Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Republished October 4, 2011.

Martha wants to be happy for her father. She likes his new wife-even if she's a terrible cook-but she doesn't understand why they had to leave Chicago and move to this horrible house in the country. It's big, broken-down, and miles from anywhere, alone in the woods with nothing on the property but an overgrown cemetery. But at night it doesn't feel empty.

Conor-her new, weird stepbrother-chose Martha's new room for her. It's dark and drafty, and no matter how she tries to fix it up, she can't sleep easily there. At night, whispers come from the closet, filling Martha with a sense that something terrible happened here. She's right. Not long ago, the house was the site of a gruesome murder. When Conor and Martha's parents leave town on their honeymoon, the two teens will find out why the dead don't rest easy at the old Bedford house.

Hooray! 90s YA cheese is re-emerging! My evil plan is working! What?

Yes, TRICK OR TREAT was originally 90s cheese of my now major obsession. No, it's not a total turd like some cheese is. I was actually really surprised reading this and realizing just how well it transcended time. Initially I thought it might have been updated but with the mention of records, cassettes and VHS tapes, my fears were eased.

I am always super giddy for horror and sometimes that eagerness comes around to bite me in the ass. Not this time. While TRICK OR TREAT may come off as your standard haunted house story, the twist at the end will have you totally creeped out. I certainly didn't see it coming. Then again I'm not really adept at spotting those kinds of things in advance so take that as you will.

Martha comes off a bit insufferable, a drama queen and a definite whiner to begin with so it's really not a surprise when no one believes her when she starts complaining about the creepy house and her cold bedroom. And Conor is a bit of a creep factor. He's really elusive and isn't straight forward when he speaks. Some people might find that mysterious. I pegged him as a baby serial killer. Enter the absentee parents that leave their teen kids alone in a house for weeks while they honeymoon (brilliant!) and you have the beginnings of a super horror story.

So while Martha comes off as a bit ingratiating eventually I did get past her initial complainer attitude and start to sympathize with her plight. The house was affecting her so badly that it was starting to show physically. And still no one believed her. But by the time people started seeing the forest for the trees, it might have been a little too late. Or was it?

TRICK OR TREAT is one of those old school YA horror books that actually has some genuine creepiness to it. Chances are you won't want to read it in the dark. Or during a thunder storm. Or around Halloween. Because who knows what you'll see when the lightening flashes on that old, dying oak in your front yard? Or equally creepy lawn element? TRICK OR TREAT is a good piece of nostalgia that transcends the current YA market and injects some honest to god horror back into the YA world. I love it. I need more.

Ban Factor: High - Horror and crazy bitches. A deadly combination.
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