This is a review of 'Dare You' by Dr Dara Downey who is a lecturer in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin. She is also the Co-Editor of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies.
This is a fascinating collection of stories, poems and short prose pieces by a talented group of promising young Gothicists. The tales and poems collected here, resounding with evocative imagery and chilling atmosphere, are a striking testament to the continued relevance of the Gothic, horror and the supernatural to the adolescent experience. Disorientation, alienation, family problems, troubled relationships with the self, the body, with peers, and with social institutions find vivid expression here in multiple eerie shapes which overlap and echo each other uncannily. In Dare You?, memories cannot be relied upon, and the future is a terrifying blank, as characters discover dark truths about themselves and their loved ones, and are left, alone and vulnerable, in appalling situations, prey to sharp twists of fate and with little or no hope offered by unnervingly abrupt endings.
As the Foreword explains, this is an authentic snapshot of the literary productions of Year 8 students from Richmond Park Academy in London. Far from meddling with the raw energy of their voices, the editing process has preserved quirks in phrasing, spelling and narrative development, resulting in a collection that faithfully mirrors the Gothic’s commitment to torn manuscripts and half-remembered stories. Indeed, these young writers seem admirably well-versed in the classics of the genre, as well as in the darker underbelly of folk and fairy-tales. While the influence of Twilight and the subsequent rise in supernatural horror for the young-adult market is evident here, it by no means limits the scope or blunts the edge of these unique and thought-provoking offerings. This remarkable collection therefore bears witness to the vibrancy and dynamism of a genre that sinks its teeth into the very heart of adolescent terrors and uncertainties.
Adults who worry that modern popular books and TV are weakening the minds of the young will find much to challenge their assumptions here, while younger readers will encounter their own fears and desires projected in monstrous form. As with all horror, this collection offers the comfort of realising that we are not alone in what frightens us – but also whispers that, even if we might think we’re alone as we read, somewhere beyond the glare of the lamp, something lurks – unseen, waiting …