Monday, July 16, 2018

MG Review: Scream and Scream Again

Scream and Scream Again by R. L. Stine

Published: July 24th, 2018 by HarperCollins
Genre: MG Horror Anthology
Binding: e-ARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 416
Part of a series? No.
Got via: I requested it from Edelweiss.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): R.L. Stine—the godfather of Goosebumps—and some of the most popular authors today bring an unrivaled mastery of all things fearsome, frightening, and fantabulous to this terrifying anthology of all-new scary short stories.

Scream and Scream Again! is full of twists and turns, dark corners, and devilish revenge. Collected in conjunction with the Mystery Writers of America, this set includes works from New York Times bestselling authors telling tales of wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses.

Read it if you dare! With twenty never-before-published scary stories from some of the most popular authors today—including Chris Grabenstein, Wendy Corsi Staub, Heather Graham, Peter Lerangis, R.L. Stine, Bruce Hale, Emmy Laybourne, Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Morton, Ray Daniel, Beth Fantaskey, Phil Mathews, Carter Wilson, Doug Levin, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, Alison McMahan, Daniel Palmer, Tonya Hurley, and Stephen Ross—it’s sure to leave readers screaming for more.

Review: Since this is an anthology, and I'm not going to be doing a mini-review like other anthologies I've read in the past, I thought I would talk a little about the anthology as a whole when I'm done reading it, but as I read, if there's a story that I think needs particular attention, good or bad, I'll write it up separately. Got it? Don't worry, just follow along. It'll make sense. I think.

Trigger warnings for animal cruelty, also. Other things, too, but a couple of stories are really bad for the animal cruelty.

Best Revenge by R. L. Stine: Oh my god this is the most ridiculous thing ever. This is the first story and it's not a great start, lol. It's really repetative, and super cliche for a Goosebumps-type story. Like, there's a character named Cletus who heehaws like a donkey. CLETUS. I can't. It's also quite juvenile. This is not one Stine's best works, and it's not a great start.

Bricks and Bones by Emmy Laybourne: This is the third story, and it's not bad, but there's some serious plot holes. I don't think you can play finders keepers with three million dollars worth of gold. I don't think that's how it works. I'm also pointing out that this story is a white woman writing a main character who is a young black boy. This is the second story with a white person writing characters of colour. Haven't gotten the one yet with a writer of colour, but we'll see.

Ring and Run by Steve Hockensmith: There's a Trump joke in this one and I don't know how to feel about that but also I kinda laughed my butt off. I honestly really liked this one? It had a super neat premise and I liked the blending of a real dangerous thing with a paranormal dangerous thing. Good job. Big fan.

Cat Got Your Tongue by Wendy Corsi Staub: I really like this one. I think it's probably the best one at being a story that really fits the "scream" thing. It's really creepy, and interesting, and I'm a big fan. Leaves a few strings dangling, but I liked it enough that I don't mind.

The I Scream Truck by Beth Fantaskey: So you can tell someone's "eaten a lot of ice cream" by looking at the size of their bodies. Six nights of eating ice cream makes you fat. Literally, they gorge themselves on ice cream for a week and end up fat. Kids who were previously thin. And being fat makes them slow and clumsy, obviously. Then the story calls it "a few pounds" but goes out of its way to describe their swollen stomachs in great detail. Are you writing feedee porn, story?

Remember, kids, if your parents are vegans, you'll be so deprived of ice cream because the only option you have is "frozen tofu" and not, like, coconut ice cream or sorbet, that you're willing to jump into a creepy ice cream truck and gorge yourself for a week, and you'll be eaten by cannibals.

No, I'm sorry, how is there a sign that says "Welcome to Nightingale Corners! Home of America's Only Cannibal Feast!" AND NO ONE WHO VISITS OR MOVES THERE NOTICES??

This story is ridiculous and not in a good way.

Area Code 666 by Carter Wilson: Ugh, this one has fat-hate too. The MC's teacher is just soooo fat and gross, and of course he's sweaty (because sweating is a moral failure) and waddles. One of her friends literally calls him a "fat monster". Overall the theme of this story is technology is evil and you are brainwashed to check your phone every time it makes the least noise because silencing your phone isn't a thing that exists.

Also if you say "red balloon" and horror, I'm kinda just thinking about Pennywise. And also, balloons aren't scary. What happens after the balloon is scary. (In It, I mean, not in general. Balloons don't rain from the sky when I see a spider or something.) The ending of this one is just kind of a let-down, and the screaming thing here is super tacked on.

The Only Child by Joseph S. Walker: This is incredibly creepy. Like I'm straight up adult creeped out, not just kid-level creeped out. Wow! There is an episode of Alice Isn't Dead that I consider one of the scariest, creepiest things I've ever encountered. This is right up there with that.

The Nightmare Express by Daniel Palmer: This starts out really promising, and then flops right down onto a racial slur. (The g-word.) And then it rolled over onto a pile of racist stereotypes about Romani people. And it follows that up with ableist language.

The Girl in the Window by Tonya Hurley: The author expects you to believe that girls are still freaking out over "frocks" on Snapchat (I guess Forever21 doesn't exist in this world?) and they get birthday dresses as their "big gift" to wear to school the next day, and this is a giant deal that the rest of the school cares about. It also expects you to believe that a family that barely has enough money for food and rent with the mom working two jobs has enough money that her eleven year old daughter has a phone so she can Snapchat and Instagram and all that jazz.

Meanwhile a page before, it says that the mom only buys the main character and her brother a new pair of shoes on their birthdays because new shoes cost "a tiny fortune". She buys her a pair of navy blue sparkly flats. I guess it doesn't get muddy or snowy there? If you only can buy one pair of shoes for your kids a year... well, first, you better hope their feet don't grow fast, but also would you really buy cute flats? Like, what if it rains? Also, she apparently spent "a week's salary" on these flats. Let's do that math actually. Lowest wage in the US is $2.13 for tipped workers (like waitstaff, so, you know, tip your waitstaff), so let's times that by 8 for a full-day. If you go by 5, that's $85.20 before taxes, and if you go by 7, $119.28. I have a lot of feelings about spending that much money on flats for a child who can't wear them in the winter.

I wasn't even going to write about this one, but I got annoyed trying to write about it in the summary thoughts because it was just so frustrating. It felt like the author took a short story set in the fifties and then added Snapchat because that's what the kids are into, you know!

Feed the Birds by Stephen Ross: This is a good one. It's set in 1872, and it's about the only story of the grouping that isn't set in modern day. It's creepy, it's weird, it's got a good atmosphere. All good.

Over all thoughts: A middle grade horror anthology is a great idea, and a lot of these stories I really liked. However, some really flopped. Kind of what you get in an anthology, though, I guess.

Some of the authors handled having modern technology well, and use it well to add to their stories. Others really do not. Some stories, the inclusion is just really awkward and unnatural, and some of them feel like they really don't like the idea of having to have technology in them but they're just doing it because that's what they're supposed to do.

There's also another underlying problem. Specifically, only three out of twenty of these stories are about kids who aren't white. And all of those stories that feature characters of colour are written by white authors. Now, a few of these authors don't really have online prescences so it's hard to really know for sure, but near as I can tell, at least seventeen of the authors are white. There's a possibility some of the three I couldn't find anything about aren't, but if they are, and I highly suspect they are, this is an anthology where out of twenty authors, all are white.

Even if some of them aren't white, that's still seventeen out of twenty! That's ridiculous! Not to mention The Nightmare Express which is entirely based on the idea of "g*psy curses" which is horribly racist. There's almost something of an attitude where it almost feels like some of the authors are... well, to be frank and to use phrasing I don't love, they have a political agenda. Like they're annoyed that they have to be thinking about diversity now that we've made a big stink out of it. One story makes a big point of saying "this isn't politically correct, but (sexist thing)" and I just don't get that. Why do you want that message going out to kids??

Cover comments: This is an amazing cover and I think kids will love it. It's creepy and draws your eye in, and it has the R.L. Stine name that's a big draw.

Conclusion: My final words honestly are that I cannot feel comfortable recommending this. I cannot ignore the fact that this is an entirely or near-entirely white-authored anthology and recommend it in good faith. I'm white. It is not appropriate for me to look at an anthology with *twenty* authors and be like,"they're all white? Cool, that's fine! I see no problem with this!" That's not okay!

So, while I enjoyed this, and I think it's something that kids would love, I can't recommend it in good faith. Two roses mostly for the stories I did like.



Other notes:

- BALLOONS AREN'T SCARY

Peace and cookies,
Laina

2 comments:

  1. Creepy and weird. Yup, sounds like me. :)
    Nice review and commentary of the anthology, Laina!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Welp, I'm incredibly clumsy and deleted a comment I didn't mean to trying to get rid of some spam.

    Joseph S. Walker, if you ever come back here, thank you so much for the comment I accidentally deleted!

    ReplyDelete

I have comment moderation turned on for comments older than a month to cut back on spam. :) Thanks for commenting!

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