Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Publish Date: January 4, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Personal Copy
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?
Choker is one of those novels that is going to either find ardent fans of the story, or those ardently opposed to it. As most of my readers know, I enjoy dark stories. There is something to be said about the depth of them. It's almost as though in these dark, lurking and brooding stories, we can actually find out the most about ourselves and human nature because we're forced to rely on all of our senses, rather than simply listening to intuition. This novel, however, I must say elicited some pretty strong feelings on my part, as it really is a no-holds-barred take on psychology, pain and loss. Elizabeth Woods offers up some fantastic (and disturbing) storytelling that will keep you awake and thinking for hours - days, even - to come.
I think the strongest attribute of Choker was the writing style. Ms. Woods doesn't just tell us what is happening to Cara, Ethan, Zoe and the secondary characters. Rather, she paints us a vivid, graphic picture of what's happening, all the while keeping us guessing with hairpin turns and plot twists throughout. I'll admit that I completely guessed the outcome of the story, and that lessened my shock as we neared the climax of the novel, but it didn't take away from the graphic storytelling. Choker doesn't shy away from bordering on the uncomfortable. It embraces that darkness and, despite a pretty pink cover, this novel truly reaches those depths of the human condition. I had a few issues with some of the glaring plot holes, such as the absentee parents, which I felt really detracted from the plausibility of the end revelation. I feel if these missing links had been included, the novel might have worked a bit better for me.
Overall, Choker was a well-written, expertly-crafted and extremely disturbing story. Even though I guessed it, I was still immensely uncomfortable with the outcome, and I think that's a testament to the author's ability to make us feel something in the end. I give this book a high 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction, mysteries and thrillers.