Book Review: Fear Street!….sort of

Nostalgia is powerful, and as Fear Street has been adapted for a successful direct-to-streaming movie franchise, it may be time to take a dive into the series! RL Stine, known for his middle grade and young adult horror writing, is sometimes called the Stephen King of kid lit, and it’s not difficult to see why. While many are written with assistance, the man has over 1,100 titles to his name, almost all of the horror directed at a younger audience.

I personally recall loving book fair days, as that meant having new RL Stine books in stock that weren’t in the library. Whether it was Goosebumps or Fear Street, I was immediately drawn to the garish colors, the oozing slimy font or scary spiky type, and the promise of a safe scare.

As times change too, so did the books, and Fear Street the films have become iconic for representing queer youth, which I love to see even as I sorta missed out due to age!

My favorite Fear Street book will surprise no one who knows me: the 45th entry, Cats. 

Marty is both allergic to and afraid of cats. He despises the companion animal in all forms, especially the feral stray that lives on the basketball court he and his friends practice on. Still…its death was an accident, happening when Marty tries to keep it from attacking him and his friends again. However, cats don’t take such things lightly. Marty finds himself followed, discovering he’s been cursed by the colony of feral cats that the aggressive stray was from.

He also becomes the target of bullying and disdain for the accidental death. The Student Court even conspires to put him to trial, and in a middle grade version of Kafka, we get an idea of the ridiculousness of a trial driven by public mob justice.

While not the best of Fear Street, it’s a solid entry which I remember enjoying a lot as a young person! If you can get hold of old Fear Street books after the popularity resurgence, I highly recommend you be on the lookout for grab Cats!

What’s your favorite horror film, tv show, or book that involves evil animals? Or do you avoid the subgenre all together because seeing our innocent friends in danger hurts, even when they are fake props for storytelling? Let us know in the comments below!

Book Review: Tomie by Junji Ito

Between the line of the literary terror of horror books and the visual horror of scary movies lies an important but oft overlooked genre: the horror graphic novel, comic, manga, etc. The foundational works of many great artist and writer teams of the horror comic community–Wrightson, Wein, Mignola, McKean, Niles, Templesmith–have crafted incredible works of literary-visual terror.

But none are quite the master craftsman of the art combined with storytelling like Junji Ito.

While we will surely eventually discuss some of his one shots works, which pack terror into less than 200 pages, his series work is what he’s most famous for: Uzumaki in particular but also the subject of today’s review: Tomie.

The manga centers on the titular character: a mysterious, beautiful woman named Tomie Kawakami, identified by her sleek black hair and a beauty mark below her left eye.

Tomie acts like a succubus, possessing an undisclosed power to make any man fall in love with her. Through her mere presence, or through psychological and emotional manipulation, she drives these people into jealous rages that often lead to brutal acts of violence. Men kill each other over her, and women are driven to insanity as well — though there are some who are strong enough to resist her. Tomie is inevitably killed time and time again, only to regenerate and spread her curse to other victims, making her effectively immortal, not unlike Sadako, Kayako, or even American horror icons. And how can one defeat something permanently when one can never truly die?

The art of Tomie is in Ito’s distinctive early style, combining a sense of eerie not-quite-right-looking humans with the outright body horror of many of his more monstrous beings. Nowhere are these combined quite as well as Tomie who takes many spine-chilling (and cracking!) forms throughout the manga–as well as the decently spooky Japanese film adaptations of the volumes. 

To put it simply, Tomie is one of Ito’s most iconic works for a reason. The splash pages alone are astounding and stomach-churning, but the level of detail he puts into all of his work is more than most. It is also helped instead of hindered by it unlike many types of art. Images of Tomie are second most popular on Ito merchandise after images from Uzumaki, though quite frankly I find much of Tomie more striking.

TRIGGER WARNING:

 Tomie does deal with sexist violence and femicide, as well as gross out and body horror. Please be aware of this before picking up the book.

That said, it’s a set of books I adore. If you think you can handle it based on warnings and summaries, give it a shot! Just don’t catch Tomie’s gaze.