Welcome to Feral by Mark Fearing

Welcome to Feral: Little Town. Big Scares by Mark Fearing. Holiday House, 2022. 9780823448654

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

Format: Hardcover graphic novel

Genre: Horror

What did you like about the book?  In this just-scary-enough collection, narrator Freya walks readers through five scary tales set in her very weird Twilight Zone-adjacent town. A promising map sets the stage, showing us the normal places (which turn out to be weird) and the weird places (which turn out to be terrifying). An abandoned playground slide transports two kids to an alternative dimension, never to be seen again, while a girl sent to detention ends up trapped forever with ghost kids and a monster teacher. My favorite was the bizarro ice cream truck staffed by a former Deadhead who hands out flesh-eating monsters on a stick. The artwork was the best part. Bright, cheerful colors and normal looking kids obscured Feral’s sinister past and Freya’s nonchalance over the frequent disappearances resets the reader’s expectations with each story; surely, this set of kids will beat the odds! Nope.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There was a sameness to the plots and characters, which made it tough for me to really root for them. I also found it hard to guess what age group it would appeal to. It didn’t seem overly scary to me, but it’s possible elementary-age readers would find it pretty creepy; meanwhile, middle school readers may find it middling. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of Scary Stories to Read in the Dark or Goosebumps would be the audience. Not as scary as Stranger Things and much better than Friday Night at Freddy’s. It’s recommended for grades 4 and up.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school libraries, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 21, 2023

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