The opening scene is a playground fight in which Candace is hauled off to the principal's office for slugging some jackass who'd called her a bad word; since Teacher seems to be Pontius Pilate in pumps, she won't take any guff from Candace about that and instead blusters about the no-hitting policy. This leads us to Candace's belief that life is fundamentally unfair.
We are then treated to an annoying series of paragraphs about her parent's horrible marriage and how Auntie Roo is the one real stabilizing influence in her life; this becomes important later on. We should also note that she blames herself for all this because of her assumption that her mother not been pregnant with her, her parents would never have gotten married, dropped out of school and had a crappy life. More on this later, too.
After this bitter, self-recriminatory screed, she meets up with Liz and Dawn and wonders why she is so different from them; this is because she cannot connect her realization that there's more to life than clothes and cute guys and how baffled she is by their fixation on the same with the feelings of alientation from her fellows.
We shift forward in time to her parents' divorce; her father asked her to come with him so she could have a less stressful life but she declined as her mother needed her more; this is because the clingy idiot had a taste for damaging creeps and no sense of thrift despite being a big wheel at the shoe store. It was also at this time that she realized being one of the popular girls would earn her more respect than pounding the nitwits of the world did. Thus she became a chain-smoking clothes-horse obsessed with both fitting in with the cool kids and not wanting to be a simpering doormat like her mother.
Things started to deteriorate when Mom brought Luke home; while superficially charming, he was an obvious no-hoper that had managed to hoodwink her spineless mother into believing all manner of empty promises and that all the arguments he and Candace got into were the fault of her being a spiled little princess; that, and the presence of his brooding jerk son Craig, made her life into a bullcrap sundae.
This, of course, made it sort of hard to relate to Liz and Dawn; she saw them as passive, timid, sheltered little girls who didn't know how hard life really was. She envied them their carefree smiles but not their ignorance and decided to show them how to stand up for themselves. This leads into her belief that boys are either pals or love interests and her curiosity that Anthony seemd to be both things. She was mildly curious about the sometimes-on but mostly-off thing that he and Liz had. We then launch into her take on her date with Anthony and the realization that Nice Guys[tm] weren't for her; after a discussion of the Bad Boys she ran with, we launch into the meat of the piece: Luke's turning his perverted gaze on her and her mother's revolting denial of same. After a crappy date, she decided to ugly up so as to discourage the creeps of the world but that sort of crapped out. Not even getting her G-1 made her life easier because Luke and Craig managed to bulshit their way into comandeering her ride. Things really boiled over when Luke helped himself to the contents of her tip jar; he harrumphed that it was everyone's car so she would just have to deal. Mother was no help because she wouldn't side with her child over the source of her supposed respectability. This led to her leaving for her father's who managed to find her someone to bunk with; he'd have taken her in but he had his hands full with Crazy Wife number two and how nobody needed more crap in their lives. This led to a royal mess in which she ran herself ragged trying to avoid her jackass stepdad and her mother who admitted to knowing she'd married a rat bastard BUT he was the man so she had to ignore the mandates of her consicence. Much noise is made about Duane and how he was the only person she could relate to and how glad she was to attend Nippising U. so as to be with Aunt Ruby. She was also glad to see Liz, share her problems with Ruby and wondered if things with Anthony were really over. When Eric showed up, she started seeing ominous parallels with her mother's second marriage but held her peace. It was at this point that Rudy entered her life; he shared much the same misgivings about the Liz-Eric dynamic but also didn't want to pry. Candace found it refreshing to be in the presence of a man who wasn't either a poser or a neurotic so a trust that persists to this day developed between them. He was the other sympathetic ear in her life when she described the last time she ever saw her worthless mother; as expected, the whining jerk sided Luke because of her needy and witless nature. We then talk about the robbery, Liz's hitting Eric with a frying pan and how Candace left Milborough and its hypocrisy behind her forever.
The end piece tells us that Candace and Rudy are still living the good life, still not seeing the point of having a marriage license and finally know how to love.
Skimming over it, I noticed the following irritating things:
- Candace's school has a zero-tolerance bullying policy that matches a zero moral courage policy.
- The reason she's messed up is because her birth parents fight like rats in a cage.
- Candace's dad is the one who's in her corner emotionally but not the one the courts gave custody to.
- Her mom's asshole second husband that she won't do anything about becuase having a mayyyyyyunnnnn, any MAAAAYYYYYYYUUUUUUUNNNNNNN, is far more important than a trivial thing like the happiness of her child is Luke the Puke; he comes equipped with an entitled slacker son named Craig who everyone is expected to fuss over.
- Her fellow punker, Duane, is also the product of a troubled childhood.
- Liz is depicted as being too trusting and naive to live in this ugly world.
- Ruby and Rudy are the only good parts of her life.
Now to the good:
- Her happiness is the direct result of rejecting the values that the Pattersons live by; by renouncing Milborough and its hypocritical moral code, she finally knows what joy, happiness and love are.