David Rothmiller

The young-adult book genre is dominated by romantic stories featuring vampires or high school life (or, sometimes, both).

Local author David Rothmiller is definitely bucking the trend. His recent book, Curious Shorts: A Creepy Collection of Terrible Tales, feels like a throwback to the days of Alvin Schwartz’s renowned Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Rothmiller’s Curious Shorts has some very creepy tales indeed, including one called “Something’s Eating Sara.” It made me want to throw my Frappuccino away as I read it. The story is about a junior high school girl who also happens to be a hypochondriac. She is convinced that she is sick; her mother and the school nurse don’t believe her, since she has faked illnesses before. When she becomes very ill, the story takes a bizarre, disgusting twist that will make you question each and every processed food that you eat for at least a couple of days.

Another compelling terrible tale is “The Thing in Jamie’s Room,” about a boy with a dirty room. His family can’t stand the disgusting odor; meanwhile, Jamie starts believing something is actually living in his room, and his parents decide it’s time to force him to clean it. What happens next is both disgusting and funny.

“Waaz” offers a warning about getting too involved in electronics or video games. When a girl named Heather and her brother discover a device called “Waaz,” they find it is hard to put down. Do you play the game, or does the game play you … or perhaps consume you?

There are 13 (of course) unlucky tales in this book. Many have unpredictable twists and turns, or supernatural effects with a Twilight Zone twist. “Sagiri’s Gift” is a story about a Japanese woman who has a fateful encounter with an elderly man. “Growing Pains” is told from the point of view of a character who believes his brother is a werewolf. “The Legend of the Headless Indian Princess” is set in Minnesota and tells the story of the title—and the effect the legend, or the spirit, has on the town.

While Curious Shorts is certainly no Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it does have many positive qualities and offers a haunting read to those in the young-adult market. Each of the tales—which alternate between disturbing, disgusting, haunting, suspenseful and horrifying—is smartly written and unique. Rothmiller—a local filmmaker, videographer and author—has produced a great collection of horror stories written for young adults who are sick of vampires and high school divas. With Halloween just around the corner, this is definitely a treat.

Curious Shorts: A Creepy Collection of Terrible Tales, by David Rothmiller (Trick Dog/Lulu), 185 pages, $20.48

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...