One characteristic of Jessica Donnally in the book, Dont Scream, by Joan Lowery Nixon, is curiosity. Jess spends much of her time attempting to find out the details of other peoples lives, and it often gets her in trouble.
The main characters in the book are Jessica Donnally, Lori Roberts, Mark Malik and Scott Alexandar. Jess is a normal sixteen-year-old girl with an unsatisfiable curiosity and a great compassion for kids. Lori is Jesss best friend. Mark and Scott have both recently moved to Oakberry, Texas.
Jess is excited when she learns that there is going to be two new students in her school. When she finds out that one of them, Mark, is moving in next door, she jumps at the chance to welcome him. Her mom bakes a cake and when Jess takes it over to the Maliks house, she finds out that they are a little different from most families. Mrs. Malik seems confused and threatened by Jess offering her the cake as a welcome gift. However, Mark seems semi-normal, and he explains that where his family used to live, in New York, people are not neighborly. Jessica likes Mark despite that she does not know much about him. When she calls Lori, Jess discovers that she is interested in a new student also, Scott.
Before the school year starts, Jess and Lori decide to spend one last day at the nearby lake. To get to the lake, they take a shortcut through the woods. They are the only ones who know about the shortcut. On the way to the lake, they stop at a large rock they had named Castle Rock as children. Instead of continuing on to the lake, Jess and Lori sit on the rock and talk for a while. Then, Jess thinks someone is watching them, and both of them run out of the forest.
That night, Jess sees Mark again and is curious about what looks like tree moss on his shoes. She immediately questions him about whether he has ever been in the woods. However, even when Mark says he has never been in the woods, Jess has a herd time believing him. Something in his voice does not seem right.
The next morning, Mark asks Jess to walk with him to school. Mark tells her that he has a really bad temper and wants her to help him stay out of trouble. Jess finds the entire conversation confusing because Mark has been nothing but pleasant so far.
During her first day back at school, Jess meets Scott in her journalism class, in which Mark is also. Scott is very quiet and seems to have something against Mark right from the beginning. In class, they often start arguments and glare at each other from across the room.
After school, the four of them, Mark, Scott, Jessica, and Lori, all take the shortcut through the woods to the lake. Although Scott had just moved there, he leads the way through the woods to the lake. Jess wonders if maybe he had taken the shortcut before. However, the only way he could have known about it is if he had been watching them in the woods that day.
Lori brings up an old legend about a haunted cemetery hidden somewhere in the woods, and she suggests that they all go looking for it sometime. Everyone thinks it is a good idea, except Jess. Her mother had told her not to look for the cemetery when she was little, and Jess had promised that she would not. However, Jess thinks about it and decides that she is older now and a childhood promise should not matter to her any longer. Jess reluctantly agrees to go with them if they every search for the cemetery.
Scott is very discreet about his past and is careful about what he reveals. This frustrates Jess because she likes to know everything about everyone. She questions Scott relentlessly until he finally says he lives with his aunt in the apartment buildings. All of Jessicas questions insult Scott, and he asks her to stop. Jess realizes that she is being nosy and apologizes. Nevertheless, she still cannot stop wondering about whom Scott really is and why he would have followed them.
On the way home from the lake, Jess walks with Mark and tells him her idea for a volunteer program. She wants to set up a program through their social problems class. It will allow students to spend time helping children in the hospital. Mark thinks it is a great idea and encourages Jess to bring it up to their teacher. They are both excited about the plan, but Jess makes it a point that she cannot carry it through until she asks her mom. Jesss grades in school have not been that great, and she already has an after-school job that takes up much of her time.
In social problems class the next day, Mark suddenly brings up Jessicas idea for the volunteer program. Their teacher loves the idea and suggests that the entire class get involved. When they are establishing the committee, Mark explains that it was all originally Jesss idea. At this point, the teacher recommends that Jess heads the committee, since it was her idea. When they appoint Jess head of the committee, Mark becomes unjustifiably mad and sulks around for the rest of the day.
After school, Jess avoids Mark because he brought up her idea when he knew she was not ready yet. Instead of going with her friends after school, Jess goes straight home to convince her mother to allow her to head the volunteer committee. Her mother is reluctant at first, but agrees to let her do it if she can keep her grades up and handle her job too. To do these things, she has to stop talking on the telephone and watching television.
In Jesss next journalism class she learns how to use everyday resources to find out personal information about people. She decides to use her new knowledge to find more out about Scott. She plans to start after she visits the childrens ward to get a head start on the volunteer program.
When she gets to the hospital, Mark and Scott, who has also become involved in the program, have already begun setting the program up. This makes Jess mad because she is the head of the committee and it was all her idea. She does not understand why they are both getting so involved. Mark does not even seem to like kids and is only interested in volunteering so he can establish a good reputation.
When Jessica leaves the hospital, she is eager to begin her research on Scott. First she goes to his apartment building. Jess talks to his next door neighbor who knows Scott, but has never seen his aunt. Next, she visits his aunts place of employment, but the people there have never heard of or seen her. At this point, Jess becomes very suspicious and remembers that when she looked in Scotts apartment, the only things in there were a telephone and a bed. Jess realizes that Scott was lying about living with his aunt. She wonders what else he has lied about.
That night, before Jess goes to bed, she sees a figure standing behind the tree in the Maliks yard. She is tempted to go outside and see who it is, but she goes to bed instead.
The next morning, the Donnallys elderly neighbors cat is missing. Jess immediately thinks of the figure by the tree and goes over to check it out. All she finds is a full can of tuna inside the Maliks garbage bag. Jess thinks that the figure may have used it to attract the cat. Jessica and her mom help their neighbor search for the cat all day with no luck.
At school, Jess asks her computer-genius friend, Eric, to look up the name Scott Alexandar on the internet and see if he has a criminal record. Eric, who Jess used to have a crush on, changed drastically after he discovered computers. Although Eric is extremely smart and well liked, he spends every spare moment on a computer.
The next night, Jess lets her cat, Pepper, go outside while she is doing her homework. After a while, Jess realizes that Pepper has not come back inside yet, and she begins calling for him. When Pepper does not come, Jess grabs a flashlight and searches for him outside. Without any luck, Jess goes back inside. She figures Pepper will turn up the next day. When she finds an open can of tuna in her trash can, she knows that Pepper is gone forever.
Eric brings the results of his internet search to Jess the next day. Eric discovered that Scott Alexandar was a little boy who had died when he was only a few months old. The Scott Alexandar that Jess knows had taken the boys name and established a new identity with it. Jess is immediately more apprehensive about Scott and who he really is. She asks Eric to look up Mark Malik on the internet. She thinks it might also be a fake name.
Jess takes a walk through the woods that day after school. Suddenly, she comes across two graves that are side-by-side. They are approximately cat-size, and each has a little headstone. The graves horrify Jess, and it scares her even more when Scott shows up at her side. Scott says he has seen graves like that before. Jess, assuming Scott is the one who killed the cats, runs out of the woods with Scott following her.
Jess runs right into Mark who tells her that her next-door neighbor needs help. He leads her into her neighbors house, where a person is lying on the floor. Mark asks Jess to drink some iced-tea. Jess, realizing it is poisoned, refuses to drink it and smashes the pitcher to the floor. Mark grabs the jagged handle of the pitcher and pins Jess against the wall. Mark tells Jess that he has to kill her because he needs a good reputation. He needs to be the head of the volunteer committee; moreover, she has ruined all of his plans for a clean start.
Suddenly, Scott bursts into the house and attempts to protect Jess. Unfortunately, Mark hits him on the head with the pitcher handle, knocking him out. He drags Jess into the woods by the graves. He plans to kill her and burying her next to her cat. Jess tries to talk Mark out of it. She cannot believe what is happening. Eric and Scott come running into the woods, distracting Mark. Jess takes the opportunity to punch Mark in the stomach. Then, she hits him over the head with a stick.
As Scott, Eric, and Jess are all carrying Mark out of the woods. Eric explains that he was bringing the results of his internet search to Jess when he saw her neighbors emergency light flashing. He found Scott on the floor and helped him up when he went inside to check things out. Then, Scott told Eric that Mark was going to kill Jess. Both of them ran into the woods to save her.
After Mark is out of the woods, Eric runs to call the police. Jess and Scott are left alone and Scott finally explains who he really is. He had been following Mark to protect people from him. Mark had killed Scotts cousin. However, since he could not prove Mark was guilty of murder, Scott vowed to protect other people from Mark. Scott had changed his name so Mark would not know who he was. Now that Mark is finally going to jail, Scott can go back home and relax.
Jess shows the characteristic of curiosity throughout the story. She constantly asks questions that pry into peoples personal lives. When she cannot get anyone to answer her questions, she starts investigating people. Jesss characteristic of curiosity is important to the story, because Mark would not have gotten mad at her if she had not asked so many questions.