Goodreads description:Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they’re not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her “Choker” after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.
Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe’s on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara’s life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.
But just as quickly as Cara’s life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?
I’m not completely sure what I was expecting when I chose to read this book, but I was really disappointed.
Cara is a sad girl in the background of her school. She’s on the track team, but she’s not especially talented. She eats lunch with her teammates but they’re not her friends. She has a crush on a popular guy with a popular girlfriend. Popular girls make fun of her. Her parents work all the time and don’t spend a lot of time with her. She’s an outsider in every aspect of her life, but she remembers her best friend from childhood: Zoe.
After she chokes at lunch, the popular girls turn up their bullying and start calling Cara “Choker. ” They are awful to her which obviously leads to stress and feelings of alienation. Her mother realizes things are touchy, but doesn’t do anything about it. But out of nowhere, Zoe appears! Zoe has problems at home and asks Cara to harbor her. (Note: these are not the type of problems I would want my friend to hide from anyone. I would hope anyone reading would feel the same way) Things suddenly start becoming better for Cara personally while other weird things happen around town.
A popular girl goes missing and leaves her best friend, another popular and mean girl, despondent. Things have never been better for Cara: Ethan is confiding in her, she’s doing well in track and making friends with her teammates, nobody is picking on her and she has her best friend living with her. But things are creepy with Zoe, and even Cara can tell something is off. Zoe is manipulative and possessive. She’s gleeful when bad things happen and Cara starts to suspect Zoe.
ALERT: spoilers ahead.
To me, this book was extremely predictable. For a while, I suspected that Zoe was dead and Cara was just imagining her, but the fact that she was imaginary the whole time didn’t surprise me at all. It reminded me a little of the movie The Uninvited, and I know there are other examples that I can’t recall.
Cara thinks Zoe is real and it’s important to her that Zoe is real, that there is someone who genuinely cares for her and wants to be her friend. It’s sad that Cara needed affection and attention so badly that she came up with a fictional friend. She had mental problems when she was younger, and her parents knew she had issues but they were pretty neglectful of her condition. That she was allowed to sink so low that she started harming people is ridiculous and sad. It’s unfortunate that she was bullied, but her mental state should have been looked after.
I was a little creeped out by the book and things “Zoe” did, but it left me feeling really sad. I know that there are people out there with mental issues that are neglected and then they go out and do horrible things. But it was easy for me to figure out the catch of the story and it just felt pointless to me.
That being said, the writing wasn’t bad. The interactions between Cara and Ethan would have been cute if it wasn’t so blatantly obvious that Cara had done something to his girlfriend. The ending of the book was sufficiently creepy, with Cara understanding that Zoe isn’t real but choosing to indulge in the delusion anyway. I think I’d be interested in reading anything else by Woods, provided she was a little more original.