Caroline B. Cooney was one of my favorite authors in middle grade. I devoured all of the Point Horror books with rapacious greed, but Cooney, with her melodramatic, bodice-ripper-like prose, and her Gothic stories with strong, but flawed heroines, really spoke to me. There was an odd poetry to her writing that wasn't present in that of R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike, and she had the craziest ideas.
THE STRANGER is a lot like TWILIGHT... if TWILIGHT were written by R. Lee Smith in the 1980s. Nicoletta is a dramatic young teenage girl who feels that her life is over because she's been kicked out of her beloved music club for the ultra-talented new girl. Forced to take a new elective, she ends up in "Art Appreciation" instead, where she becomes fascinated by the mysterious and stoic new guy, Jethro, who sits alone and acts as if the world is an alien mystery.
She follows him "home" only to learn that he doesn't have a home to go to. Instead, she ends up in the woods, following him through the ice and snow to a cave bordered by mysterious lakes and guarded by a stone totem. There she learns... that Jethro is not like other boys.
When I first read the premise of this book, I was thinking that the boy was going to be an evil demon or something like that-- but that is really not the case! This is a romance, but it's also a Gothic mystery, and features some truly beautiful writing and fascinating metaphors. The "villain" of this book is pretty scary, and reading this was a mistake, because one of the scenes in here definitely gave me some nightmares (my fault for reading it in the middle of the night). I'm honestly heartbroken that this gem is going unread because it's been branded as young adult pulp.
...But don't worry! If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for FREE like I did. I was absolutely delighted when I learned how many Point Horror novels are on KU. As part of my most recent harebrained book blogger scheme, I plan on revisiting a lot of these gems-- some new to me, others beloved old favorites-- and seeing which ones hold up and which ones... don't. This one is new to me but I wish I'd read it as a teen because I think I would have loved it even more then.
That ending! ...Oof.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars