By Sammy Bina
A few weeks ago we mentioned a little something called the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. Basically, our goal at LTWF is to read and recommend to you at least twelve 2011 debut novels over the coming months. I recently picked up a copy of Elizabeth Woods’ debut, CHOKER. While it didn’t make it to the top of my list, I think there are a lot of things to like about the book, and a good chance many of you would appreciate it.
Cara’s a loner who doesn’t really fit in at school. Her parents are workaholics, and she’s crushing on Ethan, a guy who’s dating the most popular girl in school. She’s content to keep to herself until her childhood best friend, Zoe, shows up. Zoe’s on the run from her abusive stepfather, and Cara promises to hide her until they can come up with a better plan. Zoe’s confidence and overwhelming personality begin to rub off on Cara, and pretty soon she’s being invited to parties and, most importantly, hanging out with Ethan. But when girls begin to wind up dead, Cara has a feeling Zoe had something to do with it. When Ethan becomes the primary suspect, she’ll do whatever it takes to prove he’s innocent.
I have to admit, I liked the book better in retrospect. While I was reading it, I sometimes thought a character was a bit cliche, and on a few occasions found it hard to identify with Cara. She’s interesting, and the voice helps the reader connect with her; there were just a few times I felt a bit disengaged.
Still, Zoe’s character more than makes up for any of Cara’s flaws. From the prologue to the very last page, every moment she was “on screen,” a shiver would run down my spine. Her words and actions are often disturbing and royally creepy, and haunted me well after I’d turned the page. That, my friends, is a sign of good writing.
The mystery aspect of the book was what initially made me pick it up. I haven’t read a lot of YA books with any sort of mystery involved in quite a while, so I was excited to see that CHOKER wasn’t just a story about reconnecting with old friends. There are two murders throughout the book, and as a reader it was fun to try to figure out who the killer was. Granted, I was very wrong in my guess, but that’s beside the point. There’s a twist at the end which is the real reason I think a lot of people will enjoy this book. Once I’d finished, and was able to reflect on the entire plot, some things made a lot more sense, and I found the way the book was written to be quite clever. I read the reviews after I’d read the book, and I wasn’t the only person fooled. I won’t say more than that, for fear of giving everything away. But for those of you who enjoy mind-games, this book is full of them. Definitely pick it up if you get the chance!
Sammy Bina is enjoying her last semester of college as a creative writing major. She is currently revising her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and is an intern for the Elaine P. English Literary Agency. You can find her on twitter, or follow her blog.