In terms of casting, plot, dialogue, and emotional arc, the first book in Laurie Faria Stolarz’s new series, Welcome to the Dark House, is a classic slasher movie in book form.
Cast: It includes a Good Girl, a Troubled Girl, a Flirty Girl, and a Missing Girl; a Jokester Boy, a Golden Boy, and a Working Class Boy. Each character is given a fleshed-out back story, each character takes some time speaking for him or herself, but none ever becomes more than an archetype. BONUS SPOILER: In the grand tradition of horror movies, Ivy, the good girl—or in slasher movie parlance, the final girl—has a very personal connection with the villain.
Plot: The premise also fits neatly into the conventions of the genre. A famous horror director sponsors a Tell Me About Your Worst Nightmare contest. The grand prize? An all-expenses-paid weekend stay in a remote B&B and a private viewing of his new, extremely secret project. With the exception of Ivy, who entered the contest in an attempt to exorcise some serious personal demons, the characters, all strangers, have one thing in common: a profound love of horror movies. So, as in many a classic slasher film, we’ve got a group of strangers trapped in an out-of-the-way place surrounded by unknown terrain with no cell service.
Dialogue: This is not a strength of the genre, and fittingly enough, it is not a strength of this book. For the most part, it is wooden, info-dumpy, and overly formal. For example, here’s Ivy telling Parker (the Golden Boy) how she came to enter the contest:
The Nightmare Elf kept e-mailing me. For whatever reason, despite many attempts to unsubscribe, I’m on his e-Newsletter list, which means I’m constantly getting updates about his numerous contests.
Despite some switching up of format—Parker resorts to screenplay style when he’s trying to distance himself emotionally from the situation; Natalie talks to her absent twin—the various narrators’ voices are mostly interchangeable.
Emotional arc: As in most slasher movies, there isn’t much of an emotional arc. First, it’s not easy to get invested in two-dimensional characters. Second—and again, in keeping with the genre—there’s just not much point in getting attached when you know they’re all about to get done in one by one.
BONUS SLASHER MOVIE SIMILARITY: Terrible police work. After coming face-to-face with the still-at-large serial killer who murdered her parents, Ivy has been in Witness Protection for years. She has changed everything about herself: her name, her interests and activities, her favorite colors and taste in music, even. And yet…her handlers and psychologist don’t find it at all strange that every so often, she gets an anonymous gift in the mail that references her past life. Really? REALLY??
Recommend to: Readers who’ve aged out of Goosebumps (these characters are all 18+, and talk, act and daydream accordingly), but crave something with a similar feel. I myself will probably skip the rest of the book series, but I’ll definitely plan on watching when it eventually ends up on the on the big screen or on the CW.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.