Author: Elizabeth Woods
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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?
Cara is a difficult character for me to like. She spends her high school life terrified of the popular girls and their rude comments. She never sticks up for herself. It is hard for me to sympathize with a character who bemoans the way that bullies treat her but refuses to do anything outside of cowering and building up resentments as she sits around feeling sorry for herself and refusing to reach out to a single person in friendship. Then, once Zoe shows up and all of the sinister things start to happen, Cara is too afraid to question Zoe's possible involvement. She's even terrified of her best friend. Not to mention severely co-dependent, thinking she couldn't survive if Zoe left her. Yet I found myself cheering for Cara. Despite her obvious character flaws and lack of a spine or even the tiniest bit of self-respect or self-confidence, I wished for her happiness. I wanted her to grow a spine. I wanted her to make new friends and gain some confidence and respect for herself. I cheered her little victories even though her cowardly personality and addiction to Zoe frustrated me to no end. Cara was more normal the less normal she became. And, much to my dismay, I found that I liked the Zoe-inspired Cara much better than the alternative.
The plot is twisted. It's also really difficult to talk about effectively without spoilers, so I'm not sure how much I can usefully say about the plot. This book is a thriller more than it is a mystery. Once Zoe arrives and gives Cara a little strength, she tries to start fitting in. But the looming figure of Zoe affects Cara, both pushing her forward and holding her back. And, though I picked up on the many hints that allude to what is going on outside of Cara's limited point of view, it still completely weirded me out when they came to fruition.
This book isn't really scary, but it is hair-raising and alarming. I found it to be a pretty accurate portrayal of things I can't divulge in a spoiler-free review! If eerie psychological thrillers are your thing, or if you are just looking for something that is different than a lot of the other YA fiction out there currently, you may want to check this one out.