Thursday, June 16, 2016

Death by Dumpster Diving

Tonight at my beach job I managed to read another book in completion. Since I'm going to be writing guest blog posts for the Horror Wrietrs Association new YA blog, I decided I need to ramp up my horror reading some more. Today before I left the library I selected a few books that I thought might grab my attention, and the first one I tried was a winner.

I'd read a couple of Dan Poblocki's other books like The Nightmarys and The Ghost of Graylock, but I  hadn't attempted this one yet because it mentions zombies, and the only zombies I like are ones that dance.

Don't pretend you're not singing the song, now.

I'm really more of an old-fashioned girl when it comes to my creeps and chills; I like ghosts. Witch stuff can be kinda fun and serial killers and slasher stuff is fine, but I've never been able to get into monsters and zombies.

Luckily, The Book of Bad Things because has a ghost element. But I'd be lying if I said that was the part that drew me in.

Cassidy, the young protagonist is a city kid who spends her summers in the countryside with a host family that she's come to view as a home. The town had an eccentric woman who was known to hoard things, and after her death, as her house is emptied of all her eccentric possessions, some of the people in town take it upon themselves to snag a few souvenirs. That's right- they go dumpster diving!

What could be more perfect for me than a horror story that features dumpster divers?!

However, the treasures that the people take do not truly belong to them; they belong to someone, or rather, something, else. And it demands that they be returned. 

The book was a pretty easy read, at just shy of 250 pages. And the horror is pretty straightforward, which is also something I like.  I like my horror straight-up, not bogged down with complex mysteries and conspiracies. I read horror because I like feeling scared, so it annoys me when I have to spend alot of energy just trying to figure out why I should be scared.

Speaking of being scared, the title of the book is derived from Cassidy's journal. After a scary experience in her New York City apartment home, she begins writing down all the things in the world that she finds frightening as a way to understand herself and her feelings. If you understand something, it's not as scary. Among some typical supernatural fears like zombies and hauntings, she also records some happenings/fears that are typical. For example, she writes about her fear of abandonment, and her fear of intruders, as well as her fear of nightmares.

Literary critic Douglas E. Winter argues that horror is is not a genre, it's an emotion. It's not about ghosts or zombies or curses, it's about the manipulation of our emotions. This is why people are afraid of things like spiders. Spiders are commonplace almost everywhere in the world. They're not a mystery, and many of them aren't even poisonous (at least in the US), and yet so many people are terrified of them. Why? I guess because they feel disgust or because we've been conditioned to fear them or maybe because they're seen as a threat to our health/safety/life. 

It's really hard to talk someone out of a fear. You can point out every logical reason in the world why someone should not fear a spider or a bat or a clown or whatever, but if they already have the fear, then there's a good chance they're going to keep having it. They may learn to cope with it, but they're not simply going to "get over it." That's why I really liked the theme of Cassidy's writing being her catharsis: "The notebook and pen had protected her from the darkness that lived inside her." 

I'm a pretty good writer, which is good because I might need to use that skill to exorcise any bad spirits that are hiding out in my roadside/dumpster finds. 

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