Chain Letter by Christopher Pike (Book Review)
Plot: When Alison first read the chain letter signed “Your Caretaker,” she thought it was some terrible sick joke. Someone, somewhere knew about that awful night when she and six other friends committed an unthinkable crime in the desolate California desert. And now that person was determined to make them pay for it. One by one, the chain letter was coming to each of them … demanding dangerous, impossible deeds… threatening violence if the demands were not met. No one out of the seven wanted to believe that this nightmare was really happening to them. Until the accidents started happening — and the dying…
My Review: I read this for the first time back when I was a teenager in Jr. High (which they now call Middle school), and I loved it. If you have no idea who Christopher Pike is, he wrote a lot of Young Adult horror books back in the 90s. I believe a lot of his books have been re-released recently with new covers (I like the old ones), and combined into one book if they had sequels. But I really think his books hold up rather well these days, and I, as an adult, still enjoy them. His style of writing is much more adult then R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books. I think if I tried to read one of Stine’s books I’d feel dumb.
These types of horror novels were my kind of books growing up. I read a new one every couple days because I couldn’t put them down I was so into them. About 8 years ago or so I won a huge box of them from Ebay and reread them all. I’ve reread Chain Letter anywhere from 3-5 times, maybe more, and I remember it quite well, which is sort of annoying at times, but at other times its kind of nice because I know how it all ends and can look for clues which point to who the Caretaker is. I remember having NO idea who it could be the first time I read it, and I was quite surprised at the end. Even now rereading it, I don’t think it was really all that obvious. Pike did a good job of laying suspicion on various characters.
The premise of the book is a LOT like the movie version of I Know What You Did Last Summer (I say movie version because I haven’t read the book, and I heard it was a lot different then the movie). Of course, I Know What You Did Last Summer the book was written back in the 60s and so it couldn’t have copied Chain Letter. I really had NO idea that IKWYDLS was written that long ago!
In Chain Letter a group of kids accidentally hit a man with their car one night on their way home from a concert. To protect themselves they decide to dispose of the body. A while later a chain letter shows up on one of their doorsteps from “The Caretaker” telling them they must perform different deeds as punishment for what they did to the man. The deeds are written in the newspaper‘s classifieds. The deeds aren’t really dangerous in the bodily harm way. They are actually kind of childish, but if they don’t follow them they are “punished” in some way. For example, the “hard ass rocker chick” with a “bad” reputation is told to come into school dressed as a clown. When she refuses, something gross happens to her, she’s awoken to tons of cockroaches in her bedroom. Another one refuses to flunk a test, and they get into a car accident that destroys the car, but nobody is hurt. This continues on through all the teenagers.
Once the chain is complete, it starts over again. This time the deeds are written in code and most of the people don’t follow them and end up suffering the consequences…it all comes down to a final battle scene where the Caretaker and motive are revealed.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book though, they reminded me of your classic slasher group of teens. The Jokester, the Punk, the Beauty, the Nerd, etc etc. We don’t get to know them much other then the main character Alison who is sort of the storyteller.
I’m not sure why I enjoy this book so much. Its not really “horror”. I remember when I first read it I wanted the deeds to be dangerous, or the consequences of not doing the deeds to be dangerous…because I thought it would make for a better horror story. Then I discovered there was a sequel to this book. At the time of writing this review, I haven’t a clue what the sequel is about, I think I read it once or twice, and only remember that someone is asked to cut off their own finger. So I think the sequel is more gory. Since I don’t remember the book accurately I can’t say anything more about it, but a review for it will be coming shortly.
Overall: I still really like this book. Granted its not made for adults, and its not really graphic horror but its fun, written well, and a quick read. If you were ever (or are currently) a fan of YA horror, thriller, spooky books or a fan of R.L. Stine’s, then I’d highly recommend checking this book out or other books by Pike. I fully intend on rereading his other novels I own, and reviewing them here on SOH. So stay tuned!