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Friday, September 21, 2012

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Release Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 304
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound Description: Goodreads
And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Tween Jessica was often spotted with a book in her hand, and the chances were quite high that it was written by R.L. Stine.  He was one of the very first authors to adorn my Always Buy list, and I blew through every Fear Street book I could get my hands on (though I never did get into Goosebumps). So, when I started Ten by Gretchen McNeil, I was immediately reminded of those Fear Street stories—their creepiness, their set-ups, their unputdownability.  The highest praise I can give Ten is that, in all the very best ways, it made me feel 13 again.  Also, it’s a wickedly creeptacular bonanza of suspense, romance, humor, and just the right amount of gore.

Loosely based on the infamous novel And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Ten begins with Meg and Minnie on their way to spend the weekend at a friend’s mansion on the almost entirely isolated Henry Island.  It’s February, it’s Washington State, and it’s storming like a mofo.  They arrive at White Rock House to find that their hostess missed the last ferry onto the island, and Meg’s (and Minnie’s!) crush T.J. is one of the other 8 guests.  The weekend takes a strange turn after the discovery of a cryptic DVD that ends with the threat, “Vengeance is mine!”  Of course, that’s when the bodies start piling up.  Meg doesn’t trust a soul, and it might be what comes back to get her in the end.

This is not only a love letter to those Fear Street books of my youth; it’s also very reminiscent of the horror movies of the 90s like Scream.  Part of it is the fact that the main characters are teenagers, but also, it’s got that same kind of what’s-lurking-around-the-corner suspense.  There is something spine-chilling going on at White Rock House that gave me The Wiggins even more than McNeil’s first novel Possess.  I think it’s because there’s nothing supernatural at work here, nor does there need to be.  It’s terrifying to imagine a “normal” person becoming so hateful that they plot the elaborate murders of 10 people.  That is just brilliant.  And the deaths themselves?  Even better.  Each death is catered to the character specifically, and the reveals as to the reason behind the specific death add another level of creepy. 

McNeil develops just enough of each character (with the exception of protagonist Meg) so that you’re constantly guessing as to the identity of the murderer, and Meg only stays innocent because you get the story from her point of view.  Meg establishes herself as a lone wolf writer from the very beginning, so I love that she picks up on clues that the others don’t notice.  Also, for a book where characters are dropping left and right, there’s a surprising amount of relationship building and development.  There are secret romances, furtive glances, and every Meg and T.J. scene is a little slice of happy, especially around all this horror.

If you’re nostalgic for those slasher flicks from back in the day or just looking for something to give you the best kind of scare, I’d highly recommend Ten.  It’s got a little bit of everything, plus a lot of thrills and chills.  It’s the perfect book to curl up with on a VERY BRIGHT SUNNY DAY when there’s absolutely no darkness.

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