By John Hall.
Melissa Brady has had a transformation over the summer and, starting her senior year at Westdale High ‘hot’, she decides to run for Homecoming Queen. Despite having the full support of best friends Izzy and Celeste (and it being an ideal way to attract the attention of handsome jock, Seth Powell) there are two major problems. Firstly, she’s going up against Mean Girls, Betsy and Laurel (Seth’s ex), who hold nothing back in their attempts to ridicule and bully Melissa into submission. Secondly, there hasn’t been a Homecoming Queen at Westdale for 25 years; not since the last one, Brenda Sheldon, was decapitated in a car accident the night of the dance.
Melissa’s campaign gets off to a flying start and she’s soon dating Seth. But her sudden popularity, and new friendships with fellow nominees Tia and Faith, cause friction with Izzy and Celeste. Then strange things start happening. A malfunctioning tanning bed leaves Faith with third degree burns, Melissa gets threatening messages from the ghost of Brenda Sheldon, and a bee hive stuffed in her locker misses its mark but lands Tia in hospital. Supernatural being or a maniacally jealous cheerleader, as the danger escalates it becomes clear that someone wants to make sure no Homecoming Queen is ever crowned at Westdale High again.
The first half of Homecoming Queen focuses a lot on the social side of high school – the normal girls taking on the Plastics. But it’s fun hanging out with Melissa and her friends as they watch John Hughes movies, go dress shopping and plan elaborate campaign gimmicks. The moments of horror may be few and far between, but when they occur, they are gruesome, scary and memorable, and they escalate to a level few Point Horrors dare to go.
As with many PHs, we are presented with a protagonist who is vain, annoying and self-involved. But it is less of an issue here, as Melissa is surrounded by a cast of likeable friends and gloriously nasty villains in Betsy and Laurel. With strong characters, an engaging plot and plenty of references to 90s teen life, there is so much to enjoy in Homecoming Queen.
The violence, gore and murder in Homecoming Queen set it apart from most Point Horrors. The vagueness of detail in the more gruesome moments is perhaps the result of teen-friendly editing – frustrating for older readers, but forgivable, given the target audience. Still, with a slight effort of the imagination, the imagery conjures up some pretty nightmarish scenes. Homecoming Queen’s scares may be sprinkled sparingly, rather than generously dolloped, but what it serves up is very tasty.