Pendulum - Ruby Jean Jensen

(No Series)

Heather's fortune-telling booth was the hit of her sixth-grade Halloween carnival--thanks to the pendulum the old ragged man had left on her doorstep. For most, the pendulum predicted good things. But whenever it swung toward "Death", people would inevitably die in bizarre and gruesome ways!

Ruby Jean Jensen has always been one of my favorite authors ­ her style is morbid and bleak like not many others. Some of her books scream 80’s plots, though, and Pendulum is one of them. It may sound silly, much like her Chain Letter, but blissfully it didn’t end juvenile like that one did. It involves­ are you ready for this? ­ a young girl, Heather, acquiring a pendulum that can predict good fortune, birth, trips, riches, and of course ‘unspeakable horrors’ and ‘death’, like any other good pendulum does. The sixth grader finds the device left by a man many consider strange in the village, and soon all horror and havoc breaks loose. While this plot could easily walk down the silly, acid trip lane, it attempts to veer from it, creating instead something worth reading.

The reader would of course wonder why the pendulum was left for the young girl, how it does what it does, why it does, and so on and so on. I’m glad to report most of this was explained, and in a clever enough manner. The atmosphere was menacing and dreadful, with the small town being an apt setting near some deadly pits all the residents and their children were warned to avoid. Heather’s background plays well into the plot, and her role as a child is energetically well-written. I cared about some of the characters and mourned their death ­ all Jensen books have a long list for the morgue. Here she succeeds again, making a story seeming so far-fetched digestible.

The creepy factor was slightly uneven, certainly not as creepy as Lost and Found, Celia, and the like, but it does its job in certain areas, and many moments were suspenseful enough to work. The ending is the typical bitter one by Jensen, leaving the reader with a cold, empty feeling. The middle drags a bit but then picks up speed again, redeeming itself. Violence here is plentiful, and some scenes stand out ­ particularly the young boy with the rattlesnake pit. (Not my idea of the ideal way to die) The story is deep enough to include some typical family banter and melodrama ­ you know, the type that makes up the typical American family now of days, even touching on themes not usually embraced, such as the wife openly admitting she wants a house that’s larger than her means, yet resents having to work so hard for it at the same time.

As usual, Jensen writes with an easy to follow style, but this book tends to gear toward younger adults or those who like simple reads. Still, it’s fun for all, even if it doesn’t focus on the more sophisticated adult who likes wolfing down ‘The Stand’ size novels. The plot may not sound like a picnic, but it’s more than workable. As with many of Jensen’s books, even if some of the plots are cheesy, they’re addictive and impossible to put down.

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