Sunday, 30 November 2008

Amnesia - Sinclair Smith

Sometimes, when I’m stomping down the street scowling angrily at passers-by, people stop and ask me what’s wrong. I just shove a Point Horror under their noses and I say, “This. This is what’s wrong.” I always have such high hopes for every Point Horror book, I never learn. It’s like the boyfriend who always cheats on you but you can’t resist always taking him back even though you know it’s all doomed to end in heartbreak and herpes.

But not with Amnesia! Finally, a Point Horror that lives up to my expectations. Although, this does also mean that the next one I read will probably be an even bigger disappointment. But I don’t need to think about that now! Right now I’m free to bask in the awesomeness of Amnesia.

We begin: Alicia wakes up in hospital and she doesn’t know who she is. In fact, you might even say that she has ‘AMNESIA’ (she also has a broken ankle)

Alicia was found having a Britney Spears moment and wandering down a highway covered in blood a few days ago. For some reason, when I picture it she’s also naked. Nobody knows how she got there, and Alicia can’t remember anything about herself (just in case there’s anybody reading this who doesn’t know what the word ‘amnesia’ means.)

Luckily, someone arrives to claim Alicia and take her home – her sister Marta. My alarm bells start ringing pretty much right away. Marta tells Alicia that as well as being sisters, they were bestest friends ever and they always do everything together. Marta is really into the whole sisters thing. In fact, it almost seems as if she doesn’t want Alicia hanging out with any other people at all….

Marta tells Alicia that she was actually in a coma for four months, so she needs to take it easy for a while and won’t be going back to school until next year. Marta will be looking after her, since their parents died in the same accident that Alicia was in. Marta can support her because she has a big important job, although she won’t elaborate further than describing herself as a ‘top executive.’

Marta is generally a bit weird and off. She comes out with outdated, jarring phrases, and never laughs at anything until Alicia laughs first. Alicia thinks that “being around Marta was like watching a dancer who couldn’t keep the beat.” Okay, I think I know my Sinclair Smith, and I’m going to stake a bet right here and now that Marta turns out to be some kind of weird alien thing, possibly with tentacles.

Alicia and Marta’s house is covered in heavy thick curtains, according to Marta because otherwise the sunlight would fade the furniture – hmmm, really Marta? Or do you just not want anybody looking in?

Marta and Alicia have a ten page argument about whether or not Alicia likes pizza. Marta is pretty adamant about not ordering pizza, insisting that they both eat their favourite, liverwurst sandwiches TOGETHER. I’m getting kind of a Kathy Bates in Misery vibe from Marta.

Throughout the house, there are loads of family photographs of Marta and their parents but none of Alicia. Alicia’s room and clothes and lifestyle all appear to be pretty bland. And there’s nothing in the house that’s at all personal to Alicia, all of her clothes even still have price tags attached. Jeez Marta, if you’re going to go to the effort of kidnapping someone and making them believe they’re related to you, you may as well also make the effort to remove a few measly price tags. When Alicia confronts her about it, Marta comes out with a pretty lame excuse, saying that one day Alicia went out and bought all new stuff, giving all her other clothes and furniture away to the Salvation Army. Umm, okay, because teenage girls do that all the time. Marta also explains away the lack of photographs of Alicia in the house, saying she burned them all six months ago after a feud with her mom. Note to Marta: think of some better excuses you fucking lunatic.

About an hour later, Marta magically produces a photo album containing pictures of her and Alicia as children. This is enough to keep Alicia happy for a little while, and she stops worrying that Marta is going to stab her in her sleep and starts to fondly think of Marta as just being a bit quirky. One of the photos even prompts a memory in Alicia, of being at a fairground. But that doesn’t ease her nerves, and Alicia realises that her amnesia must have been brought on by something that she is too frightened to remember. Hey, I’d say being in the car crash that killed your parents is probably traumatic enough to bring on a bit of serious repression, but Alicia seems to think there’s something more important that she’s forgotten.

Alicia has a recurring nightmare about being chased by a dark figure through a tunnel (bad times), and also a recurring dream about a dark haired boy on a motorcycle (sexy times). When I say ‘recurring’, I mean these are sprinkled liberally throughout the book as a padding device.

Alicia overhears Marta on the phone to someone, basically saying that Alicia is away visiting relatives so no one can come see her. Marta then hides the phone away, banning Alicia from making any calls. Alicia confronts Marta about her weird behaviour and asks if she’s keeping something from her– Marta denies it and she’s all, ‘I’m doing this for your own good, blah blah blah.”

Marta smothers Alicia to an insane degree, even controlling exactly what she eats, and insisting that Alicia doesn’t ever leave the house. Whenever Alicia complains, Marta guilt trips her back into silence.

Alicia’s days pass by in an exciting haze of crosswords and word puzzles. Marta is massively offended when Alicia snaps and just can’t take any more puzzles, asking if they could do something else instead. Marta starts grinding her teeth and tugging at her hair and making her eyes glow with rage. Way to over-react, psycho. Alicia realises that over the last few days, Marta has been acting increasingly moody and temperamental.

Whilst Marta is at work one day, Alicia ruminates on how stressed and run down Marta must be, what with her big important job and all, so she decides to run into town to get some groceries for them. Umm, Alicia? Somehow, I don’t think Marta is going to like that much…

So Alicia takes a bunch of money from the money jar and heads out. First stop is the pizza place, where Alicia discovers that she was right and she really does love pizza, take THAT Marta.

A man enters the pizza place, he has a scar on his face and piercing brown eyes, these two physical characteristics make me pretty sure that he’s going to be important to the story in some way. Scar Man follows Alicia into town. Alicia doesn’t remember anything about the town at all. Alicia walks past the library, and spots Marta inside pushing a cart about. Ah ha! So Marta lied about her big important executive job, she really works in the library. Alicia feels kind of sorry for Marta feeling like she has to lie about her job, and decides not to confront her about it.

On a whim, Alicia buys a canary, Okkaaayyy. Because who doesn’t love a canary, right? To digress for a moment, that reminds me of this one time when I was about ten years old, I found a budgie in a park and I took it home and bought a cage for it etc, and I named it Pee Wee Herman and I was so happy. But then the little fucker wouldn’t stop squacking, and after one night I’d had enough so I gave it away to some old lady. Anyhow, this isn’t about me. Alicia buys a canary because there’s something familiar about canaries.

The scar man starts chasing after her and Alicia hides inside a video store, where she bumps into a guy called Mark. He has long, light brown hair and a silver hoop earring. I’m not sure whether or not that means he’s meant to be hot? Was that a good look in the early 90s? Mark lets her hide out in the video store office. Alicia DOES think he’s good looking, so I guess that’s that mystery solved, maybe I’ll just stop reading now. Alicia promises to go visit Mark again soon before rushing back home and getting the canary all settled in.

At home, Alicia’s bored so she starts idly snooping through a few drawers for stuff that might jog her memory– and she finds a briefcase filled with watches, rings, checkbooks and credit cards. I wonder what Marta will say to get out of this one, probably something really lame like ‘oh, I’m just holding them for a friend.’

But no, Marta goes one better than that, and catching Alicia at the moment of her discovery, Marta angrily tells her that Alicia actually stole all this stuff, and that’s the deep dark secret that Marta was trying to keep her from finding out. Marta says that she just wanted to trick Alicia into being a nice, quiet good girl instead which is why she made up all the lies about Alicia’s personality and non existent social life. Supposedly, Alicia was a real troublemaker on top of being a thief, and she even spent a bit of time inside a mental hospital. She also double crossed one of her criminal ‘friends’ in a deal, which would mean big trouble for Alicia if they find her. Really Marta? Are you sure about that?

Marta also spots the canary and generally acts a bit crazy, throwing plates around etc., you know, that’s just how Marta rolls.

Later that night, Alicia goes down to the kitchen, and finds every single window in the living room wide open – and the canary DEAD. It died from the COLD. I guess Marta did this, it’s a pretty passive aggressive way to kill something.

This is enough for Alicia to finally decide to, I dunno, DO something about the situation that she’s in. So she goes to the hospital to speak to the doctor who treated her there and released her into Marta’s care. Dr Kellogg (nice name) tells Alicia that she’s been trying, and failing, to get in touch with Alicia to find out how she is doing, as Alicia was meant to be going back to the hospital on a weekly basis for follow up visits, but Marta has been fobbing them off.

Dr Kellogg tells Alicia that she wasn’t in a coma for four months – she really was only knocked out for a few days. Dun dun dun, Marta has FOR SURE been caught in a lie this time. Alicia realises that Marta must have made up the lie to give her an excuse for taking Alicia out of school and making her stay in the house at all times.

Alicia visits Mark and after a bit of awkwardness involving Mark trying to get his greasy tongue down her throat, she confides in him about the amnesia and all the weirdness with Marta. When Alicia mentions her name, Mark tells her that he knows of Marta – she’s the resident town lunatic. Alicia still seems to think that Marta is her sister despite all the weirdness. Has Alicia never seen Overboard? If it’s good enough for Kurt Russell then it’s good enough for Marta is what I say.

Mark also tells Alicia that people have suspected Marta of being a thief for years – that’s the briefcase full of booty explained then. This is kind of strange, surely if Marta is so well known in town, people would also know about her family.

Alicia finds Marta’s diary, which starts on the day that Alicia returned from the hospital. It starts off on a positive, if sinister note – all glee that Marta’s sister is coming home, and happiness that Marta has the chance to reshape all of Alicia’s memories and personality. However, it quickly descends into a big fat mess of crazed ramblings about Alicia’s ungratefulness etc, climaxing with Marta’s decision to kill Alicia. I guess it’s pretty handy that Alicia found that diary, it sure pushed the plot on.

Marta appears in the doorway holding a big ol’ carving knife. She’s PISSED. And bitter – “’Everything always turned out all right for you. Off you went with your friends. You forgot all about me. Well, it’s not going to turn out like that this time.” Marta and Alicia have a bit of a tussle, until Marta gets the upper hand and trips Alicia down the stairs before her dragging her into the basement . Marta locks Alicia in there whilst she decides how she’s going to kill her. Because it is best not to rush the murder of your only sister, it’s kind of like losing your virginity, you’ll regret it if everything isn’t just perfect.

Alicia falls asleep to the soothing noise of Marta rambling insanely, and wakes up hungry. Good news: Marta has left her a covered dish of something. Bad news: under it’s cover, the dish contains Alicia’s dead canary. Yum. What, no ketchup? Alicia realises that Marta is going to starve her to death. Hmm, interesting choice, Marta. Although probably not the method I’d choose, I’d go for something a bit more hands on.

Alicia finds her bag hidden in the basement. It contains her school ID card, which names her as being Alicia Fisher rather than Alicia Taylor. Also in her bag are some pictures of her friends and the dark haired motorcycle guy she keeps dreaming about. This prompts Alicia’s memory – he’s her boyfriend of two years, Lou. For some reason, she also remembers that he hates broccoli. I doubt this will turn out to be relevant.

Alicia has another memory –Marta is NOT her sister. Well, duuuhhh.

The pair were childhood friends and they were so close that they used to pretend to be sisters, until Marta’s parents moved to Grimly. The visits to each other tailed off when Marta got put in a mental hospital. I kind of feel bad for Marta actually.

Later, Alicia wakes up again and hears a detective speaking to Marta – they’re evidently trying to find Alicia. This guy finds Alicia in the basement – and he’s Scar Man, that dude that was following her earlier. He’s a private investigator that her father hired to find her.

Alicia’s relief at being rescued is short lived when Marta creeps up on Scar Man and gets him in the back of the head with an iron skillet. POW! This book rules. Alicia runs out of the house towards the town with a CRAZED Marta in hot pursuit.

At the carnival, Marta reaches Alicia and starts strangling her, shaking her ‘like a rag doll.’ Hehe, I’m kinda picturing when Homer Simpson strangles Bart here. Alicia escapes a bit, and there’s a lot of struggling and running etc., and it’s all terribly exciting (I’m actually not being sarcastic.)

Mark arrives with the police and Scar Man, who’s recovered from his iron skillet bashing, and they rescue Alicia in the nick of time.

Alicia gets taken back to the hospital to have her injuries treated whilst she waits for her father to pick her up. It turns out her dad is a famous photojournalist, so he’d been off in the Amazon doing important photojournalist stuff when Alicia initially went missing.

The thing that really sent Marta around the bend was her parents dying in a car accident a couple of months back – poor thing was just lonely. Alicia remembers how she ended up in the hospital the first time around – Marta popped up from her hiding place in the back of Alicia’s car whilst Alicia was driving. She somehow managed to escape from Marta’s clutches that time around, and someone found Alicia wandering around. Hmmm, that’s a pretty good coincidence for Marta that Alicia did lose her memory then.

Alicia has a lovely reunion with her dad and her boyfriend, and Marta gets caught and put into a mental hospital. Hurrah! Three cheers for secure psychiatric units!

And then it ends on a really weird note, three months later, with Alicia finishing a painting called 'Amnesia' and vowing to put the whole terrible exeprience behind her. OK that's fine, but literally the last paragraph of the book is just this janitor guy looking at the painting and being all, 'tsk, modern art, what a load of rubbish.' Um, WTF. I can't help but feel that I'm missing something here.

In conclusion: I fucking love this book, it actually made me so happy to read a Point Horror that is genuinely good. I think one of the things that really works in it’s favour is that it’s pretty much a two hander between Marta and Alicia, rather than there being a whole bunch of random red herring characters to make my blood boil. Even though I was a teensy bit sad that my tentacle monster prediction didn’t come true, but I’ve moved on from that now.

Also, one other thing I did notice – I didn't mention any of it in my recap because it has nothing to do with the plot, but Sinclair Smith has a pretty angry attitude towards hospitals. She kind of makes the doctors all bumbling incompetent fools with big fake smiles and they make this big deal about the hospital not bothering to check any of Marta’s ID before letting her take Alicia home, and Alicia's dad rants on for a while about how he's going to sue the hospital. It kind of makes me wonder if maybe something similar happened to Sinclair Smith. I’m sure this sort of thing is a lot more common than we realise.

Over to Amazon:

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
IT CHANGED MY LIFE!, June 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Amnesia (Paperback)

Uh oh, I think this reviewer might have a touch of the ‘Marta’s’. The excitable caps and the declaration of its life changing qualities just screams someone who's desperate for a friend to keep in the basement and feed dead canaries to. I also like the way that 0 out of 3 people found it helpful, ouch.

Next time: next week is exciting as I have a three book anthology speeding it’s way to me in the post. In it is : April Fools, Trick or Treat and Blood Sinister. I haven’t decided which one I’m doing first yet, but I’m slightly leaning towards Blood Sinister just because I haven’t done any Celia Rees yet but I have gorged myself on RTC.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Mall - Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Mall – an angry commentary on a society that's hellbent on self destruction, guzzling down greasy fast food and sweatshop clothing? A gently humorous satire on a consumerist culture? The tragic tale of a loveless woman whose life is so empty that all she has room for is shopping? Or a ridiculous Point Horror book about a beautiful girl and all the men who are in love with her, at least one of whom is insane?

Man, Richie Tankersely Cusick has issues. I can’t say too much here or I’ll give away the big twist, but what is it with her and inappropriate relationships between teenage girls and much older men in positions of authority who have tendencies towards sexual aggression? First we saw this in The Teacher’s Pet, now in The Mall…in fact, the whole book follows a pretty similar plot line to Teacher’s Pet. I don’t know why this surprises me.

The Mall is set in a mall. Not just any old mall though – this is a super creepy old mall that’s been built over time and time again, until it’s packed full of all sorts of layers and tunnels and shops and subterranean chambers that have been abandoned and blocked off until the world has forgotten about them. There’s also some bad stuff going down here – several characters emphasise just how creepy this place is, and just how terrible an idea it would be to ever visit this mall after dark falls. I repeat – do NOT visit the mall after dark. Gee, I wonder if anyone’s going to end up trapped in the mall at night time?

So, The Mall opens with The Thoughts Of A Stalker – an unnamed narrator thinking about the object of his desires, who works at The Mallllllll (scary voice). He likes to stalk her by pretending to be a mannequin and just watching her. Umm, okay. Facebook sure has made stalking easier hasn’t it? Although there still is something to say for kickin’ it old school, after all you know what they say, “you can’t smell someone’s skin cells over the internet.” Who says that? Me, I do.

Trish Somerfield is our heroine, and the object of the stalker’s desires. Unless I tell you otherwise, you can pretty much assume that she is constantly in a state of “icy terror.” Trish works in the food court and her boss Bethany is a serious mega bitch. Also, Trish’s mom is conveniently ‘in Europe’ for the whole book.

Trish’s best friends are Nita and Imogene (nice spelling, not). They’re twins (yessss! Evil twin anyone?) and there’s a pretty detailed description of them but it’s probably just easier if I say Nita is Jessica Wakefield and Imogene is Elizabeth.

Storm Reynolds is a) the proud owner of like, the dumbest name EVER and b) the mall hottie. He’s pretty evasive about stuff like where he lives. Trish likes Storm and Storm likes Trish.

Also mysteriously evasive is Wyatt, who claims to be some kind of odd job man about the mall. Wyatt is quirky-cute and Nita decides she likes him. He has combed back long hair and wears stuff like this – jeans with holes, rock band t shirt, combat boots and a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off.

Muffin Man is this very very strange guy who Trish first spots watching her in the food court. He has a voice like a womans, “and a long, wispy beard on a pointed chin, long flowing hair that hid much of a gaunt face , and where the eyes should have been, only a pair of dark glasses. Oh, yeah, and his hair and his beard are both grey. (cough cough, *Dumbledore* cough)

He’s the immediately obvious contender to be the stalker, ordering a honey muffin from Trisha and then saying stuff like this: “the way that honey looks on your fingers…one could almost…taste it.” Yeah, it's definitely him.

The Muffin Man makes a couple of weird phone calls to Trish (on a payphone, natch, this is the 90s baby) – coming out with more gems like, “I’m eating the muffin. It tastes just like you.” she knows it’s him cos she recognises his weird, womanish voice, also his reference to the muffin, I guess that’s like their ‘thing’. When Trish tries to get a security guard to help her out he inexplicably becomes enraged, muttering about kids playing pranks on each other. Security guards and policemen of the world, I beseech you – when will you learn? It’s never just kids playing pranks on each other. Do your job, damn it.

Trish goes to visit Nita in her store, and she finds a dress she likes from the Purely Passion range: “long and flowing, it was all white satin and lace, like a gauzy cloud, with delicate trimming of ribbon and velvet…..a low cut neckline (with) a tiny row of pearl buttons down the front of the soft, full skirt”

Whilst trying it on, Trish gets the feeling that someone is watching her. Yeah Trish, it’s the fashion police and you’re looking at 15 years to life.

Leaving with Nita for the day, Trish finds Wyatt fiddling around by her car – weird. He makes up some lame excuse and the girls take him with them to a diner. Wyatt acts shifty throughout. For some reason he asks to be taken back to the mall, claiming he has a friend that lives nearby and Trish agrees. After dropping him off, her car suddenly dies. Uh Oh.

Trish heads towards the mall, hoping there are some security guards about that can help her. She finds a weird side door, and meets a security guard with long black curly hair, sunglasses and a scar down his face. This must be a disguise if I ever heard of one. In another Deus Ex Machina, Trish cuts herself on a bottle and the security guard invites her in so he can first aid her. Whilst being first aided, Trish stumbles across a mutilated corpse with an ice pick in her throat. The security guard says he will call for help, but Trish has to leave now, and not tell anyone about this, or else he could lose his job for letting her inside. He calls her a cab, finding out her address and home alone status in the process. What a kindly old security guard, thinks Trish.

The next day, it slooooooowly dawns in Trish that this security guard might have been up to no good, so she tries to figure out who he is. Based on her description of him, she’s directed to a security guard called Roger. He has the curly black hair, but not the sunglasses or the scars and, so Trish reasons that it can’t have been him. She also finds out that there are no night security guards. Trish realises that she was chilling with a murderer last night, a murderer who now knows her home address. Trish pretty much spends this point on until the end in a state of perpetual panic.

Trish visits Imogene in her book shop and agrees to go down to the loading bay with her. The bay is like, ridiculously deep in the ground, they have to get into about 20 (okay, two) different elevators going down and down and down until they can reach it.

Down in the stock rooms, Trish bumps into some familiar looking creep with slicked back hair who’s wearing dark sunglasses: “As Trish stared in cold, creeping terror, his mouth formed a crooked smile. Some of his teeth were black.”

Upstairs, Imogene finds a long grey wig and wispy beard in a bin. Trish thinks that the Muffin Man and the Security Guard and this guy she bumped into are all the same person donning different disguises. She still doesn’t mention anything about any of this this to anyone though.

Trish basically runs around the mall freaking out and falls off an escalator or something, waking up in hospital having had chin stitches. That night she wakes up to find a creepy visitor standing at the foot of her bed– it’s Muffin Man/Security Guard stalker guy. Somebody needs to teach this guy about boundaries. We find out that his name is Athan, and although Trish is upset and scared by his appearance, he insists that he would never do anything to hurt her, as Trish is ‘his life.’ He admits that he’s been watching her for ages – including that time she was in the changing room trying on the white dress and felt eyes all over her. He also threatens to hurt Nita and Imogene if she tells anyone about him, and also warns her of speaking to ‘him’, telling Trish not to trust ‘him’, but rather unhelpfully, won’t specify who ‘him’ is. Thanks a bunch Athan.

Trish drives herself crazy trying to figure out who ‘him’ is – Storm? Wyatt? Some other guy from the mall? I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be some other guy at the mall, unless RTC takes the unprecedented step of flying in the face of Point Horror structure and tradition and gives us a wildcard baddie. Relax, I’m sure she would never be so unprofessional.

Out of hospital, Trish spots Wyatt in a car outside her house. She has another freakout and heads to the library where there will be lots of people. Storm shows up there, and he’s nice to Trish but she's mega-suspicious, with Athan’s warning still ringing in her ears. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that id trust my ice pick murderer stalker to tell me which of my friends may or may not be bad news. Storm is worried by Trish’s freak-out and drags her out to the car even though she’s crying and begging him to leave her alone, well this guy is certainly a keeper, who says romance is dead.

Storm decides to show her something – a special place in the woods. Trish is massively uncomfortable with this, but Storm seems to think its ok to just ignore her protests and drive on. Trish manages to leap out of his car and run into the woods. Storm chases after her, pins her down and yells in her face for her to calm down. I do tend to find that that is the best technique for calming people.

Once Trish has been cowed into submission, Storm acts shocked that she would think he could ever hurt her. Well, let’s break it down Einstein shall we. First of all, you basically abduct her in the library, then you drive her into a thick wood, then you chase after her and pin her to the ground. Gee, what’s not to love about this guy.

Storm calms Trish down, and for some reason she agrees to go see ‘his special place’. It’s an empty ghost house in the woods. Wow, will this guy’s incredible calming techniques never end? I sure know who I’d want to hang out with if I was of a nervous disposition. This house has some stupid legend attached to it that echoes Trish’s own story, blah blah blah. Storm makes a lunge for Trish and kisses her hard. Thankfully, she slaps him in the face and makes him take her home.

Skipping forward past some pointless stuff: Trish decides to go back to work (umm why). She picks up her fixed car and, and finds a mystery cassette inside it. On the tape is Athan’s whispery womanish voice, saying “you’re a naughty girl Trish…a naughty girl. I told you not to tell anyone...I did try to warn you, didn’t I? But you wouldn’t listen. So now…now I have to show you how serious I am. You’d better be at the mall today Trish” OK, this stalker is officially my hero, he gets top marks for imagination and thinking outside the box.

At the mall, Nita gives Trish back her flashlight. I don’t remember when she borrowed it in the first place, but im guessing its going to be important to the plot so I’m clumsily shoving it in here, much like RTC did in the original.

At the end of Trish’s shift, one of her co workers passes on a message to Trish – a girl tried calling her who sounded like Imogene with a cold, but she’s hung up now. The message is:

“something about – I don’t know – a matter of life and death?...And she said for you to hurry - …She didn’t say where – she just said….’tell her to come now – before it’s too late.’”

Are you KIDDING me you dumbass. What the hell kind of a message is that to just pass on to someone, that’s like if you called somebody up going “fire! there’s a fire! I’m trapped in a fire and my head is on fire and I’m going to die from being burned alive in the fire!” and they’re just all , “ugh, well I can certainly pass on .the message.” WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Anyway – NOT IMPORTANT. Trish goes down to the creepy loading dock to find Imogene, but all she sees is a bloody hand reaching round a corner and holding an icepick. Scared that the murderer is attached to the hand, Trish hops back into the lift, and a chirpy little interlude follows that I like to call ‘The Elevator Diaries’. Here is a brief synopsis.

The elevator goes up.
The doors won’t open.
The elevator goes down.
The doors won’t open.

Repeat x 10. I am not joking. At first, I was like, whoa, this is seriously creepy, she’s trapped in an elevator. By the end of ‘The Elevator Diaries’ I was like, seriously, what is it with Point Horror writers and overkill? The monotony is finally broken when Bethany The Bitchy Boss’s corpse is stuffed through a gap in the elevator (don’t ask). She was killed with an ice pick, and there's a note attached to her neck saying "you're lucky this isn't Imogene." Oh okay, what was that phone call about then? I guess that will have to join my list of Life's Great Mysteries.

Then the elevator starts hurtling down and Trish gets sad that she’s going to die but I know she’s going to live because there’s still about 30 pages left.

She does black out though, and when she wakes up (and gets out of the elevator hurrah!) the mall is totally empty, and it’s night time. Trish ends up in Nita’s store, where she finds a panel missing from one of the changing rooms. Wyatt shows up and Trish throws a bunch of paperweights at him thinking he must be the killer before escaping through the hole in the wall. Oh, Trish, you still have so much to learn.

She follows a passage way for many many words until she reaches a tunnel. Hey, I wonder what the technical difference is between a passageway and a tunnel? She walks for many more words until she reaches a massive door. Inside the door is another door. I know I said this before, but sometimes I really do get the feeling that these Point Horror writers are just padding to reach a minimum word count.

So, Trish goes through the second door, and inside is a room filled with cobwebs and huge spiders. The spiders run all over Trish and even down her throat (gross). Trish grabs onto something – argh it's a foot, relax it belongs to a mannequin,. She notices the whole room is filled with mannequins, more mannequins than you would ever want to be in a room with. I really HATE mannequins. Also in the room: a candlelit table, a wedding cake and a “a huge wooden bed with white canopy and snowy bed curtains”

Her stalker turns up – and guess what, it’s not Wyatt. It turns out that Athan is actually Roger. You know, Roger. Remember Roger the security guard? No? Me neither. Oh my God, I cant believe RTC went and did this, after all the faith I put in her – I promised you she wouldn’t make the baddie turn out to be some random guy we haven’t really heard of. And what did she go and do? She turned me into a liar.

I’m sure you can guess what Roger/Athan’s intentions are. He tells Trish that he’s got rid of the competition, eg killed Storm with an ice pick, and leaves Trish to slip into her wedding dress whilst he goes to take care of some business. Luckily, Wyatt arrives to rescue her. For some reason Wyatt gets Trish to help him put out all the lights in the room instead of just, y’know, escaping.

The door opens again, someone else enters and there’s a but of a tussle, a gun goes off and Wyatt is all “Stop! Police!” And the other guy is all "get off me doofus", and it turns out the other guy is actually Storm and he and Wyatt are undercover police officers who’ve been following Roger. Storm has been hurt by the ice pick, but as we learned in The Train, ice pick injuries are not always fatal.

Anyway, fuck all that, how old are these dudes? Wyatt helpfully informs us that Storm is “much older than he looks.” This makes the whole kissy face scene at the ghost house in the woods take on an even more sinister turn. See what I mean about RTC and inappropriate relationships? I think somebody has some Daddy issues.

So, Roger busts in as well, and grabs Trish, but she remembers that handy flashlight and uses it to escape from Roger's clutches by shining it into his eyes, so Storm and Wyatt can shoot Roger dead.

Storm and Wyatt sheepishly admit that they’ve been following Roger for a while and they basically used Trish as bait. Nice. Roger had been kidnapping and killing girls for years, the reason nobody heard about it was because there was never concrete enough evidence to put him away and “the mall wanted to keep it quiet.” That’s pretty gross.

The book ends with the happy threesome waiting for back up to arrive and Trish and Storm flirting in a way that frankly makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

I was pretty disappointed with this book by the end, it had so much potential. I had all these crazy theories the whole way through about there being a kind of Morlock-y race of people living in the mall, or the perps being weird evil shadow versions of real people. When Trish found the mannequin room I started praying that Athan would be turning humans into mannequins, even though I knew I only had a few pages left to go. So when it turned out to just be this one dude we’ve known about from the start, it left me kind of…flat.

Oh well, over to Amazon. A worrying number of readers want to know more about Trish and Storm’s relationship, there are even calls for a sequel to be written concerning this. May I recommend reading ‘Lolita’ instead.

I like this description of The Mall a lot, I think it really does it justice:

“This book is about a woman that thinks that she is not pretty, and she works in a mall that is haunted. There are strange things happening like: the manager of the store got a call in the morning when the mall wasn't even open. There is a guy that is foolowing her, everywhere she is, there is him watching her. He whispered her name in the crow, his eyes are looking for her evrywhere. That man at first he was just a customer, but then he appears everywhere. With his thousands faces making her crazy. He knows everything about her secrets. “

I don’t think any of this stuff actually happened – a) the mall isn’t haunted, b) what’s with this phone call stuff and c)he whispered her name in the crow? That’s clearly a typo but I can’t even begin to guess what it might mean. Having said that, this sounds like it would be a hell of a lot better book than the one that RTC actually wrote. I’m going to go to sleep now, and I’ll dream of someone whispering my name in the crow.

Next time: I thought I’d break free of this RTC/Ho/Cooney cycle I’m currently trapped in, and go with Sinclair Smith for Amnesia.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Train - Diane Hoh

SO, we’re back with ‘The Ho’ again, as I like to call her (but please don’t tell her that I called her that, I’m on my final warning.) My expectations for The Train are pretty high, with the awesomeness of The Accident still as fresh in my mind as a newly slaughtered corpse. Also, the cover is pretty amazing, that skeleton/hand thing does indeed appear to be promising me a one way ticket to terror.

But OMG, I guess this one has also been reprinted as a non-Point Horror book, and I must say the new cover is highly disappointing:

What's scary about that??!!

So – this story is about Hannah Deaton and her friends and a wonderful train journey of death and misery. Hannah’s hair is ‘naturally wavy and chocolate-ice-cream coloured.’ What a very strange way to describe hair. She’s dating a guy called Mack, who is described as ‘rugged,’ even though he’s only about seventeen. You’d had to have had a pretty hard life to be ‘rugged’ at seventeen, right? Also in her gang is Kerry (the vain one), Kerry’s boyfriend Lewis (the funny one) and Jean Marie (the one to make up the numbers.)

So, Hannah’s school class are going on a Teen Tour from Chicago to San Francisco travelling aboard a train so they can learn them some geography. It quickly transpires that Hannah is afraid of quite a few things. I made a list of her fears whilst I was reading, they are: trains, tunnels, confines spaces and, ummm, death. Okay, I’ll give her death. But trains? Seriously? I have NEVER heard of that phobia before. And she mentions her fear like once at the very beginning, and then it is completely forgotten about. Tut tut, minus 5 points for the poor continuity.

Also in her class are a girl Lolly Slocum and these guys called Eugene and Dale or something. These dudes are the losers of the school. Euegene and Dale spend the whole book darting their eyes suspiciously and making inappropriate comments but as they turn out to be massive red herrings I’m going to cull them from my recap. Sorry guys, that’s show business. More on Lolly later.

We open as they board the train. Kerry’s carry on bag is put into the baggage car because stupid Lewis screws up the one little job he was asked to do. Kerry storms off to get her bag – and finds a coffin in the baggage car. Kerry decides that her and Hannah have to go back again – and this time look inside the coffin to check there aren’t any icky corpses on the train with them. Hey guys, you know what’s worse than having a dead person on your train? Breaking into said dead person's coffin and ogling their corpse is what.

They realise that the coffin belongs to a guy they knew. His name was Frog and he died in a horrible fiery car accident about a week ago – since he was originally from San Francisco his body is being shipped back. Frog was Lolly’s boyfriend and Eugene and Dale’s friend. Ergo, Frog was also a loser and everyone hated him. Maybe he would have been more popular if he was a pirate frog:

The gang meet in the train’s Diner and all of Hannah’s friends have a story about a time they treated Frog badly, although frankly some of the stories are stronger than others. All except Hannah, who refuses to talk about it. It’s pretty obvious that Hannah’s story of her Frog abuse is going to be the most brutal and important one - oh the suspense.

Suddenly – all the lights in the diner go out. When the teacher (Ms Quick) flicks them back on again, Lolly has some kind of noose thing around her neck that’s choking her. Mack jumps to her rescue and unties the noose. A doctor arrives and plans are made for Lolly to go back home the following day instead of continuing on with the trip. I’m kind of surprised that the attempted murder of one of the students wasn’t enough to get everyone sent home, but hey I guess I’m just weird about stuff like deranged murderers being on the loose in massively confined spaces. Good thing I’m not a teacher. Anyway, we’re promised that a detective will be joining the train to investigate.

Wondering what Lolly looks like? Well, “unlike, Frog, Lolly wasn’t really unattractive’” and was occasionally “almost pretty.” Wow, such glowing praise, I hope someday I get described as being almost pretty. The Ho continues – “”she was a big girl, but it seemed to Hannah that at least she made an effort to look her best, wearing neat, colourful clothes.” Because EWWWW gross she’s a fatty, but at least she isn’t a slob. Nice work, Point Horror – bustin' stereotypes since 1992.

Everyone is told not to split up and to always stay in a group, so of course Hannah and Kerry immediately split up. Hannah finds herself alone in a train corridor being grabbed and gagged from behind by a stranger. I love it when that happens. The mystery attacker steers Hannah into the baggage room and knocks her out. Oh yeah and when she wakes up she’s in a coffin. It’s immediately obvious that she’s in the damn coffin the second she wakes up and feels wood all around her, but for some reason it takes Hannah about 10 pages to figure this out, I’ll spare you the loooong description of what the inside of a coffin feels like as Hannah’s puny mind grapples with figuring out where she could possibly be. But Christ, she even manages to get this far: “Hannah realized she was lying in a long, narrow, wooden box with an unyielding wooden roof” without ALSO realising that a ‘long wooden box’ commonly goes by the name ‘coffin.’ OK, I’ll move on from this now, although an angry little piece of me will be trapped in that long wooden box with Hannah forevermore.

Hannah is saved from long wooden box hell by her friends, with Ms. Quick and the conductor in tow. Hannah realizes that the long wooden box she was in was Frog’s, meaning what the hell has happened to Frog’s corpse. (please be zombies, please be zombies, please be zombies)

Frog burned to death in his car accident – creating the possibility that it was some other dope’s charred remains in the car, and Frog may not be dead after all. Hannah thinks this is a possibility, because “no one would have checked the identity of the driver. The police would have assumed that, of course, it was Frog driving the car.” Ummmmm, I’m not 100% sure that that’s how these things work. Hannah reckons that Frog faked his death and now he’s out to punish the gang for the way that they mis-treated him. Yeah, and for some insane reason Hannah decides not to go home but to stay on the trip.

The train stops in Denver, and Hannah’s friends go for coffee whilst Hannah visits a doctor. Mack goes missing in Denver. And then he reappears. He ran off by himself because he thought he saw Frog. This adds weight to Hannah’s theory that Frog faked his death so he could get him some consequence free revenge. The only flaw in her theory – why would he attack Lolly, his girlfriend? Jean Marie has an answer – she recently over heard the couple having a nasty argument about Frog going somewhere and Lolly trying to stop him. Hannah knows about this fight – it’s linked in to whatever it was that she did to hurt Frog, although we still don’t find out what that was.

Detective Tesch arrives. Hannah wittily renames him ‘Detective Brown’ because umm, he wears a lot of brown. Quick, someone get this girl a MENSA membership. He doesn’t really do anything, you probably won’t be hearing much about him from me again.

Hannah finds Frog’s dead burned body in Kerry’s bunk bed. Oh, I guess that pretty much de-bunks her theory. I’m still holding out for a zombie. Hannah runs out and tells the others about her discovery, but of COURSE the corpse has vanished by the time they get there to have a look, and they’re all “Hannah babes, you just had a bad dream.”

Ummm, but did nobody else notice that Frog really isn’t in his coffin if Hannah was in there? I mean, I hate to agree with Hannah here but surely his body must be SOMEWHERE? Sadly, Hannah doesn’t think of this argument to use. Man, if it was me in this situation I would just be dealing with it all over the place. Hannah reckons that maybe Frog was just PRETENDING to be dead to scare her and oh my God we are back to square one. Ms. Quick just keeps feeding Hannah aspirin to try to calm her down. I totally didn’t realise that aspirin worked like that, that’s why I love Point Horror, it provides such as vast library of important medical information.

The gang go to the cinema to watch “the latest Schwarzenegger” and a mystery ice pick thrower gets Lewis in the collarbone during the credits. Whoever this attacker is, they suck at making successful kills. Nobody really makes that big a deal about the ice pick thing, the policeman is all kind of ‘meh’ and Lewis just gets bandaged up.

Hannah decides that her and the gang need to open the coffin to see if Frog is in there. Jeez, maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened in one of the first chapters? Reading this book makes me feel like I’m trapped in an Escher drawing.

On the way to the baggage room, Lewis trips into something and ‘utters a mild oath.’ Yeah, this is the same guy who was just stabbed through the collarbone with an ice pick five minutes ago. I wonder what the mild oath was? “oh, boobs”? Anyway, Frog IS in the coffin now, but in the event only Hannah sees him. And she only knows it definitely was him because catches a glimpse of his tattoo. This tattoo sounds amazing, I’m thinking of stealing it for myself: “a rat with wings and bared fangs.” Yeeeeeeaahhh baby.

Anyway, so now we have established once and for all that someone OTHER than Frog is after Hannah and the gang. At least I truly hope with all my heart that this is the case. If there is one more body in the coffin, body out the coffin twist I’m just going to…well, I’ll just get on with my life I s’pose.

This train sounds amazing. It has a diner, a great big shower room, separate bedrooms, a rec room with a pool table and an observation lounge. So, they head to the observation lounge so they can all go to sleep together and so they won’t be in their rooms where the ‘killer’ could find them. I say ‘killer’, it seems a bit kind to describe him/her as a killer, but ‘blundering, incompetent would be-murderer’ would take too long to type. They all survive the night, and the girls head to the shower room to freshen up. Jean Marie goes missing from the shower.

The Detective thinks that Jean Marie is just playing a ‘hilarious’ joke, demonstrating how you can slide away the shower tiles and climb through the train ducts. Umm, first of all, I don’t know what a train duct is and second of all, is this detective actually retarded?

Jean Marie dies, the killer throws her off the train roof. Well done killer, you’re really finding your feet and earning your reputation now, I’m proud of you.

Hannah goes back to her compartment alone and finds Lolly Slocum chilling inside, dressed in one of Frog’s old outfits. This is not looking good. Lolly reveals that she never really left the train, she’s been hiding on it the whole time and she’s been the one attacking everyone and she even put the noose around her neck herself. Yeah, she explains that she could do it because she’s good at knots, having worked on a boat one summer. All of this unnecessary exposition gives me the feeling that The Ho maybe has a minimum word count that she’s desperately trying to reach. Oh, and the corpse in the bed/coffin was also Lolly, in special effects make up. Good old special effects make up.

So, why is Lolly doing all this? Because Frog’s dead and now she’s lonely and Hannah and all her friends were mean to him. Hannah manages to make a run for it and escape Lolly. When Hannah returns with backup, Lolly is gone, and she’s left what looks like a suicide note – they assume she jumped out the window of the moving train and into the canyon. Yeah, it’s probably just safer to assume that, the police do love to assume stuff. Hannah points out that Lolly could conceivably have faked the whole suicide thing, considering she’s already faked a near-death anyway and seeing how she’s a psychopath and all. Once again I’m forced to side with Hannah as all her friends just act kind of embarrassed that Hannah wouldn’t take the word of a deranged and revenge hungry murderer, like ‘oh you’re being so irrational.’

The train reaches San Francisco and the gang go out to visit a house on a cliff. Hannah wanders off by herself and finds a roped off danger area. She leans over the wall. Guess who pops up? Yup, Lolly Slocum. Jeez, she’s probably the LAST person Hannah wants to see right now. Especially because Lolly has a knife pressed to Hannah’s ear.

Except it’s not a knife, it’s a little tin canister that holds Frog’s ashes – Lolly’s plan is to scatter his ashes and murder Hannah at the same time, how efficient. Turns out Frog was never in the coffin at all, his parents didn’t really care about him so Lolly just had him cremated and then ordered the empty coffin to be sent to his parents in San Francisco just to annoy them. This girl has waaaay too much time on her hands.

OK, remember when Jean Marie said she had witnessed a big old fight between Lolly and Frog? Turns out that Lolly does blame Hannah for that fight and she REALLY wants to kill Hannah. They have a tussle blah blah blah and Hannah manages to pull a lump of cement off the crumbly old wall and knock Lolly over the edge into the sea. Ha! That'll teach her for not conforming and being fat.

Hannah’s friends rush up having witnessed the tussle. And we FINALLY get to find out what it is that Hannah did to Frog that she was so ashamed about. Hannah’s dad hired Frog to work on their garden in the run up to a massive party Hannah was having. Feeling kind of guilty that he was so unpopular, she invited Frog along. Frog was delighted, and whether or not to go to the party was what Lolly and Frog had their big fight about, with Frog desperate to go along and Lolly less keen. Hannah instantly regretted the invite and spent a couple of days worrying about how embarrassing it would be to have him there. So when he and Lolly arrived she slipped out the house and lied to them, saying she was ill and the party was just about to be cancelled. Frog took it sweetly but he was gutted and ran off into his car, sped off and…crashed it and died.

Okay, I guess that was a pretty shitty thing that Hannah did. I was worried it was going to be something really lame, like she sneezed on him and gave him a cold or something.

So I guess Hannah forgives herself, and decides to stay in San Francisco for the rest of the trip and Kerry makes a lame little joke about going shopping. The ending of this book is far less awesome than The Accident. In fact the whole thing doesn't really come close to The Accident. Maybe it's not fair to compre, but I had such high hopes for The Ho.

I guess the moral of the story is – tattoos of rats with wings are fucking incredible. Also, that the inclusion of a zombie would have immensely improved it.

Amazon reviewers– over to you:

“I've caught the train from Chicago to San Francisco and it doesn't stop for a half a day in Denver either, it stops at places to refuel yes but not a whole morning and there's no way it would delay hundreds of passengers to wait for one teenager to reappear or not. Also why they would expect the corpse of Frog to be in the very same coffin they rescued Hannah from seems to defy logic. If you can overlook these things and accept the work as pure fiction then this is a very enjoyable read.”

Hmmm, I HAD enjoyed reading this book, but then I found out that the train route was used was completely illogical and incorrect and now my enjoyment has been retro-actively destroyed, thanks a BUNCH Amazon guy. Nothing makes me madder than lies about trains.

Aww, this one is a review by a kid:

“This is a great book but you have to be ready for it. i went into it thinking that it would somr murder mystery (one of my favorite types of books) but i was totally suprised. it is a very scary, sad and emotional book. Hannah, the main character, is a very distressed and scared girl because trains scare her a lot, especially when going across country”

That’s really sweet, I love that they found this book to be sad and emotional. Kids are so weird aren’t they? With their ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions.’

So next week, I think I’m going to be doing The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick, unless something goes wrong and it doesn’t arrive in time. I have a good feeling about The Mall though, I don’t think I’ve ever read it before and the Amazon reviews are pretty gushing. And if this blog has taught me anything it's that Amazon reviewers are frighteningly accurate.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Accident - Diane Hoh

I felt like I needed a treat after the boredom and the sheer awfulness of Teacher’s Pet – and boy have I got one in the guise of The Accident:

Together with The Twins, this was my favourite Point Horror. You know how everyone has a book that scared them so deeply they’ve never really forgotten it and has probably psychologically scarred them for life? The Accident is mine, so forgive me if I can’t bring myself to criticise this one too heavily. Rereading it, there were obviously moments that annoyed me, but overall this book is just so creepy and so good. I used to be obsessed with drawing the front cover of The Accident, and even now I often find myself doodling the title in that scary font they used – see, even the FONT is terrifying!

Anyway, enough gushing – on with the plot.

This book opens with Jenny, Barbie and Cappie cutting class and driving at high speed into a pole. Ooops. That’s why you should stay in school kids. We don’t really ever see these characters again throughout the whole book, except through conversations between Megan and Hilary. Megan is our heroine and Hilary is her best friend – together with Jenny, Barbie and Cappie. Megan is going to turn 16 in a week and she’s pretty excited about the big party she’s been planning…

So Megan hears the news that three of her friends are in hospital in a critical condition, and things don’t improve much when the temperature drops, the lights dim and a ghost appears in her mirror.

The ghost is called Juliet. She was born in 1930, and shares the same birthday as Megan. Poor old Juliet’s birthday week was even worse than Megan’s however, having actually died on her 16th birthday. Megan’s a sensitive sort and she feels bad for the ghost, although she convinces herself it was just a dream, brought on by the shock of her friends’ accident.

At school, Megan finds out from Hilary that Barbie is okay, Cappie has a broken wrist and Jenny has a really bad head injury and a shattered collarbone. Everyone is really puzzled as to how the car accident could have happened and the sheriff is checking out the car.

Hilary talks to Megan about a creepy guy at their school who asked her out: “Donny Richardson asked me to a movie. Isn’t that a hoot?” Oh right, I didn’t realise Hilary was actually a 60 year old grandmother until I saw her use the word ‘hoot.’ Maybe this is a clue that Hilary is actually a ghost from the 1930s as well. Oh boy, if I turn out to be right about that I’m going to be feeling pretty pretty pleased with myself.

Megan knows that Donny isn’t Hilary’s type, describing him as “short, squat and moustached.” What is she, crazy? Nothing’s hotter than a 16 year old with a moustache. What? Sixteen’s legal.

They talk about Donny and how all the girls are always turning him down…in fact, Jenny turned him down only a couple of weeks ago. As did Cappie…and he seemed pretty upset about all the rejections….Donny is also highly unpopular and he has a shitty life at home. Nothing says 'I'm going to murder you and all your friends' like a broken home and a teenage moustache.

Someone has left Megan a drawing on construction paper of Jenny’s car filled with cryptic objects. So, there’s a candy bar and a bee – that means Barbie. And there’s a pea wearing a baseball cap (yes, you did read that correctly). That’s Cappie. And there’s a horse in the driving seat, but Megan can’t figure out what the horse means. Ummm, is there are a phrase about horses being called Jennies or something? Or a saying like, ‘dead as a horse?’ No? I didn’t think so. It's a good thing I don’t care.

So, turns out there are some rules that apply to being a mirror ghost– Juliet can’t talk to just anyone, it has to be someone exactly her age, who lives near the lake where Juliet died and who has “imagination and a belief that anything’s possible.’

Megan’s grandma owned the house until she recently died and Megan moved in with her parents. Juliet reveals that she knew Grams when she was alive, although she didn’t know her very well. This little factoid warms Megan to Juliet a bit more.

Megan emphasises with Juliet, thinking about how shit it would be to die at 16. Turns out Juliet wants more than to have cosy little chats from behind the mirror. What she really wants is to trade places with Megan for 7 days, so she can experience living one last time. Of course, Megan has to agree to the switch before it can take place. Jesus Christ, on what level would this ever be anything approaching a good idea? I don’t care how sensitive and thoughtful you are, you do not go around switching places with mirror ghosts. Lord knows I learned that the hard way. Ahem, anyway, back to Juliet and Megan. Juliet promises Megan that after trading for a week, Juliet would be totally at peace. Juliet leaves Megan to think about it.

Next day, Megan has wisely decided to keep quiet about the whole mirror ghost thing, and Hilary tells her that it turns out that Jenny’s car was definitely tampered with. Uh oh, so the accident may NOT have been an accident after all. The good news is that it looks like Jenny is going to be okay. Hilary suspects that the rejected Donny Richardson may be the culprit. This suspicion is backed up by the fact that he works in a garage. Ok, I’m going to get sidetracked for a minute here - if I worked in a garage, or had any kind of obvious specialised murder-y knowledge, say as an expert on poison, or a world renowned authority on axes, and I needed to kill someone, I would make damn sure that I didn’t use my unique skill. When I chop my avowed enemy up with the axe, who are they going to suspect but the axe expert with all that specialist axe knowledge? Stupid, stupid. But all this is probably irrelevant anyway as I’m about 90% sure that Donny is just a poorly written red herring.

Anyway, Juliet appears in the mirror again and picks up where she left off with her whining about dying young, trading places blah blah blah. Megan’s mind is somewhat open to the possibility because three of her best friends recently came so close to dying. But, Megan is worried that someone is targeting her and her friends – they cut the brakes on Jenny’s car, something could happen to Megan next. And what then – if Megan’s’ body died whilst Juliet was in it? Juliet hones right in on Megan’s worries and uses it to clinch the deal - Juliet should totally apply to go on The Apprentice or something. As a ghost, Juliet can sense evil, and she reckons she could find out who sabotaged the car for Megan. Megan promises to think about it some more.

Next morning, Megan chats to Justin about the car accident some more, and reveals that she too has turned Donny Richardson down for a date. I’m kind of proud of Donny Richardson, he must be pretty thick skinned to keep going back for more rejection. I mean, surely he realises that he’s just GROSS right?
Oh, and Megan shows Justin the weird drawing of Jenny’s car and he figures out what the horse thing is – it isn’t a horse, it’s a donkey – and a donkey is called a JENNY. Oh my god, that so wasn’t worth it. I mean, surely any idiot could have figured out that it was going to signify Jenny somehow? And knowing the donkey thing hardly adds any meaning to this information. Unless, like, a rage-filled donkey is released into Jenny’s hospital room and stampedes her to death, but sadly I highly doubt that that will happen. Megan and Justin arrange to meet later to discuss the drawing and its implications even further. I AM SO BORED OF THIS DRAWING RIGHT NOW.

Megan is really into Justin, but she’s too shy and sensitive to ask him out, even though she really wants him to be her date for her birthday party. Another character is introduced – Vicki Deems. Hilary really hates this chick, she calls Vicki a viper and says that she makes Hilary’s skin crawl – Hilary is mainly jealous because all the boys love Vicki Deems. Vicki makes Megan nervous as well, because she’s so sexy: “It was the way those cold, dark eyes looked at a boy that made Megan shiver: black spider eyes spotting a nice juicy fly.” Yeah, sounds hot.

Oh, FFS, now Megan finds another drawing. This time the drawing is of a hill. That means Hilary. Seriously, WHAT IS THE POINT of making your message cryptic if the clues are so TERRIBLE and immediately obvious???? This is making me very angry, I have steam coming out of my ears just thinking about it.

Anyway, Megan is like “Oh Noes – this means Hilary is next!” and she goes to find Hilary, just in time to see Hilary fall off a plank at the top of the school auditorium or something ridiculous. Luckily, Hilary manages to grab onto a rope. Hilary tells Megan that she didn’t slip – she was PUSHED. Unfortunately, nobody saw who pushed her, and everyone except Megan is pretty blasé about the whole thing.

Megan goes to meet Justin as planned, but she gets a pretty nasty shock – Vicki ‘Viper’ Deems is there, sleazing all over him and wearing one of those bright red halter tops and leather miniskirt combinations that we were all so into in the early 90s. Megan turns and runs home – she’s decided enough is enough and she’s going to swap places with Juliet.

Juliet reassures Megan that she will be able to take care of her body better than Megan could – she needn’t worried about the mystery attacker coming after her. AND, as a little extra, Juliet promises to ask Justin out for Megan. Juliet walks out of the mirror, and Megan walks in. They try it out a couple of times, Megan gets back out of the mirror by saying “I am Megan and I want to be me again.” They decide to do the official switch the next day, so Juliet can have a full week and they can switch back again in time for Megan’s big birthday party.

The real switch feels different than the test runs – instead of a sensation of weightlessness, it feels all wrenchy and cold and ick. Juliet is over the moon but, unsurprisingly, Megan starts regretting her decision pretty soon. Megan doesn’t have to stay in the mirror, she can get out and move around, it’s just that nobody can see her. So she goes for a little wander, does a little spyin’, and gets a little freaked out watching Juliet in her body interacting with Megan’s family and friends as Megan.

Juliet-as-Megan is far more fun and flirty than Megan herself, and she wastes no time in making a beeline for Justin. The only one who seems unhappy with the way Megan has changed is Hilary. HEllllOOoooOooo – earth to Hilary –surely everyone knows the symptoms of your best friend’s body being borrowed by a mirror ghost? They include – wearing out-dated heavy blue eye shadow, embracing life with a gusto suspicious of a 16 year old, and suddenly developing a voracious sexual appetite more suited in its intensity to someone who’s spent the last 60 years trapped behind a mirror with no human contact.

Ghost Megan finds her mother lying unconscious in the lake – jeez, it’s times like these when you really wished you hadn’t agreed to trade places with a mirror ghost. Luckily, her Dad and brother spot Mom and pull her out the lake. Mom says that someone pushed her into the lake.Megan tells Juliet that if one more bad thing happens to her family or friends they will have to switch back.

Megan spots ANOTHER drawing – this time on her bedroom floor, spilling out of her purse – where ANYONE could have slipped it. The drawing is of a convict and a knee. Connie. I just threw up a little in my mouth. I guess Megan's mom is called Connie? Megan also finds out that if anything were to prevent her returning into her body by midnight next Saturday, she would be trapped in Juliet’s world forever. Uh oh.

Justin and Juliet gets closer, Megan spies on them getting hot and heavy in Justin’s car. Megan’s feelings about this are understandably mixed. As Juliet grows ahem, *friendlier* with Justin, she gets colder towards Hilary. Basically the theme is “What’s got into Megan? Why has she suddenly become such a massive slutty bitch?”

Megan finds another drawing. I can barely bring myself to type about it. These drawings had better turn out to be massively significant by the end of this book. This drawing is of a tom-tom drum. Megan’s dad and brother are both called Tom. Ok, can we move on from the drawings now please?

Megan’s dad forbids Juliet-as-Megan from going out on a date with Justin that night, but she sneaks out anyway. Ghost Megan is all, “OMG, sigh, I’d better follow her to make sure she doesn’t go and get my body all killed.” On the way, she spots Hilary arguing with Vicki Deems. Hilary is standing up for Megan to Hilary and Vicki is really really mad that Justin and Megan are together. Mad enough to….KILL?????? (no)

Justin suggests a boat ride to Juliet-as-Megan, who freaks out - presumably because she died on the lake. Justin asks about the creepy drawings, but Juliet plays them down, which confuses Megan since Juliet had promised to help her find the murderer. Oh Megan, Megan, Megan. You should never trust a mirror ghost sweetie. Not that I have anything against them. Lots of my best friends are mirror ghosts.

Juliet tells Megan that her ghosty senses are tingling and there is definitely something weird about Donny Richardson. Juliet also discusses with Megan how much the world has changed since her time, raving about “MTV and compact discs and hot rollers.” This isn’t in any way important to the plot, but it tickled me so I thought I’d throw it in.

The next day, Megan’s 10 year old brother Thomas is knocked off his bike by a truck. Hmmmm. The brakes on his bike were tampered with, and he isn’t dead but he’s not in a good way and he gets carted off to hospital. The only thing that Juliet is worried about is that Megan’s party may get cancelled. Juliet goes on about this party an awful lot, despite the fact that she’s promised to be long gone by the time the party rolls around. Suspicious.

Juliet has a little surprise for Megan – she found a whole bunch of construction paper in the same style as all those little annoying notes Megan had been receiving in Donny Richardson’s locker. Juliet tells Megan that she left her body for a minute to sneak a peek into the locker, so there was no chance of her getting caught. Megan freaks out at this new information, entirely uncomfortable at the thought of her body being left unattended. Juliet is all “LOL, chill out, I’ll go to the Sheriff tomorrow and all these attempted murders will stop.” Naturally, she goes back on her word and doesn’t bother.

Later, Megan finds Juliet lying on her bed surrounded by voodoo-style candles with her eyes shut, looking strangely not present - hmmm, almost as if there's nobody in the body. At that moment, Megan's dad slips and falls off a ladder. Megan FINALLY starts to get suspicious about Juliet, especially now she knows that Juliet can leave her body whenever she likes. Could she be the one pushing people off of great heights and preventing brakes from working etc etc? Yes, yes she could. Megan also figures out that maybe Juliet isn’t actually intending on swapping back. Well done Megan, it only took you 132 pages to figure that out.

Megan confronts Juliet, and the whole sorry truth comes out Juliet was Megan’s grandmother’s stepsister (‘s dog’s dad’s uncle’s mother). Yes, she was her stepsister, and poor old Juliet really really hated her new family and just wanted her father to herself. It turns out that Megan’s grandmother (Martha) was there for the accident that killed Juliet. Juliet fell out of the boat, but Martha didn’t. Instead of helping Juliet get back in, Martha stayed in the boat and watched her drown. Megan calls bullshit. Juliet elaborates – her and Martha had started fighting in the boat, over Juliet stealing all of Martha’s friends. Struggling for control of the oars, Juliet fell in and hit her head. Megan reckons that Granny Martha would have tried to save Juliet, although being unconscious and all Juliet obviously wouldn’t have noticed. Juliet admits to causing all of the accidents in present day. It’s a revenge thing. Presumably she also drew the pictures.

Megan tries saying the magic words – “I am Megan and I want to be me again.” It doesn’t work – turns out Juliet left out a little detail – she needs to give her consent for them to switch back again. I’m guessing that consent won’t be forthcoming any time soon. And if Megan isn’t back in her body by midnight tonight, that’s it, she’s a ghost forever. Nooooooo!

Justin is at home, thinking about Megan and how she’s changed. He preferred the old sweeter, softer Megan. Awww. Suddenly he’s worried that there’s a reason why she’s changed so much, that something bad has happened and instinctually goes off in search of her.

Megan remembers Juliet’s terror when Justin suggested a boat ride. Ah ha. Next step of the plan – somehow try and get Justin to hear Megan’s wispy ghost voice and get him to take Juliet onto the lake, with the hope of freaking her out so much that she leaves Megan’s body voluntarily. Megan finds Justin on the dock and gets him to feel her presence. He can hear her but not see her. She tells him the whole crazy story. Justin agrees to the lake plan.

With half an hour to go until midnight, Justin finds Juliet-as-Megan. Her persuades her to go for a moonlit boat ride. Man, Juliet must be really really horny to agree to it. Justin steers the boat to the cove where Juliet died. Juliet freaks out. Megan pops up just to really send Juliet over the edge. Juliet realises that Megan managed to communicate with Justin and that she planned this little excursion with him. Justin and Juliet fight for control of the boat, and Juliet is sent flying into the cove. Juliet in Megan’s body is drowning, but Megan won’t let Justin save her – they need to wait until Juliet is so scared that she leaves Megan’s body willingly. Wow, things are getting pretty tense around here.

It works. Megan gets her drowning body back just as the clock bongs midnight. Phew. Justin and Megan leave together – “And only the wildest of forest creatures continues to hear the echo of a despairing, tortured wail in the soft whisper of the wind.”

WOW – I LOVE this book, although all that business with the stupid little drawings really got on my nerves. Especially because it turns out the drawings don’t even have any impact on the plot to speak of. Damn it.

Next week - we're still with Diane Hoh, this time for The Train.