By Diane Hoh.
Sarah and her friends are not part of the ‘in-crowd’, yet for some reason they’ve all received invitations to their classmate Cass Rockham’s exclusive annual fall party. Sarah is suspicious and reluctant to go, but the rest of her group cannot wait. After much persuasion, they eventually convince her by pointing out that Sarah’s crush, Riley, will definitely be in attendance at the social event of the year. But as the five friends look forward to the party, they are also dealing with their own individual dramas. Ellie is being bullied by her nasty sister, Ruth, who cannot accept the fact that her stocky, plain sibling has been invited instead of her. Donald is trying to break up with a deranged girl he dated over the summer in order to free himself up for Maggie, whose feelings are mutual, and for whom Cass’s party is an ideal opportunity to act on them. Shane has recently started at their school, and is harbouring a terrible secret which she fears, if made known to her new friends, would see her ostracized, as she was in her last school. And Sarah has an overbearing mother to contend with, whose attempts to prevent her from going to a party which will distract her from schoolwork and violin practice, ultimately strengthens Sarah’s resolve to attend, have fun and snag Riley.
They have been at the party for about five minutes, when it becomes evident Sarah’s misgivings were well placed. A game of musical chairs sees the friends lose in succession before being led, separately, to five remote corners of the vast estate, where they are locked in enclosed spaces – becoming unwilling participants in a human scavenger hunt Cass has designed for her snobby friends’ amusement. Thankfully, Riley is as decent as he is attractive, and, disgusted by Cass’s mean trick, he sets about trying to free the five ‘losers’. It’s just as well, because someone is using the game for their own violent ends, and what starts as a joke, soon becomes a matter of life and death for Sarah and her friends.
By the time we rock up at Cass’s mansion, we know the five friends pretty well, we can’t help but like them a little, and we’re definitely intrigued by some of their personal dramas. And, once we’re at the party, we’re taken on a rollercoaster ride through the remaining action, with barely a moment to catch our breath. Filled with action, tension, peril (and a dash of romance), The Invitation is gripping; keeping us constantly intrigued as to what is going on, and who is behind it all, until the truths behind the mysteries come to light in a very satisfying finale. The fast-paced action and lively dialogue seal the deal, making this entry one of the most entertaining in the Point Horror franchise.
Throughout The Invitation, Sarah and her friends spend much of their time isolated and in the dark – both literally and figuratively. And at one point or another, they all find themselves in very serious danger. There is an attempted carbon-monoxide poisoning – a prolonged, suspenseful section of the narrative, during which we genuinely fear for the character’s life. A race against time to save someone from a locked freezer is equally thrilling. Diane Hoh mercilessly dangles her characters between the jaws of death, and these terrifying situations, which culminate in a finale fraught with danger and violence, make for a hair-raising Point Horror experience.