Christopher Pike Book Club: Slumber Party (1985)

So, for reasons too boring to get into, I find myself with a near-complete collection of Christopher Pike's young adult horror/mystery novels. Somehow I missed out on reading these while they were actually age-appropriate, and now I'm going to make up for it with the Christopher Pike Book Club, where I, and I know this is a stretch, don't entirely spoil every detail of the book, but rather give an overview of the material. Just in case you want to go out and pick up the book for yourselves.

I'll be covering them in chronological order by publication date, except for a miniseries that we'll talk about when we get there. If there are any recurring themes, plots, or character types, we'll track them as well.

Oh, and I reserve the right to utterly spoil any of the books if they prove to have a story that's singular in its quality, craptitude, or discussability.

So, without any further ado-

It's the story of a group of 5 girlfriends (all high-school seniors, with one exception) who head up to visit a sixth friend's ski chalet one long weekend. The girls are Lara (the main character), Dana (her insecure friend), Rachel (the bitchy one), and Mindy (the one without a personality). Also along for the ride is Celeste, Lara's new friend who's younger than the rest of them, having just transferred to their high school that year.

Despite the happy occasion there's something of a pall over the whole affair. You see, the four main girls are visiting their old friend Nell - who they haven't spent any significant time with since a disastrous slumber party some eight years earlier. What had started out as a simple game of Ouija had turned tragic, when Nell's younger sister Nicole had caught on fire from a knocked-over candle. It might have been a manageable situation if Lara hadn't tried to douse the flame with a bottle of what turned out to be brandy. Nell's face and arms were terribly burned in the ordeal, and Nicole died in the hospital a few days later. So it's understandable that Nell might still have some raw nerves about the whole situation.

I wasn't expecting anything earth-shattering from 'Slumber Party', so I was pleasantly surprised to find an entirely competent light thriller. Pike does a great job of setting up the situation and layering in the menace. Things seem off right away, with Lara discovering a patch of ice where a snowman used to be, and Nell's bizarre mood swings only serving to put her further on edge. When the girls head down to the resort for some skiing a couple of older guys show up to act as red herrings, one of them with a creepy story about napalm that works into the theme nicely.

What I enjoyed most about the story was not knowing exactly where it was headed. Because I've never read a Pike novel I've got no idea what kinds of books he writes. Murder mysteries? Supernatural thrillers? Who knows? So when Dana goes missing, a patch of charred ice turns up, and Celeste starts acting incredibly suspicious, Lara's theory that they may be dealing with an out-of-control pyrokinetic seems entirely plausible.

A lot of the mystery slips away around two-thirds of the way through the book when a flashback to the original slumber party reveals heretofore unknown facts that make the big reveal fairly obvious. That's not to say I was disappointed - even knowing what was coming I enjoyed reading the twist, and if we didn't really get to know the villain well enough for the motive to make total sense, the ending was brisk and satisfying enough that I didn't really mind.

Overall I'm going to score this book 1 Pike on the brand new Pike scale. Since I'm judging these books primarily against one another, we'll be working it this way - books that are better than this one will receive multiple Pikes, while books that are worse will receive fractional Pikes.

Hopefully that's not too confusing.

See you here next time on the Christopher Pike Book Club, when we cover 'Weekend' a book whose back cover suggests that it's the exact same story as Slumber Party.


DM said...

Good review! Now if we can just get you to speak your book reports as well as you write them.

St. Michael said...

Nice idea for a feature - I'm looking forward to seeing more.