Title: Nightmare Hall #4: The Wish by Diane Hoh
Summary: Alex is the first to notice the strange little booth at the back of the campus pizza place. Wishes granted, fortunes told says the sign on the glass. Inside sits The Wizard – an eerie wooden figure with sinister blue eyes. Alex’s friends make wishes. And one by one, they come true – in terrifying, twisted ways. Is The Wizard behind the horror? Or is someone else to blame, someone with a deadly wish all his – or her – own…
Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.
Wishmaster is one of my favourite guilty pleasure horror movies. The Buffy episode “The Wish” introduced us to Anya, possibly my favourite character in that show. I’ve yet to check out Wish Upon, which hit cinemas this year, but it’s safe to say I enjoy the premise of an entity making wishes go horribly wrong. This book came before all of those, so although it’s much tamer and simpler, I still remember having a good time with it. And thankfully, Hoh herself is still at the helm.
[Wing: I also love that Buffy episode, and monkey’s paw type situations are one of my favourite horror tropes, so I’m excited about this book.]
Alexandria “Alex” Edgar is the first to notice the booth hidden away in a dark alcove at the back of Vinnie’s pizzeria. She mistakes it for a phone booth. Inside sits The Wizard, seemingly made out stone, with a white mustache and beard. His eyes are made of glass and are deep, dark blue. He wears a pointed hat and a long, flowing gown. Alex is joined by her roommates, the fraternal twins Julie Pierce and Jenny Pierce. Julie wonders what will happen if she wishes to be beautiful. “My face is so boring. It’s worth a quarter to wish for something much more interesting. Maybe something exotic, like Alex here, with her Bambi eyes and that wild white streak in her hair.” [Wing: So, Alex is Rogue from the first three X-Men movies long before those movies came out.]
Also arriving to inspect The Wizard are Gabriel “Gabe” Russo and Marty Jerome. It’s suggested Julie has some affection for freckled, red-haired Gabe. Gabe says he would wish for a pair of wheels so he wouldn’t have to walk everywhere. He’s so tired of walking, he thinks his legs will be stumps by the time he graduates. Yet again, I’m already enjoying Hoh’s dialogue. No, it’s not laugh out loud hilarious, but it’s witty, smart dialogue without trying to be trendy teen speak. Gabe and Julie make wishes (beauty and a car, respectively), despite Alex being a bit overly melodramatic about it all being a waste of time.
Julie’s fortune is BEWARE THE LOOKING GLASS, LEST YOU SEE YOUR TRUE REFLECTION
Gabe’s fortune is SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Alex thinks they’re just generic sayings, such as “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and have probably been in there for years. She continues to whinge about The Wizard being stupid, and insists that they go eat. They’re joined by Bennett Stark and Kyle Leavitt. Bennett is on crutches. He would have wished for two new knees, if he could have. Jenny would have wished for a prince charming, if she could have. Bennett is confident he’ll be up and at it in no time, playing by Saturday, but it’s remarked his knees are like pure marshmallow, and it would take a medical miracle.
So why does Alex have such heebie jeebies about The Wizard? There’s some nonsense about a grotesque plaster figure of a woman at an amusement park that she saw when she was nine, around the time of her parents’ divorce. Whatever. Now seated in a booth, the group aren’t happy to see Kiki Duff, a soccer player, who always speaks before thinking, and doesn’t care if she hurts people’s feelings. At least, that’s why Alex dislikes her. Kiki mentions she shouldn’t eat anything, because she needs to lose five pounds.
That is an awesome name, and it’s cool that Salem University has a women’s soccer team. [Wing: This is a lot of characters in pretty short order. Also, I am very impressed that Salem University has a women’s soccer team this long before the love of soccer really hit in the USA.]
They hear thunder, and soon it is raining, with hail as well. The owner of Vinnie’s pizzeria – Vinnie – reveals that he got The Wizard from a flea market. Gabe and Marty are about to make another wish, when there is a crash of thunder, and a bolt of lightning strikes right through the restaurant and straight into The Wizard. Not sure how that works, but okay. The Wizard isn’t damaged, other than a scorch mark on his hat.
They decide to go back to campus, with Alex, Marty, Gabe, Jenny and Julie going in Julie’s car. Bennett and Kiki go with Kyle, in his pickup truck. On the way back, Nightmare Hall gets name-checked. Julie doesn’t see a fallen tree in the road until it’s too late. The impact flings Julie’s head forward into the steering wheel, twice. The front of the car crumples inwards, straight into Gabe’s legs.
The car only has two doors, so none of the kids in the back can get out. Alex seems to have completely dissociated from reality in the aftermath of the crash. Rescue units arrive and take them all to hospital. Alex only has a couple of bruises, and no concussion. Her mind was apparently just protecting her from the horror of the crash. They learn that Julie’s face has been destroyed, with several broken bones in her face, including a fractured jaw and cheekbone. Gabe’s legs have been crushed. Alex returns to her dorm alone, and realises Julie’s wish to change her “boring” face had now come true.
[Wing: Sorry, can’t read anymore, I’m too busy clutching my face at the sheer horror of the idea of that much pain.]
The next day, Alex and Marty head to the hospital. Along the way, they see Kiki, Bennett and Kyle outside Vinnie. Bennett is no longer on crutches. The football team needs him, now that they’re without Gabe. Kiki reveals she made a wish with The Wizard, wanting to lose some weight.
Kiki’s fortune is SELF-DISCIPLINE IS THE GREATEST OF ALL VIRTUES
They all arrive at the hospital and visit with Gabe. He learns about the seriousness of Julie’s injuries for the first time. A nurse informs Jenny that her sister is awake. Alex heads down to the second floor to see if she can visit with Julie as well. Before she can reach there, she hears someone scream.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 point
Someone has given Julie a mirror just so she can see the severity of her injuries. Alex wonders who could be so cruel. I wonder why The Wizard would be bothering with such typical 90s YA horror mind-game hijinks. I mean, really? Alex, Marty and Jenny return to campus and blah, blah, blah….I’m getting bored. I can barely tell any of the male characters apart and I don’t see what The Wizard hopes to achieve by giving a fucking mirror to a girl with facial injuries. Alex thinks how nothing will ever be the same again, how everything is different, blah, blah, blah. Good grief, Alex! Melodramatic much? And you’re boring me. Finn Conran from Deadly Attraction gets name-checked.
After her afternoon classes, Jenny heads off for her shift at WKSM, the campus radio station, where she has a two-hour shift as DJ. The station is housed on the 18th floor of some type of belltower, with observation decks for telescopes on several floors. In the office, she finds Kyle, Bennett, Marty and Jenny. Bennett is back on crutches. I have no idea what they’re all doing there, but whatever. Robert Q Parker from Deadly Attraction gets name-checked as the radio station manager, but who has recently been replaced.
Conveniently, they all leave shortly after Alex arrives. During her shift, she gets a call from someone asking to play a song in dedication to Julie, called “Who’s Sorry Now?” and says they hope she learned her lesson. Alex is appalled. The station doesn’t have the song, but she wouldn’t have played it anyway. After her shift, she looks for the person who’s supposed to replace her – Cath Devon from The Silent Scream. [Wing: I’m kind of loving these references to earlier books, as little as they are. And the fact that I am so focused on them probably means I’m getting bored with the book.] Except she discovers she’s been locked in. She tries to phone maintenance, but the line is dead. Then the lights go out. This non‑excitement goes on for five pages before the double glass doors to the observation deck swing open, and a powerful gust of wind drags Alex through the doors. [Wing: I kind of like some of this, except it goes on too long; it could have been tense and creepy, but it needs to be a short, snappy scene in order to make that work.]
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 points
The wind seems determined to drag Alex to her death, but she stops her deadly slide along the ground by grabbing onto a telescope, and holding on for dear life until the wind dies down. [Wing: That is one sturdily attached telescope.] Once she’s safe, Beth Lacey arrives. She’s the new manager who replaced Robert Q. She says she noticed no wind, that the door wasn’t locked, the lights are on, and the phone is working.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. An entity with the ability to grant wishes is really going to spent its time faffing around gaslighting pretty young college freshmen?
The next day, after visiting Julie, the gang go to Vinnies. Their booth is too close to The Wizard for Alex’s comfort. Kyle wants to go someplace else because Vinnie’s is too noisy. Alex wonders if he feels bad for accidentally locking her in the tower. Alex notices that Kiki seems to have lost weight. Marty want to make a wish with The Wizard, hoping it will tell him how he’ll fare with an upcoming speech.
Marty’s fortune is SILENCE IS GOLDEN
They think it sounds more appropriate for Kyle, who wanted peace and quiet away from Vinnies. Marty chucks the card in the trash as they leave. The next day, Alex gets a phone call from Cath Devon, apologising for not showing up. Someone called and told her she wasn’t needed. She says the person said their name was Kyle.
Red Herrings: 1 point
If you ever wanted a prime example of a filler chapter, Chapter 7 is it. Boring. They go to the football game, where Ian Banion, Jess Vogt and Milo Keith from The Silent Scream are all name-checked. Marty and Kyle, because they are freshman, don’t get to play. Yawn. Bennett is sulky about being on crutches. Yawn. Alex is summoned over the loudspeaker that she has a phone call. A flat, monotone voice says, “Hear me well, Alexandria. Take me seriously or you will regret it. Do not dispute the wisdom of the ages. Skepticism is dangerous. Heed me well.”
That’s kind of cool, but is wasted when it’s revealed at Vinnie’s that it was just a crank call from Kiki. Sigh.
Alex returns to Lester Dorm, but doesn’t feel like being alone. She can hear a party going on in a nearby room, and decides to go and join in so that she can be around other people. While looking out the window, she sees two people on the observation deck of the sixth floor of the bell tower. She can’t see who the couple are, since they’re too far away, and it’s dark, but one is taller than the other. She thinks it looks as if the shorter one is trying to run away from the taller one. The shorter person winds up with their back against the wall, and Alex watches in horror as the taller one throws the shorter one off the observation deck.
[Wing: WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY. Damn.]
Man, Salem University needs to do something about its students being pushed out of windows or off observation decks. Does it not have an Occupational Safety & Health plan in place?
Alex watches the person hit the awning on the second floor and bounce off, down to the ground. She screams for someone at the party to call for help, and rushes down to the scene of the crime. She discovers that the person thrown off the observation deck was Kyle.
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point
There’s a pool of blood under Kyle’s head, but he’s still breathing. Alex races to the sixth floor observation deck to see if she can find anything before the police get there. Why, Alex? That’s their job. Eventually, she does manage to find a tiny gold football with a small golden hoop in the centre so it could be worn on a chain. She gives the charm to the police when they arrive at the sixth floor, and tells them she saw the whole thing. They ask where she saw it from, and she points it out. She realises with horror how well she can see into Lester Dorm, and realises that the person who attempted to kill Kyle may well have seen her witness the whole thing. [Wing: Do they then arrest her for tampering with a crime scene and potential evidence? Of course they do not.]
This is a decent turn up for the books. I thought Kyle was going to be the red herring here, but he’s out of the picture now. Next chapter, however, Hoh gives us a dream sequence as Alex goes back to her dorm to sleep, and I’m once again tapping out. Dream sequences are nothing more than word count padding and I hate them. The next day, Alex plans to visit Julie, but Jenny doesn’t want to go along, planning to study with Bennett. Alex thinks she’s too dressed up just to study, and believes that a relationship is developing between Julie and Bennett.
[Wing: There are too many characters for a book this short. No one gets well developed, and mostly they all blur together. BORED NOW.]
Kiki, Marty and Gabe join Alex in visiting Julie. Alex and Marty go to see if they can visit Kyle, but he’s in a coma and it’s not known if or when he’ll wake up. Alex discovers an envelope with Kyle’s name on it, and sees that it contains his tiny gold football charm, so she figures the one she gave to the police really did belong to the person who tried to kill Kyle, and they’re likely a football player. This is all quite dull. Alex thinks Marty is pissed off at her. I can’t bring myself to care. They return to Julie’s room, where everybody is remarking how much thinner Kiki looks. That’s when Kiki collapses to the floor.
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 2 points
In the wake of Kiki’s collapse, Alex behaves in her typically melodramatic fashion, until a nurse arrives, and chalks the collapse up to crash dieting. Kiki is allowed to leave the hospital half an hour later and they go to Vinnies. Alex asks if Marty received one of the gold footballs when he joined the football team, and he confirms this. Alex notes that his is missing, and Marty says that he lost it.
Red Herrings: 2 points
Alex goes to check out The Wizard because he featured in that dream she had that I didn’t bother reading. She wonders what she was so scared of. The Wizard is old and fraying, and obsolete in a world of rapidly progressing technology. She decides to make a wish, despite debating that Julie, Gabe and Kyle’s misfortunes all matched a statement they had made. But Kyle never actually made a wish, though.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 point
Alex’s fortune is SILENCE IS GOLDEN
This further convinces her that The Wizard is nothing to be frightened of, since it’s the same fortune Marty got. However, she thinks the message holds more relevance to her situation, since she is indeed remaining silent about the fact she witnessed Kyle being thrown off the observation deck. [Wing: Except she’s not being silent at all and told the police. Which is what she needed to do. She doesn’t really need to tell anyone else unless she wants to do so.] I kind of forgot The Wizard was even a part of this book, since the focus seems to be on a flesh-and-blood Muffin Man giving mirrors to accident victims and tossing footballers off observation decks. I wish I wasn’t bored.
Alex is questioned by police again about what she witnessed. She says there was something strange about the attacker. Something about his arm.
McGuffin, ahoy: 1 point
Alex goes to a frat party with her friends. Typically, she does not enjoy herself. She questions Bennett – who is off his crutches again (I honestly can’t keep up, but I’m figuring it’s important) – and Gabe about their football charms. Bennett says he left his at a relative’s house because he doesn’t like jewelry, and Gabe says that he lost his.
Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 1 point
Alex decides to go and visit Julie at hospital (on a Friday night, no less) yet again. She hops on a shuttle bus. After a while, she notices that it’s gaining speed. When she calls out to the driver, the driving gets even more erratic, prompting blaring horns and shouts from other drivers. Alex is about to confront him when the bus shoots off the road, and onto a dirt path. Alex has to grip one of the bus seats for support. Alex realises the driver seems to be wearing a raincoat, and has a hat pulled down over their head so she can’t make out their identity. She realises that Kyle’s attacker indeed knows who she is and has come for her. By commandeering a fucking public shuttle bus? This sequence could have been effective if it weren’t so silly.
The bus continues through the woods, until Alex hears police sirens. That’s when the driver launches themselves out the front door. Alex can’t remember what happened, but the police tell her that she managed to steer the bus until it ran out of gas. The police chased after the driver, but couldn’t find them. The police return Alex to her dorm. The next day, Jenny complains to Alex that Bennett, Gabe and Marty all deserted her at the party, and she had to walk home with another couple of girls.
Red Herrings: 5 points (+3 – one each for Bennett, Gabe and Marty)
Jenny is annoyed at Bennett, because he is spending a lot of time around The Wizard, when everybody else is bored by it. But she adds Marty and Gabe have been there a lot too. [Wing: What exactly has Bennett been doing with The Wizard? Just sitting and staring at it? Jerking off and calling its name? Jenny, why are you so annoyed?]
Red Herrings: 8 points (+3 – one each for Bennett, Gabe and Marty)
Ugh. Who’s the bad guy here? The Wizard? The person playing typical Point Horror hijinks? What’s their motive? This plot is far too thin. The next day, Alex joins the others to go to another football game, where Marty, Bennett and Gabe all get to play. They then go to Vinnies. Alex goes to the pay phone to call the police to get an update on the bus hijacker, but he still hasn’t been caught. Alex turns around, face to face now the The Wizard, and says, “You’re supposed to know so much, why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
To her horror, without even having put a quarter in, The Wizard’s arm clanks, whirs and lifts, and deposits a card. Which says:
THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND
Now, that is awesome. Just awesome. Love it. This book needs more of that. Finally, at page fucking 144, a real indication that The Wizard is a sentient being, with a bit of a sadistic sense of humour at that. Back at the booth, it’s noted once again that Kiki is really getting thin, and has been booted from the soccer team because her weight is too low. Alex asks Marty to take her home, and then changes her mind, and asks to be taken to the hospital. Good grief. I know her friend is there, but this is ridiculous. This book is literally just everybody going to a football game, to Vinnies and then the hospital. Rinse and repeat.
When visiting with Julie, Julie tells Alex how Gabe wants her to wear his gold football. Alex thinks this is strange, as Gabe had told Alex he’d lost his football charm. Holy crap, who cares? As far as setting up red herrings goes, this is about as dull as it gets! So Alex goes to check Kyle’s things (where she previously found Kyle’s football charm), and discovers that Kyle’s football charm is now gone. Whatever. Who cares? Well, Alex does, because she spends the rest of the weekend theorising that Marty, Gabe or Bennett must have taken it to replace the one they lost, because they wouldn’t want anyone to know they’d lost theirs up on the sixth floor observation deck. Huh? They’ve all openly admitted to Alex that they lost their charm!
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 2 points
Plus, I’m fucking sick to death of hearing all this dribble about the goddamn football charms! Yeesh. I thought this was a story about a carnival attraction granting twisted wishes. [Wing: USA football is king at universities here, Dade. Best embrace it.] At lunch on Sunday, Alex is with a couple of friends when they see Kiki again, looking even thinner. Kiki collapses again and gets taken to the infirmary. Hoh’s just treading on ground already covered here. Alex ruminates on how Kiki wished she could lose weight, and now she was. She also speculates on how, in a twisted, perverse way, Julie, Gabe and Kyle had all got what they asked for. Except, KYLE NEVER MADE A WISH.
Alex thinks her thoughts are crazy, crazy, crazy, and how she’ll be carted off to a mental hospital, then has dreams about being in a straightjacket.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point
[Wing: And I had such high hopes that we’d get through this book without needing this trope. Why do I even bother being optimistic anymore?]
The next day (which must be Monday), Alex and Jenny go to see Marty give his sociology speech. Except, when it’s his turn, he is physically unable to speak. His card from The Wizard comes to Alex’s mind – SILENCE IS GOLDEN. She fears another wish has come true. They go to the infirmary so Marty can get checked out. There, Alex sees Shelley, Bennett’s ex-girlfriend, who dumped him when his bad knees forced him off the team. Alex asks if Bennett ever gave her his football charm. Shelley confirms this, but says she gave it back when they broke up. So Alex knows that Bennett lied about the whereabouts of his charm. Oh, whatever.
Red Herrings: 9 points
It’s said that the doctors can find no medical reason for Marty’s lost voice, and assume it is severe stage fright.
Alex goes to visit Kiki, who looks even worse, and is unrecognisable. It’s then mentioned that Kiki’s wish to be pounds thinner had come true, even though she hadn’t actually wished that to The Wizard. Huh? Of course she did. Come on, Hoh, you’re better than this! Kiki’s fortune was: SELF-DISCIPLINE IS THE GREATEST OF ALL VIRTUES
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 3 points
Alex once again goes over how her friends had suffered fates eerily connected to the wishes they had made. She asks Marty to take her to Vinnies. Just as he’s dropping her off, he writes something down for Alex to read. Found this under the seat of my car. Thought you might like to have it. It is his football charm. Alex is touched, and can now rule Marty out as being suspicious. She goes into Vinnies, right up to The Wizard, and asks, “What are you doing to my friends?”
The Wizard’s arm cranks into life, and starts churning out cards.
YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR
Alex tells The Wizard that he’s the one who’s gone too far, and he needs to stop what he is doing to Kiki and Marty. The Wizard pops out more cards.
YOU DARE TO THREATEN ME?
NO ONE DEFIES ME
YOU ARE FINISHED
The Wizard’s moving arm makes Alex think about the arm of Kyle’s attacker, which didn’t look right to her. The right arm had appeared longer than the left arm. At that moment, Gabe arrives, on crutches. He comments on her still playing around with The Wizard. He leans against the wall, and points his right crutch at her. Alex realises that was what was funny about Kyle’s attacker’s arm. The attacker had been pointing a crutch at Kyle.
Alex begins to accuse Gabe of being the one to try and kill Kyle. Gabe lifts his crutch. Alex backs away, and gets hit on the head from behind. She comes to in what she realises is Vinnies storage closet. The shelves have empty pizza boxes, and white napkins in wrapped in clear plastic. There is a fishing pole leaning against the front corner. She steps out of the storage closet, and comes face to face with The Wizard.
Wait. This is all taking place in a public restaurant? Nobody saw a guy on crutches brain a pretty co-ed with said crutch and drag her into a storage closet? That would be pretty hard to miss.
A voice begins telling her that it is all her own doing, because Alex doubted his powers. No one doubts the powers and goes unpunished, apparently. The Wizard confesses he did indeed pull all that crap at the tower (wind, power outage, etc). There is no one else in the alcove, so Alex knows this really must be The Wizard speaking to her. The Wizard gives people what they wish for in twisted ways because they deserve to learn a lesson and appreciate what they already have, rather than wish for foolish things. The Wizard is just a moral judgy-mcjudgypants, then? A former Catholic High School teacher, perhaps? It makes about as much sense as anything else here.
Alex threatens to smash The Wizard to bits, which is when she sees the end of a crutch poking out from behind The Wizard’s booth. Alex prepares to run to the front door, but worries that Gabe might catch her if the front door is locked.
Huh? Isn’t this a public restaurant? Why would the front door be locked? She got into the place just fine.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 4 points
Alex grabs the fishing pole from the storage closet, and tells Gabe to come out from behind The Wizard, because she’s calling the police. She’s only put the coin in and dialed one “0” when the person who emerges from behind the booth isn’t Gabe, but actually Bennett Stark, now once again back on his crutches. He was the one who hit Alex on the head, and says he did the same to Gabe, after Gabe witnessed him attack Alex. He starts humming “The Wheels On The Bus.” He explains lots of football padding helped out when he had to leap out of the bus while it was still running. He stole it from the depot, when a driver left the keys in the ignition while going to get coffee.
Bennett has been performing flesh and blood tasks for The Wizard in exchange for making his knees better. That’s why he’s on and off crutches. But it never lasts. His knees are great for a bit, but then he has to perform another duty for The Wizard. Jeez, The Wizard is a hard bargainer. It’s not really made clear why The Wizard wanted Kyle thrown off the observation deck. I think it’s because it was the only way for Bennett to be able to play football, if somebody else was out of the way. Bennett doesn’t think he’s anything without football. When he stopped being able to play, he stopped being somebody (like he was in high school), and he couldn’t stand that, which is why he was willing to hurt his friends at The Wizard’s whim.
[Wing: Ugh, this could have been such a great look into the pressures of high school sports, particularly football, and what it means to the players when they can’t make it to pro, when they lose the thing the based all their identity on. And it could have been done in an excellent horror story. Except this one just has too many characters running around to the same places over and over and over again.]
The other stuff, such as Marty’s voice loss and Kiki’s weight loss, really is the work of The Wizard. Bennett seems to have no idea who gave Julie the mirror, which suggests The Wizard really was behind that, as well, which is pretty ludicrous. The book never bothers to explain otherwise.
Now, The Wizard wants Alex dead. Bennett starts advancing. Alex uses the fishing pole to knock his crutches out from under him. Bennett stumbles sideways, hits his head on the metal booth, and loses unconsciousness.
The Wizard’s arms start whirring about, and he tells Alex she will pay. Alex grabs one of Bennett’s crutches, and smashes out all of the glass in The Wizard’s booth. Then she uses the crutch on The Wizard himself, smashing his face into smithereens, the pieces falling harmlessly to the bottom of the booth.
There’s a quick chapter to show that all is well. Kiki’s eating a heap and is back to her normal size. Marty has his voice back. Gabe, Marty and Kyle are all playing in the upcoming game. Julie is out of hospital and back in public, eager to go to Vinnies. Alex is happy to go there, too, knowing the horror is over.
Then we get the epilogue! Some guy is buying The Wizard from an antiques dealer. He plans on putting The Wizard in his new hamburger place near an unnamed State University. The Wizard seems to be fully restored. The buyer and seller do not notice The Wizard’s cold blue eyes watching their every move, or see his red lips curve slightly upwards.
Well, that wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered. My best guess is that Diane Hoh was given the title to work with, but wasn’t sure whether she should deliver a supernatural tale, or the more usual standard teen mystery that Point Horror specialised in. So she went with both, and it just doesn’t work. It’s by turns boring and non-sensical. We have all that drivel with the football charms to try and create some mystery and red herrings, and meanwhile, The Wizard gets largely ignored for big chunks of time.
The Wizard an interesting creation. Where does he come from? What’s his motive? I wanted something a bit more than that he simply wanted to assist a young sociopath in attaining football stardom and popularity. He has the power to grant wishes in evil, terrifying ways, communicate telepathically, summon wild winds, and all he wants to do is fucking gaslight teenagers? And if he can do all that, why does he need a human lackey? Good grief. He should have been used to much, much better effect within these pages.
On top of that, we get one of Hoh’s most whiny, melodramatic heroines in Alex. The supporting characters are virtually interchangeable (the guys in particular) and I didn’t really care about any of them. Hoh’s usually snappy dialogue is in short supply, and her plotting is much more clunky than usual. I wish I could have liked it more. It’s Hoh’s weakest effort so far, but it’s still better than The Roommate.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 4 points
Red Herrings: 9 points
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point
Fuck My Little Pony! Friendship is not magic!: 1 point
McGuffin, ahoy: 1 point
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 2 points
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 points