Happy New Year
I’m kicking off the first review of the year with a bitesize teen book. Trick or Treat is part of the Point Horror series, books I devoured back in the 90’s. I’ve got a boxload of them currently to get through, a great find at a car boot sale last year.
While this is a young adult book, I was pleasantly surprised to find a scaryish tale that managed to on occasion give me chills. I probably read this twenty or so years ago because I definitely remember the cover, but I couldn’t remember much of the story. The setting drew me in from the start. A big old house filled with nooks and crannies and secret passageways. The kind of house a sane person would run a mile from. If the dilapidated outside, gothic architecture and too many rooms for a family of four wouldn’t be enough to put a normal person off, the cemetery in the back garden should do it.
Unfortunately for our protagonist Martha, her father adores the paranormal and is delighted when his dippy/arty new wife purchases a place so obviously teeming with ghostly presences.
The newly married couple aren’t going to be winning any parent of the year awards. No sooner has Martha started to unpack than she and her new stepbrother, Conor, are left to their own devices when their parents skiddadle off to Hawaii and leave them to fend for themselves in a sleepy new town, coming up to Halloween. A quiet, rainy, nothing town that is approaching the first anniversary of a murder that took place on Halloween night right in the very home Martha has just moved into.
Right away, Martha is afraid to stay in her new bedroom. She can’t quite explain it, but it’s much colder than the rest of the house and there’s something about the closet… The door seems to open and close by itself. She sees eerie shadows as she huddles under the covers at night. Then there are the scary, threatening phone calls, the creaks and groans of the old house and a fire that starts mysteriously. Conor’s calm suggestion that perhaps her bedroom is cold and feels different from the rest of the house because it remembers the grizzly murder that took place in that very room doesn’t help Martha’s state of mind.
Nor does the fact that according to some people in town, Martha resembles the dead girl, Elizabeth. Physical appearance isn’t their only similarity. Martha soon draws the attention of the super athlete in town, Blake. Guess who his last girlfriend happened to be? And Martha’s new best friend, Wynne, used to be best friends with Elizabeth. Is Martha fated to end up the same way as the previous occupant of her bedroom?
The creepy house, the sense of isolation, the location of the cemetery with its overgrown graves and mausoleum go well with the the author’s knack for creating tension, suspense, fear and dread around Martha. Martha seems paranoid, suffering from jangled nerves and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown almost from page one.
I found myself wondering how her stepbrother Conor was so patient with her. I enjoyed the story but Martha was a whiny victim with little agency. Despite being abandoned by her father in a new town in a house that clearly belongs in a horror movie, I couldn’t sympathise much with her, in fact I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a good slap. Conor was too lovely for his own good, though I do think he quite fancied his stepsister and she him. But that storyline would be a bit much to explore in the Point Horror world so nothing came of it.
If you loved Point Horror as a teen or just fancy a quick horror read, try Trick or Treat. It’s well-written with a suitably spooky atmosphere, mingling the haunted house genre with psychological horror.
Have you tried the Point Horror series?