Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Choker is the story of a teenage girl, Cara, who's childhood best friend Zoe shows up after running away from home at the same time Cara just so happens to need her most. Unfortunately Cara is the victim of bullying from the popular girls at school, and she dreams not of friends but an ideal world she would be able to slip under the radar. With Zoe's arrival though, strange things start happening, and just as Cara starts to feel guilty about hiding Zoe as a fugitive in her bedroom things get even worse. The important thing to recognize about this storyline however, is that the novel is a psychological thriller and by about halfway through it has taken on a very dark and creep tone I did not expect.

In a way, I feel the reason I was disappointed by Choker was the fact that I didn't realize it was going to be twisted and strange, so as I fell into a well-written novel about a struggling teenage girl only to be bombarded with some very odd things, it almost felt like I had changed books halfway through. I did adjust, but as the storyline turned towards thriller I stopped appreciating the book as much. I continued to find the characters well crafted and enjoyable to read but coming up to an ending I saw coming really far in advance not only let me down as a reader but makes me wonder how well Choker would stand up to multiple readings. It seems like the path Woods decided to take with the novel means that it's not particularly something that a reader would need, or want, to pick up a second time knowing exactly how it turned out which is why the book failed to cross the line from enjoyable into exceptional for me.

A minor pet peeve I had about the first fourty or so pages of the book was the number of references to the title. Maybe I was just seeing what I wanted to see, since I did read Choker almost entirely in one sitting, but at times there felt like there were a few too mentions of choking, even if they were unintentional- for example one time Cara feels the crowd is choking the aisle to an exit, or she is afraid she is going to choke before a big track meet. In addition, although different readers are bound to have their own experience of the ending and I know some people have loved it, as somebody who has read a lot of Palahniuk as a teenager I found how it turned out both gimmicky and predictable. What I did love was Woods' ability to create a completely believable and yet unique high school world, filled with a lot of characters that fit in perfectly such as Cara's friends from track and even the popular girls. I actually really looked forward to scenes with Cara's crush Ethan because he was so wonderful to read about and the way she felt about him was so touching and relatable. Ultimately, although I was disappointed by the plot twists in Choker, I loved the characters Woods created and the result was an enjoyable read but a book I am unlikely to pick up again. ***

Number of Pages: 240 pages
Published: January 2011 
Source: E-galley from publisher
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