Caution: if you are expecting a run-of-the-mill teen slasher, please turn around and go find another book. This is not that book. Yes, there is a serial killer. Yes, there are things that go bump in the night. And yes, there is my very favorite plot element in a horror novel: the evil hotel. But The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) probes dark and twisted elements of human nature as well. And, cherry on top: it's got an unreliable narrator. Is it really any wonder that I loved this?
I adore the unconventional formatting of the book. The bulk of the story comes from a journal kept by a girl named Noelle, who worked at The Boy Meets Girl Inn in 1999. That year, several teens, including Noelle, were discovered inside the hotel, slaughtered. Forensic analysts, child psychologists, and the the whole battery of Big Shots went over the journal, but could find no clue as to what, exactly, precipitated the event. The lead detective on the case has been haunted by it, and now passes it on to a film producer. The journal really is annotated (in a nod to proofreaders everywhere, the word "annotated" is misspelled on the cover as "anotated" and then annotated to fix it! How deliciously meta is that?); the footnotes come from the police investigation and side notes are from the potential movie director.
Noelle starts out cynical and snarky. Both she and her co-worker, Alfred, bought journals at the start of their employment. At first, things are relatively normal at The Boy Meets Girl Inn, except for when the "M" on the neon sign goes out and we end up with The Boy Eets (Eats) Girl Inn, which is shockingly appropriate, given the hotel's history. Noelle really needs this job; it keeps her away from her father, with his irritable bowels, his addiction to shopping network products, and their exceedingly dysfunctional relationship. Even though he doesn't directly threaten Noelle, I found her father to be just as frightening as the beings who reside at The Boy Meets Girl Inn.
Hogarth unravels the hotel's mystery slowly, which makes it more menacing. You, the reader, don't know exactly why Noelle and her coworkers have work rules like "ALWAYS RUN UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS" or "NEVER GO DOWN THE HALLWAYS IN THE BASEMENT," but you can guess.
The most fascinating aspect of the book is Noelle's descent into madness and the ambiguity of its cause. At the beginning of her diary, she tells the reader about a "sore spot" in her brain. The irritation there grows and becomes so intrusive that she begins digging her fingers into the soft flesh of her scalp, scraping and clawing to reach the bone beneath. The only other way to make the pain recede, at least for a little while, is to fall into what Noelle calls "patterned space"--a sort of trance triggered by patterns or fractals. Soon, Noelle begins to experience blackouts, during which she scrawls nightmarish visions in her journal, with no memory of ever writing them down.
The Boy Meets Girl Massacre is best if you know as little as possible about the story; I've probably already spoiled too much. This was one of those books that I couldn't put down: I wandered around my apartment, halfheartedly brushing my teeth or washing the dishes, all while attempting to keep the book dry and read at the same time. I'd read another book by Ainslie Hogarth in a heartbeat.