Bite-sized treats for young horror aficionados; best enjoyed on a dark night.

DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS

A TRIBUTE TO ALVIN SCHWARTZ'S SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

Inspired by the contributions to the genre by Alvin Schwartz and presented by the Horror Writers Association, this anthology features 35 original spooky tales.

Ghosts, graveyards, a fatal disease, a creepy old house: Well-loved horror tropes aplenty are found within these pages alongside new, unusual scares like a haunted washing machine and a terrifying man who is said to capture children out after dark and turn them into umbrellas. While some stories are eerie and some are macabre and gross, others provide heart-pounding thrills. The prolific and popular R.L. Stine goes for funny with a side of spook in his story told from the perspective of a ghost living in a boy’s closet. A couple of stories embrace contemporary life and showcase technology and social media–based horror. Descriptions of race or culture are largely absent; notable exceptions include Courtney Alameda’s “The Weeping Woman,” a spin on the Mexican folklore legend of La Llorona, and “The Painted Skin,” by Jamie Ford, with its Chinese setting and characters. With a wide variety of tones and styles, the collection as a whole has broad appeal, but read cover to cover it can also feel disjointed and uneven. While a couple of stories are more “eh” than “AHH!” there are enough gems to make the anthology worthwhile. Compiet’s ink wash, graphite, and charcoal illustrations are gloriously evocative, adding delicious thrills.

Bite-sized treats for young horror aficionados; best enjoyed on a dark night. (Horror anthology. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287767-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has some standards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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