In the early days of telephones a party line was one phone connection shared by several households. Then, before the internet, a party line was like a chat room by telephone where people talked instead of using the computer. Now there’s one in Mark’s town and he’s addicted to it. When you’re anonymous and invisible it’s a lot easier to talk to girls…or to eavesdrop on them. It’s an expensive habit and Mark is grounded from doing it, but he still hasn’t stopped. Local girls have been disappearing and Mark begins to suspect the disappearances are connected to the Line, maybe to the oily-voiced guy who keeps trying to get personal information from girls. Everybody lies on the Line and no one believes Mark, so he begins his own investigation. Now it’s a race between Mark and the unknown kidnapper and if Mark doesn’t win, someone he’s beginning to care about very much could be next.
A nice start for an author as talented as R.L. Stine!
A. Bates wrote a few YA horror books during the 80s/90s, when Scholastic’s Point Horror series was first popular. Evidently, it started with Party Line in 1989, which was the author’s first Point Thriller, aka Point Horror novel. Although the author went on to write better teen horrors than this one, it’s pretty good! As the summary for this ebook explains, it was written and published quite a few years before the invention and evolution of the internet, when party lines were commonplace, and very popular with teenagers who liked to talk to girls—or boys—anonymously. The story is about Mark, a shy, friendly teenager who loves using the party line to talk to girls, even though the only thing he doesn’t like about it is the expensive phone bill he knows his mother will understandably hate. However, he has bigger concerns when girls who regularly call the party line begin to disappear, one by one. Could the one mysterious caller with the oily, creepy voice be behind the vanishings? If Mark doesn’t solve the mystery soon, a girl he’s begun to care about very deeply could become the next victim. The book’s only real fault is that it concentrates on the personal lives of Mark and his friends a little too often, while spending too little time exploring the mystery of the disappearances that are connected to the party line. This results in a story that is not nearly as fast-paced as readers usually expect from these older teen horror novels. Still, this is one of my favorite 90s teen horror novels, simply because I find it to be an enjoyable book. Ultimately, it does provide just enough scares and suspense for fans of Point Horror books and other YA horror novels from the 80s and 90s, like me. Just don’t expect the most thrilling mystery until the story reaches its chilling climax. For anyone who is even slightly disappointed with this book, provided it is the first book you read by A. Bates, she gets better with other books. The 2 other books I’ve read by her are Final Exam and The Dead Game, and you can trust that Final Exam is MUCH more exciting and scary!