Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bites: Scary Stories to Sink Your Teeth Into edited by Lois Metzger

edited by Lois Metzger
contributing authors: Christopher Paul Curtis, Kevin Emerson, Joshua Lee, Peter Lerangis, Douglas Rees, Neal Shusterman, Terry Black, & Ellen Wittlinger

Are you ready for spine-tingling tales by some of today's best writers? Just keep in mind a few simple warnings:

-Some vampires don't want just your blood . . . they want something even more valuable.

-Werewolves, once dead, don't always stay that way.

-Some dogs and coyotes may look normal--but don't get too close.

Remember...what you don't know can bite you.

 My Review
This is a great anthology! It wasn't overly scary to me, but I can imagine that it would have a decent scare-factor for kids. I wrote summaries and review for each of the seven short stories:

"Perpetual Pest" by Neal Shusterman and Terry Black
Mark and his older, juvenile delinquent brother, Rudy, are going grave-digging in order to find something to sell. Mark desperately wants some new sneakers so he can do well on the basketball team, but his mom doesn't have the money to buy them. Rudy was the one who talked Mark into coming with him to Petpetual Rest graveyard (now called "Perpetual Pest" because the "r" on the sign is broken), but now Mark is having second thoughts. It is seriously creepy in the graveyard. When Rudy reveals their targeted grave and how the woman died, Mark wants to cut and run. But Rudy won't leave, and Mark is too afraid to go through the graveyard on his own. Will either of them survive the night?

This is a nice, straightforward story, and a great introduction to the anthology. Not too scary, but not wimpy either. It's very easy to sympathize with Mark, especially when he figures everything out looong before his brother. 3 stars.

"Ghost Dog" by Ellen Wittlinger

Jack just moved from Chicago to the middle of nowhere, where his mom grew up. He's having a hard time adjusting, and his only real friend is Travis, with whom he rides his bike through the woods. Travis warns Jack not to talk to Hawkins, an old man who sits on his porch all day. When Hawkins asks Jack to look for his lost dog one day, Jack does as he asks, even though Travis insists that the dog is dead. When Jack and Travis come across the dog in the woods, Jack comes to believe that the dog isn't really a ghost. Only one of them can be right...

I'll admit, even I didn't figure this one out before the end, and I'm usually quite good at picking up on hints. There's a definite creep factor here, although it's not until the very end when everything comes to light. 5 stars.

"Going Old School in the Age of Obama" by Christopher Paul Curtis

Maurice is a vampire, trapped in the hell that is middle school gym class with a sadistic teacher who allows the bigger kids to beat the weaker kids to an often bloody pulp during their weekly dodgeball tournaments. Maurice wants nothing more than to take Darnell - the head of The Men's team - down. Can he work up the courage to stand up for himself?

This one was not my favorite. It was probably the political language that really did it in for me. Referring to vampires as essentially third class citizens (meaning that minorities are second class citizens) really irked me. Because of that, I wasn't really able to enjoy the story. Maurice was a cute character, though, and I felt his pain. Gym class is tough for anyone not in the top 5% of athletics. 2 stars.

"Anasazi Breakdown" by Douglas Rees

Darcy and her mother are visiting the ruins of an ancient civilization in New Mexico. Darcy steals a shard of pottery as a Christmas present for her mother, thinking it will be the perfect way to memorialize a trip that her father had always wanted to make with them. But when their truck breaks down on the way out of town, and her mother can't get a signal on her cell phone to call for a tow truck, Darcy is left all alone in the middle of the desert to wait for her mother to return with help. Will she survive on her own in the wilderness?

Poor Darcy. Her father just died, and now she and her mother are embarking on a trip that he had always wanted the three of them to make. But after Darcy steals that shard of pottery in a loving gesture for her mother, nothing goes right. Native American mythology is always a plus. 4 stars.

"The Coffin Deliveries" by Kevin Emerson

One day, Tyler and Jamie witness something very odd on the way home from school: A coffin is being delivered to 14 Simmons Street. Jamie is something of an amateur reporter, and by the lunch the next day she has a good chunk of the story - and another mystery: Pets are disappearing from the neighborhood. Tyler isn't really sure what's going on, but as the days go on, the coffins pile up and more neighborhood pets go missing. Can Tyler and Jamie figure out who is behind this rash of disappearances, and what the coffins are for, before it's too late?
This was such a cute story, very Nancy Drew-esque. Lots of mystery and intrigue, plus schoolyard gossip. Add in the twist at the end, and you've got yourself a winner. 4 stars.

"Where Wolves Never Wander" by Joshua Gee

Old Gretchen is watching seven young pups for the night. When one of the young pups complains about having to keep silent for the "humans," Gretchen decides that this would be a good time to tell the pups that humans aren't really a myth. She launches into a story about her brother, the night he disappeared, and how he faced a fate worse than death.

This was a very interesting premise. The wolf pups all believe that humans are a myth, and their caretaker, Old Gretchen, is one of the few who knows othewise. She weaves a tale of adventure, peril and heartbreak for her wee charges, and it's clear the pups are just as captived as the reader. 5 stars.

"I, Blooder" by Peter Lerangis

Ferrous is a vampire. Well, he should be anyway. But instead, some genetic anomaly made him a freak - completely human, living in a vampire's world. He's out one night with his friend Max when Grigsby shows up and demands that Ferrous come with him to the Ichor Institute. What they find there chills them to their very bones.

This was probably my favorite of the whole anthology. I loved what the vampires were capable of and the whole concept of the Ichor Institute. Ferrous is a very sympathetic character. I hope that, sometime in the future (if he hasn't already), the author continues this story. 5 stars.

This was my first time reading all of these authors, but after reading Bites there are a few that I would like to explore further. And although there were some stories I enjoyed more than others, I would still say this anthology is a complete success.

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