CHOKER by Elizabeth Woods
Published January 4th, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.
Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.
But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?
CHOKER was definitely not what I expected. I picked it up with the idea that it would be your typical high school mystery where a girl goes missing and the MC is in love with Mr. Popular. That's what the synopsis hinted at. Still, it sounded interesting enough, and I needed something to keep me company at the airport this morning.
I got more than I bargained for. In a good way.
Originally I wasn't sure where the story was going. Cara was a sympathetic character and pretty easy to relate to, and you felt terrible every time someone at school was unnecessarily cruel (which seemed quite often); Sydney and Alexis made me kind of want to rip their hair out. Cara was your standard quiet, loner type with absent parents and a big house that was usually empty. It took a while to get into the story, but things really picked up once Zoe arrived.
In all honesty, Zoe was the reason I kept reading. Even from the prologue, you get the sense something's not quite right. The more you see of her, the faster you realize your gut reaction was right. She says and does things that make your skin crawl. I saw Black Swan earlier this month, and that same creeped out, disturbed feeling you get while watching it is what I felt while reading this book. Zoe is legitimately messed up, and she truly carries the entire book.
There's a twist at the end I didn't see coming (though you will in retrospect). I like it when books mess with your head, and I think the end of this one does an excellent job. I can't say much more about it without giving everything away.
No, CHOKED isn't my new favorite book, but if you enjoy a good puzzle, I'd say pick this one up. I definitely have a few people in mind I'll be passing this off to.