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First, the two main reasons that people are going to have issues with this book: The way this reads like a Middlegrade book and the complete lack of suspense/horror/or anything remotely terrifying.
Second, the reason they absolutely did negatively impact my rating: Because the writing was third-grade status. So simple I could have done this just by watching the movie with absolutely no writing skills whatsoever.
Third, the moment I knew this was going to be bad:
“‘Hey.’ Trevor appeared in the doorway.
‘Oh my god!’ Laine gripped the board tightly. ‘You almost gave me a heart attack.’”
Because, um, why? Nothing happened. Absolutely NOTHING HAPPENED to build up to this “surprise, heart attack inducing” moment.
How many stars do I give this? Sadly, only 2. Maybe a 2.1, but probably not. (Lets be honest, I’m already being generous.)
I went into this book really wanting to like it, but I just couldn’t. This is possibly the first and probably only time I will ever say this but, THE MOVIE IS BETTER.
I feel like I should be stoned now…
Halloween Horror Rating:
One out of five bats. It was pathetically un-terrifying to the point where I was bored and more interested in the grief of the characters, than the supposedly scary stuff happening.
A total disappointment.
But let’s begin with The Bland And Pathetically Boring Writing.
What I enjoyed personally:
Not much of anything, really. I found that this was one of those moments where the writing was TOO simplistic. It made it difficult to read, because it was so easy I felt like I was reading See Spot Run. I mean, why not include pictures, too?
Oh, wait, they did…
Seriously though. I’ve been trying to find something that I really enjoyed in the writing style itself, and I can’t find anything. I felt it was boring, stilted, lacked suspense, and felt more like it was meant to be read by 10-year-olds.
What I felt was a little questionable:
First, the writer didn’t seem to understand that as a novel, not a movie the writing needed more meat. There needed to be at least a hundred more pages, all of which should have been descriptors. Okay, maybe not *all* but a damn lot of ‘em. There needed to be more “her heart thumped wildly in her chest as she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She couldn’t see it, but she sensed it there, lurking, looming—coming towards her. She couldn’t force herself to turn, her body frozen in irrational fear, but in the mirror she caught the reflection. It should have been nothing, but that shadow—” Instead, we get the characters running around doing… well, we don’t really know what they’re doing because they’re suddenly downstairs in the dead girl’s room when a second ago they were in the living room. And they’re dying left and right, but they only seem mildly affected by this.
Where’s the drama? Where’s the suspense? Where are the friggin’ ghosts already?! Seriously, even they didn’t manage to be effective in this novel—which is bad, given that it’s basically a ghost story.
Moving on to The Rather Hobble-Cobble Story.
What I liked:
The relationship between Debbie and Laine. It was the closest thing to a really functioning storyline that we could grasp on to and it was the only thing that was convincing as a motivator for the unfolding events. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the sort of depth that it needed to be really *great* or effective and it left everyone feeling sort of… well, maybe like Debbie and Laine should have been dating and the two guys should have been thrown to the wolves.
Regardless, the best part (in the sense of storytelling) was Debbie’s apparent suicide. There was the promise of real depth there when her friends are initially grieving. They attempt to deal with her death in their own ways, wondering how they “missed the signs”. This was the most genuine part of the whole story—and it was only there as a backdrop to the rest of what was going on. Really disappointing.
What I didn’t like:
Most of what happened.
The Ouija Board has the potential to bring some real creep factor to any story—and yet it utterly failed here. There was no sense of foreboding, there was no feeling that they were playing with fire. Instead it was all this “oh, and by the way, a serial killer ghost is after you, kay, bye now”. I mean, that was the feeling I got from this novel and it really left me wishing that more had happened in the story. I think this is more a result of the writing than the actual plot, though I think there are holes there, too, and I think if we’d been offered a little more time to explore what was going on and given a few more details, I would have enjoyed the story more.
Next, Le Characters.
What was good:
The relationship between Debbie and Laine. And the relationship between Laine and Sarah. Both of these bonds were very brief, because the whole story was brief, but they offered the most development and tangible feeling in the whole novel. I also would have liked to explore the Laine/Pete dynamic, because it was, strangely enough, stronger than most here. More compelling. At least, it had the potential to be. But again, it was wholly underdeveloped, leaving it more like this weird “did I imagine a connection there?” thing.
What was bad:
There was almost no character development. No one really changed—or even had the chance to. We actually got the most change from Trevor, I think, and not in a good way. He shifted from the loving boyfriend to aggressive and unstable. But we only get a glimpse of that and the next moment he’s all “but I love Laine so much! Even though I think she’s nuts!” It was really disappointing.
The friendships between each of the characters had so much room for development, but instead they fell flat. I was left thinking that these characters were just cardboard cutouts of people, stand ins for the real things that had yet to arrive.
Finally, a section for Tropes and Other Much Hated Things:
There’s the Missing Parents trope. I think this novel counts as YA and falls into the same My Teenager’s Running Rampant, But I Really Can’t Be Bothered As A Parent trope. There’s also the My Boyfriend Takes Over My Life trope, though in a very small capacity. There’s the I Had To Grow Up Too Fast To Take The Place Of My Absentee Parent trope, always a fun one.
There weren’t a lot of Horror Tropes here, though fans of the genre will notice some. The Final Girl(s) being the main one, but also some “playing with something we shouldn’t” and “it’s just a game”.
Would I recommend this? No—there just isn’t enough here to be bothered with, sadly enough.
Author: Katharine Turner
Approximate Length: 224 pages
I have a used softcover copy.