Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Title: Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Page Count: 304
Published On: September 18, 2012
Goodreads rating: 3.97
Buy it via: Amazon|B&N|Book Dep
Rating: 4/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury. But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine. Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn't scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

I first found out about Ten because my sister was surfing Goodreads and randomly stumbled onto it. We're both huge enthusiasts of the horror genre. We grew up watching them because our father was an avid fan. He would show us all the classics and even some rare gems. He would explain to us that even though the monsters and terror were not real on-screen, there were lessons to be learned in order to deal with the "monsters" off-screen. It's weird to think that is something a father could pass down to his daughters, but he did and I am forever grateful. With that being said, I think Ten is an excellent contribution to the genre. It is also an incredibly fast read: it only took me about two days to finish.
Ten is a classic golden-age-of-horror story set in a 21st Century world. The characters are on the ~cusp of self awareness, but not to the point of Scream-like snark (see I Know What You Did Last Summer and The House of The Devil). The characters aren't "too dumb to live", but they don't have that complete awareness to know all the rules either. Meg questions certain events and several characters do make cracks about ~cliches, but no one character is "educated" enough to suspect foul play from the beginning or have theories to what will happen next based on the movies. The central mystery is very strong, heavily relying on a clever reinvention of classic horror tropes. The deaths are creative and poetic (and increasingly gory) with the characters being "punished" in almost a Whedonesque manner. I will not spoil the identity of the killer in this review. The reader needs to let the story unfold and make their own guesses. I encourage all readers to create their own list of suspects to see if any guesses ring true in the end.
Ten, in essence, is a two-tiered story. On the surface, it is a tale about ten teens being lured to a big house on a small island. As soon as they arrive, they are picked off one by one in increasingly gory fashion. When all the avenues of escape are severed, it is up to heroine Meg to solve the mystery and stop the killer. However, the deeper story is really a story of love. Friend love. Family love. Romantic love. Intellectual love. Love is the driving force in the story and is the motivation for many characters. I can't help but be reminded of a famous sonnet by William Shakespeare: "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds. It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Love alters not with time's brief hours and weeks, but bears it out, even to the edge of doom." Shakespeare envisioned love to be a powerful force that could never be vanquished even in the face of danger and destruction. Several characters in the novel are so influenced by this notion, that they will do anything to protect it...even to the edge of doom.
As amazing as this story is, I do have some gripes:

1. TJ and Meg's "epic" love: I really wanted to give the book five stars, but I had to deduct a whole point because I didn't buy their "love story". It would be one thing if it was just a small part, but their relationship was a major focal point of the entire book. TJ was nothing special: he was arrogant, nosy, and almost Gary Stuish at times. Not to mention that the ~reason behind TJ and Meg's falling out was just so basic (it should have been much more dramatic considering how much time and energy was spent on the reveal). Furthermore, by making Meg's relationship with TJ so important, it diminished her vastly more complex, intense, and frankly more interesting relationship with Minnie (even though it's an unhealthy, co-dependent mess)... to a silly tug of war over a boy.
2. Meg's characterization: Meg is supposed to be the smart, fierce heroine of the story and mostly, she is. However, one of my biggest problems with the story is that her supposed character quirks are portrayed as negative. She seems to be weirdly judged for being introverted, wanting to keep a diary, and avoiding confrontation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these things and yet it seems to me that the story is telling me that they are. It's almost as if "the message" is that Meg can never be truly ~happy until she changes what makes her "her". This whole character scrutiny made me uncomfortable. I'd honestly rather be a happy, weird loner than turn into something I am not to appease others. Meg is an appealing character and I just wish the story would let her ~be.
In conclusion, Ten is a near-perfect novel with a compelling, page-turning mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. 


  1. Sounds like an interesting read, though just the fact that it;s horror kinda creeps me out! I also like it when a book reminds you of some old quote. Great review!

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  2. I love the sound of this one!!! Page-turning mystery? I'm in! :) Great review!

  3. I am not a horror person at all, but this one has really intrigued me, I do enjoy a great mystery and I like that it wasn't just a murder mystery that it was about love. Your review has changed my mind on this one and I will definitely be checking it out!

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

  4. I'm really glad you liked it! Considering I bought this one, I'm happy it was money well spent. I'm not that big into horror but I couldn't pass it up. It looked like a version of Agatha Christi's novels (and really who doesn't love A.C.?). She's my only horror connection. Can't wait to read it now! Awesome review :D

  5. I totally agree about TJ and Meg's relationship. It never felt real and it took away from the story. Also, your analysis about the Scream-like awareness with YA characters -- I think it speaks to what was so appealing about the novel.


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Once upon a time, there were two sisters -Susan and Shauna - who were moved and mesmerized by stories through any medium, since they were teeny tiny. This passion stayed with them throughout adulthood, and after becoming even more enthralled with Young Adult fiction in recent times (and some Adult & MG!) they decided they just had to open up their own book blog and share their enthusiasm with the world, or well, to anyone who would listen.

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