Nov 2, 2012

Review (or Ramble): Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Don't spread the word!
Three-day weekend. House party.
White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do NOT want to miss it.

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?
***Consider yourself warned: There may be spoilers afoot....***

I got exactly what I expected along with a few surprises from Gretchen McNeil's Ten. Ten teenagers alone on an island with a murderer? There are only so many ways the story can go. You've got the brainiac, the pain in the ass popular girl, the jock, and of course a few others to spice things up like the pervert and the bossy, uptight female. An unusual group of people. So much so, that in the middle of the it all, you begin to wonder why they were all hanging out in the first place. But it makes for an interesting and dynamic story when you have personality clashes and increased conflict and tension. Especially when there's blood being spilled.

I was expecting blood, and a lot of it. Gory images of slicing and dicing. Picture Jason from Friday the 13th wielding a scarlet-stained machete. That's what I imagined. But things were a little different in this story. There was nothing obviously wrong when people started dying. Wait, that came out wrong. They were dead, and typically that's not normal for sixteen year olds, but there was no evidence pointing to foul play. Arguments ensue and doubts are evident, and while it's enough to freak the others out that their friends are dropping like flies, there's nothing that makes them believe they're all in danger. Then again, denial is a powerful thing, and trust me, there's a lot of that going on.

People always do that though, when they don't want to believe something. They manipulate and twist the facts, ignore their gut feelings, and repeat "it's going to be alright" over and over again until they've convinced themselves that there is nothing to fear. Silly little children.

I really found myself admiring Meg, the one who's pretty much telling the story. She's kind of quiet, but I wouldn't exactly call her shy ~ just wary of others. She has a hard time finding people that understand her, believing that every time she opens her mouth she either pisses people off or earns blank stares. I can relate. But that little fact also made her overly protective in a non-healthy way of those few she found to be on her side. Minnie, for example.

I hated Minnie. I know she's off her rocker and "she can't help" the way she acts, but for the love of all things holy, that girl coulda been the first to die and I would have felt no remorse. She's selfish, clingy, manipulative, and completely narcissistic. I don't know why Meg puts up with her. As T.J. put it, she "treats Meg like shit."

T.J. was pretty cool, I guess. I didn't form much of a connection with the dude because I didn't feel like I really got to know him. He was intended as the heartthrob, the love story; every slasher tale needs one, and I think Gretchen did a good job of creating a likable guy that we'd want to root for.

I really enjoyed the setup and I feel that Gretchen did a fantastic job in getting our characters in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Or the right place at the right time, if you're the killer. It's all relative.) The gloomy and isolated feeling you got as Meg described the island, the house, and the chills she couldn't shake, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. Gave me quite a few jumps, especially when I was enveloped in the horror and the fear and my husband decides he wants to come barreling through the door, making me jump a friggin mile outta my chair, putting a hand to my heart in an effort to get it to slow down.

That's when I knew the scare factor was up to par.

Now, there is a reason I'd give this book three and half stars instead of four or more. While the setup was fabulous, I felt that the characters had a lot of explaining to do. Meg moved to Washington State from New York, something she hints her parents weren't exactly ecstatic about. Why? What happened? We never get to know this about her past. And the relationship between Meg and Minnie didn't feel legit to me. I know, I know, Minnie gave up her social status to be friends with Meg, but I don't feel that love and loyalty between them that is supposedly unbreakable. I do get this from Meg some of the time, but mostly it seems she's always trying to get as far away as possible and is using college as an excuse to escape. These elements, among others, just caused questions for me and left something to be desired when it came to getting to know the characters.

There's enough character development to get by, but not near enough for me to really fall in love or in hate with any of the characters. It doesn't take away from the storyline, which I feel is amazing, but I'm a character driven reader, so I have a very strong stance on how important it is for readers to get up close and almost uncomfortably personal with the people about whom they're reading. Adds tangibility, layers, and texture to the novel as a whole.

BUT don't let that keep you from reading this completely fun and fast-paced book. It's got a fabulous spook factor and has just enough complexity to make it as interesting as it is scary. Mysterious even.

Totally worth your time, despite my snobbery when it comes to the characters.

Happy Reading Everyone :)

~ Keely ~

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