There may be small spoilers? I tried to be fairly spoiler free but I’m not sure how I did. If something’s going to be particularly spoilery, I’ll put a warning before it.
“The Birds of Azalea Street” by Nova Ren Suma
(Pretty big spoilers)
This story was interesting, but I don’t know if it was the right story to start the collection. It was a well-written story, but it just felt kind of lacking. I wanted more information about the girl/creature/bird thing, and there just wasn’t any. Maybe the author did this because the story was told in a personal narrative, and the narrator didn’t know? Or maybe she just didn’t have anything else to say about it? Maybe the focus was supposed to be more on the creepy neighbor than on the bird girl? The neighbor was creepy. Creepier than the bird girl. But when I started reading this I went in expecting supernatural horror so a creepy guy didn’t really do it for me as much. At the end of the story, the girls find out that their creepy neighbor has pictures of them sitting in hammocks and if the wind blew one of their skirts up a little the neighbor took a picture of that. That’s obviously really creepy, and if something like that happened to me or to someone I know, I would be very freaked out. But, like I said, I went in expecting supernatural monsters, and he was a very human monster.
Towards the end, I started to wonder if the girl was maybe the Morrigan? It seemed like that was possibly where the author was going, but then there was nothing else about her and she just flew away or something. Perhaps the lack of development was to keep the page number low, but it seemed to leave the story lacking. I would have read more pages for better explanations.
Three out of five stars.
“In the Forest Dark and Deep” by Carrie Ryan
This story was amazing. If you’ve ever wanted to read a really twisted, bloody version of Alice in Wonderland THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO READ. After reading the first story, I didn’t have very high hopes for the rest of this collection, but OH MY GOD. It gives me chills just thinking about it. It didn’t go at all the way I expected it to, and it really freaked me out, but in the best way. The end was entirely unexpected, but it worked with the story. So often twist endings are surprising but don’t fit. This was surprising and fit perfectly. I’m not going to say too much about this one because I don’t want to give anything away, but WOW.
Five out of five stars.
“Emmeline” by Cat Winters
(There’s a spoiler after the rating, but I mark it)
The plot in this one was predictable-it’s been done before and done better. I think even The Ghost Whisperer covered it. I didn’t hate it, but it was very predictable, and, because of that, the ending seemed anticlimactic. I thought that since these stories are all supposed to be terrifying horror that there might be some kind of twist ending; however, it ended exactly how I expected it to, and I was left wanting more.
Two out of five stars.
(Spoiler: I was wondering if, instead of the girl being dead, the guy would be dead, and he would kill the girl? That would be a somewhat believable twist ending. I could live with that ending and be happy. But it didn’t end that way. Also, I kind of didn’t like how she told him she was dead the whole time and then turned out to be dead? Because that’s been done before-and better-in other books.)
“Verse Chorus Verse” by Leigh Bardugo
Whenever I read this story I thought it was interesting. A couple days later when I went to write the review, I actually had to go read the first couple lines of the story so I could remember what it was about. In other reviews, people have mentioned that they aren’t sure if they “got” the ending, and I have to agree with them. It could have been so good if it was less vague. If the music industry had ended up being the monster as a commentary on pop music, that would have been awesome. I hate the pop music industry. I want to read a story that seems like it’s going to be a horror story and then is actually about how the people making pop music are the real monsters. I make music and I love horror, so I thought I was going to love this, but in the end it was kind of meh.
Three out of five stars.
“Hide and Seek” by Megan Shepherd
This one freaked me out much more than I expected it to, but I did have to go back and reread the first line so I could remember what it was about because for some reason it didn’t really stick with me the way some other stories have. Once I reread the first line, though, the author’s description of the soul collector came right back to me. I think I will be thinking about that for a while. Her descriptions are really vivid and haunting.
Four out of five stars.
“The Dark, Scary Parts and All” by Danielle Paige
(Maybe vague spoilers here?)
This story was okay. I think that maybe the author also should have mentioned that the story was inspired by Greek mythology because of the whole Persephone thing they had going on. I didn’t really notice anything that reminded me of Frankenstein, which is supposed to be one of the inspirations for it, but whatever.
In some parts, Marnie seemed a little bit “I’m not like other girls,” which is way overused in young adult books and drives me insane, but whatever, that’s not my biggest complaint. Bear with me.
My biggest complaint is that Marnie’s favorite song is “Wonderwall” (I know, it has so little to do with the plot but these things bother me). Who even listens to “Wonderwall”? Out of all of the amazing alternative songs from the ‘90s, her favorite song is “Wonderwall”? You know what else came out the same year as “Wonderwall”? Radiohead’s album The Bends. You know what song would be better to put in the story? Literally anything off of The Bends, there isn’t a bad song on that album. I looked it up what “Wonderwall” means (When I say I looked it up I mean that I read two comments on what people thought the song meant, but they were highly rated comments so whatever.), and according to what I read, “Wonderwall” is about “unselfish love” or the butterflies you get in your stomach when you see your crush (*eye roll*). So I guess it could be a cute date song if you’re into it? But I don’t think that it’s really fitting for the story. What about “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” by Radiohead? That song’s about staring the devil in the eyes and knowing that, no matter what you do, he’s going to win (this has the interview that explains the meaning of the song: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/general_music_news/thom_yorke_explains_dark_meaning_to_street_spirit.html). Doesn’t that seem way more fitting for a short story about a guy who’s some kind of monster? A guy who actually said that he was the son of satan (or a devil, I can’t remember)? I know that Radiohead isn’t always going to be the right music for every situation, even if I try to make it be, but in this situation, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” would have been so much better!
Maybe the author chose “Wonderwall” because it’s a well known ‘90s song? But lots of songs are well known, and that doesn’t necessarily make them good. Maybe she wanted Marnie to be relatable, or she wanted people to recognize the music that she listened to? But I’ve literally never heard anyone say that their favorite song was “Wonderwall”. Even the people who like Oasis. Also, it’s fun to hear of a song you’ve never heard of in a story and then be able to go look it up. At least for me. One of my favorite short stories, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” from Zombies VS. Unicorns was full of music references and part of the fun of reading it was finding the references and listening to those songs while reading.
Three out of five, because it was interesting but “WONDERWALL”? REALLY? End rant.
“The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh” by April Genevieve Tucholke
This one was disturbingly real. I really liked this one because it didn’t need a supernatural creature, or even a psycho killer, to make it creepy. There wasn’t blood or gore, and there wasn’t really a moment when everything became super dramatic, but I think it’s better that way. This was all about freaking yourself out with what you do. Everything horrible was something they actually did and the psychological ramifications of their actions.
Five out of five stars.
“Fat Girl With A Knife” by Jonathan Maberry
I really liked this one. Some reviewers are saying that it wasn’t that original, but it’s a zombie story, so there aren’t that many directions you can go with that. I liked that Dahlia wasn’t the stereotypical short, thin girl who is the main character in almost every YA novel. I liked that her lack of thin girl street cred is what saw her through. A thin girl just would not have cut it in this story. Pun intended. I also liked that she was just really chill about the apocalypse. She didn’t have an emotional breakdown or anything, she just handled it. It was awesome.
Five out of five stars.
“Sleepless” by Jay Kristoff
I wasn’t sure about this one at first but, about halfway through it, I got really into it. I accidentally read the last couple lines before I finished the story, so I knew kind of how it ended. But there were enough unexpected plot twists that, even knowing what I did about the ending, I was still surprised and on the edge of my seat while reading it.
Four and a half out of five stars.
“M” by Stefan Bachmann
I liked some of this author’s other work, so I was expecting to like this story, but for some reason I didn’t like it as much as some of the others. Yes, the children singing songs about murder is creepy, but I found this kind of lacking. The main character is blind, so I guess that makes it creepier because she can’t see what’s going on? But I didn’t feel like that added enough creepiness and I wasn’t really freaked out by this one at all.
I don’t really know what to rate this. Two and a half out of five stars, I guess? I really wanted to like it.
“The Girl Without a Face” by Marie Lu
In the first half of this story not much happened, and then, in the second half, A LOT happened. Also, I kind of feel like the main character (I’m blanking on his name) deserved whatever he got because after that flashback I hated him. Also, did he do that thing with the deer or not? Tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that was ever fully explained.
Two stars? Because creepy closets are always cool to read about, but I didn’t feel bad for him at all. I actually think he deserved everything he got.
“A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow” by McCormick Templeman
I didn’t love this one. I feel like maybe I missed something? Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention? I don’t know, but it definitely wasn’t the best in the collection.
Two out of five stars.
“Stitches” by A. G. Howard
This one was really bloody and gross. This is another one that was based on Frankenstein, and it was very, very obvious. I read Frankenstein a few years ago and I didn’t like it. I never like things that are really gory, so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t like this story that much. The ending was kind of weird, the characters were hard to connect with, the gore was far too descriptive, and, in my opinion, it didn’t add anything good to the story.
One out of five stars.
“On the I-5” by Kendare Blake
(Not so vague spoilers in this one)
Again, maybe I missed something? It was interesting, but I still have questions which leave me kind of confused. This story was shorter than others, so maybe it’s just that there wasn’t enough space in the story to go into as much detail as some of the other stories went into? I don’t know. It was interesting, but I think it could have been longer, and, like I said, I still have a lot of questions. Why was the girl doing what she did? Why was she there in the first place? What happened to the other girl? Why did she kill that guy? I guess that’s sort of explained but not enough for me. Whatever.
Two out of five stars.
I averaged all of my ratings and ended up getting less than I expected to get. The final number was less than I wanted to rate it, so I’m going to pretend that number doesn’t exist and I’m rating it 3.75 out of five stars. I’m giving it a higher rating because, even though there were stories I didn’t like so much, the ones I did like, I loved, and they are good enough for me to hand out more stars.