October 24, 2018

Christopher Pike: "Spellbound"

Title: Spellbound [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery, Contemporary
Year: 1988
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original (and terrifying) premise. Intriguing cast of characters with distinctive voices. Potential mixed-race romance.
Cons: As interesting and strong as it is, the very premise requires suspension of disbelief. The black character's baggage might not sit well with someone (see review for details). An animal gets killed during an experiment.
WARNING! Blood and gore. The prelude to a would-be abusive sex scene.
Will appeal to: Supernatural/mystery fans who aren't afraid of weird stuff.

Blurb: They found Karen Holly in the mountain stream, her skull crushed. There was only one witness to the tragedy, Karen's boyfriend, Jason Whitfield. He said a grizzly had killer her. But a lot of people didn't believe him. They thought Jason had murdered her in a fit of rage. And now weeks have passed, and Jason has another girlfriend, Cindy Jones. And there are the new kids in town. Joni Harper, the quiet English beauty that Cindy's brother, Alex, cannot get out of his mind. And Bala, the foreign exchange student from Africa, the grandson of a powerful shaman. Together they will return to the place where Karen was killed. Some will die. The others will come face to face with a horror beyond imagining. (Goodreads)

Review: DISCLAIMER: I love Christopher Pike's novels (with a few exceptions, but still). Usually, the more far-fetched his books are, the better I like them. This is one of those books.


This is the kind of book where the truth would stare you right in the face since the very first chapters, if the author didn't make sure that your mind refused to process it. I mean, there's definitely something amiss in a certain character, but physical impossibilities, and not getting all the answers straight away from the one person who has them, makes it so that you rule that character out as a culprit. Plus, the truth turns out to be so outrageously (and awesomely) weird that your average reader could have never connected the dots that way - at least before someone in the book finally spilled some dark secrets. To complicate the matter further, right from the start, there are two different crimes/mysteries going on, though we only realise that later. As far as stories go, this one is its own brand of mindfuck. [...]

The story is told from the double perspective of siblings Cindy and Alex, but we get to know all the other main characters pretty well, and there are up to five of them. I don't know of now (since the author hasn't written much YA lately, and most of it is narrated by people who apparently are looking back at their teen years from an adult POV), but back in the '80s/'90s, Pike was very good at populating his books with teenagers who did sound believable and fleshed out. Despite a few stereotypes popping out (like, the female leads are usually virgins, or the black guys are small criminals out of necessity, but with a good heart), most of his teens have a peculiar voice, and aren't afraid to talk about sex (or do it), or break the rules, or take matters into their own hands (which usually Pike's girls do). Not to mention, guys aren't afraid to show their soft or insecure side. You have to remember that, in those years, YA didn't even exist - not as we know it now - and teen characters (especially female ones) were either pretty tame or complete bitches/jerks. Kudos to Pike for not being afraid to go past that and helping setting a precedent. Last, but not least, name another book from the era where white girls would be willing to date black boys without a second thought...


Now, about characters, there are a couple of issues with them in this story...
  • Cindy is a confident, strong, level-headed young woman, who isn't afraid to take risks, but doesn't do that without making some careful arrangements. And she doesn't take shit from abusive men/authority figures either. Then again, she is the one who takes care of the house when her parents are at work, and the one who makes her brother breakfast every morning. THAT MADE ME SO FREAKING ANGRY. It's not like Alex wouldn't do that - but apparently, Cindy has taken over this motherly role, as if it was the most natural thing to do.
  • Bala is an exchange student from a small African village, who owes most of his (apparently flawless) knowledge of English language (and Western culture) to an English woman who lived in his village for a while and took him under his wing. He seems fascinated with the culture he's just landed into, and willing to reject the superstitions and mores he's grown with - though he will realise that there's more to those alleged superstitions that he wanted to believe. A couple of reviewers have commented on the alleged racism in regard to Bala's depiction, and his village's as well. I'm not sure about that - maybe there are villages like that to this day (some documentaries would confirm that), and to me, the fact that a certain kind of magic comes from an African hamlet doesn't sound like the author wants to bash or belittle a continent (or part of it) and its culture. If anything, Pike has always been interested in different forms of spirituality (especially Eastern ones), and this "magic" is a powerful, if dangerous, tool in the book. Either way, you may want to read other reviews to make up your mind, especially this one (where the spoilers are clearly marked and hidden, thank heavens!).

Note No.1: like all Pike's oldies that have been republished, Spellbound got a technology update for its 2012 repackaging with See You Later (the duet version is called Bound to You). Then again, no one seems to carry a cell phone, which of course is convenient for the plot on so many levels. The update only went as far as changing VHSs and CDs into computers and DVDs (which were already becoming obsolete as well, alas). Why even bother?

Note No.2: a few copies of this book should still exist somewhere with the alternate title Precious Ingredient (which comes from an actual quote in the story).

For more books by Christopher Pike click here.

A few alternate covers...No.1 has got a snake's head with a candle in it that has NOTHING to do with the book (though a snake is mentioned at some point), and a girl who apparently misses an eye 😂. I think the snake & candle is an attempt at giving out a voodoo vibe...except there's no actual voodoo in the book. No.2 is...um...creative - because, are those plumes? they don't look like plumes to me - so what are they/what is it? Not to mention, plumes on a vulture's snout? No.3 has got a vulture too, which IS relevant (though a bit too spoilery), but what's with the snake again? No.4 is from the Italian version (straightforwardly called "The Vulture") and it's both telling and hilarious (yes, there's an almost-drowning girl; no, she didn't hike up that cliff in a miniskirt and high heels 😂).

I couldn't find this cover (or fragment of it) anywhere on the net, either than on this blog (which has not been active since 2016 - the link will bring you straight to the Spellbound review, full of shrewd insight). Now this is a fun cover, in its late '80s/early'90s peculiar way 😉.

2012 duet cover (Simon Pulse):
Spellbound & See You Later.
I don't get the pairing...
Read my review of See You Later here.


Note: this post is part of the Back to Black - Beating the Halloween Backlist series, an all-month event taking place every Tuesday of October 2018, featuring:
Thirteen Tales to Give You Night Terrors (Adult, Horror, Supernatural, Afterlife) by Troy H. Gardner et al. (Oct. 10th);
Shallow Graves (YA, Afterlife, Supernatural, Horror) by Kali Wallace (Oct. 17th);
Spellbound (YA, Supernatural, Thriller, Contemporary) by Christopher Pike (Oct. 24th);
Requiem for the Devil (Adult, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy) by Jeri Smith-Ready (Oct. 31st).


  1. Why are they remaking all of his covers? Personally, I prefer some of the originals! I guess they're trying to reintroduce his books? I don't know if I would like this one, and I dislike books with disinterested parents. You should never make your child feel like they have to be an adult or a parent to their siblings. They only get to be kids once, so let them be kids! They're also too young for that responsibility, and it throws off the sibling dynamic. I like books that have parents that care, or at least parents that are present.


    1. Yep, they were trying to reintroduce his books, but for some reason it didn't work well.

      I wouldn't call the parents disinterested here...they both work in the family store, so the kids are pretty much by themselves in the morning, but they're grown up after all. Only, it's not the girl's place to fix her brother breakfast! In other parts of the books, though, the parents are present and caring. It was only that small detail that threw me off.

  2. Great review. I vaguely remember this one... I’m going to raid the library one of these days!

    1. You did read some Pike! *does the happy dance*

      And thank you!

  3. Oh geez. So many covers - are they trying to depict all the weirdness involved in Spellbound? 🤔

    I DID see Bound to You at the store at one point in my life a few years ago... I never really thought about it since the words "Bound to You" and the cover of a girl's face looking up into nothingness (?) isn't exactly well... eye catching for a little Sophia running around in the store at the time. 😂

    1. It's not particularly eye-catching for anyone, I'm afraid...Aesthetically pleasing cover, but it doesn't say anything about either book involved, and same goes for the title...

  4. Those covers are REALLY different from each other lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. It was the '90s! Crazy-cheesy cover galore LOL.


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