Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Five Nights at Freddy's review

I grabbed this book to read over the holiday break because it was flying off the shelves during the Scholastic Book Fair. According to the blurb on the back, it takes place in 1995, ten years after a series of children were kidnapped and murdered at Freddy Fazbear's. Freddy's seems to be a fictitious sibling to Chuck E. Cheese's, with the arcade games, animatronic entertainment, pizza and rides that are described.

It sounded like the makings of a great story, especially for a reader who's a child of the 80's and 90's. Not only was Chuck E. Cheese's THE place to go for birthday parties and Friday nights, but the danger lurking in this story is one that was very real to children of that generation. For kids nowaways, there are all sorts of epidemics that they hear about: obesity, bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, etc. But when I was young, the big theme of our school presentations and our parents' lectures was Stranger Danger. The kidnapping and death of Adam Walsh brought every parent's worst nightmare into the national limelight, and it seems that every region had its own sad story of a child vanishing. I always say that the engine of a horror story is the reader's ability to relate. It's not really that scary if we know it could never happen to us. But accepting the grim reality that horror can strike anytime is what makes the genre so exciting and taboo.

I was expecting to really enjoy this book.

But I commented more than once to my husband that I don't understand why the middle school students were so eager to buy this book. First of all, it's almost 400 pages, which is pretty long for some of them. But it's not merely the length, the action unfolded at a dinosauric rate! Based on the description of kidnappings and murders, I expected to be catapulted right into the heart of the story. Instead, I found myself being introduced to an entire cast of characters, suffering through a very juvenile budding love story and trying to figure out how much I'd need to suspend my grip on reality. Like, why are the crayon lines on the old drawings moving? Is the character imagining it, or is there some sort of supernatural evil at work here, in addition to an actual human murderer? And I quickly tired of the intentionally vague exposition. For example, someone would ask Charlie (the main character) if she stays in touch with her mom, and she'd think "Too much grief hung between us." I had no idea she even had a mother because that detail wasn't mentioned for the first 100 pages or so; I had just assumed she never had one.

It's a long book, and there's a lot of description, and a whole cast of characters, and yet it seemed like I wasn't getting the whole story.

I did just a little bit of research and found out why; this book is based on a video game.

Five Nights at Freddy's is horror-themed video game series, a indie that's available to play for free online. That is probably why the kids already knew about it and why they were so eager for it. The storyline in the book is similar to the one that's revealed during the course of game play. The game utilizes jump scares, similar to horror films, by having the villains 'pop up' suddenly in the gamer's view.

Now that I know how this novel came to fruition, I can appreciate it more in terms of what it's doing for the horror genre and the story's multi-media presence, and I am going to include it in the Horror Reader's Advisory page that I maintain for the library, but I am going to note on it that it's probably more enjoyable for readers who are already familiar with the story.  I have a section in my Readers Advisory that is specifically for books with multi-media appeal, like the popular Skeleton Creek series, and the Sunshine Girl novels, which were created by a popular YouTuber, whose videos create a series of paranormal stories that star her.

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