July 3, 2012 by Heidi
Title: On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Candace Fleming [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone short story collection.
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Published: July 10th, 2012 by Random House Children’s Books
Format: Kindle edition; 208 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
On the Day I Died is a sometimes cheesy, sometimes chilling, but always fun collection of short stories recounting the deaths of teens throughout the past two centuries in the Chicago area. I very much like this type of set-up in a short story collection, where there is a frame story that gives a reason for and ties together all of the other stories in the collection. In this case it is Mike (which I blurb below) coming to the graveyard to listen to the tales of the deceased.
Candace Fleming makes use of a variety of cultures throughout time, and I loved how true to each time period’s particular style of horror these stories stayed. The Depression with its wise guys and gangsters, the 50s with its fascination with outer space, the obsession with objects in the 70s-80s, and the Gothic feel of the 19th century. Sticking to the vernacular of each time period really helped set the mood of each character, even if it did seem a bit extreme at times.
Waiting to hear how each character finally kicked the bucket was a bit like waiting for the bell man’s arm to be chopped off in Hot Tub Time Machine. You know it’s coming, you’re just not sure how, and the anticipation had me jumping the gun on more than one occasion. The ghosts in the graveyard get that whole barroom story-topping mentality of ‘you think that’s bad? You should hear my story’, which really made me grin. Some of the stories were laughable (Johnnie), some were incredibly cheesy (David), but some of them did give me genuine chills (Gina and Edgar). Candace Fleming retells the classic The Monkey’s Paw in a modernized setting, and also weaves in aspects of other classics like Berenice and The Yellow Wallpaper.
I’d recommend On the Day I Died to younger teens who like to be scared, particularly anyone who was a big fan of the Goosebumps series. Here’s a short intro/teaser for each tale:
Mike—The Frame Story
Mike is driving home one night, late, dreading his mother’s wrath when he misses curfew. He stops, however, when he sees a girl standing helplessly in the road. Carol Anne says she’s cold, she’s wet, and she needs a ride home. Mike figures he’s late already, what’s a few more minutes to help someone out? He takes her to her drive, but realizes after dropping her off that she’s left her shoes on the floor below his passenger seat. He attempts to return them, but the tired old woman at the house who seems to be expecting him states that her daughter’s been dead 55 years. If he wants to return her shoes, he’ll have to take them to the graveyard. Unbelieving, but knowing he’ll always wonder if he doesn’t check, Mike heads to the graveyard, where he finds a group of the young dead wanting to tell him the story of their deaths…
Gina grew up in a tight-knit Italian neighborhood in Chicago, the type of neighborhood where one you have a reputation, it’s hard to shed it. Gina’s had a reputation as a liar. She thought she was just a good storyteller, but the new kid in school sees an advantage in the girl who cries wolf…
Johnnie is a wise guy street rat picking pockets and sleeping in the park during the Great Depression. He believes you get what’s coming to you, and eye for an eye, he just didn’t think the concept swung both ways…
Scott was a smart and practical kid, who scoffed at the notion of haunting and ghosts from the television programs and stories. He decides the best thing to do is prove that they don’t exist by exploring the nearby abandoned insane asylum with a wicked history…
David is taking care of his little sister Toni for the weekend, when much to his chagrin, she decides to spend the money she has saved up on some comic book novelty items–namely, Insta-Pets. The package arrives on their doorstep mysteriously the next morning, and the kids find the box contains a lot of bang for their buck, but not as much fun as they’d hoped…
Evelyn has always living in the shadow of her twin sister, Blanche. Blanche is beautiful, charming, perfect, and completely intolerable. Constantly fantasizing about her sisters demise, Evelyn grudgingly follows her about the Chicago World’s Fair until she just can’t stand it any more, and decides to do some exploring of her own…
Obsessed with the works of William Shakespeare, Lily feels she knows love, and she feels it instantly when she meets Collin. They’re always together and happy, until one day Collin’s little brother, Drew, purchases a monkey’s paw at a yard sale…
Rich’s best friend, Kev, has always been extremely responsible. He’s just gotten his driver’s license, and he dutifully follows every rule of the road. That is, until he finds a mysterious glowing mustang hood ornament he must have…
Since childhood, Edgar has suffered from monomania–a psychological all-consuming fascination with a singular object. He will disappear in an object for hours or days, completely obsessed. His parents hope he will grow out of it, and his father grows increasingly concerned and embarrassed at his son’s madness. Finally, Edgar pushes his father too far…
Tracy is used to being in and out of the foster care system as much as her mother is in and out of jail. This time, the social workers think they’ve solved things by tracking down her great aunt Viola and dropping Tracy at her door to await her mother. Tracy is disgusted to realize her great aunt is a hoarder, but it’s still better than the alternatives. That is, at least, until she starts learning a bit more about her great aunt Viola…
My favorite stories were Gina’s and Edgar’s, but to me, the most horrifying death goes to Tracy!
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