It's not often I feel the need to openly review books, but I'm shocked at the praise, nominations and positive reviews being lavished on this book. I made sure to finish it in case I was just getting a silly impression from the beginning, in case something suddenly caught on at some point that was original and interesting.
No such luck. The characters are blatant stereotypes--the "jock," the "slut," the "nerd," the "bad boy/rocker," and our homely heroine Robin who is depressed.
The back of the book proudly proclaims that Sokoloff built the "psychological undercurrents" from her experience dealing with "emotionally disturbed and incarcerated teenagers." I kept waiting for an "undercurrent" behind the blatant pop-psychology and complete lack of understanding applied to all of these characters, and it never came. I had to wonder if she ever really listened to these teenagers, or asked them anything. I've known my fair share of "emotionally disturbed teenagers"--and they don't act like this.
Robin is a stereotypically depressed teen/college student, but doesn't act much like a real one (I've known my fair share). Martin, the "nerd," is written like someone trying to sound smart, rather than the smug, self-assured legitimate intelligence that comes from the type of character Sokoloff seems to be trying to write. It's clunky, awkward and feels like it was carefully but ignorantly constructed.
The plotting, while I applaud the interesting and unusual inclusion of Kabbalistic mythology (I even learned a few things), is standard at best, which offends me far more in horror than something unusual that misfires.
I knew as soon as the five of them pulled out a Ouija board that it was going to take a lot to restore my faith in anything "original" coming out of this book. Unfortunately that "lot" never came either. They play with a Ouija board, it seems benevolent, then seems threatening, spiritual forces stronger than them appear, blah blah blah--if you've read or seen any story involving the supernatural and seances or Ouija boards, move along, there's nothing new here except that peculiar Kabbalistic bit, which is nice, but surrounded by so much stereotypical characterization, poor description and general feelings of "haven't I seen this all before?" that it just can't be saved.
When even the horrid cliché of "Eek! A stranger!...oh gosh, silly me, it was just a coatrack!" was reeled out, I nearly gave up. Of course, first, I thought, "What dorm has coatracks in the hall? How many students these days wear hats? Who would leave their hat on a hatrack over break? Did she even think about any of this or just jump at a cliché and move on?" I say this as someone who did in fact wear a hat in college, just to be clear, but I was one of very few, and I don't think any of us had hatracks--certainly none in dorm hallways.
A shame. If "The Breakfast Club meets Poltergeist" sounds intriguing and like it's not a nightmarish collision of two pretty fun things that shouldn't really collide to you--have fun! You might enjoy this. If you've read about Ouija boards and seemingly clique-separated kids before and find them tired--stay away. Stay far, far away.