* Prices may differ from that shown
Even from a young age I was a huge fan of thrillers, I remember about 7/8 years ago now, I actually made my first trip into the school library to go on the computers and ended up browsing at some books. I had heard of an author called Christopher Pike from a friend and when I was there I decided to actually get myself a library card and get this book.
The reason I'm reviewing it now, is I have just got my younger sister into this author, and one night whilst I was bored I picked up one of the books in her Pike collection and found myself reading probably one of my most favourite Pike books and the first one I ever read. It took me an hour and a half to get from cover to cover and I enjoyed it just as much as I did all of those years ago.
Marvin Summer is a typical High School lad from a small American town who is barely scraping by to pass his English lesson. However he hides a big secret which will shock not only his English teacher but his friends surrounding him as well, he is in fact the author of the series of books that his peers seem to adore and read on a daily basis, his pseudonym is actually Mack Slate and he is a teenage millionaire.
Only one person knows his true identity, even his editor and publisher think his name is Mack Slate and think he is much older than he actually is. Marvin however cannot come out until he turns 18 as his father has a gambling problem, and any money that Marvin earns until he's 18, his father will have access to.
However when Marvin starts to receive letters from someone saying they know who he is and he gets even more worried when he realises that they are indeed from the same small town that Marvin is from. Marvin starts to put all of the pieces together and realises that his story that everyone seems to love may have come true.
There are better Pike books than this one where the characters are a lot more developed and a lot easier to understand and get along with however I think the characters in this book are very good especially the protagonist Marvin Summer/Mack Slate who makes the book very believable and very interesting. I think the rest of the characters are good, but it is Marvin Summer that makes the book what it is. Pike has written a fantastic character here and the idea behind the book is just brilliant.
To this day I love Pike books; I can't say I have read all of them because seriously I would not have enough time or money to read all of them. The guy has been writing since before I was even born and this book was released when I was 1 years old and has probably released two books a year since then.
This book is not my favourite; I think that falls to one of the most recently released Pike books called Falling. It is one of the only ones that I have read that falls into the 'adult thriller' category, as the rest of his books are merely aimed at the 'teenager thriller' category.
I think the reason why I like Pike books, especially his more recent ones is the research that obviously goes into his books, his books have got smarter over the years and I think quite a few details that should have been told were told later in the book rather than at the beginning, but he really does have a fantastic writing style and any teenager who wants to read more compelling books, but does not want to be terrified, then look at Christopher Pike and some of his books as you'll be enthralled from cover to cover.
Until the age of 11, I hated reading. My Reading Log that I had in English was a complete lie and I used to bull my way through it and got into trouble a lot. That was until I read the Pike books and I think this is the reason why I give this book more of a higher rating than other people do is because it was the book that made me pick up the rest of Christopher Pike's book of the library's shelf and sit down to read it and actually made me enjoy reading.
A very good book and you can get it pretty cheap off EBay, I think my sister brought it for £0.90 postage and packaging included.
(C) Kirsty 2009
+ MEET THE MAIN CHARACTER +
Marvin Summer is your typical high school boy from a typical small American town - in no ways a jock since he's not athletic, and in no ways a geek since he's barely scraping by in English class. Quite easy to miss, really, and admits he is hopelessly single as he gazes wistfully towards the object of his affection (unrequited teenage love seems to be a standard theme in Pike books, I've noticed) as she's thoroughly engrossed in the latest book of a best selling murder mystery series.
The author's name, Mack Slate, is on everybody's lips as they eagerly await the final installment... speculation runs amok in school corridors and shopping malls as well as throughout the book world over his 'whodunnit' writings. Teenage girls daydream about what this amazing writer must look like... thirties, married, blond... twenties, single, living by the beach... Actually, it's more like seventeen, virgin, and sitting two rows behind you.
Yes, folks, good ol' Marvin here is a secret teenage millionaire! The only person who knows that he is the writing sensation Mack Slate is his eleven year old sister, Ann. The confusion as to why he is still bothering to go to school and remain in the town is a mystery quickly solved when we discover that Marvin feels he has to keep his fame and fortune a secret, lest his alcoholic parents seize control over his bank account as he is not yet a legal adult. Although his father no longer lives with them, he does have a gambling problem and a violent streak, so it's understandable why Marvin would keep quiet. And you feel for the poor wee soul, which is always helpful in character development.
+ OTHER CHARACTERS +
Shelly Quade - the beautiful classmate Marvin believes is 'The One'. They dated briefly the previous year, until Shelly's boyfriend Harry was found dead in the lake after committing suicide. Now she's dating Harry's friend Triad, so will Marvin be able to continue where they had left off?
Triad Tyler - now dating Shelly, after his buddy was found dead (what are friends for?). Complete jock neanderthal, but seems to have the odd sensitive moment. Bless.
Ann McGaffer - the main character in Marvin's series, named after his sister. The beautiful and popular teenage girl was found dead in the town lake, and although there is no shortage of suspects in the murder, everyone is desperate to know who the culprit was... although not even Marvin knows yet (damn procrastination!).
+ SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? +
The way Marvin saw it, was that he'd just have to wait out the two months till he's eighteen, then move on to pastures new, and not be afraid to spend his money. Well... apparently someone has discovered Mack Slate's true identity, and lets him know this by posting him an unsigned letter from his hometown. At first Marvin feels a little paranoid but decides to ignore it as someone trying to mess with his head, and that it was just a coincidence it was sent from where he stays. But then another letter arrives, and Marvin finds himself drawn into something as complex as his own plot lines... with some strange similarities... could the murder that Marvin wrote about actually be true?!
+ GOOD GRIEF, WHAT HAPPENS THEN? +
Pah! As if I'd tell you, buy the book so the poor guy can get some royalties! It's clear that Marvin's got enough on his plate with his stressed agent demanding the manuscript for a book that's not even been started and is already months overdue, and coping with a constantly drunk mother and trying to take care of his sister... so when the bizarre anonymous notes are arriving and getting more personal, you do feel for the guy (although you do chide him slightly for buggering off to do detective work when he should be finishing his book, the git).
The twists and turns in the book though are quite surprising, and you do begin to wonder about some of the characters' intentions - although when Marvin is also getting these little warning signs you do wonder what you're getting set up for. Will Marvin's detective work pay off? Will he get Shelly? Will he finish the damn book and prevent his agent from having a stroke?!
+ MY OPINION +
Marvin seems a lovely guy, quite witty and funny, and he had the odd one-liner that made me chuckle although it was a bit difficult to totally identify with him regarding his feelings towards Shelly (when Christopher Pike writes from a female's perspective, he mentions the funny feeling in your stomach you get when you see someone you find rather dashing (fancy the pants off)... but with Marvin there seems to be some jitters - nothing descriptive regarding physical reactions, but some amusing little thoughts as if he's talking to himself. Like being completely excited that Shelly remembered his name then realising it would be a bit daft if she didn't since they'd had five dates the previous year).
However, when Marvin got mad then decided to exact his revenge on someone... that's the part I sat up and took notice, till Marvin began thinking how all the preparation involving in committing such "a wicked deed" didn't feel at all like he described it in his books, blah blah blah - JUST DO IT, MAN! Then of course when there are flaws in the plan... whoopsie! That can just be something to try and work through. No momentum is lost here really, and strangely you're not horrified that good ol' Marvin is going to try and harm someone - you're pretty much rooting for him, although will it even work?
This is not a book about revenge (read 'Gimme A Kiss' for that kinda thing), but Marvin and his little sister were really the only two characters you liked. And even then, his sister is probably the smartest of the two in questioning whether if people are what they seem and if they're just using others for something they want.
Oddly, the characters weren't described physically that much, only as 'handsome' or 'her smile shone'... I don't think it was until about a third of the way through the book that I found out what colour Shelly's hair was. And as for Marvin, all I know is that he considers himself to have 'dark features'. But perhaps because this is a Pike book from a boy's perspective, perhaps we're not going to get the amount of detail we would had the book been from a female character's point of view?
All in all, it is a good book to read and with an interesting storyline. Especially since it is regarding an author with a pseudonym - since Christopher Pike is also a pen name, you do wonder how much of what Marvin says is actually coming from Pike's own experience. The main character is likeable, you hope things turn out for him, but you feel the ending could have been a bit better and I was unsure if I would have done what Marvin had, resulting in me losing a bit of respect for him. Which sucks, but I suppose it's rare when you find a character anywhere that you can say in all honesty 'I would have done that too'. Oh well.
I'll give it a 2 out of 5 and wouldn't recommend it for first time Pike readers, since I've only read this 3 times in the past seven years so it isn't really a favourite. I also felt that more could have been done with the storyline and character descriptions, since I couldn't imagine them clearly like I usually do. And since it was written in 1992, it isn't aging as well as other Pike books since it mentions computers and printers... wasn't quite the advent of laptops and laserjets, you understand. And like I said, the ending and how things all tied together felt like a bit of a cop out. Pfft, back on the bookcase for you!
+ AVAILABILITY +
Amazon.co.uk - used and new from £0.01, various editions
eBay uk - currently from £0.70
waterstones.com - £5.99 new
ISBN (of my copy) - 0-671-69059-0
© bandcamp 2007 - onwards. Plagiarism punishable by being poked with a REALLY sharp pencil. Repeatedly. Till my arm hurts. Then someone else can take over.