Cover of Defy the Dark, edited by Saundra Mitchell. The full moon shines through a darkened forest

Cover Story: Who Turned Out the Lights?
The Best: “Stillwater” by Valerie Kemp, “Almost Normal” by Carrie Ryan, “There’s Nowhere Else” by Kelley Skovron
The Worst: “I Gave You My Love By the Light of the Moon” by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Weird: “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Dia Reeves, “Where the Light Is” by Jackson Pearce
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Science Fiction
Anti-Bonus Factors:  Twilight Knockoff
Break Glass in Case Of: Brain Overload, You Need a Non-Scary Scare

Cover Story: Who Turned Out the Lights?

It’s a book about darkness. And it’s a dark, spooky forest. That’s probably the best we’re going to get with a book of short stories.

The Deal:

Seventeen stories about dark places: a coal mine, a ‘haunted’ house, a spaceship after curfew, a nightclub, the six-month night that happens at the poles, and a tortured teen’s room. Our heroes range from geeky bookworms to a closeted transman, to the ex-girlfriend we live in fear of. Great little stories, though many times I felt like I had just read the first chapter of a good book and was suddenly left with no resolution.

The Best: “Stillwater” by Valerie Kemp

Small town kids will relate to this one. Ever get the feeling that you’re stuck in the same place, you can never leave, and nothing ever changes? Maybe it’s not just you. A great twist ending in the tradition of The Twilight Zone or Bad Day at Riverbend.

The Best: “Almost Normal” by Carrie Ryan

The world is ending. The zombies are coming. There’s nowhere to go, nothing can save us. Four teens take one last trip to the amusement park, hoping to have one final night of fun before the brain eaters come. And when you have nothing to lose, maybe you can finally get the courage to tell that special someone how you….BRAINS!

The Best: “There’s Nowhere Else” by Kelley Skovron

We all have dreams where we’re someone else. But this young man really does take over the bodies of other people while he sleeps. And now he finds himself in the body of his abusive stepfather. Should he mosey on down to the interstate and play chicken with a semi? Or is there another way to solve his problems?

The Worst: “I Gave You My Love By the Light of the Moon” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Ladies: If a guy followed you home from the coffee shop, and you passed out and woke up alone in a strange room completely naked, would your first thought be “It’s obvious I’ve turned into a werewolf and that boy brought me here so I’d be safe during the change”?

No so much a bad story as too much crammed into too few pages.

The Weird: “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Dia Reeves

A boy takes a ride on the Night Trolley. No, it’s not a cheap wine, it’s a train that only comes when you call for it, and whose riders never return. Should be good for a laugh, eh?

The Weird: “Where the Light Is” by Jackson Pearce

An eighteen-year-old coal miner takes a job in the very mine that killed many of his neighbors and destroyed his father’s health. And one day he meets something that lives down there. Something that cannot survive the light, something ancient and unknowable…and kind of cute.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Pride flag being waved in a parade

“Ghost Town” by Malinda Lo had a lesbian narrator. “This was Ophelia” by Tessa Gratton had a trans man as a main character, and you won’t believe the unlikely romantic mix-up in his life.

Bonus Factor: Science Fiction

Stylized computer screens

Both “Nature” by Aprilynne Pike and “Night Swimming” by Beth Revis both take place in a dystopian future, proving that no matter how far we advance, we’re still going to be checking under the bed at night.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Twilight Knockoff

The aforementioned “I Gave You My Love” was a blatant attempt to capitalize on the sexy supernatural being fad. I did like the fact that the love interest was not an alluring 200-year-old teenager, but a “same age as my uncle Lou” sixty-two-year-old teenager.

Break Glass In Case Of: Mental Overload, You Need a Non-Scary Scare

A good bunch of stories for when you don’t want to commit to a long book or need something to read on the toilet. Also, if you need a little scare, but nothing that’s going to keep you up at night.

The oldest of the emotions is fear. –H.P. Lovecraft

FTC Full Disclosure: Harper Collins sent me a free copy of this. No cash. One day they’ll take the hint.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.