Hell Phone

William Sleator, Author . Abrams/Amulet $16.95 (237p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5479-3

Sleator's (The Boy Who Couldn't Die ) lean, fast-paced horror tale moves from fascinating to far-fetched, all under a palpable blanket of darkness. Nick, a high-school junior, decides to get a cell phone so he can make calls to his girlfriend, Jen. But the only one he can afford comes from a discount store and has no caller ID. Soon after acquiring it, the 17-year-old gets a sinister phone call from someone demanding to know his name and location. He gets another from a tearful woman, begging to know what happened to someone named Trang. The phone is loaded with "Games from Hell" (e.g., "Torture Master" and "Joyful Sins to Get You In")—and at least some of the inbound calls come from Hell itself. Sleator makes some interesting commentary on cell phone use and its ability to both aid in and thwart communication (when Nick and Jen go to dinner and his phone rings, she says, "I thought we came here to be together"). The sinister caller threatens to hurt Jen, then escapes into the real world with Nick's unwitting help. From here the story becomes less interesting and a bit silly as it circles around a dark family secret (not Nick's family) and takes a predictable turn. An entertaining and unquestionably dark diversion, the tale unfortunately does not live up to the tantalizing promise of its first few chapters. Ages 13-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/28/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 267 pages - 978-0-8109-9360-0
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