Review of Only If You Dare: 13 Stories of Darkness and Doom

Only If You Dare: 13 Stories of Darkness and Doom
by Josh Allen; illus. by Sarah J. Coleman
Middle School    Holiday    208 pp.    g
8/21    978-0-8234-4906-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5066-4    $9.99

Thirteen illustrated short stories range from eerie to totally terrifying. Each tale stands completely alone, but a strong sense of foreboding, unease, and utterly chilling twists runs through the collection. Readers will get a good dose of scary clowns, spiders, and other horror staples, while a few more unusual terrors feature as well: think cursed oatmeal, a sinister summer job, and a cellphone with a little too much personality. Some of the main characters — all are roughly middle school–aged — deserve the terrors that befall them, but others are snatched by specters while simply, for instance, playing a board game at home. There’s no relying on logic or fairness in Allen’s imaginative world. The writing is crisp and lively, getting right to the point while still building suspense. The frightening concepts and grisly illustrations may put off more timorous readers, but intrepid tweens and teens who enjoy a thrill will be thoroughly sucked in.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Berman

Sarah Berman is a middle school special education assistant. She attended the University of St. Andrews, where she studied literature and wrote a dissertation about violence in children's fiction. 

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