Bites
August 29, 2012

Published July 1, 1990.

Author website.

When the Devil’s Elbow roller coaster goes off its track and several teenagers are hurt, everyone thinks it was just an accident. So no one listens when Tess says she saw someone tampering with the track. 

But one person knows it’s true. That person is playing a deadly game – and is going to make sure Tess doesn’t stand in the way. Tess soon finds she’s being terrorized, with threatening notes, menacing phone calls, slashed tires, and nasty pranks. When another “accident” occurs in the Funhouse, Tess is sure that she was the intended victim. Who is committing all these horrifying acts? And why? 

Tess is just beginning to realize that the Funhouse can scare you …to death.  (goodreads.com)

There are few things more awesome than cheese and FUNHOUSE certainly fit that mould nicely.  Not only that but I love reading un-updated works if for nothing more than the outdated styles of dress.  Boys in cutoff jeans?  Ha!  But I remember it.  Most of it would probably be pretty innocuous to the younger readers now simply because the descriptions aren’t too detailed but every once in a while you’ll get the little nugget of nostalgia that’ll have you going ‘yup.’  Love it.

FUNHOUSE combines two of my favorite things: horror and boardwalks.  Thanks Lost Boys.  You rear your mulleted head once again.  There just always seems to be something sinister underlying a carnival-like atmosphere.  I’m pretty sure it’s the clowns.  Are the looking at the same cover I am?  So going in it had the proper ambiance for me to be nice and cozily happy.

The thing about a lot of these old school cheesy YA horror books is that there really isn’t any supernatural involved; they’re mostly thriller but the way they’re written it could go either way.  This particular novel utilized pseudo-flashback pieces that involved a diary and insinuated at maybe a haunting.  Personally I think that’s just enough to pull it all together.

Another common theme in the cheese is the novel having at least one character that you desperately wish would get hit by a bus.  They’re just total shitbags that you can’t help but wonder why they have friends at all.  Trudy was that person in FUNHOUSE.  She’s just an all around nasty, negative human being that any normal person would probably drop like a bad habit.  But I guess because she’s rich and all their daddies work together she’s automatically lumped in with the rest.  Sucks for the rest of them.

Tess is the kind of heroine that I wish I saw more of in today’s YA.  She has Sam (her perhaps/maybe-boyfriend) constantly trying to protect her but she’s so adamant that she can take care of herself that I couldn’t help but go yeah!  Granted she takes it to a point of it being a fault, especially when the events start getting drastic and her life appears to really be in danger but she wants to stand on her own two feet.  She don’t need no man to protect her!  Yes!  Aside from that she is strong, wanting to solve the mystery behind all of these events even in the face of doubt and ridicule.  Everyone else things it’s a string of unfortunate accidents (of course) but Tess knows better.  There are too many elements going on for any of it to be coincidental.

Hoh is one of the better old school YA horror writers.  She doesn’t pander to her audience and just lets the story tell itself.  None of the dialogue feels contrived and the characters feel real to me.  Of course there’s a bit of the melodrama going on and the entire plot centers around a bunch of rich kids but they’re not obnoxious about it.  They don’t flaunt their parents’ wealth.  It’s not a motivating factor in the story; they all just are and who their parents are just happen to be who their parents are.  It’s not a card to play, which I liked.

FUNHOUSE is a great addition to my cheese library and one I’ll probably re-read at some point in the future.  There’s a classic feel to it, aside from the fact that the roller coaster is named The Devil’s Elbow.  How . . . threatening?

Ban Factor: High – Teenagers are ruthlessly targeted by some unknown entity for deliverance of dire pain.  Oh no.  We just can’t have that.  It’s too much for them to take.

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