Monday, March 12, 2012

The Invitation by Diane Hoh

Re-publish date: March 27, 2012.

For the high schoolers of Greenhaven, Cass Rockham’s fall party is the social event of the year. Each October, students wait by their mailboxes, praying for the gilt-edged invitation that grants entry into theinner circle of the most popular crowd. And now Cass has planned her finestparty yet, with a new sauna, a hot band, and no parents for miles. But to make this party really killer, Cass tops it all off with a sinister twist.

Nerdy Sarah Drew is shocked when she and her friends receive invitations to Cass’s affair. For years she’s steered clear of the popular kids, and now they want her to come to their party? Sarah is wary, but her friends talk her into coming with them. But she regrets it quickly, for at Cass Rockham’s mansion, the only party favor is death.

I’m all for the re-emergence of cheese and Open Road Media has a market for that. They’ve been re-releasing older YA titles as of late and, knowing me, I’m pretty quick to gobble them up. They usually end up being short reads, concise and to the point without much depth to them. Lead-up to mystery, solve it, story ends and that’s pretty much it. THE INVITATION didn’t let me down in this regard.

The issues that I generally have with these titles is that the characters are a bit too stereotypical and they’re written so that they portray teens to how adults feel they are. The mean girls fit nicely into a little box and a character’s brattiness is usually running a bit higher than what it probably should be. What makes that last part worse is that the story doesn’t delve too deeply into the character’s head so the personality isn’t explained away or as a reader you do know what’s going on but it’s usually pretty petty. The antagonists in THE INVITATION fit this moniker. They’re one dimensional and stereotypical, one being the mean girl to an extreme and the other being a straight up crazy bitch. If this were in any other recent YA horror I’d scoff at it. But cheese gets a pass. Because it’s cheese.

The cast of protagonist characters is pretty large but they fit their own molds just like the villains with a couple that probably could have been removed entirely and the story would have been none the wiser. The characters with the most emphasis, Ellie, Sarah and Shane were of course the stand-out characters, except Ellie ended up fading into the background towards the end. I would have liked to have seen her stand up a little more, break out of her self-deprecating shell a little more but it is what it is. Riley, Sarah’s love interest, played a bit part and love was had at the end. Because it needed to end on an up note.

The biggest issue I had with THE INVITATION was the sex of the major antagonist. Once that person was introduced I went whole chapters without knowing what the sex of the villain was, despite the character actually being present on the page. Initially it was male just with a feminine name, Leslie (right up there with Shannon and Kim as male names, ugh). Even in the flashback Leslie was still androgynous. I couldn’t place the sex. I got so confused that I had to flip back earlier to see if I missed something, some tell-tale sign that this person was male or female. Nope. It started off male and ended female. I know it’s an uncorrected proof but that’s pretty major. It was halfway explained by a confusion of people but even after that it still didn’t make sense, especially with how the story was unfolding. I’d have to call that sloppy.

Overall it wasn’t as big of a fright as I would have liked. Cass was far creepier doing what she did to the outcast group of kids she invited than the real antagonist was simply because she was so heartless. I would have liked that route better than the crazy person at the end. Not my favorite cheese read but it sits nicely in the cockles. I’ll take it.

Ban Factor: Medium - It really could go either way. The violence is pretty minimal, there's nothing paranormal about it and the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end. I can see this one scraping by the censors.
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