Do you love a good scare? Does the anticipation of Halloween make you giddy? With 2018 being the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Frankenstein”, there’s no better time to revisit old classics and discover some new reads that will keep you up long past your bedtime.
What exactly is a horror novel? Some think of classic monsters such as “Dracula”, Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic short stories, or the modern master of horror, Stephen King. Some might remember childhood favorites, such as R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series. The Horror Writers Association defines horror as “… not only blood and gore, but psychological horror, suspense, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural terror, and so much more…[I]t simply needs to elicit fear or dread in the reader.”
Mary Downing Hahn is the queen of children’s scary stories; she remains active at the age of 80! While you can start with any title, All The Lovely Bad Ones is one of her most popular ones. Two siblings decide to play pranks in their grandmother’s haunted inn, which awakens young ghosts.
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh is one of my favorite creepy reads in years. Twelve year old Mary is excited to finally be adopted, until she learns that her new mother is actually the notorious and fearful Baba Yaga, the legendary Russian witch. If you’re into scrumptious descriptions of feasts with a Russian flair (or think you might be), you’ll love this one.
Does a supernatural story set in the Caribbean entice you? The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste features a brave eleven year old girl as she attempts to save her community from a devious spirit.
Scholastic Inc’s “Branches” line is one of the best things to happen to beginning chapter books in some years; as finding “scary stories” for newly independent readers can be tough, the Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings brings some welcomed relief. Alexander’s new school is not like any other school—for one thing, it’s located in a hospital morgue, where he finds a notebook filled with information about monsters. Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol is another fun supernatural series for newly independent readers; written by Andres Miedoso, it follows eight year old Desmond as he investigates ghosts and monsters in his neighborhood.
If you want some hardcore, knock-your-socks out, make you scared to go to bed reads, try Kendare Blake’s Anna series or anything by Darren Shan. Beginning with Anna Dressed in Blood, Blake introduces readers to Cas, who is following in his father’s footsteps of ridding the world of the murderous undead; although Anna has killed anyone who dares to enter her old home, she decides to save Cas, leading to devastating consequences. This contains violence and mature language, as does Darren Shan’s tales of gruesome zombies.
Have a reader obsessed with zombies? Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation should be on your list. Set in Baltimore County in the days of the Civil War, where young people train to become Attendants to kill the dead, this has received outstanding reviews.
I was in high school when I read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart” for the first time, and it’s remained one of the most vivid and freaky short stories I’ve ever read. If a thick book of Poe’s stories and poems is intimidating, try Gareth Hinds’s Poe Stories and Poems, a masterful graphic novel adaptation of Poe’s classics.
Looking for something totally unique? Pick up Ying Chang Compestine's collection of ghost stories, A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts. Not only are these spine-tingling ghost stories, but each one incorporates Chinese food, history, and culture (so perhaps don’t read when you are hungry!)
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal turns vampire fiction on its head: what if vampires were the elite of society (rather than being chased by townspeople clutching torches)? When the first “Gloaming” runs for governor, the world is upended like it’s never been before.
In the southwestern town of Night Vale, ghosts, aliens, and conspiracies are not extraordinary. A young pawn shop owner is focused on solving the mystery of a man in a tan suit who handed her a piece of paper that only read “KING CITY.“ Her quest to discover his identity and what “KING CITY” means launches an offbeat and unique paranormal series by Joseph Fink, launching with Welcome to Night Vale.
In the mood for a supernatural read, but not one that will give you nightmares? Consider Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Austen’s beloved heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, fights zombies, but will the dashing Mr. Darcy distract her? Grahame-Smith “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is in the same vein, as is “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” by Ben H. Winters. If zombies are your thing, but you want something that will raise goosebumps, Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War might be for you.
Flight or Fright, a new compilation of horror tales edited by Stephen King, might not be something you pack in your carry-on case for your upcoming holiday travels. King has collected tales (previously published and original) about the nightmares of flying….and I don’t mean delayed flights or cramped cabin space.
Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library