The Mary Shelley Club
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: April 13th 2021
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
New York Times-bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.
When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:
x Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.
x Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.”
x If there’s a murderer on the loose, do not make out with anyone.
If only surviving in real life were this easy…
New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring stabby serial killers and homicidal dolls to the bored rich kids of Manhattan Prep…and to certain memories she’d preferred to keep buried.
Then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious society of students who orchestrate Fear Tests, elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and movie tropes. At first, Rachel embraces the power that comes with reckless pranking. But as the Fear Tests escalate, the competition turns deadly, and it’s clear Rachel is playing a game she can’t afford to lose.
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“You could say the objective of the club is to answer a simple question,” Thayer continued. “What scares people the most?”
“Which brings us to the contest,” Freddie said, casting me a secret smile.
I sat up straighter. If I’d had a notebook with me, I would’ve been taking notes.
Thayer cleared his throat. “To prove who amongst us is the most well-versed in the ways of fright, and to see which method of horror evokes the biggest reaction, we stage what we’ve come to call Fear Tests.”
“Each of us comes up with a horror scenario,” Felicity said. “It could be something original or a classic horror trope, maybe something you saw in a movie. And then we bring it to life.” She smiled with her lips closed but stretched wide enough to crinkle the corners of her eyes. If she’d been going for a diabolical look, it was working.
“We’re used to reading horror stories or hearing them around campfires or seeing them play out on a screen,” Freddie said, “but the only way to truly feel fear is to experience it, to make it three-dimensional.”
“Do horror movie tropes even work in real life?” I asked.
“That’s part of the challenge,” Freddie said. “Are all the things we see in horror films scary only because we’re trained to see them that way? The shrieking violins, the angles of the shots? The anticipated jump scares? Or, can we elicit real fear when we strip all the extra stuff away? No music. No perfectly framed scenes. Just you and what scares you the most.”
I could feel goosebumps rising on my arms, but not from fear or anxiety. These were the excited kind. An electric thrill.
“We all get to direct our own Fear Tests,” Felicity said. “And everyone plays a part.”
“Kind of like being actors in a play,” Thayer said. “A scary play.”
“After your Fear Test is complete, we rate it,” Felicity added.
“Kind of like being in the Olympics,” Thayer said. “A scary Olympics.”
“It’s more like an exam,” Freddie said. “Like in school, your highest grade can be a hundred. We each grade you, then tally up the scores to find the average. We evaluate your technique—”
“Your panache!” Thayer cut in, plopping down next to me on the couch.
“—ingenuity. Basically we’re looking for something that makes your test stand out. Whoever has the highest rating wins.”
“Wins what?” I asked. I thought it was a pretty reasonable question, but it was met with silence. Felicity in particular looked at me like I was definitely not worthy of being there.
“Bragging rights,” Thayer said finally.
No cash prize. Nothing shiny to display on a shelf. I guess it made sense. What could you give to kids who already had everything?
“So the séance at the abandoned house party . . . that was a Fear Test?” I asked. “Whose was it?”
“We all did that one together,” Freddie said. “Kind of like a kickoff to the contest. A warm-up.”
“All right, enough pleasantries,” Bram said. “Time for the rules.”
He stood. He’d hardly said anything the entire night, so now we were all hanging on his every word.
“We don’t talk about the Mary Shelley Club,” he said.
Thayer leaned close to whisper: “We’ve all heard the Fight Club jokes.”
Bram cleared his throat and proceeded with the rest of the rules.
- The Mary Shelley Club is a secret.
- Everyone gets one Fear Test that all members must help execute. You must perform the task that the leader of the Fear Test assigns to you.
- You must pick your target before the test starts. That’s your eight ball. You may scare everyone else in the room, but if you don’t sink your eight ball, you’ve failed the test.
- The game isn’t over until everyone’s had their turn.
- Judging is left up to the other players’ discretion.
- A member of the club may never be a target.
- If you break any of these rules, your game is over.
- A Fear Test ends when your target screams.
I tried absorbing it all, but even as I nodded along, I knew I wouldn’t have a full grasp of everything until I actually played. Which meant I had only one more question.
“When do we start?”
Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives with her family. She is the New York Times–bestselling author of Kill the Boy Band and No Good Deed. Some of her influences include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the esteemed works of John Irving, and the Mexican telenovelas she grew up watching with her mother.
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