Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
What’s your worst nightmare?
For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.
And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.
Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.
Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.
By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.
This is probably the wimpiest horror book I've ever read - and I have been reading wimpy horror books for years (ever since Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark traumatized toddler-me). Now that I've come to appreciate the horror genre, I want to be scared. Afraid to keep reading but unable to put the book down, sleeping-with-the-light-on, shaky-handed scared. I was utterly disappointed by this book.
At one point I put on horror movie sound tracks as background noise to try and make up for the complete lack of creep factor. Sure, there were a few moments were I was undoubtedly uneasy, and I can certainly understand why the characters were terrified, but I did not share in their fear. Some parts of the plot (the serial-killer lookalike hostess, for example) were completely pointless, thrown in as if Stolarz pulled random ideas out of a B-List Horror Movie Grab Bag. Maybe I should have seen that coming - after all, the (fictional) Nightmare Elf film franchise that the story revolves around is undeniably B-list horror.
This type of book definitely has a place on the bookshelves of readers who are looking for less frightening horror books. Welcome to the Dark House is perfect for younger readers just graduating from the Goosebumps series, although some of R.L. Stein's stories completely trump Stolarz' in terror.
The characters were only marginally better than the plotline. All of them exhibit classic horror-movie stupidity at some point, unfortunately. They have a little bit of complexity to them, but only Ivy is really developed - and all of the girls are described mainly in terms of how cute/hot they are. Petty, insta-love relationships spring up (quite literally) in the middle of life-or-death situations. My only response to this is a massive eye-roll.
I don't mean to offend anyone who did enjoy this book - up until last year, this is probably the extent of horror that I would have been willing to read. However, if this book scares the pants of you, my advice is to at least try sleeping without the night-light.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.