Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Balzer + Bray, 294 Pages
Expected US Release Date: September 18, 2012
Source: Publisher at ALA Annual 2012 (thank you Harper Teen!)
And their doom comes swiftly.
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?
"I know you, Meg Pritchard. You don't say anything unless you mean it."
Meg winced. That was true, the fip side being that she didn't say half of what she wanted to.
Fair warning, I'm a damn scaredy-cat. I don't watch scary movies, I don't do horror or thriller or any of those. I still jump while watching I Know What You Did Last Summer, I definitely scream during Scream (PUN!), I hid through most of The Ring, and you can tell how long it's been since I've even attempted terrifying movies by how dated those examples are. I read some scary books, but I learned my lesson when I was 11 and reading Stephen King's Misery at 1am (add in that I even wanted to be a writer then, and you can imagine my pure terror) and have not done that since.
So I went into Ten a wee bit scared. I'd heard it was nail-biting, and I wasn't even going to play with that. But I'd also heard great things, I think Gretchen is possibly the most adorable and awesome author I've ever seen (I was so close to meeting her at ALA! We were at the same party! But alas, it shall have to wait until the release party.), and when I realized it was reminiscent of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - one of the classic, well-deserved mystery thrillers that everyone needs to have read if they haven't - I knew I'd give it a shot. And I'm so glad I did!
Under the ruse of a party thrown by a popular girl, ten teens gather on a remote island for the weekend of a lifetime - unknowingly the last weekend for most of them. We focus mainly on Meg, who has her own connections to a few of the select ten teens, and only later learn how they are all interconnected. From the moment Meg and Minnie step off the ferry onto the rainy island, I think my heart jumped into my throat and never, ever came back down until I closed the book.
Truthfully, it wasn't as terrifying as I thought it would be. There were definite moments I had to remind myself to breathe, and the entire last 40 pages or so I had to make sure I read in daylight - but the majority is that twisted thriller type, where it's the anticipation and the thinking that messes with you the most. That half-knowing but whole-wondering that drives a person absolutely mad.
In terms of the characters, I was a bit underwhelmed - they were mostly flat, I found Meg to be a bit forced, and I felt the story lacked a bit of "show." We were told details, told who they were, told everything - and that's fine in a sense, but I never connected with any of them. I just had to take it at face value, and I never believed in any of them. I much prefer seeing their stories, really understand who they are, rather than being presented with details - and I was disappointed, because there was so much potential here! It would have made the book much longer, yes, but done right? That background detail would have been awesome.
However, I do understand that in some ways, the author couldn't give those details because it would detract from how we're taken through the story: through the diary. I can't say much more about it, because it would spoil a lot of the book, but I get why this is written this way. I don't have to like it, but I get it.
The story totally makes up for my disappointment with the character development though. COMPLETELY. This is a classic whodunit type story, where everyone and no one is innocent and guilty. (Schrodinger's cat, WHATUP!) I was questioning, and even though some parts seem a bit predictable to me, I was completely wrapped up in everything. I wanted to scream when I got scared, I held my breathe whenever a chapter ended, and I was totally taken by the story as a whole. Bodies were piling up everywhere, and I kind of loved how quickly kids were dying, in a terribly twisted way. I also loved the creativity behind the book: how people died, why they were dying and why they were chosen to die that way...so good. All of it.
The scary touches of scenery and the DVD and slashes on the wall were a cherry on top of a thrilling novel. Like I said, I don't like scary things, but I do love this book. There's something so engaging and suspenseful about the whole thing, and I absolutely could not put it down or look away. I even may have maybe sorta possibly taken an extra few seconds (or a whole minute, whatever) during my work breaks and lunches just so I could keep reading. (If my bosses or co-workers are reading this: TOTALLY KIDDING NO I DIDNT I SAID MAYBE.)
Read this book. Even if you're like me and hate scary stuff and want to hide in a corner under a blanket and stick the book in the freezer* at the mere mention of darkness and an abandoned mansion and house boat on an island, you will love Ten. It is that good.
PS. Have you seen the trailer? Trust me when I say it portrays the feel of the book PERFECTLY. Plus, that's the author singing! How awesome is that?! (if you can't see the vid below, check out this post for it!)
PPS. Join the Army of Ten!
*if you get this reference, you are my new best friend.