Book Review: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid by Jan Harold Brunvand

Urban legends are wonderful things, not just because of the gross, macabre stories themselves but for the fact that they’re constantly changing. You hear one when you’re a teen and then years later there’s a variation of the same story doing the rounds on Facebook. Brunvand collects retellings of various urban legends, and it’s an entertaining read.

Brunvand offers some wry commentary before each section and reflects on the tropes of the genre, how they’re spent and why they endure so much. A lot of the stories were familiar to me (killer in the backseat, the student who kills themselves during an exam with two pencils, gang initiation tactics and “people can lick too”) but there were a few that were completely new to me, or were variations of tall tales I’d told.

Some of the stories are rather nasty, but that’s why they spread so much. People delight in hearing and telling disgusting, horrifying stories. The different ways they’re retold is interesting and by including more than one version of the same stories, Brunvand shows how the stories change over time, adapting for changing times and also receiving extra embellishments.

There are a few times where the different retellings doesn’t add much, but for the most part this is a pretty entertaining read about those weird stories that you may already know. I also found it kinda fun to be reminded of those e-mail chains that warned you about farfetched crimes. And of course, to cringe at my past gullibility, I remember hearing the pencil student as a teenager and believing it.

Worth checking out if you like nasty, weird “too good to be true” stories. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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