Tess, our heroine, is at The Boardwalk, which is the hottest place to hang out, and waiting for her best friend Gina. After Gina gets there, they talk about how she's totally over her ex-boyfriend Beak and can't wait to hook up with this new guy Doss. And yes, these are real named. Tess is less enthused about Doss because he's kind of an ape, and she's also worried about herself.
See, Tess lived with her dad and brother Guy Joe. Again, a real name. A few years after their mother died, their father remarried a woman 15 years younger than him named Shelley. Shelley left him after a few years and took Tess with her, or at least Tess willingly left with her because her dad didn't seem to give a shit. Shelley recently announced plans to bum around Europe with her best friend because Tess is old enough to live on her own.
After they fight over Tess's ex-boyfriend Sam, Tess goes to the bathroom by herself to cool down and sees what looks like someone in a dark mask or hood strolling out from underneath the Devil's Elbow, the Boardwalk's big roller coaster. Not long after, the roller coaster goes off the rails not too far away from her. It kills one kid, does serious damage to someone's face, causes one kid to lose his leg, and kills a few people the coaster landed one.
When Tess tells them what she saw, no one really believes her. Everyone does come out of nowhere though. Guy Joe rushes over when he hears the news because he knows she hangs out there all the time. Sam's mom and little sister Candace come to check on them both because they didn't hear about the break up. Trudy, one of those girls who acts all wholesome and nice but is a raging bitch, also shows up.
Tess heads back to her big and empty home, only to find that someone slipped a letter under her door. The letter is actually a poem about the kids who died with a warning about who will be next. Though she takes it to the cops, they tell her it's obviously a prank and it's probably just her boyfriend. Gina feels bad enough that she lets Tess take home one of her cats for a few days.
Gina calls the next day to beg her friend to come to the Boardwalk. It turns out that the parents of a bunch of kids in town actually own a piece of it and are worried that people will stop coming now. They want their own kids to go and hang out to show people it's perfectly safe. Tess initially says no but then goes anyway and is all surprised that the place is so empty. Um, it's a Monday afternoon when she goes. How busy is this place usually on a Monday?
After going through the Funhouse, which she actually hates, she realizes that she lost her keys inside. Since she's too scared to go back by herself, Gina goes for her. The other teens, especially that mean brat Trudy, make her feel so bad and guilty that she goes inside. That's how she finds a piece of the floor missing and her best friend lying motionless on the beach below. By the time she gets back outside to tell them what happened and back inside again, the piece is back in place. The cops once again refuse to listen to her, even though they have no explanation for how Gina fell through the freaking floor and hit the beach below without someone replacing the floor piece. God, I hate cops in these books.
Gina is okay-ish. She was conscious at the hospital but cried so much when her mom started crying over her injuries that the doctor sedated her or something. The buddy group takes Tess home, where she finds her friend's cat hanging inside. After flipping out, Sam and Guy Joe go inside and realize that it's actually just a stuffed animal. Trudy makes fun of her, but Candace feels so bad that she offers to spend the night. Sam is less than pleased because he now has to worry about both his sister and his ex-girlfriend who he clearly still loves.
While all this happens, we get chapters from the guy/gal who set up the roller coaster incident. Our bad person tells us about finding a journal written by Lila O'Hare. Lila and her husband originally owned the Boardwalk until they had some money problems. Their friend and banker Buddy refused to help them out because he and group of his friends wanted to take over the Boardwalk and run it on their own. Her husband was so upset that he did something truly awful in the Funhouse and either died or was killed.
After learning she was pregnant, Buddy came back to be even more of a jackass. He told Lila that the new owners would never let her work there because of what her husband did and because it would make people feel uncomfortable. Buddy then suggests that she give her baby up for adoption to his good friends because she clearly can't handle having a kid on her own. Though she kept turning him down, she eventually gave in and said that the new parents really would give her child anything it could want.
Trudy's birthday is coming up and for some unknown reason, she demands to have her party at the Boardwalk. Tess initially refuses to go, but she then goes to see Gina in the hospital. Gina begs her to go and keep Doss company since she can't leave for awhile. Beak is there when she says it and isn't happy. His eyes actually get so dark that Tess wonders if she can trust him.
When she heads outside to leave, she finds that someone slashed her tires. Still frightened of Doss and worried that he'll make her let him drive her home, she tries to take a short cut through the woods. The only problem is that someone tries to follow her, she gets lost, and she then falls into a huge hole in the ground that turns out to be Trudy's family's new pool. Trudy's dad pulls her out, gives her some of his daughter's clothes to wear and even drives her home, where Sam is waiting for her. He expresses more concern before leaving.
Our reliable evil peep finally reaches the end of the journal. Lila had her baby, the doctor took the baby, and then the doctor gave her a shot that knocked her out for hours. When she woke, Buddy was there with a check from the new family and a warning that if she ever told the child who she was or tried to get custody, she'd go to prison. Uh, I think that's all super duper illegal...Anyway, Lila ripped up the check, but she left the ripped check in her journal with a list of names of the people involved. The reader then realizes that he/she is the child of Lila and vows to get revenge.
The reader also lets us know that the parents invested in the Boardwalk all showed up the night before to discuss what to do. Conveniently, we then learn that a full investigation revealed that the whole thing was just an accident. Well, our reader did in fact shove an iron pipe in the rail, so I guess that's kind of an accident. Gina also announces that she remembers absolutely nothing about her accident.
Cut to the night of Trudy's birthday party. She hands out chocolate frosted brownies that she refuses eat because they'll make her fat. I refuse to eat chocolate frosted brownies too because I like mine plain and preferably corner pieces. Damn, I need to see if I can get the boyfriend to make me brownies this weekend! Sam gets Tess to take a walk with him and seems a little shifty. Tess eventually runs off to be by herself because it apparently wasn't creepy enough being there with someone.
When someone screams, she runs back to the party and finds everyone – save Sam and Tess – doubled over in pain, holding their stomachs, and either screaming or crying. Trudy flips out about it being a stupid prank but does call for help before walking around, bitching about them ruining her party while she cleans up and literally everyone else writhes on the ground in agony. Is it wrong to hope she gets hit by a bus on the way home? Sam figures out it was the brownies and finds what is left to give to the paramedics.
Tess's dad shows up at the hospital and makes it all about him. He accuses them of messing around with drugs or drinking too much. I can kind of see why she left him. The other parents question her too because experimenting with drugs is better than being poisoned. The doctor is the one who confirms someone really did poison them. Trudy conveniently doesn't know where the brownies came from and only remembers that they were in her picnic basket. Tess then spends the night curled up in a chair in Gina's hospital room.
Our journal reader dances some type of jig and thinks about how a random voice told him/her to make the children punish for the sins of their fathers. How is that fair? He/she also thinks about how his/her fake father will pay more than anyone. Before that can happen though, our trusty reader really needs to get rid of Tess. Seriously, how is she the worst of the bunch? Has he/she never met Trudy before?
Tess goes back to her old home with her dad and brother to stay until Shelley gets back. She quickly finds that her dad is still a huge dick. He doesn't seem to care that her friends were all sick, still says the coaster incident was an accident, and acts put out at the idea of his daughter needing his car. After he leaves, she tries to find some of her old stuff and wanders across a shrine in the attic.
Yup, turns out our journal reader was Guy Joe. He confronts her with the final stage of his plan, which is to kill her. Guy Joe drags her from the house and back to the Boardwalk before taking her to the Funhouse. After doing some research, he learned that both Lila and her husband killed themselves there and wants them to do the same thing. He plans on putting a noose around her neck and making her jump to her death.
Instead, she gets away from him, manages to loosen a big ass chain, and smacks him over the head with it. She then gets to the same spot where Gina almost died, finds the floor piece, and lifts it up. When Guy Joe comes after her, he falls through the hole and gets knocked out when he hits the beach below. Sam then shows up to help her. Apparently Guy Joe was a dumbass and sent the journal and a rambling letter to Gina in the hospital, who naturally called Sam because she was worried about Tess.
In the epilogue, Guy Joe fakes being catatonic in the hospital and listens to his “dad” talk to the doctors. He learns that Trudy's dad was the Buddy from the journal and decides to whatever it takes for them to claim he's healed, just so he can enact his final act of revenge on the man who most deserves it.
Blah! I was kind of hoping whoever found the journal would read it and think he/she was the child only to find out it was someone completely different. It seems kind of weird to basically steal someone's child and then conveniently leave her journal filled with vengeful thoughts and proof of what you did just sitting in your attic...