by Sinclair Smith.
Avid diary-keeper, Delia, is approaching graduation and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. When she finds an old journal in her locker, she becomes obsessed with the writer, ‘Laura’, who she increasingly comes to view as herself in a previous life. Delia’s personality starts to alter as she adopts Laura’s look and her wild behaviour, affecting her relationships with her envious best friend and her short-tempered boyfriend. Things take a sinister turn when Delia discovers that her ‘previous life’ may well have ended in murder and she finds herself spiralling towards the same, unfortunate end.
Most entries in the Point Horror series fall under either the ‘supernatural’ or the ‘whodunnit’ category. The Diary ambitiously aims to incorporate both elements into its 180 pages, but is unlikely to fully satisfy fans of either sub-genre. It lacks the confidence of a mind-bending, reality-altering Caroline B. Cooney entry (see reviews for The Perfume and The Cheerleader) and fails to offer the fun of working out ‘who’s behind the mischief?’ that many Point Horrors rely on for their entertainment value.
Nevertheless, its uniqueness and the likeability of the protagonist, Delia, make The Diary a worthwhile read. For one thing, she is more well-rounded than most of her fellow Point Horror Scream Queens. We can identify with and share in her real-world problems: the fear of leaving behind the safety of high school for college; a potentially abusive boyfriend; an over-bearing guardian and the sadness of drifting apart from an, albeit annoying and snarky, best friend. The personality change she undergoes can be viewed either as a psychological reaction to the stresses of early adulthood, or as the symptom of the past-life regression Delia is convinced she is experiencing. There are some plot holes and the passage of time is difficult to gauge. However, it is a less frivolous, more mature and thereby more rewarding experience than many Point Horrors.
Fear Factor (may contain spoilers)
Whilst The Diary is far from being sleep-troubling, it has a couple of solid ‘ghost story’ moments (the suggestion Delia has wandered into a neighbourhood that was demolished years previously; her creepy ‘self-portrait’ etc.) which linger after the last page. Unfortunately, the climax of the story is so rushed that your gasp of horror immediately becomes a sigh of relief. However, this Point Horror does something which most do not; by ending on a Michael Myers* moment, it gives the reader one last scare before turning off the bedside lamp and for this reason, gets a respectable Fear Factor rating of….
*Phew, everything is going to be okay… oh no… he’s not dead after all… will we ever be safe… let’s have another sequel just to be sure!