Remember Me / Christopher Pike
Pocket Books, 1989
review by Tessa
Shari Cooper, green eyed ghost
Jimmy Cooper, diabetic sleepwalker brother
Mary Parish, housekeeper for the Coopers and a surrogate mom to Shari
Amanda Parish, quiet and lovely girl who may be leading Jimmy on
Jo Foulton, Shari’s best friend and bestower of annoying nicknames
“Big” Beth, frenemy of Shari and Jo whose birthday party is the site of Shari’s Death. Well-endowed in the chest.
Dan, Shari’s vain, rich boyfriend
Jeff Nichols, not the biggest fan of Shari
Peter Nichols, dead brother of Jeff & spirit guide to the light
The Shadow, scary between-world presence
Garrett, drunk detective
Shari Cooper went to a birthday party and ended up a ghost. Before she can move on, she wants to know how it happened, and who pushed her off of a balcony.
Why are you rereading this?
It seems like most of the people I know were really into Goosebumps growing up. Or at least into the intro to the TV show where the dog barks in rhythm to the theme song (it really is something). R.L. Stine is a great guy and all, but I have to disagree that he’s the be-all and end-all of adolescent horror books of the ’90s. In my estimation, that title will always go to Christopher Pike, who is so much more of an enigma, anyway, and therefore gains mystery cred. Pike doesn’t even have a photo on his publisher’s author page, whereas R.L. Stine has a whole website with embedded music.
Pike’s competition was the Fear Street series by Stine (which came before Goosebumps--I was reading my older sister’s books and so never found that younger series as appealing) and had, in my memory, a more epic scope. Stine’s stories were the equivalent of slasher flicks and Pike’s were menacing mystical mysteries, closer in tone to Stephen King and John Saul than Stine could hope for.
At least, that’s what my memory is telling me.
It’s time for me to track them down and re-read them to find out if I’m right.
I started with Remember Me because it’s one of the first Pike books I read. . . and I recently had to withdraw it from my library because the cover is so terrible that no one was picking it up – that’s a professional guess:
Does the book hold up?
I’m pleased to say that it did hold my attention. Shari’s narrative voice reminded me of Sookie Stackhouse’s comforting way of oversharing her every thought and observation, often digressing into low-level life philosophies. However, while after 10 books Sookie starts to repeat herself and ramble, Shari is younger, bitchier, and more honest–being dead makes one a little more objective about their life–and she’s only got 230 pages to roam around in here. I remember being absolutely gripped by the fact that a ghost was narrating her own murder mystery. A ghost who says things like
“Beth was sort of a friend of mine, sort of an accidental associate, and the latest in a seemingly endless string of bitches who were trying to steal my boyfriend away.”
Shari has the kind of character tics invented to give a character something to repeat so that you can remember who they are, or to slip in an important plot point in a “subtle” way. It’s not the most accomplished way to build character, but it gave me a nice wave of nostalgic feeling for that era in YA writing. Shari has dark blonde hair that just breaks brushes in two! And she’s green-eyed, but her brother thinks her eyes are brown.
Remember Me takes its time building up the suspense. We know Shari is dead from the first sentence, but she doesn’t actually die until page 56. Pike takes his time getting Shari out of her house, letting her talk to her brother, her housekeeper/mother figure over cake, talk to the reader about her boyfriend’s “dashing” body and how she loves to think about sex (she makes it sound wholesome and red-cheeked of her, but also shallow), get into the boyfriend’s car, go over to her best friends’ house, talk to her best friend’s mom, get back into the car, and finally get to the fatal party . . . where the guests bitch at each other, open presents–Daniel, Shari’s boyfriend, gives Beth diamond earrings, ahem–hang out, cheat on each other, etc. Then Jo, the New-Agey best friend, sucker everyone into a game of fortune-telling using the human body as the medium. Which leads to talking to a presumed-present spirit through Shari’s body, put into a hypnotic trance via a fake funeral.
The fortune telling and the trance still put a prickle through the back of my neck. I hadn’t remembered them being so elaborate, so full of foreboding and soul-searching:
“Jeff was getting awfully heavy awfully fast. ‘But are certain things in our lives dstined?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Jo said. ‘It’s very clear this time.’
‘Is the force that we understand as God directly answering these questions?’ Jeff asked.
‘No,’ Jo said, and she seemed disappointed.
‘Is there a God?’ Jeff asked.
‘Yes,’ Jo said.
‘Is he as we imagine him?’ Jeff asked.
‘No,’ Jo said.
‘Is there life after death?’ Jeff asked.”
Once Shari is killed, the mood of the book turns to her exploration of shock, grief, and bewilderment, and her determination to find out what happened. She eventually confronts questions like Jeff’s in her own way, but the story doesn’t leave its readers wallowing in the implications of the afterlife. We have a murder to attend to, and to solve it we need to slip in and out of dreams, figure out a family history worthy of the daytime soaps, and learn a little about diabetes and colorblindness. That’s all I’ll say in case you don’t want to be spoiled.
Having said that, maybe you can guess where this book falls on the
This book falls squarely in the pink, I’d say. Shari is dead, she has to go into the light, there’s a thing called a Shadow chasing her that pulses with terror, so we have acknowledged paranormal activity. Yet it doesn’t go totally woo-woo. 95% of the book is set on Earth, for example, and deals with real-world people.
Which Pike should I read next?
I’m thinking Chain Letter. I hope that if this were published today it would have a blurb describing it as “off the chain!”
Until next time, Pike Pals!