Updated: Jul 16, 2019
"Josie always liked visiting her grandmother's house. But when she's forced to move there, she starts to feel like something is a little. . . off. Her grandmother has some very strange rules: 1. Never leave your windows open after dark 2. No dolls in the house 3. Never, ever go by the house in the woods. A little spooked, Josie is relieved to find that her school seems pretty normal. She even manages to make friends with a popular girl named Vanessa. When Vanessa invites Josie back to her house to hang out, Josie doesn't question it. Not even when Vanessa takes her into the woods and down an old dirt road, toward the very house her grandmother had warned her about. . . the house that has been calling for her. "
Whenever you move to a small town, there is always a hidden secret. When one of those secrets is children going missing, it makes for a great horror story. But 'the Collector' makes for an okay one,with most of its twist and turns being highly predictable.
Josie, the main character of 'the Collector,' has just been uprooted from Chicago with her younger sister, Anna, after their single mother just lost her job. They move in with their ailing grandmother in a small town far away, where she warns the girls to never enter the woods that surround her house. Very early in the book (literally within the first ten pages), Josie and Anna hear a voice coming from the forbidden woods, calling out their names. This isn't the best horror book I've ever read, but it has its quirks.
The reader gets to follow Josie through the story, from her time at a new school to nightmare fueled dreams. She watches her mother take care of her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's, but the grandmother constantly speaks of someone named Beryl, and how this woman knows and wants Josie and Anna. Fortunately, Josie meets a girl at her new school named Vanessa, who becomes a quick friend. Josie speaks about the woods around her grandmother's house, and how she and her sister weren't allowed to enter them, but Vanessa believes there's nothing to worry about: " 'There's nothing to be scared of in the woods,' she said. Her voice sounded different. Flat. Like she was reciting a line from a story she'd read, but didn't believe. 'It's just trees and animals.' "
Josie and Anna soon go over to Vanessa's house, where she lives with her aunt. Little did they know that the house was the one in the forbidden woods that their grandmother warned them about. Josie ignores the rule and enters the home; inside, they are met with a hoarding collection of porcelain dolls, lining the walls and the floors of the entire house. Although Josie has had dreams about this house before even meeting Vanessa, including a life-size doll that answered the door(which she later states looked just like Vanessa), she didn't put the easily accessible puzzle pieces together.
Ignoring the obvious, Josie invites Vanessa over for a sleep-over, where we witness Josie's grandmother instantly recognizing her friend. Vanessa quickly leaves, taking off into the woods towards her home without giving an excuse or getting her overnight bag. When Josie asks her grandmother how she knew Vanessa, her grandmother replies: " 'Beryl is coming!'... 'You've brought her in here. I can't protect you. Not anymore.' "
Josie becomes angry and decides to confront her friend, Vanessa, and find out why she left the way that she did. When she reaches Vanessa's house in the woods, she can hear her crying,but there's another voice - a voice from Josie's dreams of none other than Beryl! Josie overhears Beryl demanding that Vanessa bring her another child for her collection.
Anyone who ever enjoyed R.L. Stine's 'Goosebumps' or 'Fear Street' series will enjoy this book. The story follows the basics of all young adult horror books: one pre-teen/teen experiences something supernatural, and no one believes them, so they are left to fend off the threat by themselves. But this one leaves out the teen drama of a blossoming romance with a boy-crazy girl, instead focusing on an older sister's love for her sibling. "I felt I should apologize to her before dinner. I should try and show her that I was sorry by offering to bring her food or something. I had to protect her, and that meant she had to trust me again."
One aspect that was needed was character development - there is such a lack of backstory that the reader can't bring themselves to care about any of the characters. Alexander keeps the story going with no lulls of teen life, but very little human interaction. Josie spends a lot of time with her younger sister, Anna, but the interactions are quick and seem unimportant.
'The Collector' is good for a quick read with a few scares here and there. I would recommend this book for pre-teens that are interested in horror genre books, but not wanting to deal with the nightmares that horror books for an older generation might bring. Although the ending of the book seemed rush, with a quick death of our villain by the hands of Josie, we are left with an opening for a possible sequel: "Slowly, I opened my eyes, tried to make my vision adjuts. I couldn't believe what I saw. There was a doll on my nightstand. A doll that looked an awful lot like Beryl. " It ends like most horror movies end, but was it good enough for a sequel? I don't think so.