Dude. This plot…
I’d like to paint you a picture of myself with both hands raised to the sky in the ultimate gesture of WTFery. Christopher Pike never ceases to make my head explode like a watermelon stuffed with dynamite. But in a good way, mind you. After I’ve sponged my brain off the floor, I usually trot up to the Master of YA Suspense and plead “Please Sir, may I have some more?”
Since Die Softly is out-of-print and you’ll probably have to scavenge the four corners of the earth to find a used copy (like I did), I see nothing wrong in engaging in a little spoiling of the plot. But first, the opener:
“His blood was hot. His thoughts were naughty. Outside, in front of the gymnasium, were Alamo High’s cheerleaders, posing prettily for Herb’s camera. Inside his head were the same cheerleaders, only in his imagination they were even prettier—they were naked. Soon they would be naked. It would be that night that he would set his plan in motion.”
Now that’s how you kick off a novel! If that doesn’t make you want to read ahead, you are dead inside! I don’t normally quote from books, but in this case, I considered this one of the best openers I’ve encountered in a long time and it is, quite simply, a work of art. Of course, if you value simple, engaging, and most importantly, entertaining writing as art, then we visceral readers are on the same page. Christopher Pike always entertains and I can’t help but wonder how many high schoolers would graduate with a life-long love of reading if they were assigned to read Die Softly in English class as opposed to say, The Scarlet Letter. But that is a topic for discussion on another day…
Die Softly is an early ‘90’s relic, a breed of YA horror that cannot exist in today’s YA market. Imagine the controversy, the banning parties, and the book burnings if this story was published today. This is prime example of pre-Columbine YA literature and it should be preserved as a slice of simpler times.
Herb, our slightly pervy protagonist, plants his camera in the girl’s shower and plans to distribute the nudy pics on graduation day. He has a crush on Alexa, one of the cheerleaders, who’s best friend Lisa (another bouncy cheerleader) perished in a fiery car crash the day before. The film Herb develops shows Alexa sneaking up to Lisa with a baseball bat.
Then a series of seriously weird shit goes down in which Herb suspects his friends of trying to KILL him to get the negatives. Also, a crack addict jock tries to CRUSH Herb at a gas station when Herb’s friend does a DRIVE-BY and saves the day.
Somewhere in the middle of the book, Herb and Alexa hide in a bush and watch a stand off between minor characters in which someone is SHOT BY A SNIPPER RIFFLE and another someone is IMPALED.
Where is this town and why are all the teens packing heat?!!!
Okay. So I promised you the plot, but I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Nudy pics. An underground cocaine ring operated by evil cheerleaders who share the same boyfriend. Snipper riffles. You can’t read this in a YA anymore…
The ending threw me for a loop and it was, dare I say, ironic? I love how Pike isn’t afraid to throw his characters under the bus, even if that means killing off his narrator and still tie up his loose ends and finish on a high note.
Now if only I could find Master of Murder my quest to recapture my tween years will be complete!