Ten Summary & Study Guide

Gretchen McNeil
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Ten Summary & Study Guide Description

Ten Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Ten by Gretchen McNeil.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: McNeil, Gretchen. Ten. HarperCollins, 2012.

In Ten, a novel by Gretchen McNeil, ten teenagers are invited to the secluded Henry Island, just off the coast of Washington, for a weekend party. For Meg Pritchard, a senior at Kamiak High, the party is a good excuse to spend some time with her best friend, Minnie, before Meg finally goes off to LA for college in the fall. Minnie cannot wait to party, but Meg is less excited about the drinking, dehydration, and hook-ups that will occur this weekend. She is more excited about curling up by a cozy fire and hopefully getting some writing done. Jessica Lawrence, the most popular girl at their high school, is hosting the party. When the ferry carrying Meg and Minnie arrives on the small island, Meg is surprised that her off-limits crush, T.J., the most popular football star at their high school, is there at the dock to greet them.

T.J. tells Meg and Minnie that Jessica’s dad called and said they will not be able to make it that night – they will be coming tomorrow by ferry. He introduces them to a cute blonde guy named Ben, Jessica’s latest “boy toy” who goes to Mariner. Ben flirts with Minnie on the way to the house as Meg catches up with T.J. They share a flirty closeness that thrills Meg even as she fights against it. Gunner, T.J.’s best friend at Kamiak, was also invited to the party. He is Minnie’s ex and is now dating Kumiko, a student at another high school in Seattle. At the resort house where they will be staying, Meg also meets Nathan and Kenny, two guys from Mariner. Two girls, Lori and Vivian, who go to Mariner are staying at the house as well. White Rock House is white, spacious, isolated, and located romantically up a set of stone stairs from the sea coast. The house has a medieval-like feel, and it is stocked with all the amenities: beer, DVD’s, and satellite TV.

Meg and T.J. help make the salad for dinner. As they do, they flirt. T.J. tells Meg that he, too, will be going to college in LA. Meg is elated but tries to hide it. During dinner, Nathan brags about a girl at his high school that he tutored and seduced in order to get a good grade on his algebra final. Kenny, his best friend, helped him. Kenny flirts with Lori. As they eat, Ben has an allergic reaction to slivered nuts in the salad. He turn red and nearly dies, but Meg finds his Epi-pen at the last second and inserts into his thigh, saving him. Everyone is shocked and confused, Meg most of all, since she was in charge of making the salad. No one else owns up to putting the nuts into the salad. It is dismissed as an “accident.”

After dinner, the group drinks beer and looks for a movie to watch. But all the DVD's are empty and the satellite TV is out because of the weather. They finally find a home-made video. They put it on. It is a weird, creepy video with a vindictive message—definitely not what they were expecting. The video interweaves images of high school students, math equations, a beach, science experiments, a glee club, a school dance, etc. with written messages of judgment. The words, “Your actions are a crime…Even if the law does not recognize it” fill the screen. At the same time the video counts down from “10” to “1,” slashing out each number with red as it goes down. The video ends with the message, “Vengeance is mine" before fading to black. The group is uneasy about the video but would rather not discuss it. Lori is especially upset and starts crying. She accuses one of them of making the video to scare her and says that someone is out to get them. She tells Vivian she knows what she did to a girl last year and alludes to a competition of some sort. Lori runs off to her room. Vivian leaves soon after, crying. No one in the group says anything about the video after that. They all head to bed, uneasy.

Meg wakes up in the middle of the night from the storm. She has to use the restroom. As she makes her way down the stairs she hears a strange creaking noise. She finds Lori hanging by a rope noose from the rafters. Soon the rest of the group joins her on the stairs. They find a suicide note written on the page of sheet music. On the wall by the front door they find a red painted slash, still dripping, on the wall. No one can get cell phone reception to call the police due to the storm. And since the party was kept a secret from everyone’s parents, no one knows where they are. Meg goes into her room to fetch her laptop, where she finds Ben and Minnie. They have been close ever since they arrived on the island. Minnie says that someone stole her pills, but Meg assures her she probably just misplaced them. Meg takes her laptop and hurries downstairs. She noticed a yellow chord earlier in the living room. She connects it to her computer. She gets internet service. She is about to send an email for help to her parents, when the connection is broken. The email does not send. Vivian wants to leave Lori's body up because it is a “crime scene,” but Meg and T.J. sway the group in taking it down. Afterwards, Meg and T.J. head to the boathouse to look for a radio in one of the boats.

The storm is still raging as Meg and T.J. battle the natural elements and make their way down to the boathouse. Meg almost slips on the wooden plank walkway and nearly falls to her death over the broken railing, but T.J. grabs her by the waist just in time and pulls her to safety. T.J. heads back quickly to grab a flashlight from the house and they continue on their way. This is the first time they have been alone in ages. Things have been awkward with Meg and T.J. ever since she cancelled on him for Homecoming. What he does not know is that she did not do it because she does not like him – she did it because she loves him, but so does her best friend Minnie. Meg decided to choose their friendship over him, as much as it hurt. She lied to Minnie and said T.J. never asked her to Homecoming and also pinkie swore she didn’t like him. Meg and T.J. search the boathouse and find a yacht called The Nemesis. Meg and T.J. climb onto the boat and have a moment, but Meg pulls away. They search the yacht for a radio, but it has been taken.

On their way back, they find Vivian with a piece of driftwood sticking out of her back. They realize that Vivian must have come out after them and fallen through the broken railing at the same place Meg slipped earlier. They bring the group out to show them what happened. Everyone is disturbed by Vivian’s death but they believe it was an accident. But as they go up the hill, Meg stays behind to look at the railing. She sees it was sawed off. Someone deliberately left the broken railing there. She starts to wonder if maybe these “accidents” were not intentional.

Nathan does not trust Meg because he found her by the second slash on the wall. They decide to leave for the Taylors’ house, which is nearby. After they go, Ben comforts Minnie and encourages her to take a nap. She has been very upset ever since the two deaths occurred. Her anxiety is turning her into a nervous wreck and without her medication, she seems unable to keep her mood swings in check. She is curt with Meg and tells her she needs alone time. Meg feels like a social pariah. Even T.J. has disappeared. She is all alone. She reaches in her pocket for her diary, but it turns out that what she thought was her own journal is someone else’s. She opens it. Unable to resist, she starts reading.

She reads about a young woman who is moving to a new school. Her second school in the past few months, it turns out. She writes how she is hopeful for the future. She has a crush on a boy in her class, has joined the debate team, and is also trying out for a solo in the upcoming chorus concert. Meg identifies with the author. A lot of these things she can personally relate to. As Meg reads on, things start to go horribly wrong for the diarist. It turns out the boy the girl liked used her to cheat on an algebra test, she got kicked off the debate team unfairly, and a girl she thought was her friend tricked her into screwing up her audition so that her friend got the solo instead of her. There is also a cruel boy in her P.E. class who taunts her and says, “Burn!” whenever he sees her. But she still has hope. She keeps referring to a “Tom” who comforts her and gives her encouragement. Meg finds a picture in the diary of a girl with stringy black hair. She recognizes her and realizes she knows the author of the diary: It’s Claire Hicks, a dead girl. Claire went to Meg’s school. One morning a couple months back, she was found hanging in her room. Meg begins to wonder if the deaths taking place are somehow connected to Claire’s diary and suicide.

Meg finds a photograph of Claire in her room. She doesn’t remember it being there earlier. She sees someone outside sneaking back into the house. When she goes downstairs, she hears them and calls out, but no one answers. Meg hears a scream. She follows it to find Minnie staring at another red slash on the wall. Gunner, Kumiko, and T.J. join them. They realize who’s missing: Ben. They go into his room to find him on the floor, motionless. When they investigate, they find a water bottle filled with ground pecans, which they all knew he was allergic to. The group gathers on the stairs. Meg finally voices what everyone is thinking: it was murder. Three people have been deliberately killed. Someone is hunting them down. Kumiko vouches for her and Gunner. T.J. does the same for him and Meg, but Kumiko does not trust them. She says one of them could easily be the killer. Minnie too seems untrusting. She can’t look Meg, her best friend, in the eye. Nathan and Kenny have been gone for hours, so T.J. decides to go to the Taylors’ house and look for them. No one wants to go with, so Meg volunteers. They head out together.

The rain has finally calmed down. Meg and T.J. make the muddy trek to the Taylor’s house. When they get there, the place is oddly quiet. They are surprised. Last night it seemed like there was a party going on. They go inside to find music and sounds of party conversation set on a timer. Upstairs, they find Kenny, bludgeoned to the death in the head. In the master bedroom they find the Taylors lying in bed, also dead. In the bathroom they find Nathan, shot in the heart with an arrow. Written on the mirror are the words that Meg recognizes as being from the Bible—a verse about vengeance. Meg remembers Nathan bragging the night before about using a girl to help him cheat on a test. She connects this with Claire’s diary and the boy who she helped cheat who “broke” her heart. Nathan got an arrow shot through his heart. Meg suspects Claire’s diary is behind the mystery of these murders. Outside, Meg loses it. She can’t stand all the death. T.J. kisses her desperately, passionately, and she is shocked to find she kisses him back. They head back to the house, not looking forward to what they will have to tell the others.

Meg stops T.J. on the way back up and tells him she needs to show him something. They go to the boathouse. There Meg shows him Claire’s diary. As he reads, he realizes he is in the diary. He tells Meg that the guy Claire was referring to at the third school she moved to who she has a crush on is him. Apparently Claire overheard T.J. in the copy room telling Gunner that he was taking Meg to Homecoming. Gunner had asked if he was taking the “stringy-haired freak” who was always following him around and when T.J. said no, he had told T.J. Good, in fact he’d rather shoot himself in the head than go to Homecoming with that girl. Claire was deeply affected by this comment and the fact that T.J. was taking Meg to Homecoming dance. Meg and T.J. realize they are involved in the diary too, just like everyone else who has died so far. T.J. also explains to Meg what happened the night of Homecoming: how after the dance T.J. rejected her once and for all and hurt by this rejection, Minnie yelled at Claire, telling her no one would ever love her. Meg and T.J. make their way back to the house.

When they return to the house, there are two new red slashes on the wall. The group listens as Meg and T.J. tell them about Nathan and Kenny’s deaths. Kumiko doesn’t trust Meg and T.J. Minnie doesn’t defend Meg. She seems strangely distant. She accuses her of lying more than anyone. The group decides to search the house, bottom up, to see for good if there is anyone else in the house. Then they will know for sure whether one of them is the killer or not. While they are searching, Gunner gets shot. The gun is found in the hallway. Kumiko accuses Meg, T.J., and Minnie, saying it was one of them. Meg insists there is someone else in the house. Kumiko doesn’t listen. She says she it is too dangerous in the house, and says she is leaving. But they never hear the sound of the door. They find Kumiko electrocuted, a hand on the door.

Meg takes out a set of keys she found in the upstairs bedroom while they were searching the house, along with a page she found in the trash that she suspects is the last page of Claire’s diary. It falls to the floor. Minnie reads it out loud. It tells a different version of events than the one T.J. told her. Claire writes how “Tom” loves her. Meg remembers that Thomas is T.J.’s first name and recalls all the times he has been unaccounted for. She is convinced that he is the murderer. She takes the gun from the floor and points it at T.J. When he lunges for the gun, she presses the trigger and shoots him. He lies on the floor, motionless. Meg pulls Minnie away and they flee to the boathouse. Meg hopes to start the yacht with the keys she found so then she and Minnie can escape this terrible island. She tries to forget about shooting T.J. She had to. It was him or them. She sees that the whole time he was just using her. How could he love her? She knew it was too good to be true.

In the boathouse, Minnie points the gun at Meg. Minne says “he” made her think the killer was Meg. He made her read her diary and she found out she’d lied about liking T.J. Minnie lowers the gun. She says she knows who the killer is. She is about to tell Meg, when an arrow strikes her in the throat. She falls into Meg’s arms and dies. Meg looks up to find Ben with his bleach-blonde hair, very much alive. He is smiling at her.

Ben explains why he did what he did. As he talks, it dawns on her that Ben is Tom, Claire’s sister. He sees himself as a "vigilante." He killed everyone because he perceived them as contributing to his sister’s suicide with their bullying. He sees each one of them as committing a crime worthy of execution. He tries to shoot Meg with the same metallic bow-and-arrow he killed Minnie with, but Meg dives away just in time and escapes the arrow. She hides on the boat. Tom climbs aboard and looks for her but she goes above deck while he goes down, and she is able to find a good hiding spot. Tom steps off the boat. He makes a torch with his shirt and pours gasoline on the boat. He is going to light it on fire. Just as he is about to, T.J. appears, and knocks Tom over in a football defense move. Meg is so happy he is alive. The bullet he took wasn’t fatal. Tom gains the upper hand. He is about to set T.J., who is drenched in gasoline from a puddle rolled in, on fire. At the last second, Meg jumps on Tom’s back. He tries to choke her, but she knocks him off by hitting him with a gas can. He falls into the flames and burns to death, roaring with rage. Meg carries T.J. out of the burning boathouse into the night.

Meg and T.J. wait on the rocks by the water for rescue. T.J. is hurting from the bullet he took but is still able to joke about Meg shooting him. He tells her he wants to be with her and she is finally able to share her feelings for him. Despite the horror of the weekend, Meg feels one good thing has happened: she has T.J. As the sun rises, they see a speck in the sky. A Coast Guard helicopter makes its way toward them. Meg feels an embrace of love and life that she knows is far greater than giving into one’s fear and silencing the truth. She knows she will never forget the events of this weekend: that for better or worse, there is no going back.

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