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Her name was Margaret, not Mags or Maggie, and she was as sensible as the name suggests, working in her mothers dress store in the evening while holding down comfortable, though not spectacular, grades during the day in Toomey High.
Her days, her evenings and hopefully her nights would become far more hectic in the near future as the students of Toomey High anticipated their Prom mere weeks away. Everything is on a high, in the evening the family store is heaving with high school girls choosing dresses and the days are filled with nervous invitations.
That is until Margaret’s discovery of the torn dresses, muddied and trampled as if tortured; and the scream she later hears in the night.
The body they find won’t be the first, not if the killer has their way. The killer had marveled at how easy it was, and how much easier it would get if the body count grew.
Sometimes removing obstacles is far easier than over coming them; and someone at Toomey High has their sights set on the Prom, and the perfect date…
Prom Date, Diane Hoh’s 1996 addition to the Point Horror Collection, was a random choice for my introduction to the long running series of Young Adult horror novels. What drew me to it was that the synopsis reminded me of the school based slasher films from my youth that enjoyed resurgence during the 1990’s in the shape of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream.
That may have been what made me choose Prom Date but it was Diane Hoh’s colorful and endearing characters that kept me interested.
Before I continue I should say that this was not a book I read myself, it was read to me in the form of an audiobook from the website Audible. Audiobooks are essentially adaptations of a book, though they are easily the most loyal of adaptations. If they are read by the author they could even be considered to be closer to the author’s intention than you would get reading the book yourself, on the other hand a bad narrator can make the best book a trial to get through.
Luckily with Prom Date I found myself in the very capable hands, well… words… of Karyn O’Bryant, an actress turned voice artist whose voice perfectly captures good natured sixteen year old Margaret and her contemporaries. But what struck me more than the female characters was how O’Bryant managed to play the males in the story.
O’Bryant’s use of a kind of “basso profondo” or “bassetto” (or whatever we can call the opposite of a falsetto) makes the males in the story believable rather than absurd in the same way men playing female characters often seem. Perhaps this is because the combination of the basetto and characterization manages to meld with the mental image of a teenage boy trying to be older than he is more fluidly. This presents a character that is appealing and honest in a way that perhaps not even a male voice artist could have managed.
Whatever the reason I found O’Bryant’s performance to be uniformly excellent through the story and I wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much without her in the mix.
Of course she is only a part of what made Prom Date an enjoyable slice of teen slasher pie. I was lucky to stumble on to Diane Hoh for my first encounter with Point Horror as well; she writes a great little story that manages to walk the line between pure cliché and whodunnit with nary a foot wrong. Even though there’s very little here an avid devotee of Jason and Freddy would be familiar with she still manages to make a real page turner out of it all.
All in all this was a worthwhile piece of weekend entertainment and it highlighted two artists: Diane Hoh and Karyn O’Bryant, who I’ll sure to be on the lookout for in the future.