Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Choker

Title: Choker
Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Category: Young Adult
Page Count:  240
Release Date: January 2011
Source: Bought
Challenge: 2011 DAC
Quick Rating: 3/5

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 and tries to avoid the popular girls who, after an embarrassing incident in the cafeteria, endlessly torture her, calling her Choker. But mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her.

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 the next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she can talk about everything with her BFF.

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 while Cara’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what…but what if she turns into a total stranger?
 Maybe I’ve watched too many horror movies, but I predicted the ending to Choker within the first couple of pages. It particularly reminded me of one of my favorite Japanese horror movies, A Tale of Two Sisters. Just replace a sister with a best friend, add in a love interest, and some school, and bam! You’ve got Choker. Just not as creepy or gruesome. If only the movie cover looked like the book. I’m such a sucker for a pretty cover and some chapter art.

Did that mean I enjoyed the book any less? Not really, surprisingly. Elizabeth Woods does a wonderful job capturing the feel of being the high school loner, and the tension is almost palpable at times. I had a hard time putting this down once I finally started reading it. The characters all fulfill the roles they need to perfectly. Ethan, the love interest, draws your sympathy for just being such a good guy. Alexis is the total high school prom queen bitch everyone runs into. Zoe is, of course, creepy. And Cara. Well, Cara is a little difficult to understand on one read through.

One small thing that annoyed me in Choker were specific references, such as “iTunes” and “Kristen Stewart” and “Oprah”. Unless I’m reading historical fiction and it’s all about specific details, I really tend to feel like it dates a book like this, and adds in some unnecessary things. It’s like me saying I’m sitting here writing this in my Hello Kitty nerd pj’s, listening to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows soundtrack, and watching the newest episode of What Not to Wear. When, instead, I could just say I’m sitting here in my pj’s, listening to some music with the tv on in the background. Maybe it doesn’t bother other people, but I personally don’t like reading about brand names and current celebrities in my books.

After this point, things get spoiler-y. Follow the jump if you dare, and read the rest. Otherwise, just skip down to my ‘Final Word’.

Even from the prologue, I knew something was up with Zoe. It really set the whole tone for the book. She’s extremely manipulative and possessive, and seems to crave being a little too close for Cara’s comfort. Her moods are all over the place, and all Cara seems to want to do is please her and keep her happy. While Cara’s instant submissiveness was annoying, I did find myself cheering her on, and trying to push her, when she finally had the guts to confront Zoe about anything. Zoe just gave me the shivers, and her physical description got grosser and grosser as it goes on. You have to stay holed up in a room all day and you don’t take a shower for days? I don’t get it. But, I understood it as basically watching Zoe decay in front of our eyes, while remaining alive, so maybe I’ll forgive the lack of hygiene.

I also have to say the scenes of animal cruelty really got to me. It’s probably one of the reasons I just couldn’t find it in me to rate this any higher. The nightmare about the dog literally made me feel sick to my stomach, not to mention what happens to the cat at the end. Again, it’s probably just me, but I had a hard time stomaching it.

I did feel, a lot of the time, that I was almost reading a book adaptation of a movie. This was an unusually short book for me, so that could be part of the reason. The end just kind of came out of left field, even though I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen. I rarely reread a book I would only rate as average, but I think I may have to. I want to see if there were any hints dropped about the end. I love scattered, subtle hints that don’t come right out and tell you what’s happening, but definitely make you nod and go ‘Oh, yeah’ after it’s all over. I’m worried that maybe something so quintessential to a good, thorough, fulfilling “horror” was left out, and I’m feeling the need to double check.

On an uber-spoilery point, what is up with her parents?! You have a psychotic daughter, and yet you don’t check to make sure she’s taking her medication, you’re hardly around, and you let her stop seeing a psychiatrist? What kind of parenting is that? Seriously, her parents just pissed me off.

The Final Word: Predictable, if you’ve ever watched a horror movie. However, Elizabeth Wood’s writing makes this a quick, tense read. It’ll definitely make you want to reread it as soon as it’s over. It has some minor flaws, but they can all probably be forgiven by most readers. It’s hard to put down, and will make you want to stay up all night to finish it.


Tea: Ginseng Wellness tea from Celestial Seasonings. You’re gonna need the energy and feel-good vitamins to just sweep through this book in one sitting. 


  1. Awesome review. I can't decide if it makes me want to read it or not :-) I would never have guessed that plot based on the cover and I feel like a can figure the whole thing out already yet....I'm still intrigued.

  2. The cover is extremely deceptive. When I first saw it, I expected a fluffy romance, lol! I had an inkling of the huge "twist" even before I read it too, but it was still surprisingly good.

  3. Oh man, yes, I completely agree with you on the little pop culture references in books! One of my recent reads, Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton, had a reference to Gossip Girl and it was so eye roll inducing. I know the show is still on the air, but it's annoying to see it mentioned now so I can imagine how dated it will sound a few years down the line.

    Anyway, I feel like I know what the twist in this is, but it sounds interesting all the same. I'll probably check it out at some point. Great review!

    Stephanie @ Poetry to Prose

  4. I so appreciate this review. I agree with you on all points. I saw the plot twist from the first chapter, couldn't stomach the animal parts, and was bugged by the absent parents. I don't like the pop culture references either. I just reviewed this one today as a DNF in my recap post.

    -Small Review

  5. @Small Review: I think the absent parents bothered me the most. I just didn't understand how they could be so not there when they have a psycho daughter?