The Invitation Review
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High school can be pretty tough—especially if you’re not a member of the in crowd. In author Diane Hoh’s teen thriller, The Invitation, five high school losers get a chance at popularity—but they soon find that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cass Rockham’s ultra-exclusive annual party is the biggest, most exciting thing to happen to Greenhaven’s teenagers each year. They anxiously await the day when the invitations arrive, hoping that they’ve made the cut.

Sarah Drew and her friends never expected to make the guest list, so they’re shocked to find the invitations in their mailboxes. Everyone’s thrilled to get them—except for Sarah, who’s suspicious. Still, she agrees to go, if only to make her friends happy.

Once they arrive at the big party, though, Sarah and her four friends are forced to take part in a strange game of musical chairs—a game that results in all five of them being ushered away into remote parts of the house and locked in separate rooms. They’re supposed to be a part of a human treasure hunt, but the five friends soon find themselves in danger of losing more than just a stupid game.

In setting the stage for the suspense to come, Hoh takes her time in developing her teenage characters. While she has a tendency to go into a little too much detail, often resulting in rather awkward descriptions, she nevertheless gives readers characters to whom they’ll be able to relate—from overweight Ellie and overachieving Sarah to quiet, athletic Donald. Meanwhile, as readers get to know the characters, the suspense builds, offering plenty of hints of darker things to come.

While the suspense is solid, though, the story isn’t. As the sinister plot unfolds, it seems pretty far-fetched that someone would be so spoiled and callous that she’d plan a mean (and rather ridiculous) game just to humiliate a bunch of less popular kids—especially when the game doesn’t really have much to do with the victims. And things get even more out of control (and a little over-the-top) when things turn deadly.

As the five friends struggle to escape their prisons, the solution seems all too clear—unless you know that The Invitation is actually a reprint of a book that was originally published in 1993. Considering the time, the characters wouldn’t have had cell phones to help them find and reconnect with their fellow prisoners—but young readers today might find the omission rather perplexing (as I originally did).

Perhaps the book’s biggest flaw, however, is its abrupt conclusion. After some of the characters’ secrets have been revealed—and others have met new people and possibly started new relationships—it would be nice to see how everything works out for them, to see how their experiences at the party change them. Instead, the story comes to a quick conclusion, and readers are left wondering what’s next for the characters they’ve gotten to know and care about.

Of course, young readers may be able to overlook some of the story’s plot holes and implausibilities in order to sit back and enjoy this dark and sinister high school thriller. It’s definitely far from flawless—but it could be worth a look for young fans of scary stories.

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