Category Archives: Book Reviews

On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

Last week, I noticed a large book on my best friend’s coffee table: Remember Me, the trilogy. Despite the fact that she’d bought it several weeks earlier with me at her side, I still squealed when I saw it, quickly scooping it up and clutching it tenderly to my chest. “Oh…” I sighed. “Have I told you how much this book means to me? I love Christopher Pike.” She’d already heard this story at least three times, but since her mother was in town and sitting next to me on the couch, I continued gushing for five straight minutes about an author who happens to be my ultimate hero.

You see, long ago, I was a little girl with a taste for books that exceeded my love of ice cream (and that’s saying a lot). All I did was read, read, read, and in doing so, I rapidly outgrew the books in my age range. My friend Carrie had a similar problem, and one afternoon when we were ten, while my mom sang along to the car stereo and we talked quietly in the back seat, Carrie handed me a brand new paperback and leaned close to my ear.

The cover that caught my eye—and started a long-running reading obsession.

“You can’t tell your mom,” she said. I grabbed the book, a brightly colored paperback with a dead girl on the cover and the most interesting, violent-looking font screaming the title and the author’s name across the cover.

Christopher Pike. Remember Me.

“I like his name. What’s it about?” I flipped the book over, scanning the blurb on the back before I gasped aloud. “Oh wow! This looks so neat!”

“He’s great,” Carrie said. “But I think it’s supposed to be for older kids. My mom didn’t want me to read it, so I bought it. I have more, too.”

I smiled, sticking the book in my bag so that I could start reading it as soon as I got home. Carrie had already introduced me to V.C. Andrews—an author whose work was most definitely NOT for kids—so I kept this little secret between us.

That is, until I decided Christopher Pike was the most genius writer I’d ever come across, and then I just had to tell my parents about the amazing plots he created. Thankfully, they knew I had a good sense of right, wrong, and reality, and since my mother had a love of scary movies, it all worked out pretty well. (I still kept the V.C. Andrews to myself.)

Within about six weeks, I’d read all six of Pike’s previously published books. I carried them with me everywhere, terrified by the thrill-ride on every page and yet delighted with the themes written upon them. Here was an author who wrote about teens in a mature, honest manner, but in an unusually addictive way. He never dumbed down the content; instead he let all his characters run wild in completely shocking plots. They lived on the edge—they drank, they smoked, they had sex (or they knew about other teens having sex, because their virginal naivety actually managed to be their fatal flaw). I rooted for every character, even the seriously bad ones: there were teens torturing their loved ones, teens who found monsters while drinking in the woods, teens who somehow found a mental link to ancient goddesses, teens who happened to be ancient creatures, and teens who had mythical origins and thus transformed into clawed predatory beasts! And of course, there were some plain old classically terrifying teens who just killed their classmates.

It really didn’t matter what they were doing—Pike wrote his teens from an adult point of view and let them do bad stuff, while still crafting a compelling and well-written story.

I was so enthralled with his concepts I kept right on reading, eagerly awaiting every next book’s release date. Some of them were so good, I read them twice in a row. Chain Letter (1986), Spellbound (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), Witch (1990), and my absolute favorite, Whisper of Death (1991) were some of the titles I wouldn’t stop talking about. Somehow, the man wrote three or four books a year (!), and I collected them like candy, enjoying the long row of paperbacks across my bookshelf; each of them had the same neon-colored binding and scratch-style font that had captured my heart, and I treasured my collection all through middle school and into the start of high school. I even wrote fan mail, telling Mr. Pike how superb I thought he was, and that I loved him. I might even have offered to marry him.

Whatever I said in those letters, I do remember what he made me feel: an excitement for reading, an unparalleled transfixion to every work, and most importantly, a passion for the art of writing and an inspiration to start writing on my own. Christopher Pike is, after all, the very reason I have a young adult horror manuscript tucked safely away in my fire safe box, awaiting the day I might decide to continue working on it.

In the 90s, Pike released some adult stories that I also read—Sati and Season of Passage, to name a couple—but his true voice really echoed with teenagers. He wrote a collection called Spooksville for a younger audience that I never read, but not surprisingly, the books in it were also a big hit. At some point I learned a little more about Mr. Pike, which is actually not that much: his real name is Kevin Christopher McFadden, and he is incredibly elusive and private about his life. Even while researching for this post, I didn’t find much else on him except for a plethora of fan bloggers—and there are tons of us, all inspired by a vast collection of incredible books we read in our impressionable youth.

As an adult, I get tingles whenever I pass the work of Christopher Pike at the bookstore. I run my fingers over the spines, hoping that today’s readers are enjoying them at least half as much as I did. No matter what your age, if you’ve never read a Christopher Pike book, I highly encourage you to do so. You can find a complete listing of his works here: Works by the Amazing Christopher Pike

I’ve reread a few pieces over the years, and have also kept up on the occasional adult novel he’s released—but now that my friend has Remember Me, I’m tempted to move my entire to-read stack aside and instead reread every book by the man who inspired me with his phenomenal thriller work.

That said, I think I’m going to pick up an old classic from Barnes and Noble this weekend. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!

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HUNGER GAMES Fever

The time is rapidly approaching for the opening of The Hunger Games, and I am proud to admit that I myself have a strong dose of “Hunger Games Fever.” Quite literally, actually, as I seem to be coming down with a cold!

Undeterred, I do plan to see the movie as soon as possible, as I imagine many of you will too. Whether lining up tonight for the special midnight showing or heading out tomorrow, you still have time to read the book before the movie comes out! It may be only eight hours for you to finish if you’re going tonight, but this book is well worth a read in advance of the big screen interpretation. If you need a little push of motivation, please see my March 7th post, “Review of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.” There are numerous other glowing reviews out there that will likely inspire you to finish reading before the movie begins, and I encourage you to read them as well—just don’t take too long, because you need time to finish that book!

Sadly, I will not be making it out tonight to see the movie, what with the emerging cold and the 5:30 a.m. alarm that will blare painfully in my ear, but my tickets as well as those of my nine enthusiastic friends are already in our hands as we count down the hours!minutes!seconds! until our showing at 9:15 tomorrow night.

In the meantime, here are a few links to more Hunger Games fanfare:

There are plenty of other online blogs and articles for you to check out as you’re standing in line for the movie, so enjoy them while you await what will likely be one of the best movies of 2012. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the movie over the weekend, as I compare it to Suzanne Collins’s outstanding novel.

As for finding a good seat in the theatre…may the odds be ever in your favor!


Review of THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins

First take: WOW.

Second take: Thank god I borrowed the next book from my friend so I can start it tonight!

I read about The Hunger Games in Entertainment Weekly about nine months ago and found the concept incredibly intriguing. Kids fighting to the death on demand of a Capitol entity, as a punishment for the people’s rebellion? What an insanely unique idea for a novel!

Over the summer I vacationed to Aruba; on the plane, a young man of about twenty sat beside me reading the third book in the series, Mockingjay. He barely acknowledged his soda and peanuts as he pored over the book, eventually lowering it to his tray table with a big sigh.

“What did you think?” his girlfriend asked.

“It was incredible,” he breathed.

He then proceeded to go on and on about the book to the point where I finally said, “Um, hey, some of us still haven’t read it. Can you maybe not give away the whole story just yet?” We had a good laugh, and he informed me that he’d been reading the series nonstop over the last few days and simply couldn’t put it down. 

I proudly purchased my copy just after I returned home. Sadly, I got distracted working on Kyresa (okay, that’s not such a sad thing), the school year started, and various other bouts of drama abounded—but I swore I would read that darn book before the movie came out if it killed me. Well, I finished it, and you know what? The kid was right.

From the first page, I refused to put this book down. Narrated by sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl in the poorest District who volunteers in place of her twelve-year-old sister, Hunger Games contains a carefully blended scene of both science fiction and fantasy. Gone is the world we know, replaced instead by a cruel Capitol bent on punishing the people for their past defiance. Katniss is a skilled huntress who has spent her life unintentionally preparing for the Games, by providing for her family since her father’s death. Headstrong, clever, and hosting a keen understanding of the natural world around her, Katniss is a phenomenal teenage heroine. She bravely enters the Gamemakers’ world, hoping to survive the brutality that has reminded the world of their place under the Capitol in a manner vaguely reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. Once in the arena, Katniss fights against a collection of terrifying opponents, both human forces and natural elements alike. Meanwhile, she also struggles against an acquaintance from home, the questionable Peeta, with whom she learns a bit about herself as well as her transforming emotions throughout the course of the Games.

Though the book is geared toward a younger audience, any adult can enjoy this book (I personally know of four who can’t stop raving about it). The reading is smooth and intriguing, with rich and engaging characters whose complicated flaws and endearing traits wrap you up in concern as you follow their journey. Even the dangerous, bully teens who seek to snuff the lives of those around them are characters you can’t help but feel sorrow for, as their morals are caught in the Capitol’s inhumane rules and expectations. I had a few flashes back to Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” as well as Golding’s Lord of the Flies as I read, though, I have to admit, I took far more pleasure in this read—and I’m a pretty big fan of the aforementioned pieces.

At the gym today, a gentleman asked me how I could move so fast on the elliptical machine while still reading [and clutching] a book. My response?

“Because this book is amazing! You should read it too!”

I’m so excited to read the next book of the series that I’m afraid it’s now time to sign off and read!

(Be sure to check out Suzanne Collins’s website: http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/index.htm for more information on the trilogy.)


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