From the Five Nights at Freddy's: Fazbear Frights series , Vol. 1

Head into the pit for a quick horror read; those looking for immersion should keep out.

Three spooky novellas pit teens against mechanical creatures.

Oswald, Sarah, and Millie are dissatisfied with their lives. Oswald's father is unemployed and money is tight—and to make things worse, his best friend has moved away. Sarah has a poor self-image, disordered eating, and wants to be model-pretty and popular. Goth Millie is miserable living with her grandfather in his overstuffed Victorian. Yet all three find that wishing for things to change can have consequences far worse than their previous troubles—ones that may claim their lives. Several characters from the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game franchise feature in this short collection, and the animatronics in these original stories evoke the game’s clunky, fear-inducing characters. While the novellas are certainly engaging in terms of plot and include some terrifying—albeit gory—imagery, the characters and their stories border on cliché. Debut author Cooper’s contributions are at times inventive, with nonlinear plots and inconclusive endings, but all the stories include similar, predictable plot points and occasional passages that could have been edited for clarity. There is a notable amount of repetitive and (too) straightforward dialogue throughout, but the simplicity overall makes for a smooth read that’s devoid of ambiguity, focusing instead on the forward movement of action, which may draw in reluctant readers. Main characters are white; there is some minor diversity in secondary characters.

Head into the pit for a quick horror read; those looking for immersion should keep out. (Horror. 12-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-57601-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019


An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.

Two teens with a dark secret return to their old summer camp.

Childhood friends Esme and Kayla can’t wait to return to Camp Pine Lake as counselors-in-training, ready to try everything they couldn’t do when they were younger: find cute boys, stay up late, and sneak out after hours. Even Andy, their straight-laced supervisor, can’t dampen their excitement, especially after they meet the crushworthy Olly and Jake. An intuitive 17-year-old, Esme is ready to jump in and teach her cute little campers. But when a threatening message appears, Esme and Kayla realize the secret they’ve kept hidden for nearly a decade is no longer safe. Paranoia and fear soon cause Esme and Kayla to revisit their ominous secret and realize that nobody in the camp can be trusted. The slow buildup of suspense and the use of classic horror elements contrast with lighthearted camp activities, bonding with new friends, and budding romance. Similarly, Esme’s first-person point of view allows for increased tension and action as well as offering insight into her emotional and mental well-being. Discussions of adulthood, trauma, and recovery are subtle and realistic, but acts of sexism and machismo aren’t fully analyzed. While the strong buildup of action comes late, it leads to a shockingly satisfying finale. Major characters are White.

An eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12497-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

Close Quickview