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? (summary from Goodreads)
I was really intrigued to read Choker after reading about it's plot. It's not what I usually read but I wanted to give it a go as it's summary made me go "Oooh" and stuck with me until it's release. Unfortunately, by half way through it had lost most of it's intrigue.
Choker starts out well, with an introduction to Cara and Zoe as children that I found chilling. Right from the get go it's obvious that something is not quite right with Zoe. Then the book jumps some years ahead, to Cara in High School, a loner after having moved away from her only friend. She's essentially invisible, until an incident in front of practically the whole school - choking on a chunk of carrot in the cafeteria - garners her the new nickname and the increased attention of mean girl bullies, Alexis and Sydney. Right when Cara feels she's at her lowest, Zoe shows up in her room, having run away from home.
Cara and Zoe's friendship is interesting, and it's easy to pick up on their dynamic. Cara is quiet and unnoticeable beside the beautiful Zoe, who seems to thrive on Cara's need for her. Her simply being there has a confidence-boosting effect on Cara, who begins to open up more and be noticed, by her friends on the track team and Ethan. Being locked in Cara's room has an adverse effect on Zoe however, as she stops showering, creates mess, and says nasty things to Cara that have the same effect as Alexis' bullying. In the midst of this, Sydney is found dead in her pool, and Alexis goes missing - both soon after they bully Cara.
Woods' mystery, while offering a good start, unfortunately becomes predictable. It grabbed me at the beginning, but soon it became apparent just what the twist was, and so for me, it lost it's mystery and intrigue. Despite this the book still held my attention however, and so I was able to finish it in just one sitting.
It is Woods' writing that made me want to keep reading - her descriptions are scary good. Her words played with my imagination, so much so that sometimes they felt real. I could see everything as clearly as if it was right in front of me, and some of those stick with me even now. Seriously, when she describes Zoe's mess and general slovenliness, I wrinkled my nose as if I could smell exactly what Cara could. The twist may not have been much of a surprise, but Woods' writing still made it worth waiting for and reading!
Overall, I did like Choker, even though what initially drew me to it didn't hold up as well as I would've liked.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: January 4th 2011 (USA)
Challenge: 2001 Debut Author Challenge and 2001 YA Contemporary Challenge