This review contains great big spoilers. You've been warned.
Shari falls four stories to her death while at a birthday party. Did she jump, or was she pushed? Shari, now a ghost, is determined to find out. The suspects include:
- Beth, the big-breasted birthday girl, who may have been trying to steal Shari's boyfriend away from her;
- Dan, Shari's boyfriend, who seemed a little too interested in Beth's charms;
- Jeff, Beth's boyfriend, who seemed to dislike Shari for some reason;
- Amanda, Shari's brother's girlfriend, who Shari sometimes teased about being poor;
- and Jo, Shari's best friend, who had a crush on Jeff and didn't seem as upset about Shari's death as Shari thought she should be.
Christopher Pike was one of my all-time favorite authors when I was a teen, and Remember Me was one of my favorite books by him. This post on Ruth's Book Blog inspired me to reread it for the first time in I-can't-remember-how-long.
Sometimes nostalgia reading turns out well for me and sometimes it doesn't. My reread of Remember Me did not start off well. The characters were, for the most part, not particularly likable. I rolled my eyes when Ghost Shari described her living self as “pretty superficial” (2). Considering that she had only just finished describing how she looked (her eyes were green, definitely green, and her smile won “Best Smile” in her junior year in high school!), I was willing to bet she was still “pretty superficial.”
I pushed on. I gritted my teeth when Shari, a rich girl whose friends were primarily rich, referred to Amanda as “our token pauper” (21). I cringed every time Shari noted her nearly naked brother's muscular physique or admitted that she was jealous of her brother's feelings for Amanda, his girlfriend. Unsurprisingly, so many things felt dated: the writing, the way Shari's brother's diabetes was handled, Shari's birthday gift for Beth.
The nasty drama brewing between Shari and all her “friends” carried me through the beginning, and I became well and truly hooked when I reached the moment I had been waiting for, Shari's death. The period shortly after Shari's death was one of the most emotional parts of the book and, for once, Shari's parents seemed like real people. Still, Current Day Me couldn't help but think of Dead Like Me. I wonder, was that show at all inspired by Remember Me?
I loved the whole murder mystery aspect. Being a ghost, there was very little Shari could do besides follow people and listen in on conversations, at least at first. She was later joined by the ghost of Peter, a boy she used to have a crush on and who died in an accident. Peter was a more experienced ghost and knew how to do things like magically appear wherever he'd like, go through solid objects, and even take control of living people's bodies a little.
One thing that bugged me: this book barely says a thing about how Peter became such an expert on all things ghostly. It wasn't the flying and teleporting that bothered me – he could have figured those out through trial-and-error, and he'd had plenty of time to practice and get good at them. The light and the Shadows were different, however. He “knew” things about those that he could only have guessed at, or been taught by someone, but no teacher was ever mentioned.
So anyway, the mystery. I had fun trying to figure out who killed Shari. Was it Jo, Shari's best friend, who didn't seem nearly as broken up about Shari's death as she maybe should have been? Was is Dan, Shari's boyfriend, who'd been intending to break up with her and start going out with big-breasted Beth? Was it Jeff, Beth's boyfriend, who seemed to dislike Shari?
Despite my issues with the writing and the dialogue (I can't imagine teens ever sounding like the ones in this book – Peter in “We need not bring religion into this” lecture mode was particularly bad), I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Until the end.
The end is craziness. I'm just going to go ahead and spoil it all. You see, Shari and Amanda were switched at birth. Jo's mom, a nurse, was upset at the knowledge that her husband had cheated on her with her sister (Amanda's mother, Shari's birth mother), so she decided to take it out on her sister by switching her baby with another. Because that totally makes sense.
Years later, Amanda and Jimmy start dating. This, of course, freaks Jo's mom out, because Amanda and Jimmy are siblings by blood, even though they don't know it. Amanda overhears her mother praying for them all, which is how she learns that she and Jimmy are related. However, Amanda is still in love with Jimmy and doesn't want to be separated from him. She figures it'll all be okay as long as no one gets between them. So, instead of going after her mother or her aunt, who know the whole truth, she goes after Shari, who she mistakenly thinks knows the truth. With Shari tossed over the balcony and her brains splattered everywhere, Amanda figures she and Jimmy and free to be together. Except they're not, so she concocts a plan to kill Jimmy and then maybe herself. Shari manages to save Jimmy's life by entering his mind.
On the one hand, I am in awe of how Pike managed to make almost every single detail in this book matter. There really was a reason for all that fuss about Jimmy's diabetes and colorblindness, Shari's green eyes, the orange dust on the carpet, and the mentions of how Shari and Jo looked like sisters. On the other hand, aspects of the ending angered me. A lot.
The craziness was okay. I can live with craziness. Although I thought Jimmy reacted surprisingly well to the news that he'd been making out with his sister. Anyway, the thing that made me angry was the whole issue of “real” parents and “real” daughters.
Although Shari's parents raised her, they weren't her “real” parents. Supposedly, a part of her had always felt that way. Her affection for Amanda's mother was explained as natural, instinctual love she felt for her “real” mother. When Shari's parents learned that Amanda was their “real” daughter, they forgave her and got her the best lawyer they could. Never mind that Amanda murdered the daughter they'd raised since birth. Never mind the crushing grief they felt after identifying Shari's body at the morgue.
While I was still sputtering with rage, Shari and Peter finished things up with an epilogue in which they performed a little “say no to drugs” play for the benefit of the junkie daughter of Garrett, the guy who'd been investigating Shari's murder. It was amazingly, laughably awful.
So, there you have it. I can see why Teenage Me liked this book: fast-paced mystery narrated by the ghost of the victim, seances, teenage drama, and a truly cracktastic ending. Honestly, if I still had my old Christopher Pike collection, I'd probably be reading another one of his books right now, despite my anger over the “real” vs. “pretend” family members issue.
This book contains on-page drug use (although not by the main characters) and teens who think about sex a lot. Dan has “excitable bedsheet manners” (32), which is Shari's way of saying that they tried to have sex but he finished prematurely. I suspect this went over Teenage Me's head.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Dead Like Me (live action TV series) - The heroine of this TV series, George, dies when she is hit by a flaming toilet seat from outer space. After her death, she learns she is now a grim reaper. Like Shari, George tries to watch over the family members she left behind, while at the same time adjusting to her new "life" after death.
- Between (book) by Jessica Warman - I haven't read this. I added it to this list because it's a YA book starring a ghostly heroine who's trying to figure out how she died.
- Bitten (book) by Kelley Armstrong - This recommendation is for adults or, at the very least, older teens. I'm mostly adding it to this list because of a later book in the series, Haunted, which, like Remember Me, stars a ghost and has a bit of mystical woo woo going on, under all the gory stuff.
- Secret Vampire (book) by L.J. Smith - Were you disappointed by how weak the romance in Pike's book was, although you still liked the supernatural aspects? Then maybe give this a try. It's the first book in Smith's Nightworld series. Poppy, the heroine, finds out she has pancreatic cancer. Her best friend, the guy she's secretly been in love with for years, tells her he can save her - by turning her into a vampire. In order to be saved, Poppy will have to officially be dead as far as everyone in her old life is concerned.