Scream Site – Justina Ireland

Scream Site reminded me a little of the Point Horror books I loved as a kid, only with more introspection and fewer scares. I adored the front cover art and the blurb made it sound as though danger would be lurking around every corner.

While it was an okay read it felt like it was a victim of its own marketing in a way. It’s marketed (depending on where you look) towards readers between 12 and 15 years or 12 and 18 years. I think 12 would be towards the higher end of the age group that would enjoy this book most.

I can trace a lot of the problems I had with this book back to its blurb. We’re told very clearly that Faith, Sabrina’s sister, goes missing so I assumed this would happen fairly early in the story and then we’d spend the rest of the book chasing down clues to try to save her before its too late.

As a result of this (wrong) assumption each time I read Faith’s name I was looking for clues and getting ready to learn of her disappearance and potential demise. Then I got bored waiting for the inevitable. By the time it finally happens I was already 85% of the way through the book and I don’t think I’ll be so happy to learn that someone may have been kidnapped ever again.

It’s difficult to know what spoiler territory looks like in a book whose blurb is possibly the biggest spoiler of all so let’s just say there are potential spoilers in my review. Consider yourself warned.

Sabrina is a 14 year old wannabe investigative journalist. She like super wants to apply for a summer internship at a newspaper. If that last sentence annoyed you then this is probably not the book for you. People are “super busy”, things are “super creepy” or “super weird”, and “it was super illegal”. “He, like, volunteers” and is “like the nicest guy in the entire school”.

Why does our main character, who loves documentaries and romantic comedies, decide to investigate a website hosted by horror movie makers? Because she hasn’t come up with a good lead for her internship application and her best (and possibly only) friend thinks it’s a good idea. After watching one video and suitably freaking herself out Sabrina decides there’s more to the story and continues her own personal scare fest for the rest of the book.

Sabrina scares herself when the lights suddenly go out in her home a couple of times but as it’s already established early on that this happens all the time I never expected any jump scares to come as a result of rooms plunging into darkness.

Besides the too much information blurb I found myself questioning too many elements to really enjoy much of the read.

With her sister missing and this website being pretty much her only clue I doubt that Lupe would have handed over her sister’s login information to a 14 year old investigative journalist wannabe she’d just met.

I would have thought that a horror video competition would encourage originality but most of the videos seem to be of girls being chased through the woods. “Everyone shot their videos in the woods.”

We hear about “creepy nursery rhyme recitations” but the vagueness of this detracts from any potential creepiness.

If Evelyn (Sabrina’s best and maybe only friend) was so concerned about Sabrina’s safety while meeting some random person from the internet then why didn’t she go with her? Originally I thought I might like Evelyn with her dyed streak in her hair and somewhat rebellious attitude. I was wrong.

“I care about popularity, and I need you to pull it together, Sabrina. We are perfectly positioned to be in the mid-tier of cool next year, which means we will at least be popular enough to get invited to the good parties. But that’s not going to happen if you keep up with running around like this.”

When it seems as though Sabrina is in actual danger she lies to her mother. I spent most of the book wondering why Sabrina didn’t tell her mother what she was investigating and then I found out. Sabrina finally tells her Mum and she’s not believed. Okay, question answered.

I wasn’t sure why Sabrina didn’t try to warn her sister that she feared she’d be the next victim. Even with the adults of the world in collective disbelief and the risk of not being believed by Faith either, I still would have been warning her to be “super” careful.

Do sophomores and seniors have classes together? They do in this book.

I found it odd that Sabrina didn’t know that the guy her best friend had a crush on last summer is the same guy she has a crush on now; the one she gushes over in the coffee shop in the first chapter. The page after this confusion Evelyn seems to get confused about why Sabrina would be mentioning her uncle in relation to the missing girl. You know, the only uncle that’s mentioned in the book; the police detective.

I doubt detective uncle would be revealing details of an open case to his 14 year old niece. It was also fairly convenient that both times his niece dropped by the police station Uncle John just so happened to be working and sitting at his desk.

While I loved the front cover image and it’s part of the reason why I wanted to read this book in the first place there’s no mention in the entire book of a ferris wheel. Funland “featured go karts, an arcade, and mini-golf”. I had really hoped for a clichéd but fun final scene atop the ferris wheel or on some other unseen but amusement type ride. I was quite disappointed in the big reveal and the explanation that followed.

I came across plenty of typos but as I read an ARC I expect/hope they would have been corrected prior to publication. There was a fair bit of time spent recounting information the characters and reader already know. There were also some sentences that didn’t exactly fit well with what followed, e.g., “Sabrina didn’t sleep at all that night.” The rest of the paragraph talks about her waking up from nightmares.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book. Had the blurb not given away too much I expect I would have enjoyed it more.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sabrina Sebastian’s goal in life is to be an investigative reporter. For her first big story, she researches a popular website called Scream Site, where people post scary videos and compete for the most “screams.” While Sabrina’s friends and her sister, Faith, talk nonstop about the creepy viral videos, Sabrina just hopes that covering this trend will get her the internship she’s wishing for. But as she digs into the truth behind the website, she begins to suspect that these aren’t only aspiring actors and videographers at work. Some clips seem a little too real. And when Faith goes missing, Sabrina must race against time to save her sister from becoming the next video “star.”

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