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October 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

Posted by emily

Happy Halloween! It feels like we've been celebrating for weeks already, but the spooky fun is only just about to start. This week's Throwback is an equal-opportunity shocker, filled with un-scary scary books and scary un-scary books --- and, of course, books that are just plain scary. So before you start painting your faces sexy-zombie gray (or just regular zombie gray, if that's the kind of thing you're into) check out our last 20SomethingReads Halloween hurrah, and remember to eat, drink and be scary!

Nicole: Goosebumps
This week's scariest #TBT pick might be a bit obvious, given that it’s Halloween --- Goosebumps. This classic R.L. Stine series defines the 20Somethings generation right along with TV shows like "Pete and Pete," "Are You Afraid of the Dark?", "Clarissa Explains It All," toys like Gak and Nerf Guns, movies like The GooniesJurassic Park and Addams Family. We all know it --- 20Somethings are suckers for '90s nostalgia...and it never gets old (see what I did there?). With the first Goosebumps debuting in '92, there are 62 total books in the series, and although I might not have read them all, I have read enough to know they are timeless winners.

Wilkie Collins’ THE WOMAN IN WHITE, written in 1859, was supposedly the first ever blockbuster horror novel. Apparently, the book was a huge commercial success, as well as a merchandising phenomenon at the time. I’m not even making this up --- there was WOMAN IN WHITE perfume, WOMAN IN WHITE outerwear (cloaks and bonnets and other standard mid-19th century garb); they even released a WOMAN IN WHITE soundtrack! Okay, not quite on that last one, but there actually was WOMAN IN WHITE waltz music. The novel was serialized in Charles Dickens’ weekly magazine, All the Year Round, and people would make bets at their dinner tables about what would happen next. I personally think the greatest mystery of THE WOMAN IN WHITE is its success. The characters --- with the exception of the amazingly wicked and eccentric Count Fosco, who has pet mice that crawl all over him --- are all pretty wooden and by-the-book. There’s a case of mistaken identity, a greedy, controlling fiancé, an Italian secret society, and even star-crossed lovers, but none of those usually foolproof sensational elements manage to bring this book to life (unlike its titular character, who is thought to be a voice from beyond the grave). I don’t know, guys, maybe all those video games really did spoil me, but I simply could not get into this book, with its plodding pace and dull characters, at all. I guess all to say, I wouldn’t buy the perfume even if Britney herself were selling it to me.

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with some serious family dysfunction and dangerously controlling friends? IN THIS WAY I WAS SAVED has both, along with plenty of disturbing scenes to keep you up at night, worrying about puppies and falling bookcases. The novel tells the story of Luke --- a shy six-year-old boy being raised by his slowly unraveling mother on New York’s Upper West Side --- and his friend Daniel, who Luke mysteriously meets one day in Central Park. The two become constant companions for the next few years, and as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary friendship. Daniel’s strangely mature sense of observation and cruelty combine to influence Luke to do some terrible things. When Daniel’s true nature becomes clear, Luke pushes him away. Daniel disappears, only to resurface years later with a vengeance. For picking this book up based on the title alone, I was not disappointed. Don’t read anything online unless you want the twists ruined for you, but know that this book is one of the few that actually made me drop my jaw at the way its mysteries were revealed. More than that, Daniel as narrator worms into your brain, forcing you to navigate the story just as frightened and confused as Luke. While you won’t find much blood in IN THIS WAY I WAS SAVED, you will find some monsters to fear. To borrow from “American Horror Story,” this book’s scariest truth is that “All monsters are human,” and humans --- along with what goes on inside their heads --- can be more dangerous than any horror film monster. Recommended to you and any dark alter egos that may be lurking in your brain.    

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is the worst thing ever to exist. It is about an intelligent, thoughtful young soul in NYC who is given every chance to succeed but manages to screw up spectacularly due to his own self-doubts and inability to see the potential within himself that is so clear to others. I do not know why anyone would read this book; I listen to myself bitch and moan enough already.