December 4, 2015
A Teddy Bear with Sharp Teeth: a review of J.H. Moncrieff's "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave"
by J.H. Moncrieff
Samhain Publishing (2015)
Available on Amazon.com
Bears, man. You just don't mess with them. And as far as this novella is concerned, you don't mess with teddy bears, either. At least, one teddy bear in particular.
Josh is still having trouble getting over the death of his father, and having his new stepdad move in with them isn't helping matters. When the imposing man presents him with a gift his mother assures him is a gesture of good will, Josh is almost immediately repulsed by it. A creepy-looking teddy bear named Edgar.
Now, I guess this novella is part of a collection called Childhood Fears, so the story fits right in with a theme like that. But even then, there were a couple parts that felt uneven to me.
The story starts off smoothly enough with Josh trying to make the best of a bad situation in his home, with easy tension built up between both he and his new stepdad, as well as he and his mother who is torn up herself over Josh's father's death and hoping the new man in her life can set things right. Then the teddy bear is presented and the unsettling nature of the thing comes through with key creepy moments that anyone who freaked out as a kid over shadows and strange noises in the night will appreciate.
But as Josh hits a boiling point with the bear's increasing malevolence and attempts to get rid of the thing, there's a strange dichotomy between the increasing agitation and ire of his stepdad about the bear, and the almost cartoonish escalations in how the bear can make Josh's life a living hell. It hits a point when he and his best friend go out at night to try and get rid of the bear where the scene just threw the rulebook out the window for what this teddy bear was capable of and strained credulity with me to the point that I almost stopped reading.
I kept at it though, because the familial aspects of the book had me hooked and I thought it was those aspects that ultimately provided the payoff for the novella.
The book isn't likely to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoyed Goosebumps as a kid and would like to see the stakes raised there, you should walk away happy. And it goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover, because I really do not care for that cover at all.