“This is a true story. I don’t expect you to believe me—I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t lived it— but it is. Everything I describe in this book happened, just as I tell it . . . Real life’s nasty. It’s cruel. It doesn’t care about heroes and happy endings and the way things should be. In real life, bad things happen. People die. Fights are lost. Evil often wins. I just wanted to make that clear before I began” (Shan, 2000, p.3).
Darren Shan’s (though this isn’t really his name) life changes when his friend passes him a note in class one day, though the note isn’t really a note. It’s a flier for the “Cirque Du Freak” freak show, promising curious souls the chance to catch a glimpse of the Twisting Twins, Snake-Boy, Larten Crepsley and his Performing Spider—Madame Octa, and more. Darren, fascinated by spiders his entire life, and his friend, Steve “Leopard” Leonard, decide they’ll do anything—even pay $23—to go. At the show, Darren discovers a different side to Steve which leads him into a dark world of vampires.
I’m not the biggest horror fan, but I enjoyed Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare. The novel reminded me of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, which were extremely popular when I was a tween. Though at times truly creepy, Cirque Du Freak was also very funny! Darren’s narration felt personal as he addressed the reader directly, and I thought the book’s introduction was a really nice touch as it added a some suspense. Darren was also a really likeable character, especially when he expressed his love for his family and the sadness he felt at having to leave them. Tweens who enjoy horror novels will love this dark and fast-paced book.
Reading/interest level: ages 10 and up
Similar titles: R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series