Editor: R.L. Stine
Publication Date: Sept. 2010
Lexile Level: 650
Fear is a young adult anthology of suspense and horror tales, edited by R.L. Stine. It contains thirteen stories by authors such as Meg Cabot, Heather Brewer, and other young adult authors. Stine is perhaps the best known scary story author for those under 18, even if a lot of his works (namely Goosebumps) tends to end up being a little more goofy than truly scary. But given the ages that he writes for, his Fear Street series and other works are usually a great introduction to darker material.
Not so here. This is one of the flattest anthologies I’ve ever read. Worse, can’t even be argued that it is meant to be more for kids, not teens. Most all of the characters are teenagers, not children. But the stories are…maybe not terrible, but certainly not scary or tense. There’s maybe one or two moments that are a little suspenseful, but that’s it. Given the quality of work that most of these authors are known for, it was really disappointing. The first several stories are predictable at best, boring at worst. There’s simply nothing new here.
Stine’s introduction, in hindsight, is downright misleading. The story promos he gives are inaccurate, written in such a way as to make the stories sound scarier than they are. There’s certainly nothing here to invoke screams of horror. Unless one screams at the sight of poor writing.
There is precisely one story in this collection worth reading: “Tagger” by James Rollins. It is not scary in the least, but it is a brilliantly written short story, managing to cram an entire mythology into just a few pages. I honestly would love to read a full-fledged novel or even series about these characters. Sool-ling and Bobby are charming, and I could easily see them leading their own stories.
Stine’s “Welcome to the Club” opens the anthology, and like his Goosebumps series, features a decent setup with a disappointing payoff. “She’s Different Tonight” by Heather Graham, about a boy stalking a date on Halloween, is so predictable I’m fairly certain it could have been plagiarized from any number of TV shows. “Suckers” by Suzanne Weyn is about a family moving to a new settlement on another planet. It features a Twilight Zone type ending—like Graham’s story, I actually think it’s been used before.
“Jeepers Peepers” by Ryan Brown and “Shadow Children” by Heather Brewer do offer a bit of scary imagery, and honestly, I wish these stories had been longer. They felt rushed, and I think the suspense would have been more effective if it had been drawn out a bit more. “The Perfects” by Jennifer Allison, “Dragonfly Eyes” by Alane Ferguson, and “Tuition” by Walter Sorrells are just…depressing. With all of the other stories ending on a relatively up note, these three stories fell out of place. “Tuition” in particularly just feels mean-spirited.
The three stories worth reading are “Piney Power” by F. Paul Wilson, “The Night Hunter” by Meg Cabot, and “Tagger” by James Rollins. All three introduced me to characters I’d like to read more of. These are the best developed of the stories. It’s worth picking up the anthology just for these stories—the rest can easily be skipped.
Final verdict: Ugh. Just…ugh. Not worth it in time or money, and given the talent involved, it’s just disappointing.