dress and some gorgeous pearls. It’s just what she needs for the dance that night. Maybe then her teacher will notice her and become her boy toy and they’ll live happily ever after.
That night she goes to the dance, and she looks totally gnarly. She thinks she sees a shadow on her cheek momentarily, and only the dullest reader can’t see what kind of karma is heading her way.
Mr. Waring asks her to dance and they flirt.
School would be out soon; that would end the student-teacher track they were stuck in right now, which of course would never allow dating. Mr. Waring’s strong code of ethics would never allow it. But, after graduation, they’d be free to date. Nicole could help him get over the terrible pain of losing his wife and child, and they could be married. She wondered if he’d mind if she went to college after their marriage. Very likely he’d insist on it. Maybe he’d go back for more graduate work. Maybe they’d both go to college.
Nicole was thinking happily of a wedding gown very much like the dress she was wearing.
Just then, Nicole sees her frenemy talking to someone and pointing at her. Proving she’s the “Girl Computer with the giant brain,” she makes the obvious intellectual leap that the cops must be here for her. They must have figured out….somehow…that the dress and jewelery weren’t hers. She runs away and bumps into a very tall pedestal. The bust of Einstein falls off and smacks her in the head.
Poor Nicole, no more brains–it’s amnesia town for you.
Luckily for Felicia, Nicole is brought to her hospital. She’s able to put the dress back into Robin’s closet. She confesses everything to Mark and surrenders the jewelry back to Mrs. Goudy. Mark dumps her lying ass.
Felicia and Robin have a heart to heart about the evil of the dress. Felicia thinks they should destroy it–her first smart choice of the book. Robin persists in being a moron and says it must go back to Miss Catherine.
Robin tells her little sister Gabrielle to take the dress back to Miss Catherine, which is clearly a great idea.
Did I mention that Gabrielle thinks that Tyler is totally choice? Gabrielle loves to play piano and Tyler sometimes accompanies her when he’s waiting around for Robin. So she jumps at the chance to get a ride home from him so she doesn’t have to take the dress on the bus, and asks him to come play piano with her. They could even do a duet FOR ROBIN when she finally comes home.
Robin gets out of the hospital and it’s so sweet how Gabrielle and Tyler have clearly practiced playing together over and over and over and over. In fact, they’ve gotten so used to playing together that they’re going get paid for playing together. Playing PIANO—stop with your filthy minds.
Robin takes the garment bag with the dress inside it back to Miss Catherine and confesses. Miss Catherine begins to laugh hysterically and confesses that it was her evil plan all along! BWAHAHA–she’s not even Miss Catherine….she’s ROWENA.
“I cursed every stitch of that dress. I started it for myself, you know. I thought Michael was going to ask me to the prom. But I had the birthmark, you see, and Catherine was the beauty. That was the most important thing in the world to her, just as Michael was to me. I saw them sneak around together, and when he asked her to the prom I finished up the dress for her, because I knew it was the last time she would ever be beautiful.”
Rowena jiggled up and down. “When they came home, I threw acid on her face. But not on the dress. I didn’t want to ruin the dress. She was wearing a cloak, so it didn’t get on the dress. I didn’t want to hurt the dress. I did it right there, in the foyer, on our little stage,” Rowena gave her a mirthless laugh. “And after that she was even uglier than I was.”
And just look–there goes Gabrielle to her job, with Robin’s boyfriend….WEARING THE DRESS!!! Rowena taunts Robin to just let her go, that the dress will punish her sister just as it did Rowena’s so long ago.
Robin suddenly develops a backbone and ethics and struggles to her feet, even though they’re both in casts and she’s supposed to be in a wheelchair, and even standing hurts with the fury of a thousand suns she struggles to the door, screaming even though Gabrielle and Tyler can’t hear her. As she gets to the door, throws it open, and screams her sister’s name one last time just as Gabrielle is about to get into the Trans Am, and passes out from the sheer pain of it all.
She wakes up in the hospital—her fall stopped whatever tragedy was about to befall Gabrielle.
Rowena was taken away and the full story comes out. After her stay in a mental hospital post-acid throwing, she was released into Catherine’s custody. The two women went away and were recluses. “Rowena” died in a fire, tragically. “Catherine” came back to the hometown and the old house. But “Catherine” was really “Rowena”–and the scar was from her gouging out her own birthmark so that it would scar and look like the acid burn. She was the EVIL TWIN!
The book closes with an epilogue all in italics. A woman buys the dresses for her second hand store. A girl named Natalie goes shopping at said store, and sees the dress. She’s an aspiring actress and it’s perfect for the upcoming audition. But it costs too much. So she slips it into her bag and steals it.
Tomorrow she would wear the dress!
The book ends, and I stand up and applaud.
Click the link below to see everyone else’s Wicked Wednesday contributions. And speaking of books, Capturing the Moment is now on sale exclusively at Totally Bound for the next month, and is now available for pre-order from Google Books, Kobo, and iBooks (release date April 26). It is not yet available for pre-order on Amazon or Nook.