Windy, our narrator, and Elena are best friends. They aren't in the popular crowd, but they are "GP," which stands for "General Public." A new girl, Nina, starts attending their middle school and befriends Windy and Elena and helps to fend off the bulling they endure from the popular girls.
At first it seems Nina is the perfect friend, but slowly, she begins to separate Windy from Elena. She also wants Windy to become her "breath sister." Windy has no idea what this means, but she soon finds out.
What unfolds is completely predictable, and unfortunately, Choke comes off a little preachy. There is never any doubt why Choke was written. Also, there is much back story and very little action, so it's hard to be invested. The tense and dangerous choking game doesn't even occur for the first time until page 93 (ARC has 230 pages) and really only happens one other time in the book.
Not that I think there needs to be a lot of disturbing violence in a book, but there needs to be something interesting going on besides Windy secretly adopting a cat and her visits to her friend, Mrs. Vargas, at the old folks home. There is a somewhat interesting middle school dynamic -- liking boys, shopping, striving to be popular -- but it comes off very cliché. The writing is simple and easy, which bothered me, but is appropriate for the target group.
I understand Lopez' motivation for writing Choke. Hopefully those who read Choke will find the ending disturbing enough that they will never consider participating in this activity. There definitely needs to be more books that expose our young kids to the hazards of this "game." I just don't know if Choke will have wide appeal to middle school students.
Published by Scholastic Press, July 1, 2012
ARC obtained from the publisher
230 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)
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