The Compulsive Reader: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Cara has never fit in at her high school. She hangs out with her fellow track team members and dreams of being noticed by cute, popular Ethan. But any hope of that happening is dashed when she starts choking one day in the cafeteria and Ethan's girlfriend, Alexis, humiliates her. But then Cara's childhood best friend, Zoe, shows up, having run away from her home life and desperate for somewhere to stay. Cara agrees to hide Zoe, and it's like old times. Zoe even manages to give Cara a makeover and a confidence boost, and suddenly she is making friends and even catching Ethan's eye. But then Cara's next-door-neighbor—and Alexis's best friend—dies under questionable circumstances, and soon after Alexis herself disappears. Zoe begins to act weird, causing Cara to seriously question what sort of person her friend has become.

Choker is a quick, unsettling read, but overall it feels a bit lacking. As a reader, you can't help but feel sorry for Cara—she is bullied at school, overlooked by her track teammates, her parents are always absent, and her own mother seems to love her cat more than her daughter. When Zoe arrives, it's almost easy to forget her unsettling behavior and underhand jabs at Cara when Cara undergoes a slightly clich├ęd transformation, complete with a new look and a pep talk to boost her confidence, and actually begins to make friends and put herself on Ethan's radar. This part of the book isn't so interesting, but what keeps you reading is the unease Cara begins to feel around Zoe, and then curiosity—just what did happen to those mean girls? The more savvy reader will pick up on the big twist about thirty pages before its reveal, but even if you don't guess at it beforehand, it doesn't turn out to be very satisfactory as Woods ends the book with a lot of questions about logistics, and the lack of certain characters' reactions and other repercussions make the denouement seem hollow. Choker is a good choice if you're looking for a quick mystery with a shocker ending, but the fact that Woods didn't really deal with a lot of meaty issues she brings up makes this book fall flat.

Cover Comments: I love the cover--the pink and white are so pretty, and I like the starkness of the black. It works well together, and I think it conveys the overall mood of the book, how something pretty and light could contain something unexpectedly rotten.

ARC provided by publisher.


Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

I'm quite intrigued by this big shocking twist! I'm sorry to hear the book fell flat in other respects though.

Miss Remmers said...

I've been hearing great things about this book ... I'm still on the fence though. Thanks for your thoughts.