Rotterham Home is a hospice for teens with a variety of terminal illnesses. One small group, consisting of Ilonka, Anya, Sandra, Kevin, and Spence, gets together every night at midnight to tell stories. Spence's stories always feature some form of mass murder, Anya's story has more of a supernatural bent, Kevin's is a multi-part story about an angel who becomes a mortal out of love for a young woman. Ilonka, meanwhile, always tells stories based on her memories of her past lives. Although she says she's never met anyone in this life that she's known in her past lives, that's a lie - she recognizes Kevin as someone she's met and loved in all or most of her past lives. Unfortunately, Kevin is currently dating a pretty and healthy cheerleader.
Almost every member of the group has a secret gnawing at them, something they must deal with as best they can in the little time they have.
I had forgotten how much mysticism was in some of Christopher Pike's books. This particular one had a LOT. Ilonka had repeated dreams of sitting at the feet of some guy she called the Master, who philosophized at her and tried to get her to stop looking at the past or longing for the future and instead focus on the present. Weirdly, her reincarnations resulted in her being both the Master's mother and his first disciple. The two past lives readers got to see the most of took place in ancient India and ancient Egypt (sort of). Then there was Kevin's angel main character, Sandra's evangelical upbringing, and lots of mentions of God.
Speaking of Sandra, evangelical readers would probably be annoyed by this book, since she comes across as the least likeable and most hypocritical character. Oddly, she was also the only character to find Spence's stories disturbing. Considering Pike's usual inclusion of murder and/or horror in his books, I initially thought Spence's stories were going to lead up to some kind of murder mystery, but that wasn't exactly the case. (There was a tiny bit of mystery, but it was more of a minor detail than anything.)
I'm not really sure what else to say about this. The one bit where Ilonka had a bunch of magic-filled dreams of past lives was weird, and the far-future ending felt weak and tacked on. This was a bit of an "issue" book, dealing directly with subjects like teenage sexuality,
, in addition to the more obvious issues of death, serious illness, and mortality. (And yes,
the gay kid dies, but so does everyone else. The things he said to Ilonka would probably seem dated in some areas but would unfortunately probably still ring true in others, particularly rural areas. Considering the promise Ilonka made to him, it bugged me that, as far as I could tell, he didn't get a happy cameo at the end.)
All in all, this wasn't the book I expected it to be and wasn't one of my better Pike rereads, but it wasn't bad. Just don't let the cover trick you into thinking it's horror, or you'll be terribly disappointed.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)