An angry ghost seeks revenge for teenage bullying in this debut thriller inspired by the King of Pop’s darker lyrics.
After Diana’s husband dies in a car accident, she and her three daughters, Janet, Whitney and Sue, move back to Diana’s hometown of Gary, Indiana. In her late 30s, the attractive Diana appears to be mother of the year until strange things—such as unusually cold drafts—begin to happen in their new home. Diana starts sleepwalking, and when a voice tells her to “push” daughter Whitney’s voice box “for a surprise,” she nearly strangles Whitney. Horrified, the daughters move in with their grandmother, who lives a few doors down. The author’s simple style is easily accessible and has the feel of a late-night sleepover ghost story. For example, after the voice directs Diana to strangle Whitney “for a surprise,” the chapter ends with the exclamation “Surprise!” The voice is an angry ghost named Michael who is determined to make Diana suffer as she made him suffer many years ago. Diana can’t remember Michael, even though they dated in high school, and she is now living in the house where he died. He blames the suicide of his best friend, Susie, on Diana, because a jealous Diana framed Susie in high school by putting drugs in Susie’s locker and telling the principal. Diana spirals into alcoholism and many sleepless nights, and Michael taunts her with the words “Is It Scary?” in blood on the wall as the former teen bully morphs into a pathetic, tortured adult. Even with the cutesy references to Michael Jackson’s music and life (Gary, Indiana, is Jackson’s hometown), the plot is predictable. It’s hard to imagine why Diana would stay in the house or why Sue would move back in with her, but like actors in a B movie, the characters’ actions don’t always make sense, which can be a distraction. The fast-moving text relies on conventional horror story images and stale descriptions, which make it far from scary. For example, Michael acts like a comic book villain when mentally torturing Diana: “His hysterical laughter echoed the room and pierced through her spine, just like his threatening eyes through her terrified soul.”
A frivolous diversion from reality for the R.L. Stine fan.