Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Title: Choker
Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: January th 2011
Pages: 223
Genre: Contemporary YA; mystery
Source: Bought
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?

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Whoa. I finished Choker last night, and I'm still completely shocked, I still don't really know what to think. This book turned out to be so, so different from what I'd expected - it's crazy, unlike anything I've read before. Choker is a hard book to review without spoiling anything, but I'm going to give it a try.

The suspense is what's best about Choker. The atmosphere is so, so creepy - I was so scared while reading it. I read the entire book in one sitting. I read right before going to bed (and stayed up way too long to finish it), but I still had to get back up before going to sleep to brush my teeth and stuff, but this book had me so creeped out I was terrified to get up - I almost went to bed without brushing my teeth because Choker scared me so much! The atmosphere and suspense, the whole mystery around Sydney's death and Alexis's disappearance are really, really well done and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time while reading.

Cara's an okay character. She's kind of bland and a little annoying at times, but with the revelation at the end, it works. Her friendship with Zoe is dynamic and complex, and I enjoyed reading about Cara's struggles with Zoe. And Zoe is such a good character - so creepy and crazy! Wow. Ethan is one character I don't think is fully-developed - he's kind of bland, and I didn't like him all that much. Going out with another girl when your girlfriend is missing? Not cool.

There's not much I can saying about the ending without spoiling it, but wow. I did not see that coming. I've heard a few people say they predicted the ending, but I had no idea what was going on. The ending completely blew me away.

***I can't keep this review completely spoiler-free, so this next paragraph will include spoilers. Don't read on if you haven't read the book!***
Even though I loved the relevation at the end, I was a kind of confused by the last paragraph - what is that supposed to mean? I wanted to know more on what happens to Cara, and what happens to everyone else in the book, how they deal with finding out. Also, finding out about Cara made me very, very mad at the parents - they know their daughter is mentally ill, but they work way too much and leave her home alone all day. Seriously? How is that ever going to end well?

This book isn't perfect, and it left a lot of questions unanswered, but it's definitely unlike anything I've read before. It's a great psychological thriller with a really good mystery storyline - why are there so few YA contemporaries that include mystery? Anyways, I definitely recommend Choker. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't grab your attention right away - the mindblowing twist at the end makes it worth it.


  1. Wow. Mystery book! I've only read Baby Sitter's Club back then. If you count it as mystery. This sounds so good. BECAUSE. It made you scared to the point of not having to go to the bathroom to brush your teeth! OMG. I've never read a book like this. So thanks for reviewing this, might as well check it out. I didn't read the spoiler part though. I want to be surprised and shocked too! 

  2. Oooh, SO glad you like this one, Hannah! I actually really, really didn't... but... well, you can't like them all? And despite not loving it, I can SO see what other people did? My main problem was that I guess the Big Twist from the prologue, and spent the rest of the book hoping I was wrong, but, well, knowing I wasn't.

    KNOWING that, then reading the book was an UNFURIATING experience. I just couldn't suspend my disbelieve that a girl with her... history and condition would be left alone by parents who are not only caring, but DOCTORS WHO KNOW BETTER. NOT. A. CHANCE. Then there were just... ugh. But I think I was just frustrated with the beginning. 

    BUT OMG! THE CREEPY! THE CREEPY! so, so SO epically creepy. I finished it right before I went to bed one night. Nightmares ALL night.... it's not... it's not FRIGHTENING, so much as deepy unsettling... and so it leaves you noticing shadows and imaging creepy darkness and... WONDERFUL review, Hannah! You touched on EVERYTHING I liked, and everything I didn't ;)

  3. I can definitely see how guessing the ending could ruin the whole thing, and I've heard a lot of people say they did... but I'm glad I was oblivious and didn't, since that made the book a good read for me. The parents-thing pissed me off, too, but since I didn't know beforehand, I just thought "Why would they do that?" once after finishing the book, instead of spending the whole book obsessing over that :p

    And yes, THE CREEPY. Unsettling is the perfect word for it - it's not the OMG-I'm-gonna-die type of scared, I was just totally shocked about, well, how messed up people can be. Especially the scene with the pet... that had me totally freaked out.

  4. When I read Choker, I had the same reaction. I had NO clue what I was getting into, but I think that works so well for it.

    I agree with your comment about her parents. (Going to attempt to comment spoiler-free in case anyone else reads this. ;) ) I think they thought the situation was "better", but I'd hope they'd want to monitor it and NOT work so much...:\

  5. This sounds very interesting!  I need to add it to my list

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  6. I confess, I read the spoiler part even though I haven't read the book because I was so intrigued!! Your review is great publicity for the book:) It really shows how creepy and thriller-y it is!

    I'm glad it handles that kind of illness, it needs more publicity and understanding (although I'm not sure this is the kind of book that deal with this issue in that context? I'm not sure)

    I'd love to read more books like this! The creepy kind! And I love it when a book or movie has affected me so much I'm too scared to go to the bathroom alone (I used to have my big sister stand outside and talk to me the whole time)

    You know I'd never guess this is that kind of book from the cover. The colors, the stylized suggests and issue book but not one with that kind of twist. Although after reading the spoiler in your review, I guess you can see traits of the tone in the black broken rose and the cracks around the title.

  7. I just saw in one of your responses to a comment that something happens to a pet. Is it really awful? Because animal abuse is one thing that turns me off right away

  8. Shame on you for reading the spoiler! :p I kinda agree on the cover - looks too innocent. But it's kind of mysterious, which fits.

    Umm.... I don't really know how to answer your questions without spoiling everything... how much do you want me to tell you? I don't want to ruin the book for you...

  9. Tell me everything:p I probably won't read it because of what you said about something happening to a pet. But I do want to know if it's an issue book in terms of mental illness, like conventional issue books (or Unraveling Isobel which is part paranormal) or if it's straight thriller using mental illness. 

  10. Stepping Out of the PageMay 10, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Great review, very honest and insightful. Thanks for sharing this :) I do like the sound of this book, so it looks like I'm going to have to try and pick it up! I hope I like it!

    StephanieMy latest post: From the Review Pile (1)

  11. Okay, then. But to everyone else - SPOILER ALERT! Don't read my comment!!

    I think it's definitely more thriller using mental illness than an issue book discussing mental illness. The revelation at the end is that Zoe is Cara's imaginary friend, and that everything 'Zoe' does is actually Cara, she just doesn't know it. So she herself is the one who killed those two girls. I wouldn't say it discusses mental illness like an issue book - it doesn't really talk about what the mental illness means or the effects or anything, it just uses it as a plot twist/revelation at the end.

    As for the thing about the pet - Zoe/Cara in her mental instability or whatever you want to call it, kills her cat, skins it and basically wears it as a scarf. The description isn't too graphic, since at that point we don't know about Cara's mental illness yet, and we just read about how Cara sees Zoe with the dead cat around her neck. But it's still pretty disturbing.

    And honestly, now that you know, I wouldn't recommend the book anymore - I think knowing from the beginning on that that's what's going on would kind of ruin the book (like it did for Sarah).

  12. OMG! I figured it out that Cara was the killer, but I didn't realize the animal abuse was so bad. I mean, even if it isn't graphic, it's just too much. And although it isn't an issue story dealing with mental illness, I don't see that kind of violence being committed by someone with multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia. My aunt's a psychiatrist and people with that kind of disorder very rarely turn violent. At all. I don't know if multiple personality disorder is what Cara has, but maybe that was kind of unrealistic as well? Of course it's meant to be a thriller, like a made-for-TV thriller, so it doesn't need to be accurate. At least you found it really scary which is the author's goal:)

  13. It isn't really mentioned exactly wat disorder Cara has, since it's written from her POV. But I guess it's something like multiple personality disorder, yeah. I don't know much about that, but if she says so, maybe the book is kind of unrealistic. But for me, the good part of the book wasn't accuracy or anything like that - it was the creepy atmosphere and the (to me) unexpected plot twist at the end. Maybe it's not realistic, but I still really enjoyed reading it :)

  14. I'm glad to read a positive review of this, so many people didn't enjoy it! I recently received a review copy of this from Simon and Schuster and I have been reluctant to read it because of the mixed review however you've written such a great review - I must check it out soon!

  15. Okay, so I have to admit that the multiple plot lines that appear to be going on in this book is what caught my attention first.  The second thing is all of the spoiler alerts in your review and the comments below.  I don't know how I did it, but I didn't read a single spoiler because the "creepiness" everyone is talking about along with the ending have me wondering what the heck this is about and I don't want to ruin the surprise.  Can't wait to read this one!

  16. I love this book but the first two times that I read it I thought that Zoe was a ghost and I thought it was thrilling. But now I know that she has a mental illness so I read it differently the third time. Now I don't understand the last paragraph because she is now on mess and Zoe is back. I am left with so many questions now. I feel better about this book thinking Zoe is a ghost but deep inside I will know she I not.

  17. I ment to say she is on meds.
    And how did that cat part happen?
    So confused

  18. I love psychological thrillers and I really liked this book although I did guess the twist at the end. Still a great read and a great twist though! :)

    Cath Brookes
    Must see Alaska Fly Fishing Lodge info


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