Rah Rah for RA!: Spooky Reads for Kids!

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us. 

Dear Library Ladies,

As a person who is occasionally asked for reading recommendations for kids/teens, I could use some advice. I’m not well versed in the scary/horror story genre, so I would like some suggestions for books for kids, middle grade, and teens. Since I can’t always interpret the scary-tolerance level of the people that ask, a range, or even a general guideline for people new to this genre, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Sincerely,

“Person who definitely did not fast forward through the Oogie Boogie Man song as a kid”

Hi, Person!

Good on you trying to expand your literary repertoire! It’s always good to have a nice bag of tricks when it comes to all genres. Given that horror can run a huge gamut, we’ll give you some titles that could be for those who need tamer works, and those who want to be super scared.

Picture Books:

7552359Book: “Zen Ghosts” by John J Muth

While this picture book does talk about ghosts and spooky folklore to an extent, the imagery and the themes are so gentle and muted that it probably won’t be too scary for any reader. Muth’s books in this series star a panda who gives zen teachings to children, and even in this Halloween themed book he addresses the spirit of the season as well as more thoughtful and introspective things.

363973Book: “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” by Linda Williams

This is another Halloween themed story, but it can work year round as well. This brave little old lady is normally not afraid of anything, but then something follows her home. It’s a story that shows that even brave people can be scared sometimes, and that sometimes confronting your fears can be hard, but rewarding.

760205Book: “There’s A Nightmare in My Closet” by Mercer Mayer

What child hasn’t been afraid of things hiding under their bed or in their closet? This story is about a boy who ultimately confronts that monster in his closet, and finds out that it may not be as scary as he thought. The empowerment of the main character is a nice touch to a story that teaches the readers that sometimes what we are afraid of can’t really hurt us. And Mercer Mayer is always a joy, with fun and sweet characters.

Middle Grade:

267972Book: “Wait Til Helen Comes” by Mary Downing Hahn

Mary Downing Hahn is one of the high queens of children’s horror, and “Wait Til Helen Comes” is probably her most well known. When Michael and Molly’s mother marries Heather’s father, the blended family goes through immediate growing pains. Not only is Heather a manipulative brat, but she is constantly talking about her new friend Helen… who happens to be a ghost with not so nice intentions. This book is both creepy, and also addresses some real life issues involving family and siblings.

22859559Book: “The Jumbies” by Tracey Baptiste

This book brings Caribbean folklore to the forefront as it sends thrills and chills down readers spines. Corinne and her father are non believers when it comes to
Jumbies, Haitian folk creatures that lure people into the woods to eat them. But when
Corinne’s father falls under the mysterious spell of a strange woman named Severine, she needs to enlist the help of her friends and a witch in hopes of getting her father back! With diverse characters and a mythology that may be new to readers, “The Jumbies” is a fun, spooky read!

125581Series: “Goosebumps” by R.L. Stine

Well, of course. R.L. Stine’s classic book series for kids may have started in the 1990s, but it remains a favorite of children who love to be scared. While the levels of horror and themes vary from book to book, there are so many different monsters and creepy crawlies that most horror fans will find a couple that resonate with them (Kate still thinks about “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” on occasion). True, the stories can be repetitive at times, but the familiarity can be a plus for those who want to read more and more with an author they are comfortable with.

Young Adult:

18748653Book: “Daughters Unto Devils” by Amy Lukavics

Starting this section off with a book for hardcore horror fans. The cover alone is jarring and upsetting! When Amanda Verner and her pioneer family move from their home in the mountains to an abandoned house on the prairie, weird things start happening. Amanda, with secrets of her own, starts to wonder if the demon she thinks saw that past winter has followed her… With claustrophobic settings and an undercurrent of paranoia, this book will keep the reader up at night jumping at any sounds outside the window.

19364719Book: “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” by April Genevieve Tulchoke

For people who want multiple scary stories that can be read in one sitting, “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” may be the book for them! this collection of horror short stories takes various pop culture influences to make all new takes of terror. From multiple authors in the YA horror genre, this collection has something fun and scary for everyone! The scary factor also varies from story to story, some being tame and weird, others being deeply disturbing.

25263927Book: “The Girl from The Well” by Rin Chupeco

Fans of “The Ring” and “The Grudge” will be familiar with the premise. Okiku, a Japanese vengeance ghost, traveled the world hunting down child killers and rapists, giving them a death they truly, truly deserve. But one day she stumbles upon a boy named Tarquin, an American teenager with intricate and strange tattoos. They aren't just ordinary tattoos. There is something creepy and sweet about an onryō actually helping others instead of straight up murdering them…

So there you have it!! A list of horror for kids of all ages and all levels of freak out tolerance. If anyone else has any recommendations, leave them in the comments!

 

 

Serena’s Review: “Beneath the Sugar Sky”

27366528Book: “Beneath the Sugar Sky” by Seanan McGuire

Publishing Info: Tor, January 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: Beneath the Sugar Sky” returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

Previously Reviewed: “Every Heart a Doorway” and “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”

Review: I read and loved the first book in this series of novellas, had complicated feelings about the second, though still largely enjoyed it, and was counting down the days until I could get my hands on this one (even better, I got it early so I was able to do away with my “counting calendar” before the madness really took over).

“Beneath the Sugar Sky” introduces us to Cora, yet another girl who has been unwillingly returned to a world where she feels she no longer belongs. New to the Home for Wayward Children, she is just beginning to make friends with the others around her and beginning to understand the far-reaching and complicated network of other worlds that children have traveled to and from for years. But, like them all, she wants only to find her door and return as soon as possible. Instead, what she finds, is a girl who has traveled to this “regular world” with one goal and one goal only: to resurrect her mother, Sumi, who died so tragically way back in the first book.

First off, I loved the combination of introducing a completely new character and world through Cora, but also directly tying the plot to the action from the very first book in the series, and using this contrivance to more naturally bring in characters from the first two books with whom we are familiar and enjoy. I particularly loved the surprise appearance of a past main character and exploring more fully the world she loves.

And that was another great thing! We got to visit multiple fantastical worlds in this book! I always love adventure/quest stories, and that it was lovely following our band of strange heroes through various worlds and seeing how they reacted/experienced each of these worlds. We know that the worlds choose children who are natural fits for those worlds, so seeing those characters out of place in a strange new world was very interesting, highlighting how “high nonsense” worlds would have a negative impact on characters who are more aligned to “logical” worlds. And how the world itself could actively resist those rules being pushed upon it.

Alongside some returning characters, the two new faces are Cora and Rini. Cora, our main character, was an excellent addition to a ever-growing pantheon of characters who push against conformative exceptions of society that make quick judgements of who a person is. In this particular story, we see Cora dealing with the judgements based on her weight. Her athleticism, particularly in the water, was continuously dismissed before she finds her own door that leads to a water world where she goes on adventures as a mermaid. There, in the freezing depths, her extra layers and strong, poweful body are an asset. So, here, returned to a world that sees only a “fat girl,” Cora is struggling to re-assert the powerful self within her.

While I did like the exploration of the judgements and insecurities that Cora deals with in this aspect, I was also a little underwhelmed with its resolution. Namely, there never was much of a resolution to speak of. Throughout the story Cora remains insecure about the judgements she assumes others are making about her. At the same time, she knows her own strength and begins to see how truly in-tune her own world was to her particular strengths. But she also finds ways to use those same strengths in other environments. However, I felt that this particular thread was left a bit hanging in the end. The plot itself was resolved, but this arc seemed to just peter out without any true revelations, either on Cora’s part or on other’s.

Rini was very fun, being the first “native” other world character we’ve seen. It was fun watching her character travel through the book with a “nonsense” perspective on everything. So far, we’ve only seen children from our world who, while particularly attuned for one world or another, understand that strangeness of it when compared to our “real world.” Through Rini, we see a character who has grown up in one of these strange lands and understands its rules and history (there was some great stuff with a creation story here) as as “obvious” as we consider our own world’s rules and history.

This was an excellent third story to McQuire’s Wayward Children series. While some of the internal conflicts weren’t resolved to the extent that I wish they had been, I very much enjoyed her combination of new worlds and characters with familiar faces. Further, each book seems to build upon the last as far as the mythology and connection between all of these various worlds. Even more fun, the characters themselves are learning right along side us! For fans of this series, definitely check this one out. And for those of you not on this train yet, get on, but start with the first as it’s a “must read” to fully appreciate this on.

Rating 8: Whimsical and dark, but coming up just short on a few of its character arcs.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Beneath the Sugar Sky” is a newer book, but it is on this Goodreads list: “2018 Queer SFF Releases.”

Find “Beneath the Sugar Sky” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “The Hazel Wood”

34275232Book: “The Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, January 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Review: I judged the book by its cover. And the cover is beautiful, so I picked it up. Also, dark fairytales, a mysterious family history, travel between worlds, and this book sounded right up my alley. And while pieces taken outside of the whole were enjoyable, I found myself not as enamored by this one as I had hoped.

Alice and her mother have been running their entire lives, pursed by nameless, faceless, bad luck. That, and from the mystery and cultish fervor that swirls around Alice’s grandmother who is best known for writing an obscure book of fairytales. Other than flee when bad luck arrives on your door, Alice knows there is one rule: don’t interact with fans of her gradnmother’s book. But when her mother disappears, Alice has no choice but to turn to a fan and fellow classmate, the only one who will believe the strangeness involved. And neither are fully prepared for what they get: perhaps those fairytales weren’t fiction after all.

Part of my struggle with this book was due to the fact that it was simply incredibly slow for the first half of the book. It’s not a monstrously long title by any means, but half of a book is still too long to take to get to the meat of the story. There’s quite a lot of build up to Alice’s mom’s disappearance, and then, afterwards, it takes even longer somehow for Alice and Finch to get into the actual magical aspects of the story. This was even more frustrating because it didn’t seem that this extra time was spent building anything. Alice and Finch, early in the story, have already bought into the concept that there are magical elements at play, so it’s not character development that necessitates the slow movement. Further, there are about three or four mini adventures that they go through before even getting out of the city which felt like three or four more than were needed.

This slow beginning also had the unfortunate effect of making me begin to dislike Alice herself. Since the story goes some interesting places with her character in the second half of the book, the fact that the slowness of the first half had already damaged my enjoyment of her was pretty unfortunate. Yes, Alice had a non-traditional childhood and one that was made up largely of isolation and instability. And the author lays the groundwork for her anger early in the story. But all of that given, she’s just kind of a mean person a lot of the time which made it hard for me to become invested in her emotional arc. Like I said, there’s a payoff for some of this in the end. But I do think the slowness of the first half is directly responsible for the fact that damage control had to be done at all. Had we more quickly gotten into the actual story itself, there might have been less time for me to wallow around thinking that Alice was just kind of being a bitch to a bunch of people most of the time.

In the second half, things do pick up, and it was here that I found much of my enjoyment of the story. I loved the fact that the author fully embraced the darker side of fairytales. Throughout the story,  we get to hear some of the stories that were in Alice’s grandmother’s collection, and they are perfectly pitched as darkly creepy and strange, without any clear moral or predictable pattern. This just makes it all the more shivery when the characters and worlds themselves begin to come to life.

Readers’ mileage for this part of the story could also vary. There’s a lot of mystery and obfuscation. Characters withhold information simply because they can. There are definite elements of “Alice in Wonderland” with the strangeness, nonsense, and bizarre mini scenes that Alice travels through. I enjoy nonsense fairytales, and I especially liked the darker aspects of this one. However, I can see how it could read as disjointed and, again, hard to connect to for some readers. Even I struggled a few times with the strange juxtaposition of classical dark magical elements with other very modern references. It was definitely jarring at times, but by this point I was so relieved to have the story picking up that I didn’t mind.

This book was very hit and miss for me. There were parts of it that I absolutely loved (the fairytales themselves, most of the action in the second half, and the nice twist at the end), but I also very much struggled to get into the story. It starts slow and there were certain writing choices, just the way certain sentences were strung together, that were confusing and required me to read through twice, something I never love doing. I also wasn’t sold on Alice as a character, though I did enjoy the later reveals with her. If you like dark fantasy stories and can handle a slow start and a healthy dose of the strange, I’d recommend giving “The Hazel Wood” a go!

Rating 6:  A dark “Alice in Wonderland” where Alice is kind of a brat. But the fairytales themselves were on point!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Hazel Wood” is a newer book and so not on many Goodreads lists. I’m not sure whether I agree with this classification or not, but it is included on “2018 YA Horror.”

Find “The Hazel Wood” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Thrill Club”

176479Book: “The Thrill Club” (Fear Street 24) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1994

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Thrills and chills…

Talia Blanton could scare you to death.

She writes horror stories—stories that often give her friends starring roles.

Everyone loves Talia’s terrifying tales—until they start to come true. One by one, Talia’s friends become Talia’s victims.

Is Talia making her stories come true? Or is someone trying to turn Talia’s real life into a horror story?

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: I first want to say that I did some poking around online while reading this book, and a couple sources (aka maybe reckless internet gossip) claim that “The Thrill Club” was written by a ghost writer and not R.L. Stine himself. And given some of the plot points of this story, I find that hilarious. So let’s begin.

Shandel Carter is walking home alone on Fear Street in the dead of night. She and her friend Nessa got into an argument, and so Shandel doesn’t have a ride to take her back to her house. The argument was about whether or not Nessa saw a ghost in the Fear Street cemetary: Nessa said yes, and Shandel said no way. But as she’s walking home, she starts hearing someone, or something calling her name. She runs and sees ghosts rising out of the cemetery, and has her throat cut by one of them…. But it turns out this is just a story, as told by Talia Blanton at their Thrill Club meeting. The Thrill Club is a group of friends who rip off “Are You Afraid Of The Dark” by getting together and telling scary stories. Talia’s tend to star her friends in the club: Seth, her boyfriend; Maura, Seth’s ex girlfriend (until Talia stole him away); Nessa, the kind one; Rudy, the cute one and Maura’s new boyfriend; and Shandel. Who isn’t pleased about being the victim in the story. Oh, and apparently Seth has been the one writing Talia’s stories as of late and she’s been passing them off as her own. She also is always thinking about how ugly Maura is. Talia isn’t terribly likeable, is she? Shandel asks that Talia not use her name in these gory stories anymore, and Maura implies that Talia is getting help from Seth with these stories, but Talia insists that’s not true, and demands that he lie for her. Which he kind of does. Shandel once again asks that Talia leave her name out of it, and in response Talia rushes across the room and stabs her in the chest with one of those fake retractable knife toys. Jesus Christ, this girl is a sociopath. Shandel, not pleased, says that she doesn’t get mad, she gets even.

The club breaks up for the night. Talia goes back to the rec room to find Maura and Seth talking closely, and Talia wonders why she isn’t jealous. Maybe it’s because Seth has been acting so strange since his father died three weeks earlier. Gee Talia, you’re sure right, why is acting so strange when his Dad died THREE WEEKS AGO? Rudy and Maura leave, and Talia and Seth are left alone. She wishes that he would smile more, and I officially kind of hate her. He confides in her that he found his father’s body, and that he was sitting in a chair, just staring ahead, a strange audiocassette playing on a loop. The coroner couldn’t figure out a cause of death either. And now he and his Mom and broke and may have to move away.  He takes Talia up to the study to show her something. Talia looks out the window, and sees Maura in the house next door! She demands what Maura is doing there, and Seth reminds her that she lives there. Doesn’t even know where her friend lives, this girl. ANYWAY, Seth reminds her that his dad was an anthropologist, and tells her that he was working with a ‘primitive tribe in New Guinea’ before he died. HO boy. I can already assure you this is not going to be at all culturally sensitive. He plays the tape for her, and a bunch of chanting starts up. Seth then falls into a weird trancelike state, and Talia’s head starts to pound. She begs that he turn it off, and shakes him out of his trance. On the way home Talia is feeling jumpy and finds herself walking by the Fear Street Cemetery. She suddenly hears pounding footsteps, and freaks out… but then it’s just Shandel playing a trick on her. I call that squarsies. They walk home together, and Shandel tells Talia that it was uncool that Talia broke Maura and Seth up. Talia says it wasn’t her fault, Seth asked HER out. She didn’t break them up! Sure. Shandel tells her that they aren’t a good couple, and Talia is super angry about that. Which is strange, because she knows that Shandel is right and always speaks her mind. So why is she so mad??

The next day Talia is still feeling weird. She goes to school, and wonders what she should do about Seth, stay with him or break up with him? He’s either too needy or too distant, and Talia doesn’t have time for that! In math class, her teacher Mr. Hanson pulls her aside and asks her about the previous day’s homework, and if it was actually her work. Which it isn’t, because Seth did it for her while she watched TV. But she tells him that yes, it’s totally her work, she’s NOT a cheater!

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(source)

Mr. Hanson takes her word for it. Talia wonders who could have ratted her out, and thinks that it must be Shandel.

That night at Thrill Club Nessa is pissed because everyone but Rudy is late! Which is odd because Shandel had spoken to her a half hour before telling her how excited she was for the meeting and that she had a secret to tell her. Maura shows up next, and says that maybe Talia is late because the story Seth wrote for her got lost in a disk crash, and Rudy chides her. Maura asks whose side he’s on anyway, and Nessa, being the smartest dummy in this whole group, continues to do her nails and pretend she isn’t there. I am imaging her as Portia from “Search Party” now. Then Seth shows up, and asks where Talia and Shandel are. Nessa decides to call Shandel because she’s sick of waiting, and Talia runs down the basement steps, out of breath and looking harried. Nessa asks where she was, and Talia doesn’t know…. It’s odd, because she left her house twenty minutes ago and it’s only a ten minute walk from her house, so why can’t she remember where the time went? She gives her sweatshirt to Nessa, who’s going to put it with the other coats, and doesn’t remember taking it off. Then Nessa has bad news: she called Shandel’s house, and her mom said that Shandel left a half hour ago, but it’s only a short walk to Nessa’s house! They decide to go looking for her, and Talia gets her sweatshirt back…. and Maura points out a bloodstain on it. Talia has no clue how it got there. They go looking for Shandel, and drive all the way to her house without seeing her. They wonder if she tried to cut through the cemetery. As they are driving, Maura sees something, and they stop the car. They find Shandel’s body strewn in the grass, and her throat has been cut. Just like in the horror story.

Seth drives Talia home from the police station after they are done with the questioning. She is feeling bad about the story he wrote, but he tells her not to blame herself. They make out a bit, and then he stops abruptly and says he has to go. She goes into her house, and goes to change into her nightgown… and finds a bloody knife in her dresser drawer! She keeps this info to herself until the day of Shandel’s funeral, where she tells Seth. She has no clue how the knife got in her drawer, and thinks she is being set up. The Thrill Club meets after the service to mourn and talk. Maura asks Talia about the bloody shirt, pretty clearly accusing her of murdering Shandel. Talia says that it wasn’t even blood, it was ketchup.

A few nights later Talia is waiting for Seth to call, as they are supposed to be going to the movies. He doesn’t make contact, however, so she calls him instead. He tells her that his mother is sick and he can’t see her that night after all, so Talia decides to try and write instead. But before she can start, there’s a knocking at the door. She answers, and it’s the police, asking her why she called Shandel Carter’s mother and confessed to murdering Shandel?

After denying this, at school the next week everyone is looking at her like she’s a murderer. Nessa tries to be supportive, but Maura is flat out convinced that Talia is a killer. She’s feeling out of sorts and exhausted, and walks towards the gym. She runs into Rudy inside, who says that he’s been thinking about her and promises he doesn’t think she killed Shandel. Talia, angry at Seth and feeling the slightest crumb of validation, kisses Rudy! Who kisses her back!! But then they hear the door clatter, and they turn to see someone running away. Who saw them???? They try to catch the person, but don’t. But it was just one kiss, so who cares, right?

Later that week, Talia is still not really eating. She gets to school and sees Nessa flirting with someone. THat someone turns out to be Seth! When she confronts them angrily (seems a bit hypocritical), Nessa says that Talia called her last night and told her that she was breaking up with Seth!! Talia says that she never called Nessa, but Nessa swears she isn’t lying either. Seth says he doesn’t know what to believe. That night she is home alone, and answers the door to find a HORRIBLY DISFIGURED FACE IN THE DOORWAY… But it’s just Seth in a mask, one that his father brought back from Papua New Guinea. He describes his father as a collector, but we all know he probably actually stole these artifacts in the name of science and imperialism. She says that she thought he was going to break up with her, but he assures her that no, he isn’t. They decide to have a nice talk to catch up, and she tells him that she got accepted to Berkeley in the fall!! Seth is visibly bummed by this (maybe he wrote her essay too), but then shows her that he has a new horror story that he wrote for her. This one involves Rudy getting strung up in a noose in his basement. Talia is torn, because on one had she loves the story, but on the other that seems ghoulish creepy to write another story about a friend after Shandel died like the last one. Especially since they think she killed Shandel. Seth convinces her that it’s okay, and that if he did change the name she’d look more suspicious.

At school Talia confirms with Rudy that she is indeed going to the Thrill Club meeting at his house. He is happy to hear it, and tells her to arrive at six. When she’s walking home, Talia is stopped by Maura, who tells her that she’s worried about Seth. Maura can see into his window at night and he spends most nights pacing around and looking through his father’s things. Instead of thinking about what this could mean for Seth’s well being, Talia goes in on Maura, accusing her of being jealous.

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Maura, probably. But definitely my thoughts as well. (source)

Maura suggests that maybe Thrill Club should take a break, but Talia says no, and she’s going to Rudy’s early to help him set up, fully hoping to make her jealous. God she’s such a jerk.

Nessa arrives to Thrill Club at Rudy’s and finds Maura and Seth on the porch. Rudy hasn’t let them in yet, and no one has seen Talia. They let themselves into the open house and go down to the basement. It’s there that they find Rudy hanging from a noose, dead. Nessa, possibly having a mental break, starts to laugh hysterically thinking it’s a joke, but it becomes quite clear it isn’t. Then Talia stumbles out of the shadows with rope burns all over her hands. SO, she’s sent to a mental ward. Seth comes to visit her, and she tells him that her court date is in three weeks but she’s been released into her parents custody and is going home. Though she can’t remember killing them, she concedes that she must have, given the knife in her drawer and the rope burns on her hands. Seth leaves, seeming to have finally turned his back on her, and as she watches him out the window she sees him walk back to his car, where Maura is waiting!!! Did Maura frame her for the murders all to get Seth back?!

Before leaving she hallucinates that Shandel and Rudy have come to kill her but it’s just two other patients and it’s all so superfluous. Maybe the ghost writer had a minimum word count to hit.

Anyway, Seth reads her a new story for Thrill Club that night in which she has taken Shandel and Rudy’s heads as trophies and wants to take his head too. Talia draws the line, saying this is SO distasteful, and Seth leaves her in his father’s study to answer the door. When Nessa and Maura come in, Seth shoots down the idea of the Thrill Club disbanding. He also tells Talia that she absolutely must read the new story she wrote, because it’s so good. Talia, feeling trapped, decides to read it, but try to change the ending on the fly so that instead of Rudy and Shantel’s heads it’s two shrunken heads. But as she’s reading it, she notices two things. The first is that Seth isn’t even listening, but has his Walkman on. The second is that there’s a horrible buzzing in her head, and she can’t make herself change the story, no matter how she tries. So she reads it in its original form, and Nessa and Maura are pissed. But soon a voice is drowning out the buzzing, and it tells Talia to TAKE ANOTHER TROPHY!!! And so she pulls out a HACKSAW and starts to attack Maura!!! She scuffles with both Maura and Nessa, against her will, and the voice keeps telling her to try and kill them. When Maura and Nessa overpower her, the voice says that it will take care of this, and Talia suddenly wakes up from her trance, not remembering what just happened. Maura says that they should call the police, but Seth takes the phone from Nessa and tells them that NO ONE ESCAPES!!!! It was Seth the whole time! You see, the tape that his father had wasn’t just any racist imperial bastardization of a non Western culture: it’s a ‘transfer’ tape. In that if you chant these words, the person will ‘transfer’ their consciousness into another body. Convinced that his father did this to get away from him and his mother, Seth started putting his consciousness into Talia’s body. He knew that she wanted to dump him for Rudy and leave her like his father did, and that she used him and abused him and was going to drop him anyway. He didn’t mean to kill Shandel, as he thought the knife was fake, but Rudy was totally on purpose because he’s the one who saw them kissing. And now he has a new chanting that’s going to kill all of them, somehow….. but then in mid chant, he just says ‘too late, too late’, and he buckles. The girls catch up, and they realize that he’s dead. How? I guess it doesn’t matter.

We end with Talia and Maura hanging out. Talia tells her the charges against her have been dropped, and they say they both miss Seth from before he went totally crazy. They agree to call Nessa and get together soon, and Talia says that she may write another horror story. When Maura asks if that’s a good idea, Talia says “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure this one has a HAPPY ending!” The End.

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(source)

Body Count: 3. Gotta say death by racist interpretation of another culture’s ceremony is a new one.

Romance Rating: 2. Maura and Rudy seemed to be happyish, but with Seth trying to kill Talia and everyone else it just takes the romance out of it. Also, so much cheating.

Bonkers Rating: 7. Again, racist interpretation of Papua New Guinea culture being a huge part of this was admittedly out there, but damn was I not comfortable with it. That said, the super meta-ness of a ghostwritten book being about a ghostwriter who tries to kill the writer he’s writing for is GENIUS.

Fear Street Relevance: 6. A lot of the action takes place on Fear Street, but given that the origin of the conflict wasn’t we lose some points.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“‘Talia….’ it croaked. ‘Talia…’

‘No!’ she screamed. ‘No-don’t! Please!'”

… And it was Seth in a mask. And once again it was a racist jab at Papua New Guinea.

That’s So Dated! Moments: To be honest, not much really stood out to me beyond the talk of floppy disks. But just look at the cover! Specifically at who I assume is Shandel based on character descriptions. She is completely serving us Hilary Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.

b11bd54bb64f5e050d114e4d549a04a6-fresh-prince-fashion-outfits
Aka my favorite character on the show. (source)

Best Quote:

As they start to name alphabetical faults of Talia:

“‘Let’s see’ [Shandel] said, playfully scratching her chin. ‘Why don’t we start with A. I think annoying begins with an A.’

‘Hey, she can spell,’ Talia replied sarcastically.

‘I can think of one that starts with B,’ Maura added with a snicker.”

Damn, Maura!! You aren’t wrong!

Conclusion: “The Thrill Club” had the distinct disadvantage of having to follow up “Double Date” and it really faltered because of that. It’s not very interesting and problematic as fuck, but it is bathing in potentially inadvertent meta goodness, so it’s kind of a toss up on whether it’s worth it or not. You decide.

Book Club Review: “Scythe”

28954189We are part of a group of librarian friends who have had an ongoing bookclub running for the last several years. Each “season” (we’re nerds) we pick a theme and each of us chooses a book within that theme for us all to read. Our current theme is a “Dewey Call Number” theme. This book comes from a Dewey Decimal Call Number range, and has to fit the theme of that range.

For this blog, we will post a joint review of each book we read for bookclub. We’ll also post the next book coming up in bookclub. So feel free to read along with us or use our book selections and questions in your own bookclub!

Book: “Scythe” by Neil Shusterman

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: Giveaway from ALA 2017!

Dewey Decimal Call Number: 600s (Medicine and Technology)

Book Description: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Kate’s Thoughts

This book had been on my list but had never quite made it to my pile, so imagine my delight when Serena picked it for book club! I love Shusterman and his writing, and the premise itself is just like catnip to me. A future where people have conquered death, but still have to cull the population somehow, so they recruit ‘Scythes’ to do it? YES YES YES!

And it really lived up to my hopes and dreams and expectations. I liked that Shusterman thought outside the box for this book, giving us less dystopia and more utopia, but with the consequences a utopia would have. The idea that a person can regenerate to their younger physical self while maintaining everything else in their life is rich with possibilities, and I feel like Shusterman really did a good job of world building. From the Thunderhead to the small cultural things (like ‘splatting’, which sounds like the planking fad but with jumping off buildings because you can be rebuilt), he really made something that I wanted to explore to its limits.

I also really loved the characters. You have your veteran Scythes, Curie and Farraday, who both have their own approaches to ‘gleaming’, the process where they remove people from the population by killing them. Both Farraday and Curie end up as two of the mentors to our protagonists, Citra and Rowan, and their philosophies show that great care and reflection can be taken towards their jobs. An overarching theme in this is that people who are Scythes don’t want the job, and because they don’t want the job means they are the ones who should do the job. Both Farraday and Curie have these deep emotional moments surrounding that philosophy, and they were very likable and incredibly poignant. Between our protagonists I liked Citra more, but I think that’s because her arc was more about finding that balance between the job they must do, and how they can do it in the most thoughtful way possible. Rowan fell into a more used trope, as he is ultimately trained by a renegade Scythe named Goddard whose love for Scything is deeply disturbing, and his methods reflect that. I liked Rowan, I especially liked him with Citra, but where he ends up and where it looks like he’s going to go is less interesting because I feel like, as of now, we’ve seen it before.

I will say, though, that their relationship and their innate pull towards each other is going to make for a VERY interesting path in future books.

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Frankly, I’m hoping for a Veronica/JD from “Heathers” dynamic. (source)

Speaking of, I cannot wait for “Thunderhead” to come out. I’m so far down the list at the library, but oh MAN will it be worth it!

Serena’s Thoughts

I chose this book for bookclub even though I had already read (and reviewed) it. But that’s how much I enjoyed it! And it fit perfectly with my designated Dewey section which had a focus on medicine and technology. The whole story is about the effects that a perfected medical system, one that allows everyone to live forever, has on society. And for technology, we have the Thunderhead, the seemingly neutral AI that directs much of this world’s systems.

I won’t recap my entire previous review, but much of what I said then remained true in my appreciation of the book a second time. The sheer scope of creativity and attention to detail is what makes this world stand out as so fully realized and believable. Every minute aspect of society is touched by this one essential change. Without death, how would family life change? How would one approach day-to-day things like going to work or school? Would our friendships and marriages remain the same when the people we are befriending and marrying will now likely be around for centuries and “to death do us part” means a whole new thing?

Shusterman succeeds in one of the most challenging aspects of writing a dystopia/utopia storyline. Reading books like “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” it’s immediately clear to the reader that these worlds are terrible and it’s often confusing to see how they got to be where they ended up. How were people on board with that very first Hunger Games system where their children died? How did that overly complicated and nonsensically limited system of dividing people ever even get traction in “Divergent?” But here, it’s so easy to see how the world could end up in this place. Per Shusterman’s goal, the question can still be posed about whether this is a utopia OR a dystopia? Life seems pretty good for most of society and the steps that would move the world in that direction are easy enough to spot even today!

The second book has the rather ominous title of “Thunderhead,” so I’m excited to see where he is taking the series next. Will more of the curtain be pulled back and reveal a nasty underbelly to this seemingly well-ordered world? Is the Thunderhead truly a benevolent system? I’m excited to find out!

If you’d like to read my full, original review, here it is.

Kate’s Rating 9: Such a creative and engrossing novel! I love the characters and the world that Shusterman created, and cannot wait to see what happens next.

Serena’s Rating 9: I loved it just as much reading it again six months later! So much so that I went ahead and pre-ordered the sequel that is coming out any day now.

Book Club Questions

  1. Shusterman set out with the goal to write a true utopia. Did he succeed? Would you want to live in this world? Are there aspects that appeal to you and others that seem particularly challenging?
  2. There are a lot of advances to medicine and technology presented in this book. Do any of them seem more plausible or likely to be invented? Any that are unbelievable?
  3. Between Citra and Rowan, were you more drawn to one or the other’s character and story? Which one and why?
  4. We are presented with several different approaches to performing the work of a Scythe. Did any particular approach stand out to you? What are you thoughts on the various method of culling that are used? Are any more or less ethical?
  5. The Thunderhead is presented as a benevolent AI and plays an unexpected role in this story. What did you make of it? Any predictions, given the next book is titled after it?
  6. If you were a Scythe, what name would you choose for yourself and why?

Reader’s Advisory:

“Scythe” is on these Goodreads lists: “Fiction Books About Grief, Death and Loss” and “Grim Reaper Books.”

Find “Scythe” at your library using WorldCat

Next Book Club Pick: “Book of a Thousand Days” by Shannon Hale

Kate’s Review: “Feral Youth”

31556153Book: “Feral Youth” by Shaun David Hutchinson (Ed.)

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, September 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, Feral Youth features characters, each complex and damaged in their own ways, who are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.

Review: We have once again found a book that is inspired by “The Canterbury Tales”, the medieval tome that I have not read. Even though I was excited about “Feral Youth”, enough so to highlight in on this blog, I was a bit worried that I would miss key components because of my ignorance. But I still went ahead and picked it up, and I’m glad that my self doubt didn’t discourage me. “Feral Youth” is a strong collection of short stories from a number of talented YA Authors, some of whom I loved before, others of whom I am now interested in pursuing.

As the description says, the premise is that a number of teenagers at a program for troubled youth are on an eighteen mile team building exercise hike, and tell stories to each other to pass the time or provide distraction. Each author of the collection has written a story for each of the teenagers, and created some insight into their personalities through the stories. As a whole the collection was pretty strong, with a few excellent standouts and a couple of clunkers. I’m going to talk about my three favorites here.

“A Ruthless Dame” By Tim Floreen: Cody is a closeted teen in a religious family. He starts up a romance with Mike, the boy next door who is visiting from college, and has a passionate, yet brief, love affair. But after Mike goes radio silent, Cody feels like he’s been used. When Mike comes home the next break, Cody finds out that Mike not only has a girlfriend, but a number of photos of underage boys on his phone… Cody included. Cody decides to follow the footsteps of the femme fatales of his favorite noir movies to get his revenge. This story was a pure revenge fantasy piece, and I greatly enjoyed Cody and his manipulations. While in many ways he has been victimized by Mike, he doesn’t take things lying down, and is brilliant in his scheming. I was cackling as I read this story, but also always had a sense for the tragic existence that Cody is living and why he loses himself in noir films.

“A Cautionary Tale” by Stephanie Kuehn: C.J. Perez has found himself in the role of Student Safety Escort during a college’s Avalon Festival. He meets Hollis, a sophomore who pulls C.J. into an urban legend and conspiracy theory about a serial killer, or something worse, that kills students at the school in cycles. While C.J. is skeptical, he and Hollis find out that things may not always be what they seem. This story was the one that pulled the rug out from under me, plot wise, and I expected nothing less from Stephanie Kuehn. You all know how much I love her books, and this short story is just another triumph of hers. The suspense builds and the behavior of various characters simmers in unsettling ways, so this combined made for an intense and shocking read. Man, I would love it if Kuehn would do flat out horror in her future works, because this story shows that not only could she pull it off, she could create something fabulous.

“Self Portrait” by Brandy Colbert: When Sunday moves to a new town and new school, she befriends Michah and Eli, two brothers. Michah and Eli have a tumultuous relationship, and Sunday finds herself in the middle of their low simmering feud. But she never could have imagined that she would find herself betrayed so fiercely by one of them. Colbert was the other author that I was very excited for, and “Self Portrait” didn’t disappoint. I feel like Colbert knows how to build up the feel of YA melodrama without ever crossing into the ridiculous, and Sunday’s story continues that theme. It was one of the quieter stories in this book, but it still packed a real emotional punch at the end of it.

The stories are strung together through interactions between the characters on the camping trip, and it was interesting to try and parse out who were reliable narrators and unreliable ones based on those moments. But all in all, it ultimately doesn’t matter if these stories are ‘true’, at least within the context of the story. The point is that they shed insight into those telling it, and with all these different authors telling these different stories it does feel like a group of unique individuals. If I missed anything because of my lack of knowledge of “The Canterbury Tales”, I didn’t notice it. It stood on it’s own two feet well.

“Feral Youth” was an enjoyable collection of short stories that showcases some good writers. If you want a taste of some of these authors, this is the place to start!

Rating 8: A solid collection of stories with a few serious stand outs, “Feral Youth” is a must read for fans of short stories collections with a twist!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Feral Youth” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 YA Books With LGBT Themes”, and I think that it would fit in on “Best Teen Short Stories”.

Find “Feral Youth” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Double Date”

89809Book: “Double Date” (Fear Street #23) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1994

Where Did I Get This Book: Ebook from the library!

Book Description: No girl in her right mind would say no to a date with Bobby Newkirk. Not with those great looks, that easy charm, and the awesome way he plays the guitar. Of course, some people think he’s just a bit conceited. But when it comes to breaking hearts, that hasn’t slowed Bobby down one bit.

At least, not until the beautiful Wade twins move to Shadyside. And Bobby brags to his friends that they’ll both fall for him.

And they do. Too bad for Bobby the twins never learned to share. One of them is jealous, murderously jealous. Is it quiet, shy Bree? Or bold, sexy Samantha? Bobby had better figure it out…or his double fun will turn to double terror.

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: BUCKLE UP FOLKS. THIS IS THE LONGEST ONE YET!! So for this book we meet Bobby Newkirk, a festering shithead of a protagonist. Bobby likes to date girls as long as they entertain him, then he will toss them aside like a wadded up tissue and never look back. When we meet him he’s pressing a skinny redhead named Ronnie up against her locker, kissing her and teasing her. She treats him like a rapscallion up for some fun, but I think he’s sketch as hell right out the gate. He muses in his head about how she’s not the prettiest girl he’s been with, but she’s the last cheerleader on the cheer squad that he has yet to hook up with. As the go their separate ways, her to cheer practice and him to his garage band practice, he says that maybe he’ll call her, but it’s pretty clear he probably won’t. He runs into his acquaintances Markie and Jerry, and confirms that he dumped Cari Taylor, and ribs Jerry for having to work at McDonalds. Bobby wouldn’t know about that, because he’s rich. Oh great, more North Hills jerks. Then, ANOTHER cheerleader Kimmy Bass turns the corner and yells at him for standing her up the night before. He tells her he only did it because he got a better offer. Piece of work, this Bobby. Kimmy rightfully storms away. We then meet Bobby’s bandmates as he saunters into practice, late. There’s Arnie, the drummer, Paul, the keyboardist, and Bobby, the lead guitar. Apparently their band is called Bad to the Bone. After some gross chit chat about the girls that Bobby uses and tosses aside, Paul (the only one who is actually committed to the band and the only one concerned about their gig that Friday) makes an off the cuff remark about how surprised he his that Bobby didn’t try to date them both at the same time.

AND THAT is where the Wade Twins enter, Bree and Samantha. They just moved to Shadyside the previous year, and they are the most beautiful girls in school. They are looking for a teacher, but the guys tell them that he’s not there, so they go on their way. Bobby and Arnie make some objectifying remarks, and then Bobby decides that he is going to ask both of them out! Paul thinks that it can’t be done, but Bobby is totally willing to try. After practice wraps up, Melanie comes looking for Arnie. Melanie is Arnie’s girlfriend, but she used to date Bobby, but Bobby dumped her, natch. And he thinks that if she lost some weight he’d probably ask her out again. THIS. FUCKING. GUY. They then hear the Wade Twins in the hallway, and Bobby heads off to chat them up. Melanie tells him not to do it (at some point Arnie told her and we didn’t notice), but he blows her warning off. He goes in the hall and meets with Bree, who is quiet and demure. After chatting a bit, he asks her to come to the band’s show at the Mill that Friday night. She accepts, and Bobby thinks that’s one down.

Arnie stops by Bobby’s place after dinner and congratulates him on his skeezery, calling him “The Man” at Bobby’s behest. Bobby decides to take that moment to call Samantha and ask her out for Saturday. Samantha answers, and Bobby starts chatting HER up. Samantha says that she and Bree were just talking about him, and is suspicious when he says he wants to talk to her. He asks her out for Saturday night, and she reminds him that he had just asked Bree out for Friday, and then asks if it’s a dare or something. He says no, he’s just been thinking about her a lot, and thought that she’d like to go out with him too. She asks why he thinks she’d do that to Bree, and he says it’s because she’s just dying to go out with him. She calls him conceited, but accepts the date. He says that it has to be their secret, and she agrees. They hang up, and Bobby whoops and hollers with Arnie about how scummy this all is. Bobby is sure Samantha won’t tell because she’s so outgoing and cool. Arnie wonders why Melanie was so against this that she warned him about the Wade Twins, but Bobby doesn’t care.

Bree goes to Bobby’s show at The Mill, and Bobby hot dogs on stage and struts like he’s Mick Fucking Jagger or something. After the set he meets up with Bree on the dance floor and they dance around, but then Bree says she would like to go somewhere quieter. As they’re leaving they run into Paul, who chastises Bobby for taking the attention away from the rest of the band, but Bobby don’t care. He looks back at the dance floor and thinks that Melanie sure looks fat as she dances with Arnie. Christ. He and Bree go driving around Shadyside, and he talks mostly about himself since Bree is so quiet. He even talks about a science experiment he’s doing with two honest to goodness monkeys that his uncle, who imports animals to zoos. Oh, okay. Because it’s totally ethical to give your dumbshit nephew two monkeys he can do a diet experiment on. Anyway, he drives her home and they kiss for awhile. Bree asks him if he wants to hang out again the next night, but NO CAN DO, as he has a hot date with Samantha. He makes an excuse and they say their goodbyes with more kissing.

The next day Bobby meets Samantha at the Mall. When they walk up to each other she pretends that she sees Bree, giving him a jolt, but HA, just kidding! Samantha flip flops between thinking it’s cool that they’re sneaking around, to feeling weird about it, but she also doesn’t beat around the bush and tells him she’s heard of his whorish ways. They go into the Gold Barn, and Samantha starts trying on earrings willy nilly. The clerk asks that she not do that anymore, and she politely agrees. She then asks Bobby if he likes excitement….. and bolts for the door with the earrings in her ears! Bobby is shocked that she’s shoplifting, and then before they know it they’re being chased through the mall by the clerk! They manage to lose their pursuers, and have a moment where a security guard approaches them, but only because they were running. So they get away with it, scott free. ‘Okay, kind of weird, but also sexy,’ were no doubt the thoughts going through Bobby’s mind. As they get to his car Samantha says that she wants to drive, and she drives his car like a speed demon up to River Ridge, Shadyside’s make out point. They start kissing, and Samantha asks if he likes her better than Bree. He says sure he does. She tells him that there’s a way to tell them apart, but she’ll show him later, but then goes on to say to be careful with Bree because she’s ‘fragile’.

Some time later Bobby is heading to band practice. But before that, he detours to harass Kimmy some more, pulling her hair and asking what she’s doing on Saturday, only to tell her to take a bath. He runs into Arnie and Melanie in the bandroom (Paul is there too but pissed, apparently is thinking of quitting the band because Bobby is such a fuck), and Melanie asks if he’s still trying to juggle the Wade Twins. He brags about how Samantha was over for a study date and Bree showed up, but Samantha snuck out back, and how he has them both crazy for him. Melanie asks him what if Bree finds out and it causes a rift between sisters, but Bobby says that that’s just how it is. That night in his room, he gets a strange phone call, someone saying that two’s company, three’s a crowd, and that he’ll pay. It freaks him out for a bit, because who could do this? Turns out, though, it is just Arnie messing with him and telling him that Melanie is mad. Bobby implies that she’s still hung up on him, but hangs up when the doorbell rings. It’s Bree! She walks into the house, and he thinks that maybe he’s busted. Bree says that Samantha is seeing someone, but she won’t tell her who and it’s upsetting her. Bobby assures her that he’ll ask around, and kisses her goodbye, then struts around the house totally pleased that he’s manipulating her so perfectly. Then SAMANTHA calls him and tells him Bree is on the way, and that she suspects something. He assures her that he pulled it off, and she says that he needs to dump her right away because she’s sick of sharing him, and because if Bree finds out there’s not telling what she’ll do. Bobby isn’t ready to break it off yet.

On their usual date to the mall, Samantha insists on driving Bobby’s car. She drives like a lunatic, swerving into traffic and out of it and Bobby is convinced that they are going to die a fiery death. They get to the mall though, and she confides she doesn’t even have her license.

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Said no one ever. (source)

Over a slice at Pete’s Pizza, she asks him if he broke up with Bree while at Suki Thomas’s party the night before (YEAH SUKI MY GIRL!!!). He doesn’t really answer the question, but she seems satisfied when he assures her that she’s more fun than Bree. Eventually they make their way to the jewelry store again, and this time she dares Bobby to steal a charm bracelet. When she calls him a wimp, he says that he absolutely is not a wimp and lifts the case…. only for ALL the alarms to go off. But they make a clean getaway again, and Samantha accepts the bracelet for herself. Their merriment is short lived, however, as they are soon face to face with Bree!!! And Samantha looks absolutely terrified of her. Bobby says that they were just talking about her, and Samantha makes up some excuse about shopping and running into Bobby. Bree seems mollified, and both girls run off together, leaving Bobby in the lurch. Which irks him. But he’s still intrigued by them, and is convinced that he deserves a trophy for having them ‘both at once’. When he gets to his car in the parking lot, he finds that someone slashed some of his tires. EAT IT, CREEP. By coincidence (but Bobby doesn’t think so!), Melanie drives by, and offers to give him a lift. He’s certain that she has to be the one who did this because she’s jealous.

On the way to band practice that week, Bobby has decided that there’s no way that Melanie did it. For one, she does seem happy with Arnie, but for more importantly, there’s no way that a girl could slash his tires! On the way to band practice, he tries to catch up with Bree, but lost her as she went to chorus practice. Instead he finds Samantha, who pulls him into the science room. They kiss a bit, and she shows him the way to tell her and Bree apart: a blue butterfly tattoo on her shoulder. She then demands that he drop Bree because he doesn’t know her like she does. And boy is she adamant. She then shows him her science project: cannibal ants from New Zealand!!!

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Yes, because NEW ZEALAND, the country of kiwis and sheep, would TOTALLY have those. (source)

At their rock show some times later, Bobby is being his usual boorish self, hot dogging and blocking Paul as he performs. But then, when he strums his guitar, he is suddenly bowled over by and electric shock! When he comes to, he is told that his amp wire was cut. He sees both Melanie and Kimmy looking down at him, concerned. He starts to wonder if someone is trying to kill him. WHen he gets home he calls Samantha, asking her if Bree could have done this. Samantha says she doesn’t think so, but then, she could be capable of ANYTHING. Sadly for Bobby, he turns around and sees Bree in his doorway. He hangs up and she says that she was SO SCARED. He hugs her, but wonders if she’s being sincere…

Bobby meets Arnie for lunch at a diner, and tells him that he wants to quit the band. He’s convinced that someone is trying to kill him, but Arnie says there wasn’t enough power in the amp to do that. Soon Melanie meets them, and Arnie goes to check in with his parents. Melanie asks Bobby if he’s okay, and says that maybe this is a sign that he needs to stop dating the Wade Twins. He asks her what SHE knows about it, and accuses her of being jealous and wanting him back. He then nuzzles up against her because YUCK! She assures him that no, she’s quite happy with Arnie, and shoves him off. Bobby storms off. He eventually meets Samantha a few blocks from her house, and they go driving together. She tells him that Bree is out with their mother. He asks her if Bree has said anything to him about his guitar, and she gets defensive, saying no, and that they don’t talk much anymore. The arm of her shirt falls to the side, and Bobby notices that there isn’t a butterfly tattoo there… THIS ISN’T SAMANTHA!!! He asks where her tattoo is, but she doesn’t hear him over the music. He pulls over and he asks if she’s Bree. She gets defensive, and says that he KNOWS Bree doesn’t know so how could she be? He asks abotu the tattoo on her shoulder, and she says that she doesn’t HAVE a tattoo. She then demands that he take her home because she’s upset him. He complies.

The next day at school he approaches both twins, but they blow him off. He goes to his locker, but sees a note on it that says ‘THIS IS YOU INSIDE’. He opens his locker, and sees the severed head of one of this monkeys!! He pukes his guts out, and Arnie comes to see what’s going on. He looks in the locker, and shows Bobby the monkey head is fake. But someone is definitely messing with him. Bobby is getting really scared now.

Before his date with Bree that weekend, Samantha demanded that he take her out somewhere so they could talk. She says that she asked him to dump Bree weeks ago, and now it may be too late. She is tired of waiting, and demands that they kill Bree together. Bobby is shocked, but she insists that they do this because she wants him all to herself. He says he will to placate her… but then he notices that there is a butterfly tattoo on her shoulder!!!! He asks her where it went in the car, and she has no idea what he’s talking about. She then tells him she wants to take him to a ‘special place’. While she drives he starts to wonder if maybe SAMANTHA is behind all of this! She drives them to an isolated cabin, She says that they can do the deed here, it’s her family cabin, and no one will ever know. Bobby decides that he has to warn Bree.

He calls Bree when he gets home, and says they have to get together right away. She says he has to wait until their official date because she’s busy, and hangs up. He waits until their date, and drives her away from her house, intending to tell her what Samantha plans to do. When he does, Bree has her own confession: she and Samantha aren’t twins. There is a triplet named Jennilynn who was sent away because of her violent tendencies towards the other two. She was so jealous of Bree and Samantha that she locked them in their room and set the house on fire. Luckily their father got home in time to save them, and they got Jennilynn therapy and sent her to live with relatives. She thinks it must be Jennilynn who wanted her dead, because she’s jealous that Bree has a boyfriend. She tells him that the way to tell it’s Jennilynn is the BLUE BUTTERFLY TATTOO ON HER SHOULDER!!!!!

Well after Bobby drops her off, he goes to tell Arnie about this (even though he promised not to tell anyone). Melanie happens to be there too, and Bobby tells them both, and demands if Melanie knew since she’s known the Wade Twins so long. She says that she ‘can’t say’ because she promised, and she and Arnie got to the movies. Bobby decides to dump both twins because he never bargained for a crazy triplet. The next day he meets with Samantha, who asks him why her sister was so upset when he dropped her off. He says that she told him about Jennilynn… And then Samantha says that THERE IS NO JENNILYNN, this is a sign that Bree is REALLY OFF HER ROCKER. She says that she has to go home and tell her parents…. He soon asks where her tattoo is. She tells him that she has no tattoo, and he says that she showed it to him in the science lab. She says that never happened and he needs to get a grip.

That night Bobby is at home when his phone rings. The caller identifies herself as Jennilynn, and demands to know why he was meeting with Bree at the Mall! He says it was Samantha, not Bree, and she says that she knows her own sister, and when are they going to KILL HER?

SO THE NEXT DAY he still hasn’t called Samantha or Bree or WHOEVER to ask about this, and Samantha drives up to his house in her convertible. He knows it’s her because she’s dressed very boldly. He gets in the car with her, and says that Jennilynn called him. She says that it HAS to be Bree because Jennilynn isn’t real. She says they’ll talk more when they get to the cabin. He then realizes that her shoulder HAS A TATTOO. He points this out, she says duh, he says that she didn’t have it at the mall yesterday, and she says she wasn’t at the mall yesterday, what is his problem? He asks if she’s always had it, and she says she showed him in the science lab!

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They get to the cabin and she says that she has Bree’s murder all planned out. They get out of the car, and she hits HIM over the head with a bottle.

When Bobby wakes up, he realizes he’s tied to a chair, stripped to his tee shirt and boxers. He sees Samantha by a roaring fire in the fireplace, and she says that she’s Jennilynn. He says there IS no Jennilyn, and she freaks. OF COURSE THEY SAID SHE WASN’T REAL!! But she’s the one with the tattoo, and she was the one in the science lab! He begs that she let him go, and she says that her sisters can’t be happy, so they both have to lose him. She then dumps a jar of honey on his head, and THAT is when he sees the New Zealand Cannibal Ants. I AM SCREAMING, this is amazing. She takes their container’s lid off, and the ants storm forth, crawling all over him and starting to bite. She tells him to scream, because no one will hear him. She leaves him behind to his apparent doom. He freaks and falls over as the ants crawl all over him, but the tie comes loose due to the honey, and he’s able to get free. He runs out of the house, only to see headlights. He thinks that it might be Jennilynn, but no… It’s Melanie! He tells her what happened and she tells him to get in, they’ll go get help. She says that she wasn’t looking for him, though, she was trying to help Samantha and Bree, as someone stole their convertible and they thought it was Jessilynn. She admits that she knew the whole time, and he says they have to warn them. So they drive to their house….

WELL, when they arrive, he bursts into the house to warn them…. And sees that Bree, Samantha, Kimmy, Ronnie, and a few other girls are there. Mr Wade asks who he is and what he’s doing there. Bobby says that Jennilynn kidnapped him…. To which Mr. Wade says ‘who?’ He then says that his triplet daughter kidnapped him. Mr. Wade says there is no third sister. BUT THE CANNIBAL ANTS. “There is no such thing as cannibal ants.” Also, they don’t own a cabin. Bobby turns to Melanie for confirmation, and she says she has no idea what he’s talking about. BUT THE ONE WITH THE TATTOO-, to which Mr. Wade says they BETTER NOT HAVE TATTOOS. And they don’t. Mr Wade tells Bobby to go home and leaves to get the phone. Bobby says that the Twins did this to him, and they both say they have NO IDEA what he’s talking about they’ve just been with their friends all night. And then Melanie says that they were all in on this together because he’s a misogynistic pig who thinks he can just treat girls like crap. Humiliated, Bobby runs out.

At school that week Bobby is alone, his band has broken up, and he’s confronted by Bree and Samantha who give him a note that says “Twin sisters don’t have secrets. We both knew everything from the very start.” They wave and leave, and inside the envelope Bobby finds a temporary tattoo of a blue butterfly. THE END.

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Body Count: Zilch, and I’m not angry about it because this story was baller.

Romance Rating: 1, because Bobby is a serious douche canoe. But again, that’s just fine given how this all shook out. Maybe I’ll up the ante to a 2 because Melanie and Arnie are happy enough.

Bonkers Rating: 8. I say this because these girls went to crazy lengths to teach this misogynistic creep a lesson, like shop lifting, breaking and entering, and probably what one could call assault.

Fear Street Relevance: 4. The Wade Twins live on Fear Street, and there’s some action in the Fear Woods, but altogether it could have been anywhere. Not as bad as books that take place outside of Shadyside, though.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Cut off just below the chin, the monkey head rested in a dark puddle of blood. Its tiny black eyes stared up lifelessly at Bobby. Its mouth frozen open in a silent cry of terror and pain.”

… And it’s just a plastic monkey head meant to freak Bobby out. I’m relieved, but how stupid.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Bobby named his test monkeys Wayne and Garth a la “Wayne’s World”, which is the second “Wayne’s World” reference in these books, so maybe Stine really likes this movie? Also their cover band plays a lot of songs from the 1950s, and I can’t imagine teens of today reaching THAT far back for retro points in the 2010s….

Best Quote:

“‘I warned you,’ she said in a low voice. ‘This is what you get for the way you treated Bree and Samantha, and for the way you treated all of us. You’re not Bobby the Man. You’re Bobby the Total Pig!'”

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Conclusion: It was unexpected and kind of refreshing in a lot of ways, so I really have to give “Double Date” the props that it deserves. It shows that Stine was a bit more willing to think outside the box when it came to these books and not necessarily stick to a formula, and I LOVED how it all shook out.