Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
We hear Zoe’s voice before we even see Cara and yet it is unmistakably Cara’s voice that stays with us throughout this story, a fact that is crucial in the development of the story.
Zoe and Cara are childhood friends. It is a friendship that brings them both comfort and joy. Zoe is suffering on account of her stepfather, who is a paedophile, and Cara’s parents, busy lawyers, have absolutely no time for her.
However, Cara’s parents disapprove of Zoe, and they move away from Cara’s childhood home. Young Cara suspects that the move is designed to separate her from her best friend.
At her new school, Cara finds herself alone. She is bullied and belitted by mean girls, Alexis Henning and her best friend, Sydney Powers, and ignored by the others, even those on the track team with her.
When she has an unpleasant and painful choking episode while eating a carrot in the school cafeteria, it is Ethan Gray, Alexis’ on-off boyfriend who saves her life. Unfortunately, the incident earns her the moniker, Choker.
When Zoe runs away from home and shows up at Cara’s place, it seems like an answer to a prayer. Zoe moves into the guest bedroom at Cara’s house, and Cara promises to hide her from her parents.
Before long, Cara is feeling better than she has felt in years. Her confidence is back and she is performing really well on the track.
Her track team mates begin to befriend and most importantly, Ethan begins to show an interest in her. Could life get any better?
Unfortunately for Cara, Zoe begins to get more demanding, pushy and manipulative. Something in the friendship has gone sour, as Zoe resents Cara for having other friends.
On the one hand, Cara cannot understand the change that seems to have come over Zoe, on the other, she feels guilty for enjoying her new friendships while Zoe is stuck home alone, forced to hide from everyone else for fear of her stepfather, unable to live life the way Cara seems to be doing.
There is a certain intrigue and mystery that surrounds Zoe, and we realize that she is hiding something from Cara, who shows herself to be too naïve and seems like putty in Zoe’s hands.
Before long, strange things start happening. First Sydney is found floating face down in her own swimming pool, and then Alexis goes missing.
The police suspect Ethan of having something to do with Alexis’ disappearance. And all the while, Cara wonders if Zoe has anything to do with the death of Sydney and the disappearance of Alexis. Will the police ever catch the real culprit or is Cara doomed to lose Ethan?
The story is written in the third person point of view of Cara, and we really identify with the girl, pitying her and wanting to comfort her through all the bullying that she is subjected to.
Yet all along, we wonder why Cara won’t stand up for herself, first against the bullying of the mean girls, and then against the bullying of Zoe.
The story really reeled me in. The ending didn’t blow me away because I had expecting something like this, but the manner in which the author built her story was really good. It is only at the close of the book that you notice the red flags that have been planted all over the story.
The author, at least, has not deceived us.
Of course, this is meant for a Young Adult audience, one that may not have read so many thrillers and may not be acquainted with the techniques of the genre.
The beauty of the writing is the ease and felicity with which a reliable narrator, somebody we have liked and sympathized with, and watched indulgently while that person falls in love, is transformed into an unreliable narrator. The shift, much as I expected it, took me by surprise.
I’m sure that the author’s younger readers must be blown away and must now be ready to read something even more deceptive and thrilling.
I, for one, would definitely like to read more from this author.