Vacations from Hell

Vacations from Hell - Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Claudia Gray, Cassandra Clare "Vacations from Hell" is an anthology of short stories dipping into the paranormal realm from an assortment of well known young adult authors, some of which may be recognized from their contributions to a stream of series. But I'll admit that it was my first experience reading all of the authors, so I judged the works contained not from the series they've done, but rather the pieces themselves.In terms of quality, all of the stories are worth reading once, though I had mixed opinions coming out of the collective anthology. I'll break down my thoughts on each story to show you my reaction to each of the five stories contained within.The first story "Crusin" by Sarah Mlynowski, was an interesting story of a group of teenage girls vacationing on a cruise ship that might be haunted by vampires, or so the weary Kristin believes. But things aren't quite what they seem to be as the story unfolds, and I think those who take the story in just one plane may find themselves fooled by the end. I liked it, though I saw the twist coming before it hit me, so I didn't enjoy it as much as someone who might've had the "a-ha" moment when it came.The second story, "I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" by Claudia Gray, was probably my favorite story in the anthology, telling the perspective of a young witch hiding her identity at a gathering one summer. Cecily meets a perfect boy who somehow seems to be going with her most ultimate rival, but things aren't always what they seem to be when Cecily decides to dig a bit deeper. I think the part of it that appealed to me was not only the connection Gray establishes with the young protagonist, but also the attitude of the piece feels vibrant and charming, even if it isn't dark like a few of the pieces contained within.The third story, "The Law of Suspects" by Maureen Johnson, appealed to me for it's eerie qualities and inventive way of establishing a curse. Charlie is a young woman visiting France with her Psychology-studious sister, but she realizes that things aren't what they seem when murder and a cursed document comes into the picture. I was surprised by the ending of this because it seemed like something I'd read when I was younger in the Goosebumps/Fear Street territory, and it definitely captures the spirit of the anthology in a dark way. Fourth story featured is Cassandra Claire's "The Glass House", which has its own brand of eerieness when a rocky family decides to visit the beach and a witch with her own motives resides within a house with mirrors said to imprison souls. Violet realizes that she's the only one who can save her stepbrother Evan, and what occurs after that might raise a few eyebrows as to how the encounter comes across. I liked the tone and the dark justice handed within the piece. There were a few inconsistencies/mistakes that I saw (such as the fact that Kingdom Hearts 2 was not a two player game and that it wasn't released on the Xbox), but other than that, it was a decent story.Last offering was "Nowhere is Safe" by Libba Bray, and if I had to say it, this was the weakest offering of the collection of short stories, not so much for the story contained, but the way it was written. Very few people can pull off the charm of a character breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly when they're in danger, but I don't think Bray sequenced it well enough to carry what was otherwise a decent story about a young Asian boy caught with his friends in a riff with otherworldly creatures. The way it was written was too scattered in spurts. There were times I liked the character voices within, even from the protagonist speaking, but the majority of the time, it didn't seem to grip on the matter as much as it could've if it'd been sequenced differently. I do think there are teens who would enjoy the story for what it is, but I would warn that it may not necessarily swallow well as a read."Vacations from Hell" is a decent collection, not so much to make those who read it with as much chilling factors, but definitely those that could engage those who like paranormal stories, even those who that might make you think in a different way about how things are seen in various eyes.Overall score: 3/5