Only If You Dare

Josh Allen, illus. by Sarah J. Coleman. Holiday House, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4906-4
From creepy dolls to self-aware smartphones, cursed ice cream to prophetic board games, tween protagonists are plagued by speculative terrors beyond their control in Allen’s (Out to Get You) unnerving collection. Thirteen tales of existential dread, everyday nightmares, and disquieting fates offer fare ready to thrill, nauseate, and disturb younger readers. Happy endings are few and far between, as characters—mostly implied white, though casts feature an inclusive range of names—find themselves unable to escape consequences both accidental and deserved, such as in “Lumpy, Lumpy,” in which the protagonist, after refusing to eat a bowl of oatmeal, confronts the increasingly disgusting leftovers every night, or in “My Hand, Right There,” which presents an unwelcome surprise for a boy determined to leave his mark in wet cement. Attempting to assert individuality proves impossible in “One of a Kind,” while a dismissive substitute teacher gets a rude awakening in “The Substitute.” Realistically sketched b&w full-page illustrations by Coleman, augmented by hand-lettering and washes of ink, lend additional ambiance to each well-paced tale. Though horror fans will enjoy this spine-tingling selection, readers with more delicate sensibilities may wish to approach with caution. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rick Margolis, Rising Bear Literary. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 08/04/2021
Release date: 08/31/2021
Genre: Children's
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