I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
Lena Carlton invites her classmates to spend the weekend at her family's mansion in Mexico. Lena's gravely ill sister, Robin, is already there. Seven other people arrive: Sol, Lena's boyfriend; Kerry, the girl Sol dumped to be with Lena; Park, Robin's ex-boyfriend; Angie, the girl Park dumped Robin to be with; Flynn, a mysterious new student from England; Shani, Park's childhood friend who's nursing a not-so-secret crush on Flynn; and Bert, an agreeable guy who's either secretly brilliant (according to Shani) or just massively lucky (according to me).
The weekend fun kicks off, as much as possible considering Robin's condition and the volatile combination of attendees, most of whom were also at the fateful party that resulted in Robin's kidney damage. Supposedly everything that happened that night was an accident, but what if it wasn't? Shani, in particular, can't quite banish that thought. What if one of her friends had purposely tried to kill Robin? This becomes an important question when the weekend takes a sudden turn for the worse. The garage blowing up is only the beginning.
I read nearly everything Christopher Pike wrote prior to 1996, so I assume I read this too, although I didn't remember one bit of it. I'll count it as a reread anyway.
So, this one actually held up pretty well. I don't know that I'd recommend it to someone who didn't already have the “Christopher Pike nostalgia” baggage, but the combination of characters worked well for me, and I had lots of fun when the action really got going.
There were some disappointing aspects. The supernatural elements were extremely light, limited to a mysterious shaman who told Robin a story that fit her situation eerily well. The book was also incredibly talky – Pike took his sweet time setting the stage, laying out everyone's histories with everyone else and showing how they all interacted. It wasn't until the story was more than halfway over that the action started and, even then, the characters spent a lot of time talking (there was a very long attempt to recreate what happened the night of the party that landed Robin in the hospital). I was able to put up with it because I actually liked all those messy relationships, even though I couldn't quite figure out why some of the characters had agreed to spend the weekend together, considering how much they hated each other.
As for how things worked out in the end, I swear, it read like something out of a made-for-TV thriller. There were lots and lots of snakes, an annoying character who wouldn't stop screaming, and multiple possible villains. Characters were drugged and/or poisoned. It was a mess. And at the same time, not nearly as big of a mess as I expected, in large part due to Pike's decision to turn this into one giant reader fake-out.
I'll confirm one thing as true: yes, Robin's kidneys were damaged, and yes, she was on dialysis. As far as everything else went, it'd seem like you knew the truth and then it was revealed that actually something completely different had been going on. I suppose I should have felt cheated – there was so much fakery that the Carlton mansion might as well have been a Hollywood set – but instead I had a blast. I doubt I'd react so well if I had been able to remember anything from my original reading of it, or if I read another Pike novel soon after this one that did the same thing, but it was a lot of fun this once.
That said, wow was the ending fluffy. Why were any of these people still friends? Most of them should have quietly agreed to keep each other's secrets and then never talked to each other again. Or, you know, called the cops on each other. No matter the motives, the result was still arson and attempted murder. These people win the award for most dysfunctional friends ever.
If you're looking for something completely bonkers, it'd probably be best to read something else, especially if you're interested in Pike's usual supernatural elements. But if you'd like a slightly more grounded level of bonkers and don't mind massive fake-outs, this might be a good one to try.
I'm probably giving this too high of a rating, but I don't care - it's how I felt immediately after finishing the book.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)