Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Choker

Choker
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: January 2011
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Library
Challenge: 2011 Debut Authors
**This is a Young Adult novel.**

Choker is one of those books that was mentally exhausting. I knew that something wasn't right from chapter one so I began to formulate opinions about the main characters. I had several hunches that I felt could be right and begin to not only read for pleasure, but to scour the text for clues. I love psychological thrillers that make you have to work for the twists and turns. Choker certainly delivers on that aspect. In the end, I turned out to be somewhat right, but only because I had read another review that said you could figure it out if you paid close attention to detail along the way. If I hadn't been looking for the twist, I think I would have been much more surprised by the ending.

Choker tells the story of Cara Lange, a high school student, who doesn't exactly fit in with the "In Crowd". Well, to be perfectly honest, Cara doesn't really fit in anywhere. She is constantly hovering at the edge of social circles, but never quite finds a way inside of them. I instantly felt sorry for Cara. Her treatment sheds a light on the nasty realities of bullying. Unfortunately, I suspect many teenagers deal with bullying at some point in their school careers. It just makes me so angry and sad to know that somewhere at this very moment someone is probably going through being made fun of or harassed for the way they look or act. Who decides who gets to be popular? Why does our society allow this to be a constant in the teen experience? How do we stop it?


Imagine that you are one of these students hovering on the edge when you start to choke on a carrot. Nobody seems to notice. You panic thinking nobody can see or hear you even though you are in the middle of a crowded lunchroom. What would you do? Furthermore, what if the only person who does notice and come to your rescue happens to be your crush? I can only imagine the fear and humiliation I would feel in this situation. To make matters worse, once the carrot dislodges itself from your windpipe, it flies across the lunchroom. The scene is branded on your classmates' minds and they begin to call you Choker every time you walk pass them. I instantly wanted to cry and reach out to Cara. I felt so bad for her as I read through her experience. I wasn't super popular in high school, but I was lucky enough to have a core group of good friends. I was never alone like Cara. I know that when gossip swirled about me it was hard enough to handle with my friends giving me support.

However, there was another character that I did not feel sorry for at all. Instead anytime she was around I felt creeped out and at times slightly repulsed. Zoe, Cara's best friend, is just plain odd. She randomly shows up on Cara's doorstep begging for a place to stay after years of not seeing one another. Zoe comes from an abusive household so I tried to understand where she was coming from, but I just couldn't get over her actions. My stomach churned each time Cara described Zoe's appearance and smell.

While I enjoyed this read and was excited to see a psychological thriller for young adults, I have to admit that the book did take awhile for me to get invested in. It didn't really start to fall into place for me until after the first girl in town dies. It was then it clicked for me that this was going to be about far more than just a bullied teen. Also, Elizabeth Woods, while a strong writer, didn't have anything that made her stand out amongst other Young Adult writers. Her characters were realistic and her teen voice rang true, but I could say that for countless others as well. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but I just feel that in order for me to rate a book with 5 birdies it really has to have something special. This book is a great read, but not one that merits a 5 in my opinion. I do give Elizabeth props for her ending. It was just deliciously creepy enough to send a shiver down my spine.

As far as a debut novel goes, I say bravo! Elizabeth Woods did a beautiful job. I would just like to see something to set her apart from other writers in future books. I will say from page 150 on I couldn't put the book down. I felt like I was watching an episode of Bones or CSI as I frantically tried to fit the pieces together to see the whole picture.



One Last Gripe: I was so upset by how Cara was treated by Alexis and Sydney. I know it was realistic of the experiences of many teens, but it broke my heart. I just felt so badly for her.

My Favorite Thing About this Book: The creep factor

First Sentence: Come out, come out, little frog.

Favorite Character: Ethan

Least Favorite Character: Zoe, she scares me



Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?


4 comments:

  1. Sounds pretty interesting, I may have to give this one a read...sounds like it would be fun to try to figure out what's going on.

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  2. You're absolutely right! Choker was sort of mentally exhausting, wasn't it? The way you think you have everything figured out and then BAM! The book's over and you're left stunned! Awesome review Andrea! :)

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  3. I think I saw this one come in at the library. Now you got me interested. I love a psychological thriller that makes you work too. I hate solving the mystery before all the other characters do and then you have to wait until they do. Great review!

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  4. Thanks for all the comments. :)

    @Vampires and Tofu - It was fun trying to solve the puzzle myself before the characters did.

    @Midnight Bloom - I was going to read Cryer's Cross next but decided my brain needed a break. I picked a light, happy read to follow up this one. I am glad you enjoyed the review.

    @Rummanah Aasi - If you decide to give it a try I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

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