Full Tilt - Neal Shusterman YAAAAAAY! CARNIVALS ARE FUN!Except when they're trying to steal your soul.Neal, Neal, Neal. How I love you. Yes, in the creepiest way possible. As in, I want to stalk you to get your autograph.Seriously, though. This is the ... 9th book by Shusterman that I've read, I believe. None of his books have disappointed me. They're all amazing. If you haven't read any of his books, I suggest you read Unwind, Bruiser, and the Skinjacker Trilogy (Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound) above all. But even though I didn't love Full Tilt as much as those books, I still think it's worthy of the 5-star rating.Here's the story:Teenage brothers Blake and Quinn are polar opposites. Blake is the more responsible one, the one who gets good grades and is about to go off to Columbia University. Quinn is the risk-taker, the kid with a million piercings in his face, the one who is always putting himself in danger. One night, the pair of brothers and their friends Russ and Maggie go to a carnival, where Blake meets Cassandra––a beautiful and mysterious girl who hands him an index card with a strange symbol on it. Later that night, Quinn is found comatose in his bedroom. Blake, Russ, and Maggie soon figure out that Quinn's soul is being held captive in a phantom carnival. And the only way to get out is to get through seven rides. Easy, right? Well, except for that these are no normal rides ... they turn your deepest fears against you and will do anything to make you give up. And if you give up, you stay forever. Blake must endure the seven rides in order to save his brother, and ultimately he must come to terms with a traumatic accident he's been struggling with for years.What I thought:Despite my undying love for Neal Shusterman, I stayed away from this book for a long time. I am not a fan of horror, and I thought this sounded like the typical scary movie plot. And yes, the idea of a creepy carnival is still clichéd. But this is no slasher-movie type story. As far as I recall, there weren't even any scary clowns in it (thank God)! Don't get me wrong, this book still has quite the creepy edge to it. But it's scarier on a more psychological level than I expected. (And why I feared a Shusterman book would not be deep, I don't know. I'm a fool.)Anyway, this book is no gore fest or anything. Blake's fears are more complicated than scary clowns. Most haunting of all is the "survivor guilt" he's been dealing with, ever since he survived a bus crash in which everyone else was killed.Like all Shusterman's characters, all the characters in this book are fascinating. Blake, Quinn, Russ, and Maggie are an interesting set of protagonists, all with different motives and fears that make them believable characters. Cassandra, the evil spirit who runs the carnival, is delightfully creepy in her obsession to keep all the souls trapped in her world.Side note: If you've read/seen Coraline, she kind of reminded me of the Other Mother ... *shudders*This is more than just a horror story. It's about trauma. It's about guilt. It's about obsession. It throws characters into a desperate situation, where they'll do anything to get out. That's the type of story I love! Plus, it's told with Shusterman's great writing, realistic characters, and over-all pure brilliance.This is a really well-crafted book that kept me on the edge of my seat. So, like, read it dudes.