I Got Class(ics): Chain Letter by Christopher Pike

Welcome to I Got Class(ics), my feature here at Attack the Stacks that celebrates classics from my youth, and very occasionally, real classics. This week’s classic is:

Chain Letter
By Christopher Pike
192 Pages
Published by Harper Teen

When Alison first read the chain letter signed “Your Caretaker,” she thought it was some terrible sick joke. Someone, somewhere knew about tha tawful night when she and six other friends committed an unthinkable crime in the desolate California desert. And now that person was determined to make them pay for it.One by one, the chain letter was coming to each of them … demanding dangerous, impossible deeds… threatening violence if the demands were not met. No one out of the seven wanted to believe that this nightmare was really happening to them. Until the accidents started happening — and the dying…

I have to say that sadly, Chain Letter didn’t hold up to time for me as well as Slumber Party and Weekend did. Not that it was bad, because it wasn’t – and ‘bad” is really relative anyway – it was just lacking something that the other two books had. I don’t know exactly what. A gleeful evilness, maybe. A joy at completely destroying the lives of deserving teenagers. Instead we get a bunch of “victims” who really suck because they’re all complicit in some way, and a villain who you really kind of end up feeling sorry for, even though he’s obviously completely and totally batshit insane.

What Chain Letter teaches us (spoilers ahoy):

  • Chain letters existed before the internet got big. Who knew? And even back then, they were threatening you with horrible punishment if you didn’t follow their inane instructions to the letter before sending them on to the next unwilling victim. Unlike current chain letters, though, this chain letter didn’t cause a fabulous money saving coupon to pop up on your screen when you sent it along to the next schmuck (that does not really happen, people…stop sending chain emails).
  • This is basically an 80s version of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Like literally, the plots are the same. I’ve never read the book but I did see the movie, which caused me to picture Alison as Jennifer Love Hewitt the entire time I read the book.
  • Nostalgia value is high with this one. People are still sending letters in the mail! They use classified ads instead of Craigslist! VCRs instead of streaming Netflix! CD players instead of iPods! It’s like someone found a flux capacitor and sent us all back to 1985.
  • Reason #727 why I don’t miss going to high school: “If only he’d get a decent hair cut and some new clothes, he’d be more popular.” Oh, high school. Where your social caste is based on what kind of jeans you’ve got on and whether you’ve got a super awesome spiral perm…oh wait, that’s me when I was in high school. For the record, I did have a seriously awesome spiral perm.
  • Actual comment by a guy called Kipp: “Girls can’t be trusted.” You know who else can’t be trusted? Guys named Kipp with two p’s at the end, that’s who. Nice misogyny, Kipppp. It’s mentioned several times that he is the smart one. Apparently, ‘smart’ is interchangeable with ‘chauvinistic doucherocket.’
  • One of the punishments for one of the characters is to make her spread a rumor that she is gay. She declines, apparently deciding that it’s better to be dead than thought of as a lesbian. Too bad the book didn’t take place 20 years into the future. She’d have probably already been pretending to be into girls so that guys would think she was hot.
  • A deaf mute is referred to as “deaf and dumb.” A guy drops the insult “fa**ot” to insult another guy. The “grossly overweight” teacher is compared to a rippling bowl of Jello. Political correctness was not a big deal in the 80s. Apparently neither was not being an asshat.
  • Pike’s “whiny unattractive girl” character track record remains intact in this book. Fran is such a whinging, joyless buzzkill that I was crossing my fingers that she’d be murdered. Quickly.
  • Once again, Pike provides us with the most forgiving characters of all time. You kidnapped us, held us against our will (some of us for extended periods of time), made us humiliate ourselves in public, injured us, damaged our possessions, did major damage to our homes, and inflicted vast emotional torment…but hey, you’re our friend and you’re otherwise a great guy, and you didn’t ACTUALLY kill us, so we’ll let it slide just this once.
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2 Comments

  1. Ok, this immediately put me to thinking of I Know What You Did Last Summer, which scared the crap out of me in junior high.

    I wonder if a lot of the books we read/loved in the early 90s would be as offensive now that there is so much PC in the world? I would have a hard time reading a book that had the “F word” (not the fun one) and treated being called gay as the worst punishment ever (which happened a lot at my school).

    My mom wouldn’t let me have a spiral perm. I’m still bitter.

    Great review!

    Reply
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