Greetings, friends! Our next guest for Halloween Week is the lovely Kristen of Fantasy Cafe. Kristen isn’t much of a horror reader, but when we invited her over for the week, she was eager to give one of Thea’s favorite childhood authors, Christopher Pike, a try.
Ladies and gents, please give it up for Kristen, as she reviews Whisper of Death!
I have a confession to make: I’m a serious wuss when it comes to horror. Normally I avoid it like the plague due to childhood memories of being completely creeped out by anything the least bit spooky. When I was about six years old, I saw the movie Aliens and was terrified for at least a year. (This was around the time Alf was popular so my six-year-old self had learned to associate aliens with light-hearted and funny instead of horrifying before this movie scarred me for life.) Just the sound of the spooky Unsolved Mysteries music was enough to keep me wide-eyed and awake at night with the blankets pulled over my head.
For some reason I was in the mood to be adventurous and give horror another shot this Halloween. I mentioned to Thea that I could not remember reading a horror novel since reading R.L. Stine as a teenager so she kindly offered to send me a copy of Whisper of Death, one of her favorite novels by Christopher Pike, who was another popular YA horror novelist around the same time R.L. Stine was widely read. So one afternoon I settled in to read my first Christopher Pike novel, making sure to read it while it was bright and sunny out. Iím glad I did since its premise would have had me turning all the lights on and constantly looking over my shoulder if it was dark out, especially if it was eerily quiet too (not that eerily quiet happens often living in a college town).
The first couple of chapters describe the meeting of Roxanne and Pepper, who begin dating. Soon after that, Roxanne becomes pregnant so she and Pepper gather up some of their savings and head out of town early one morning to get an abortion. Once she and Pepper return to their hometown, Roxanne notices it is very quiet and she cannot even get a TV channel or radio station to come in. It almost seems as though she’s the only person left…
Roxanne becomes completely freaked out and runs around the town yelling and knocking on doors only to find she really does seem to be the only person in her neighborhood. Eventually, she meets up with Pepper in the center of town since he came to the same realization she did and tried to find somebody, anybody else in their town. They find they are the only inhabitants along with three other teenagers – a troublemaker, the smartest kid in the school, and a gorgeous and popular girl. After wracking their brains to try to figure out how they are connected, they realize it may be Betty Sue, a girl from their high school who recently committed suicide. Yet everybody seems rather secretive concerning her and those who are closest to her seem wary about discussing her in any detail. They go to Betty Sueís house anyway where they find some stories she has written – stories in which each of them dies.
Whisper of Death is a quick read and it is easy to fly through. The first couple of chapters didnít hook me since there was a lot of teenage angst and discussion about how hot Pepper looked (the story is all told from Roxanne’s perspective), which Iím not really a fan of. Once Roxanne discovered that most of the town seemed to have disappeared, the story really took off. At that point, I really wanted to know what happened next and how the death of Betty Sue and her stories tied together. I ended up reading the whole book in one afternoon.
This may be easy reading but there are some rather heavy, mature themes in this book, especially considering it was marketed as YA. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing, but I couldnít help thinking about how my mother would have died if she found out I was reading this book when I was a young adult. Not only does Roxanne have sex in it but she becomes pregnant, and there is some time spent on her agonizing over the decision of whether or not to keep the baby and how it will affect her life and Pepper’s.
Toward the end of the book, there was a sort of odd twist and it worried me that the book was going to have one of those cop-out “it was just a dream” endings. Fortunately, this was not the case and it was one of the most bizarre, twisted, wtf-inducing conclusions I can remember reading.
I had fun with my first foray into horror in years, but I wouldnít say Iím a convert to the genre yet. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but once I put it down I found it fairly unsatisfying since it didnít stick with me for very long afterward. The messed-up way it ended did have me thinking about it for a little while, but I tend to remember the books where I really come to love the characters for the very longest. While Roxanne was likable and I had definite sympathy for her plight, I found myself focusing on what happens next instead of what happens to her and her friends, meaning my reaction once I finished was to think “fun book” but not “I want more right now!” Thatís not the fault of the book at all; itís just the way I am as a reader. I’m sure it wouldn’t be fair to judge all of horror as not being particularly character-driven based on one book, so feel free to recommend me some creepy books with great characters for next Halloween!
But anyway, back to the book now that I got the caveat about my personal preferences out of the way…
Whisper of Death is a great read for Halloween – it’s short enough to read in one sitting and is rather chilling. The brave can read it Halloween night but for someone easily spooked like me I’d recommend reading it during the day when your imagination isn’t likely to run away with you and creep you out.
Thank you Kristen! And we’re glad you enjoyed Whisper of Death!