While I passed the “acceptable” age parameters and barriers of YA fiction more than a quarter of a century ago, one of the longest standing tenets in literature ensures that some books subvert any, and all, guidelines. It’s a rule that has only stood the test of time because it’s straight forward and is understood to be an inimitable truth by all who share a passion for the written word. It is, in its simplest form, that a good story is a good story and it will capture the imagination of an audience regardless of when it was written or who it was aimed toward. And The Scare School is a good story.
I mentioned the whole YA thing earlier, and it’s almost impossible to ignore the very real and extremely obvious from the off fact that Stine’s latest foray into the world of comics is geared toward his already established, and extremely large, fan base. Which is how it should be; a writer should write what they know and craft tales that come directly from the heart and Stine’s soul thrives on, and is fuelled by, supernatural fiction and horror stories for young adults. Even though I know next to nothing, bar a run in with his wonderfully inventive Man-Thing mini-series, about his prodigious body of spooky stories and scary fables, this debut entry in the Just Beyond series is, as I’ve already mentioned, well worth investing a couple of hours in.
Lost students, mirror realities, strange bio-mechanical beasts and the delicate balance between dimensions form the backbone of this rather delightful little expedition into the uncharted realms of the territory that’s normally reserved for The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected. While the narrative is appealing enough in its own right, the real hidden treasure inside The Scare School is the art of the Matthews twins, Kelly and Nichole. They made a true believer out of yours truly with their magnificent work on Pandora’s Legacy and they’ve brought, and upped, their A game to The Scare School with their curiously realistic, and effortlessly beguiling, manga influenced, but wholly original style. And it’s the Matthews twins contribution to The Scare School that gives it that extra little push it needed to lift itself out of the annals of the tried, tested and good and up onto the shelves where great tales dwell. Horribly good fun… Tim Cundle