Publisher: Archway Paperback, 1994
Format: It’s an actual book! Made of paper!
I’m starting a new series entitled “It’s old school bitches,” and the schedule is full of books I read in school and remember loving but forget almost entirely. So I’m including two new categories: What I Think Will Happen (which I have to send to Judith before I read the book in order to be honest) and How Right Was I. Scientists should pay me to use this as a study of how much alcohol really does rot the brain, and if I’m fairly correct how many important things my brain has forgotten in order to remember this stuff.
What do I think will happen (based on memory and cover pic alone) (oh and alcohol, yay!): I think I know that someone is wearing a wig to make them look healthier. I really want to dislike green plaid deep-V wife-beater shirt dude but I’m confused – do I trust my instincts that he is evil or is my dislike of 90s fashions (and opinion that the other dude is hotter) swaying my sentiments? Okay here is what I’m blindly saying (AND I’M LOCKING THIS SHIZ DOWN) Green wife beater is wearing a wig and is going to kill girl who can’t bother to get out of her pink robe. Dude with the pretty floppy hair won’t end up with his gf in the blue robe because she’s going to die. So he’s going to get with the girl with flames in her, um, wow who did this illustration? ANYWAY. I also feel like someone is fake-sick but that might be all the Steven King novels getting to me.
Cover Pic Roll Call: Blue robe: dies; Floppy brown hair: lives; Lady with flaming breasts: lives; Green Plaid Wife Beater: Killer, dies at the end; Pink robe: dies.
How right was I: Jesus Christ. Not at all. I got so very little correct. Yes there was a healthy person, but not because they were duplicitous or a killer but because of a medical misdiagnosis. And floppy hair guy does end up with flaming breast girl but….it’s complicated. Oh and someone is wearing a wig but that’s due to chemotherapy-related hair loss. But the biggest thing I got incorrect: THERE WASN’T EVEN A KILLER! This was a total fail on my part.
Plot: Ilonka, Spencer, Kevin, Sandra and Anya live at Rotterdam House which is a hospice for young people dying of terminal diseases. Basically you live in this house for a few weeks or months in order to spend your final days in more comfortable surroundings than you’d find at the hospital. Foregoing the traditional group therapy they start “The Midnight Club” and get together every night (shocker: at midnight) in order to tell each other stories. Spence’s stories are always gore-fests, Sandra never tells a story at all, Anya’s are about the devil, and Kevin’s multi-night tale is about (no joke) an Angel who falls in love with a human and decides to become human himself. Ilonka’s, on the other hand, are all memories from her past lives – all of which include Kevin as either her husband or her best friend. There is a split-second subplot where they agree that the first person who dies will send a signal to the rest of them from beyond the grave but really the book is about 5 friends, their final days on Earth, how they come to terms with the choices they have made in life and how they face death at such a young age.
Review: Okay this was much more serious than I remember, and a lot less romantic than our normal fare. One thing that really amazed me was how progressive it is when you consider that the book was published in 1994. One of kids is gay, one dies of AIDS, and even in the story Kevin tells about the fallen angel one of the characters has AIDS. I think it’s understandable when you look at it in light of this being a book written for younger teens with the intention of teaching a lesson that people who are gay or have AIDS are still people who need to be loved and accepted.
The romance between Ilonka and Kevin is pretty sudden but I guess when you consider that they both remember being together in past-lives it makes more sense. There were no squee’s involved but I still enjoyed it. One gripe I have about the book (and maybe this is a Christopher Pike thing, I’ll let you know after I read the next one) is that he constantly uses people’s first and last names. Dude – how many Ilonkas are in this book (and even in the world) that you need to constantly refer to her as “Ilonka Pawluk”?! Totally unnecessary.
I’m having a difficult time judging this one simply because it was so different from what I expected, and so serious, but I’m giving it a 9/10. I think that the serious topic and messages of tolerance and bravery are key lessons young people need to learn. And a book about AIDS and how difficult it is to be accepted as a gay teen in 1994? You can’t not support that.
Based on the following criteria (which I’m changing around for this one):
How much did I like all the characters: 10. I think Christopher Pike did an awesome job of really including all types of characters in these 5 people. Girls, boys, gay, straight, healthy, sick, angry, funny, horny, happy…I could go on. But most of all they’re just teenagers trying to deal with the cards they’ve been dealt. I think the romance between Ilonka and Kevin was really
sweet, and I liked that all the teens seemed so realistic.
How believable is the plot: 9. I’ve got to mark it down to a 9 just because I’m not sure the past-lives stuff is completely believable (no offense Shirley MacLaine) but the rest of it is. Even the medical misdiagnosis is realistic, as we all know from my favorite Queen Latifah movie – Last Holiday (seriously: I love this movie. I watch it every time it’s on tv).
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 8. There actually were a few instances where the quote marks were messed up (which I notice much more in paper books than on my Kindle). And the aforementioned constant usage of first and last names bugged me. Also I’m marking down a little because the summary on the back is NOTHING like the book. At all.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Mostly because I kept wondering when the killing started.
Final Score: 9/10. It was a lot different than what I expected, and I am a bit depressed that my predictions were so incorrect, but it was still enjoyable. And I really liked re-reading something I last read when I was in middle school. So a MUCH more serious start to this new series but I think I can promise there will be a few more “fun” deaths in the next one (provided I’m remembering the Final Friends series at all).