Tamara Riley, 17, lives with her father in small-town Hafton, Illinios. She is a senior (Year 12) in high school.
She's a 5'3" brunette with clear green eyes, perfect white teeth and a lovely smile. Her obvious physical beauty is hidden behind lank hair, baggy, shapeless, homemade clothes, unkempt eyebrows and clunky shoes. She has some acne, but not to a serious degree.
Tamara's shyness, awkward appearance, low economic status, high intelligence and interest in magic all combine to make her the target of long-standing abuse from her schoolmates.
She is deeply in love with Bill Natolly, her handsome (married) young English teacher. Although no one knows this, Tamara has it bad. She keeps a framed photo of him in her nightstand and has vivid sexual fantasies about him during class but when he calls on her, can barely look him in the eye.
Mr. Natolly is (initially) completely unaware of her love for him and likes her very much. When he sees her daydreaming/napping in class, he merely asks if she is okay. When a classmate snatches the personal book she's been sneaking looks at, he yells at the harasser, not her, and gives the book back to her. He also threatens her offender with a detention that would entail his repeating a year.
Mr. Natolly tries to assure her that others like her as well, but Tamara unfortunately has no friends. Chloe, a fellow senior, comes to her defense in the locker room, but neither her help nor Mr. Natolly's kindness make a dent in the misery that is Tamaras existence.
Her father runs a TV/VCR/radio repair shop in a run-down part of town. The shop is a cluttered mess, but Tamara's bedroom in the apartment upstairs is surprisingly spacious and clean. It's also replete with paraphernalia related to her life's main interest outside of writing - witchcraft.
In her room, we see a huge selection of candles, a large hidden power circle painted onto the wooden floor, small figurines and most importantly, a large, ancient, spellbook written in barely decipherable calligraphy. Her locker holds a book on tarot reading and a cats-eye protection charm.
Tamara's misery is compounded by the abuse heaped on her by her classmates. During one day at school, she is nailed with spitballs and laughed at by every member of the class save Chloe and Jesse, jeered at by 5 girls in the locker room, chased down the hall and later cornered against her locker by Patrick and Shawn (a blonde schoolmate sees this happen, but just smirks and walks away).
Her locker is regularly defaced - its badly scratched and stained and boasts remnants of "Hello, My Name is" stickers in which she is branded - Freak, Loser, Ugly Bitch, Witchy Bitch and Ugly W*(&e .
Her mother left the family an undisclosed time ago due mostly to her husband's drinking. Although her mother left her behind, Tamara obviously loves and misses her - she keeps a photo of her at age 3 with her mother up in her locker in which they are both smiling and happy. We learn from Mr. Riley that Tamara's mother was also into magic, if not witchcraft, and that he is disgusted by his daughter's interest in Wicca. Tamara's relationship with her father is troubled. When he sees she is miserable after being ostracized at school, he merely yells at her to clean their shops storage closet. Later, while drinking, he laughs/sneers at her attempts to make herself feel better by doing magic and emulating her no-good mother. It is implied that Tamaras father may be abusive to her.
Tamara is a talented writer she is skilled enough to be singled out by Mr. Natolly as his star pupil and praised by him for her "intelligence and passion". A metal vending machine next to her father's shop sells the Chicago Sun Times, a paper for which she would undoubtedly love to write. She also gets a byline in the school paper for her scathing editorial about steroid abuse by members of the football team.
Mr. Natolly's publication of this article is the catalyst for the 180 change in Tamara's character - or was her beauty, ruthlessness and sexual power hidden close under her surface all along?
After Tamara is killed by Shawn (see plot summary for details), the spell she mistakenly thought failed brings her back to life. After being buried alive at 10:00 pm on Saturday night, Tamara walks into class late on Monday morning with clear skin, bounce in her step, perfect hair and makeup and an outfit that can only be described as Naughty Schoolgirl Chic. In other words, she's a stone-cold fox, and everyone, including Bill - a.k.a. Mr. Natolly - is dumbstruck, for various reasons.
The ingredients for Tamara's spell include her "offer(ing) up (her) heart and soul", so once it works after her death, things ain't lookin' very good for her tormenters...