Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Series: N/A
Pages: 240
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: January 4, 2011
How Received: GalleyGrab

SummarySixteen-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 the 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? 

My Thoughts:
If I could describe Choker in two words, they would be: twisted and disturbing. That pink cover really threw me for a loop – I hadn’t anticipated how twisted this book would be. (I mean, really, poisoning a poor dog?! And that isn’t even the end of it!) Or how much of a psychological aspect would be involved in the book.

Cara, the main character, is a very quiet girl. She doesn’t speak up for herself and she’s mostly left on her own most of the time. She has to endure very harsh bullying from several people in highschool. It was disheartening to watch her go through with that. While I’m a quiet girl and could identify with her through that aspect, I also knew how to stand up for myself (more or less). It was a bit aggravating to see Cara going through all the crap she went through; I wanted to shake her, or at least stand up for her. No one stood up for her.

Zoe, Cara’s best friend, was just plain creepy. Even from the beginning. I mean, if my best friend that I haven’t seen for years showed up in my dark bed room (the house was locked), I would have freaked the hell out and probably kick her to the curb. You can tell right from the get-go that something isn’t quite right with Zoe. Half of the things she says or does are just plain twisted, creepy, and any other adjectives there are for creepy. She’s definitely the strong one in the friendship, and the strength she brought Cara was one of Zoe’s redeeming aspects.

The title, Choker, plays into the book in so many ways. Cara ends up choking on a piece of carrot and has to get CPR. She nearly dies in front of a lot of people, and what do they do? Start calling her “Choker” and mock her by pretend-choking. They claim she choked just to get some attention. It was really sad, actually.

The plot to Choker is pretty predictable. I ended up guessing a lot of what happened early on, but that surprisingly didn’t take away from the book. I still wanted to know what happened in between the gaps. The mystery and suspense for this book was really killer (no pun intended). It was built up overtime: we’d get a few scenes away from all of the suspense, and then a few suspenseful chapters, and vice versa. There were a couple of times when this slow build up drove me crazy – I wanted to know what the heck was going on!

I am a wuss. Truly. Anything even remotely scary terrifies me. Choker ended up terrifying me, because I was reading it at 2AM and there were unexplained noises going on in my house. Just thinking about what happened in Choker gives me goosebumps. A couple of the scenes were so suspenseful that I had to do double-checks that no one was behind me or in the room. And my god, that ending! That ending really blew me away. I gasped, my jaw dropped, a couple of flies flew in, my eyes bulged – yknow, the whole shabang.  It was crazy. I could see it coming (though I didn’t think the entirety of it), but it still blew me away because it was unexpected. Does that make sense? It’s something easy to predict, but it caught me off guard.

Cover Musings: The fact that such a dark and disturbing book has a pink cover is... (for lack of a better word) disturbing. I mean, I like it and all. It’s pretty. I love the font, the rose (thorned), and the POV of staring up to the top of the trees. But seeing this cover for this book is just... really disturbing. Misleading, as well. But I love how you could probably break this cover down and actually attempt to interpret it (as my old english teachers probably would). Like the contrast of the light, pale colors (goodness, purity), and the darker color of the title (evil, darkness). But since I'm a lazy sod (I have Brodie to thank for that term :P), I'll just leave it at it was pretty, if only disturbing. 

Memorable Quotes:
Her lungs were sending distress signals through her body. She could feel her chest tightening. Her eyes bulging, she waved her hands. Choking, I’m choking, she tried to telegraph. She tried to retch, but she felt the carrot lodge even more firmly in her throat. The noise around her swirled in a colorful chaos.
I’m dying, and no one’s going to notice. (pg. 12)
“Oh my God,” she said to the ceiling tiles. An entire conversation with Ethan Gray—and he saw her in her sports bra—and he gave her two compliments. Cara rose from the mat and made her way toward the showers on unsteady legs. Next Prince William was going to call from England and ask her to marry him. (pg. 73)
"I just feel out of place. It’s actually kind of like what you were talking about before, how you felt in middle school. Except it’s still happening to me. Like I think people are watching me, but I don’t know how to act or what to say. It just seems easier to stay out of the way.” (pg. 110)
Cara forced a little laugh. “Listen, Zoe. Did you have anything to do... with... Alexis going missing?” Just then, she felt a searing pain on her neck. She screamed and jerked away violently, knocking over her chair. She clapped a hand on the back of her neck as if to protect it. Zoe stood there, holding the burning flatiron.
“I’m sorry,” she said, but she didn’t look that sorry. “I must have had it up too high.” (pg. 186)
I did something bad, Cara. But it’s not anything worse than what he did to me. (pg. 210)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: Choker was so messed up and twisted, but it was also such a great book. Reading about Cara and her every day troubles and her progressing relationship with Ethan was very realistic. Then watching as the glory she had just gained disintegrate was so disheartening. The ending was... Holy crap, the ending was... it left me speechless. I sort of saw it coming, but I hadn’t anticipated the depth of my prediction. Very twistastic. There were two, and I only guessed one. And despite the fact that there were murders and that animals were harmed in the reading of this book, I would definitely recommend it!

Rating: 4/5

*This review was submitted in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!
**I received a digital copy of Choker from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, through GalleyGrab