Choker by Elizabeth Woods

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Choker by Elizabeth Woods

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Incredibly tense and unpredictable thriller with memorable characters. High recommendation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9780857072863

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Cara has never quite fitted in with the other kids at school. Ever since her family moved away from her childhood home and she left her best friend Zoe behind, she has struggled to make friends, spending lunchtime sitting by other members of the track team without really taking part in their conversations. Then a humiliating incident at lunch, when her crush Ethan has to save her life, leads some bullying girls to brand her with the nickname Choker, and it seems as things have hit an all-time low. At this point, though, Zoe reappears in her life, on the run from a cruel stepfather and begging for shelter. Cara takes her in and hides her, and with Zoe's help, Cara starts to regain her confidence, make some friends, and even get close to Ethan. At the same time as Cara rises through the social ranks, though, bad things start happening to the bullies - and Cara is left wondering just what Zoe gets up to when Cara's at school, and whether she knows her friend at all.

One word review - tense. Two word review - really tense. Three word review - really, really... you get the picture. This is a psychological thriller which will leave you scared to look out of the window at night by the end of the book, and while it's slim and pacy enough to be read through in one sitting, your heart may not thank you for doing so. I thought the characters were all memorable; I sympathised massively with Cara, hated both her parents, who seemed to care little for her, and the bullies, and found Ethan to be a very likeable love interest. Of course, that leaves Zoe, and I spent the entire novel not sure whether I should be liking her or not - but there's no question she's a great character. I thought Woods did a great job of capturing the loneliness that high school students can feel, especially when they're the victims of bullying, and the way people's status at school can rise and fall so quickly.

I also found it hugely unpredictable, a major plus for me. At various times, I considered any of about six different endings to be likely, and the one Woods came up with was a suitably fantastic way to close an excellent book. All in all, this is a strong recommendation and I'll definitely be looking for more by Woods in the future!

A trio of other excellent thrillers for teens are Poison Heart by S B Hayes, Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan and Torn by Cat Clarke.

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