Xanax sold separately: DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS is Everything


Finally, some good comes out of 2020. But in keeping with the 2020 brand, that good thing the deeply disturbing horror anthology, DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS.

In a year where I’m rooting for the people putting up Halloween decorations in August, the kidlit blogosphere’s Spooktober season was long overdue to begin on September 2. 

I was just going to read Gaby Triana’s, Kim Ventrella’s, and Alethea Kontis’s stories because we’re friends offline. Only a weirdo stays up all night reading horror stories, right?

To be fair, I did read those three first. But if you read any three of these stories, don’t plan on sleeping that night. Or maybe the one after either.

This book is a mismash of urban legends you think you vaguely remember, on-steroids retellings of campfire ghost stories, and I think a demonic version of a certain author’s hit-and-run survivor cat.

A demonic nuclear accident. A flesh-hungry wish-granter. An eye-eating painting. Homicidal clones.

This book is alone will compel the Cybils leadership team to include an Anthology category in the 2021 award categories.


  • Grade Level : 3 – 7
  • Hardcover : 416 pages
  • Publisher : HarperCollins; Illustrated Edition (September 1, 2020)
  • Reading level : 8 – 12 years


  • May I present the contributors. I’d buy an anthology if just one of two of these names had contributed. Instead, Jonathan Maberry got 35 superstars.
  • Billed as a tribute to Alvin Schwart’z SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (that iconic ghost story book that all 80s and 90s kids had), the book design; the faux urban legends; and the “alternate endings” are a trip down memory lane. 
    • Good amount of Easter Eggs to 80s and 90s pop culture. Let’s be honest – I think many of us who pre-ordered grew up in that era.

I had to dig (honestly a little too much) to see that it’s Iris Compiet who did these gorgeous1 illustrations. They’re in the ink-blotty, twisted, creepy Stephen Gammell style. 


  • It says so much about the society I live in that I feel compelled to state this about an anthology by the Horror Writers Association, but this book is scary. Some of these stories are downright disturbing. 
    • This is not the book you give your precocious eight-year-old who reads at a middle school level. 
  • Preteen readers should learn the correct way to play Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board, Margaret Stohl. Using pillows is for wusses. 
  • Dust jackets are the devil and this book has one. All they do is slide around and get ripped at the edges. Ugh. 

Horror Writers Association should do another one next year, but somebody else needs to edit it so the great Jonathan Maberry can contribute. Read his introduction. He’s written possibly the only entertaining one in literary history.


  • Good mix of author backgrounds; “Creep Me TF Out” genius clearly comes in all demographics.
  • Spoiler: One story is an excellent cautionary tale against being ableist and xenophobic.


The best time to order this book was before its release. 

The second best time is now. 

DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS is out now from HarperCollins.

1In the “this is going to give me nightmares for decades” way.

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