Any child growing up in the 90’s that was as obsessed with horror and spooky things as I was is familiar with the holy trinity of scary: Are You Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps/Fear Street, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and it’s sequels. Since then, nostalgia has resurrected Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark is playing again on TV and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has tribute books out for it.
I am a huge fan of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz. When I was a kid, I wasn’t sure what scared me more: the stories or the artwork that came with it. Don’t get me started on the fact that in newer prints the artwork was “updated.”
I got my hands on one such tribute book called SCARY STORIES TO TELL IF YOU DARE by Joe Oliveto. While I am naturally biased based on my love for the Scary Stories series, I went in with an open mind, ready to be scared.
I came out on the other end more confused than scared, however. In the style of the original format, the stories are short and to the point. Because the original was marketed towards older children, stories that were too long would bore juvenile brains. And even though they were short, they were effective. I mean, who wasn’t terrified a spider would lay eggs on your face after reading that story and seeing that horrific artwork.
The problem I had with the stories in this tribute book wasn’t the size of each story but who the target audience was. If it is written and marketed towards older children, then the rudimentary writing and story-telling would make sense. However, some of the subject matter seems a little too mature in some stories, even for the most horror-friendly parents and even with how scary the original books were.
If it is aiming toward the nostalgic 30-year-olds, then the writing is too simple, almost to the point of being directionless. Many stories are retellings of popular urban legends in their simplest form, but some of the more original stories or the lesser known stores are less simplified and more rushed and without structure.
So who is this book for?
On a positive note, the photographs atop each title serve as a creepy homage to the black and white horrorscapes that wallpapered our nightmares as children. While I appreciate little nuggets of terror that short horror stories bring, they still need to follow the guidelines of a story. With a little more structure, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IF YOU DARE would make a great collectible book for fans and parents of new fans of the original books.