I didn’t really have grand expectations going into Choker. I thought it was going to be a generic paranormal romance: girl gets picked on at school, beautiful popular guy falls for her, but he has a secret… and is a vampire/werewolf/angel. Bo-ring. However, every time I thought I had this book figured out, it threw me something new. I was seriously impressed by this creepy horror story.
Choker begins with Cara, who is socially inept and plagued with anxiety. She doesn’t really have any friends and she gets teased at school because she’s such a loner. One day at lunch she chokes on her food and gorgeous jock Ethan gives her the Heimlich maneuver, saving her. Predictably, Cara totally falls for him. But then Ethan’s girlfriend Alexis and head of her mean girl clique, Sydney, begin taunting Cara about the incident and calling her “choker”. Cara feels like a complete outcast at school, and when she’s feeling the most alone, all of a sudden her best friend from her childhood shows up! Zoe says she’s run away from home, where her dad abuses her, and she wants to hide out in Cara’s bedroom because she’s afraid of being sent back home. Cara is naturally overjoyed to have her best friend back, and she thinks everything will be okay. Except that night, Sydney turns up dead.
I really can’t explain the things I liked so much about this book without discussing the big revelation at the end, so read on with caution, because there will be spoilers. If you stop reading here, know that there is a great plot twist at the end, and that I recommend this book for fans of classic horror and psychological thrillers.
Big spoilers under the cut!
The great thing about this book is how your sense of dread grows as the book progresses. Oh, poor Cara gets made fun of. That sucks. Sydney dies. That’s sad, but should Cara really care? It doesn’t really affect her. Oh shit, I’m pretty sure Zoe is killing the mean girls to protect Cara. Oh my god what is happening make it stop!
Not long after Zoe showed up, I was pretty sure I had the book figured out. I thought Zoe was killing people and that she’d run away from home after killing her abusive stepdad. Kind of messed up, but not really shocking. Then Zoe started acting really creepy and possessive of Cara, and I realized that Cara’s parents never heard her in the house or noticed anything suspicious, and I thought Zoe was dead (and killing people). Things got a little more interesting. But then Zoe goes full-on Joker and kills the cat and wears it like a stole and we find out that Zoe is Cara. Call her an imaginary friend or a second personality, but Cara’s actually been the one killing people the whole time.
This is why I was able to forgive Cara’s whiny, self-loathing personality. I thought she was very Bella Swan at the beginning of the book, and Zoe was so Typical Confident BFF! It was annoying. But when you consider that Cara and Zoe were two parts of the same person, it makes a lot more sense. Cara had been able to suppress crazy Zoe when she was seeing a therapist and taking medication, but when she started getting taunted by Sydney and Alexis at school, she broke down and Zoe came back out.
It’s very Fight Club, and I love it, because you almost never get a female character who’s so messed up and also a true villain. But at the same time, Cara does a fairly admirable job of fighting Zoe for her autonomy. Even though Cara is the “weak” character, she shows a lot of strength of character and you do want her to have a happy ending. You have a good character and a bad character, and both are believable as two sides of the same coin. I think that really shows skill on the author’s part, so I applaud Elizabeth Woods for that.
Choker is available in bookstores now. I received an e-galley for review from Simon & Schuster.