Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 810
Alyssa is still upset with Kelton and won’t speak to him. Meanwhile, Kelton is angry at Henry for turning her against him. He is suspicious of Henry’s motives but can’t act on his doubts, as he has fallen out of favor with Alyssa.
The group leaves Charity’s commune at dawn and heads straight into the Angeles National Forest. Acrid smoke from the surrounding forest fires gives them headaches. Finally, they reach the McCrackens’ bug-out. The cabin’s sloped walls are mirrored, camouflaging it from strangers. Kelton unlocks the door and welcomes them in.
The group finds the inside of the bug-out in disarray, with empty food cans, clothes, and boxes strewn everywhere. Jacqui points out that someone had obviously broken in. This confuses Kelton, as there are no signs of forced entry. When he enters the bedroom and finds comic books on the floor, he realizes that Brady had stayed inside the bug-out for months and depleted its stores of food and water.
Kelton rummages around looking for water but finds nothing. The five of them go outside to retrieve the box of Agua Viva. Jacqui asks Henry for the truck’s keys and uses it to slash open the box. She is horrified to discover that the box contains hundreds of brochures instead of bottled water. After the initial shock, Alyssa realizes that Henry knew the contents of the box all along and tricked them. Garrett then tells her that Henry has disappeared.
Henry regrets not having left and taken the truck with him the second he realized there was no water in the McCrackens’ bug-out. While scrambling away from the group, he thinks of returning to Charity’s commune and making himself an invaluable member. Suddenly, he feels something–or someone–tackle him forcefully to the ground.
Kelton easily tracks Henry down and pins him to the ground. He detains Henry with a chokehold and would have killed him had Alyssa not called him off. Jacqui points her gun at Henry’s forehead. Alyssa reasons that killing Henry won’t accomplish anything, but Garrett encourages Jacqui to shoot. Enraged, Jacqui fires a bullet into the air and storms off. Henry starts to apologize, but Alyssa silences him, threatening to kill him herself.
Alyssa feels no sympathy for Henry, but she cannot in good conscience let him die of thirst in the woods. They bind Henry’s hands and try to come up with a plan of action. Alyssa wants to go back to Charity and explain their situation. However, Kelton argues that Charity’s encampment is too far and that they should instead go to the San Gabriel Reservoir, which is about twenty miles closer. Jacqui returns Kelton’s gun to him, saying that she doesn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.
As the group prepares to leave, Kelton goes into the bedroom once more and starts picking up Brady’s comic books. Alyssa finds him and gives him words of comfort. Kelton takes the opportunity to apologize for spying on her back in eighth grade. After Alyssa makes him explain what he saw with his drone, she slaps him forcefully. She then gently kisses his stinging cheek. Kelton is left confused but relieved that Alyssa has at least partially forgiven him.
The focus of part 4 is the disappointing state of the bug-out and the group’s subsequent uncovering of Henry’s deception. The box of Agua Viva brochures, which Henry had expected to be his Schrödinger’s cat, is opened and all his lies revealed. He had hoped that there would be water at the bug-out,...
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meaning the others would never have discovered his treachery. Instead of taking the moment to feel remorse or guilt, however, Henry has the audacity to blame the McCrackens for building an unsuccessful bug-out. It is clear that Henry is the novel’s antagonist and that readers are not meant to feel any sympathy for him. He undergoes no character growth throughout the novel.
Garrett, in particular, reacts violently to Henry’s deception, as he yells at Jacqui to pull the trigger and kill Henry. This is because he feels the betrayal more deeply than anyone else in the group, as Henry had made himself an older brother figure to him. Ironically, it is Garrett’s outburst that pushes Jacqui to come to her senses and direct her rage elsewhere. It is worth remembering here that Garrett is only around ten years old, and seeing him display such bloodlust must have sobered the typically feral Jacqui.
Garrett’s calls to murder Henry bring Alyssa back to her scuffle with the three teenagers in Laguna Beach, where Garrett encouraged Kelton to pull the trigger. She wonders whether, out of all them, Garrett is the most susceptible to losing his humanity.