Review: Daphne by Josh Malerman

DaphneDaphne by Josh Malerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the best parts of any sleepover is scaring yourself. Whether it’s with scary movies, games or just scary stories told amongst friends, there’s no denying it’s a fun way to pass the time.

In the small town of Samhattan, when the girls basketball team gets together for a sleepover, one of the girls decides to tell the story of a local legend, Daphne.

Daphne attended their high school a few decades ago, around the same time as many of their parents actually. She was a 7-foot tall, social outcast, who wore Kiss makeup for no apparent reason and made a lot of people, children and adults alike, very uncomfortable.

Legend has it that she died tragically, at the hands of classmates and ever since that time will haunt anyone who dares to think about her. Daphne allegedly appears and kills with her bare hands.

The concept is along the lines of Bloody Mary. We all know her, many of us fear her, but this is worse. With Bloody Mary, you have to be consciously summoning her, saying her name, doing certain things that are said to bring her forth.

With Daphne, all you have to do is think about her though. Everyone knows that the more you try not to think about something, the more impossible it becomes. Thus, Daphne is now pretty much an inevitability for these teen girls.

Kit Lamb, one of the star players, has a really hard time not thinking about Daphne. As a matter of fact, she even asks the rim about her; a tradition the girls have.

She asks the rim if Daphne will kill her. The ball goes in. I think you can all deduce what that means. Then it is a non-stop terror train of thoughts about Daphne for poor Kit. How can she possibly shut these thoughts off?

Will any of the girls basketball team survive knowing Daphne’s story? Honestly, it’s so awful. How could they not think about her after being told?

Daphne was a weirdly-fun and captivating story. Even though I wasn’t crazy about some of the structural choices, it felt quite disjointed to me due to odd perspective shifts, overall, I really enjoyed it!

Truthfully, Malerman’s work has been hit or miss for me; we have a 50/50 relationship. I was actually thinking this would be the last shot I was going to take. Regardless, I’m glad I took the chance as this story paid off.

I really appreciated the exploration of anxiety through Kit’s perspective and also enjoyed the whole idea behind this town and Daphne’s legacy. The idea that it could collectively be blocked from the town memory, without anyone pushing for that to be so, was a really interesting concept.

That something so heinous and traumatic, a piece of history, could be swept under the rug, with everyone just pretending it didn’t exist. That sounds pretty true to life, doesn’t it?

The horror was fun. The concept of Daphne was very creative and well-imagined. There were scenes that definitely got my pulse going.

Additionally, this had some twists towards the end that I didn’t see coming. That absolutely contributed to my enjoyment. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’m looking forward to more Malerman now!

Thank you to the publisher, Ballantine, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I definitely recommend this one to Slasher fans, or anyone looking for a thoughtful, spooky, fun read!

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