UnknownWhat’s it all about?

The Devil’s Elbow roller-coaster derails, killing one student and maiming two. Everyone thinks it’s a tragic accident, except Tess Landers who saw a mysterious figure tampering with the tracks. Before the night is out she’s getting scary purple messages.

At the same time, the mysterious culprit unveils a web of lies from a secret diary. The children of Santa Luisa will pay for the sins of their fathers…






The Girl

Debbie_GibsonTess Landers, described briefly as tall and skinny with straight fair hair, is a difficult one to pin down. She’s a bit of a contradiction. There are flashes of compassion, independence and resolve and she sometimes acts like a human being – after her initial note (inexplicably written in purple crayon, a fact which is repeated throughout as if purple is truly the mark of a psychopath), Tess does go to the police like any sensible person would. However, she’s also whiny and sullen and prone to moves of genius like walking home alone through forests at night during a storm. Too much of her behaviour suits the plot unfortunately.

She has excellent YA broken home credentials. In a MASSIVE infodump in the first chapter we learn that Tess has opted to live with her free-spirited step mum, who despite a lengthy description, is never actually in the book.

I’ve decided to cast Debbie Gibson. Just because. Some excellent Tess dialogue: “Well you’re in a pretty good mood tonight,” she said crankily, because she herself was not. It’s a shame Gina, the best friend isn’t the main character – she’s a far more likeable creation.


The Love Interest

'Gary"Uh. Just uh. As half the book is from the culprit’s perspective, we quickly establish that one of Tess’s friends is the killer. Therefore, a certain amount of suspicion is thrown on all of them. One of the gang is Tess’s on/off boyfriend, Sam.

I have a theory about Sam. His constant sportswear wearing leads me to think he might be on steroids. It would explain his snappish and impatient temperament in any case. It’s hard to understand what any girl (or guy for that matter) would see in Sam. This is how he talks to Tess: “Oh great!’ Sam complained, “Now not only do I have to worry about you, I have to worry about my sister too! That’s just perfect!”

Sam. Not only is this roid rage annoying, it’ll make your testicles shrink to the size of chocolate raisins. Once again delving into 90’s board game HEARTTHROB, I select GARY. Out of the guys in the book, if I HAD to, I’d pick hot dog vending bit-of-rough, Doss.



Dialogue Disasters

I’m afraid so…

“The smell of hot dogs brings out the beast in me.”


“Ha ha! Shredded tyres! Now her car won’t go!”

“And to answer your next question, it wasn’t booze or drugs. It was probably brownies.”

“We have, of course, questioned the possibility that Robert might experiment with controlled substances.”

And special shout out the the killer’s poetry skills:

Dade and Sheree went up the hill, with Joey right behind them.

Now Dade is dead and Sheree’s ill, and Joey’s leg can’t find him.

Body count: 1 (3 if we include historical characters)

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?: Yes.

Is it scary?

Scary isn’t the right word. A dead cat pinned to the door is unsettling, but there’s little room for suspense. Seeing inside the killer’s mind slightly removes some of the mystery too. That said, the set pieces are fun. Final Destination 3 showed us how nerve-wracking fairgrounds can be and it’s a shame there aren’t more scenes at the Broadwalk – for example there are only two scenes inside the titular funhouse. My personal favourite is Tess’s (actually quite funny) tumble into an empty swimming pool.

Did the best friend do it? No, and the final reveal is quite a surprise.

Is it good?

Wel helloPerhaps for the first time since we started our little group we stumble across an episode that doesn’t quite work or stand up to modern YA standards. There is a lot of good in Funhouse, however. The gradual reveal of the killer’s motive IS efcective. He has a believable reason to be angry at the gang – and the fate of Lila O Hare would work in a modern YA. The historical element adds much needed texture to the somewhat pedestrian plot. It’s a shame as, in 1993, a new Hoh installment was something I greatly looked forward to – I was obsessed with the Nightmare Hall range. ‘The Wish’ is one of my all time favourite Point Horrors.

I also think we should mention Trudy Slaughter, easily the best thing about the book. A straight up Regina George. She’s gloriously blunt and has a mean line in leather jumpsuits. PINK LEATHER JUMPSUITS. Amazing.

Overall a competent, if slightly boring, whodunnit with plenty of disposable teens. I just wish more had been made of the fun fair setting.

Over to you!

1. If you had to kai-kai with one of the gang, which would it be and why?

2. Is the killer right to exact revenge on the kids instead of the parents?

3. Why doesn’t Tess just go back to her dad’s?

4. What role does the postal service play in the killer’s downfall?

5. Do you think Sam and Tess are well matched as a couple?

Join us on 13th August for THE CHEERLEADER by CAROLINE B COONEY.

the cheerleader




6 thoughts on “PHBC3: Funhouse by Diane Hoh

  • July 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Hullo, PH Book Club! I’m going to keep this brief as I’m actually sunning myself in Skiathos at the moment, but as my commitment to 90s teen horror knows no bounds, I do have some opinions to share.

    Firstly, everyone – EVERYONE – in this book is mean. Snarky, grumpy, self-centred, I would take being murdered by my fake brother any day over spending actual face time with any of these horrors. They. Are. Awful. Only the improbably-named Trudy Slaughter’s demented wardrobe gave me something to work with (seriously, “beige silk slacks over a red leotard”? “An expensive pink jumpsuit belted in rich leather”? “A FAT PINK VELVET BOW “? This girl is effing brilliant, despite having mates like the woefully-underwritten Candace, who rocks up at one point “coccooned in a dull blue muu-muu”).

    Foolishly-monikored characters aside, however (Doss Beecham, anyone?), I had high hopes for Fun House. Judging by the pencil-scrawled review on the inside front cover by teenage me (“Ten out of ten! Excellent diary bits!”) this was one of my early favourites, and to be fair it does have some things going for it, namely a commitment to back story, a genuine effort at psycho motivation, and an abundance of suspects. There’s even a slutty best mate, which I’m always a fan of. However, with nobody to root for (possible exception: Guy Joe Jr), adult me rapidly lost interest. And was it just my underdeveloped imagination at work, or was the fun house itself chronically under-described? I still haven’t the first clue what those spinny disc things were all about.

    If I had to sum up my opinion in one sentence, it would probably be this: Woah, Hoh; how about less of the melodramatic journal gubbins, and a bit more in the way of likeable characters?

    Loved your review as ever, James. I’m considering writing all my Christmas cards this year in (angry) purple crayon, and in answer to one of your questions, no two people have ever loathed each other more than Tess and Sam. I like your steroid theory very much, though in fairness, dating either of them would have me reaching for the crack pipe.

    Finally, just so you know, I’m actually beside myself at the prospect of Caroline B Cooney next month. Bring it!

  • December 13, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Gosh, where are the other comments for this one!?

    This was another of my “top rung” favourites. But like all of these books, when I read them nowadays I find myself wincing at surprisingly more places than I ever did when I was a kid – and for reasons of pure awkwardness, not fear. 😛

  • June 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I still can’t quite get over the fact a character was named “Doss” – there was a great paragraph which unintentionally rhymed about how he worked on the ring toss booth. Did anyone else notice that Dade is a clever anagram of DEAD?

    I quite enjoyed the killer’s journal entries throughout which broke up the main plot and have respite to Tess’ moronic refusal to move in with her father. Tess herself was indeed an enigma. Seeming quite plucky at certain points, but then perpetually collapsing at other moments of stress due to her jelly-like knees.

    Trudy was by far and away the best thing in the book – and I was literally LOLing at the description of her outfits in the comment above!

  • December 8, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Just finished ‘The Funhouse’ and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I measure the effectiveness of these books in a few ways and one of the main ones is whether it keeps me up late; is it a real page turner that makes me want to read just one more chapter? I was pleased to see that ‘The Funhouse’ fell into this category. The first chapter is top shelf PH and really got me hooked. I reckon my favourite name had to be Gina ‘Jam Boney’ Giambone! Although Doss, Guy Joe and Dade certainly battle it out for the remaining spots on the podium! This is another entry in the PH library that would be perfectly suited to be an episode of a YA horror TV series.

    Question time!

    1. Once I looked up kai-kai (thank you Urban Dictionary) I decided it would probably be Tess herself. Home alone, daddy issues, abandonment issues – lots of turmoil that could make for an interesting..um..kai-kai.
    2. Totally. Their initial plans resulted in a family being torn apart and parents losing their child. It seems karmically just that ‘The Boardwalk 8’ should, in turn, be robbed of their children too.
    3. Sorry, drawing a blank here! Surely anyone who was scared enough to sleep on the couch with every light on with a fire poker at her side would happily move back home, even if her dad was a bit grumpy / absent. Surely her refusal to follow common sense must be some weird 90’s Spice Girl inspired Grrrl Power statement. Seriously, you have no curtains and you know the killer knows a) you’re alone and b) every move you make and you just decide to tough it out? C’mon! No wonder her ‘Roid Raging Romeo Sam is so frustrated with her!
    4. None? The diary wasn’t posted to Guy Joe, he brought his own pipe to The Boardwalk, hand delivered the note to Tess, personally removed the spinning wheely thingy from the Funhouse, etc. Unless Guy Joe has a subscription to Stolen Babies Monthly, I can’t figure out how the mail man is involved at all!
    5. Nope. He’s a control freak and she’s desperate to be considered her own person. He’s totally insensitive and lacking in understanding about her living with Shelley. Even without the craziness of the Funhouse, I couldn’t see them lasting 3 more months.

  • July 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    they all have weird names. doss = dosser, dosshouse. i lost interest too. i read an anthology, not a PH one, where the same thing happened at a place called “happyland”. I think it might’ve been point crime. can’t remember its name, but there was a story re a cult. vegan, housed rescued animals, sounds great, until you found the lab where they experimented on said animals. i was crying so hard that my parents asked why i bothered reading said book, & one or more of our various pets came to see what was wrong.

    i can’t think of a ½ decent poem, but I was overjoyed to see this


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