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“Ivan’s innocent and unwitting flirtation with the demonic is first-rate supernatural horror. Ramirez’s characters are beautifully defined, particularly Ivan and Hershey, the school janitor, who turns out to be much more than that. His plot is beautifully scripted and the suspense and supernatural dread emanating throughout this story make it impossible to put down until the last page is read.” —Readers’ Favorite
“A chilling YA horror novella. There is no telling what direction this novella is going to swing, as the surprises come quickly. Come As You Are is successful at sending chills down your spine over the course of a fast and enjoyable read.” —Self-Publishing Review
Some things are better left alone.
Ivan Stein isn’t sure he can survive seventh grade, let alone middle school. Living in a town known for its poverty and violence, he is regularly bullied along with his best friend, Ollie. But fortunes can change. One day, Ivan finds an old notebook in an abandoned locker at school. Despite a stark warning, he takes the book and unleashes powerful magic he can use to punish his enemies. But demonic forces control the book’s pages—a terrifying evil that will inflict suffering on the good as well as the bad and take his soul as payment.
Come As You Are is supernatural horror reimagined as Young Adult fiction. But don’t be fooled. Its violence will disturb you and its depiction of people living in a gloomy, desolate town without hope will make you cry. Pray that Ivan and his family can survive this dark, perilous journey.
Also in this collection:
“Brown the Recluse”
“I’ve Been Better”
“A Bone in the Throat”
“A Proper Revenge Takes Time”
“Something to Hold”
“The Widow and Her Magician”
If anyone discovers a source of mysterious power that can help solve all their problems, it is probably too good to be true. That is certainly the case in Come As You Are, a chilling YA horror novella from author Steven Ramirez.
When Ivan, an often-bullied seventh grader, finds a magical notebook in an old locker at school, he thinks that his middle-school years might be salvageable after all. The list that this notebook contains doesn't necessarily make sense, but Ivan knows that he must complete the list if he wants to unlock the full potential of this talisman. However, what starts off as a game - and a shortcut to revenge against the bullies at his school - takes a much darker turn.
It's not long before the true nature of the notebook reveals itself, and claims its first victim, a sacrifice in the form of Ollie - Ivan's only friend. From that point, early in the novella, Ivan's life begins to spin out of control, and the boundary between reality and fantasy begins to blur.
Doing his own digging into the truth of the notebook, while trying to control his new demonic powers, Ivan turns to the janitor at school, a man who seems to know more than he is letting on. As it turns out, he was once in a similar position as Ivan, or at least his life was similarly scarred by that horrific book. More than four decades earlier, he had lost one of his best friends to the dark powers unleashed by that list. Since then, he has been guarding a cursed locker in the school, protecting the world, and a new generation of children, from the terrors it contains.
There is no telling what direction this novella is going to swing, as the writing is fast-paced and targeted at a younger audience, so the surprises come quickly and the scenes are relatively brief. The dialogue is fairly simplistic, but appropriate for younger readers, and Ivan's character is well-crafted for a YA storyline. The bullied anti-hero is a popular trope in this genre of fiction, and it works particularly well in this take on the storyline.
While the writing is highly informal, packed with slang and self-referential narration, it makes for a quick read. On the downside, some of the other characters don't receive the same detailed attention as Ivan, such as his parents, and a few of the plot points don't feel fully fleshed out or finished. As a whole, the story is engaging and exciting, but it sometimes moves too fast for its own good. Spending more time on description, character building, and fully developed conversations would make this novel even stronger.
Following up on a long-form trilogy of horror novels, a brief novella is certainly out of character for Steven Ramirez, but Come As You Are is successful at sending chills down your spine over the course of a fast and enjoyable read. —Self-Publishing Review
Steven Ramirez is the author of the horror thriller series Tell Me When I’m Dead. He has also published short stories as well as a children’s book, and he wrote the screenplay for the horror thriller film ‘Killers.’ To hear about new releases, visit stevenramirez.com/newsletter/. Steven lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters.
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