On the back of my copy of Extremities, a new collection of horror by David Lubar, the author bluntly states, “This is not a book for children. Let me clear about that.” Because much of his other work is so clearly aimed at children, I can see why Lubar feels the need to highlight this. Especially as there are some references to drugs and some graphic violence. But while I agree the book isn’t for “children,” I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone much older thirteen or fourteen, forming a relatively narrow audience.
The thirteen stories in Extremities, all centered on teen protagonists caught up in plots involving revenge, murder, magic, and strange creatures are uniformly dark, which one would expect from a horror collection. But they’re also surprisingly and unfortunately uniformly un-scary. I can’t say one ever truly gave me a shiver, a shock, or even a mildly creepy feeling. Part of the problem was predictability — far too often by page one or two, you had a pretty clear sense of where this story was heading. Only once was I mildly surprised by a turn of events.
Another problem was stylistic. The prose was so regularly simplistic in terms of both diction and sentence complexity/variety, that it does seem aimed more at a very young audience, and it also serves, I would argue, to dilute the potential sense of terror. The same is true with regard to the characters, which never felt like real people caught up in unexpected horror but instead like mere types ushered quickly on stage to have something bad happen to them in service of plot. Because I cared nothing for the characters, because they didn’t feel at all real, the horror was lessened once they entered into the realm of the macabre.
I do think Extremities could possibly serve as a decent, if not particularly memorable, introduction to the genre for younger teens, but anyone who has read much in the genre or watched much television won’t find much they don’t see coming. And despite that warning on the back, will probably find it pretty tame as well. Not being widely read in YA horror, I can’t speak to how much is out there, but it’s hard for me to imagine there are not better, more frightening examples.