There’s a chill every autumn that doesn’t come from the weather alone. With Halloween fast approaching, it’s not unusual to see ghouls and witches popping out of front porches and horror classics getting displayed on bookstore windows. But don’t you love how horror bookshelves can contain more than just vampires and haunted houses? As you count down to Halloween, grab a cup of pumpkin spice latte and curl up with one of these darkly delicious reads:
1. There’s Someone Inside Your House (Stephanie Perkins)
Barely a year after moving from Hawaii to Nebraska to try and put her past behind her, Makani Young finds herself in the middle of an unfolding tragedy when her classmates start dying in horrific ways. The story is well-paced, with many sympathetic characters explored beyond what would normally be afforded them in a slasher film. While the serial killer’s motive is on the twisted side and may not be a satisfying pay-off for more demanding readers, it’s sure to keep most guessing. Suffused with images of autumn and Halloween, this story is just begging to be read in the fall.
2. The Girl from the Well (Rin Chupeco)
Fans of Asian horror movies like The Ring or The Grudge will see this as a worthy addition to the genre. Nightmarish Okiku is a ghost that wanders the world to bring vengeance on child murderers, but she finds herself drawn to Tark, a teenager who is very much alive and has strange tattoos on his body. But don’t come expecting romance. Okiku is aided by Tark’s cousin Callie, and the novel shines because of its focus on family and redemption. Okiku, Tark, and Callie are a diverse and complex set of characters. Chupeco’s writing reads like macabre poetry at times, but this may present a challenge to those looking for a more straightforward storytelling style.
3. The Madman’s Daughter (Megan Shepherd)
This retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau will find fans among readers of gothic horror eager for a change in scenery. The story opens in Victorian London, true, but as a desperate Juliet Moreau searches for her father after his fall from grace, it quickly moves to a jungle island in the south Pacific that doubles as both prison and experimental lab. Themes of isolation and moral consequences are explored, and a love triangle is added to lighten the page.
4. Forest of Teeth and Bones (Carrie Ryan)
Mary lives in a village surrounded by fences. She’s told never to venture where the Unconsecrated roam, and she obeys—though resentfully—the Sisterhood and the Guardians who rule and protect their village. But when the fence is breached and the village falls, Mary and a few other survivors rush headlong into the forest they have been taught to fear. This creepy and moody post-apocalyptic tale unfolds slowly, but there’s an elegance to Ryan’s prose and a starkness to her images that readers may not expect from a zombie story.
5. Hellworld (Tom Leveen)
When four teenagers go on a road trip to find their missing parents, you expect a bit of Scooby Doo shenanigans. But not when the missing parents have been gone for five years and are presumed dead. Abby’s mother and Charlie’s father were both hosts of a reality TV ghost-hunting show who never came back from filming a mysterious cave, taking their entire crew with them. When Abby finds a book that could explain their disappearance, she joins Charlie and his friends in exploring their last known location. The story moves between then and now, and tackles science, religion, and perhaps most importantly, grief—all against the backdrop of the coming apocalypse.
6. Pretty Monsters (Kelly Link)
Not all Halloween stories should be filled with blood and gore, and this masterful collection of short stories from Kelly Link—her first young adult one—is proof that you can get the chills from reading a well-crafted tale. Each story comes at unexpected angles, including Magic for Beginners’ mysterious TV show with no set characters or timeslot and the titular Pretty Monsters’ story within a story. Highly recommended.