Someone (and I’m not sure if she wants to remain anonymous, so I’ll edit her name in if she’d like me to) suggested I do a general “book recs for Halloween” post. I think that’s a great idea. Yes, I know it’s NOT EVEN OCTOBER YET, but some of my suggestions might take time to track down, so I’m posting now in case anyone is inspired to seek out a used copy.
- The Society (Forbidden Doors #1)
- The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1)
- Halloween Night
- Halloween Night II
- Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1)
- My Best Friend’s Exorcism
- Shallow Grave
- Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows
The Society (Forbidden Doors #1) calls for a digression: you know how sometimes you buy one or two items that have a “theme” of some kind, like a cow-shaped creamer and then some cow-patterned oven mitts, and then your friends and family make up their minds somehow that “Hey, she collects cows!” and suddenly you’re INUNDATED with cows. Everyone who sees a cow-ish knickknack immediately thinks of you, and as far as everyone else is concerned their gift-giving dilemmas are solved forever, and meanwhile you’re not even sure why you’re drowning in cows.
A while ago I reviewed a Christian-themed “horror” novel, and now people keep reccing other Christian horror series to me. I have gone from not even knowing these existed to personally owning books belonging to three separate series of them. Yikes.
Not gonna lie: this book, and the series to which it belongs, rank high on my “weirdest things ever read” list. I wasn’t raised by Evangelical Christians, so I’m not in the target market. Still, if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise of the book, it’s fun and kind of creepy. The premise—that the people who own “New Age” bookstores belong to sinister societies and are heavily invested in forcing people to remain part of the group once they attend a meeting—is kind of a big ask, but once you get past that it’s fun, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into a different set of fears than are usually found in children’s/YA horror.
Following more logically than you might expect, The Crucible (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1) gives us witches, and they’re the ACTUAL EVIL WITCHES of 1960s horror paperbacks: nothing harmless and well-meaning here. There’s rampant selfishness from parental figures, and blood sacrifice of innocent people, and it’s all horrifying and compelling. I’ve pre-ordered volume two (I may possibly have pre-ordered it twice, by accident).
Arguably everything I review on this blog belongs on a Halloween rec list, of course, but I’ve made a deliberate effort to mostly skip listing the sort of vintage YA horror I recap all the time. One of my exceptions is Halloween Night, though (along with the sequel, Halloween Night II), because they’re both perfect examples of R. L. Stine and perfect “setting the mood” Halloween books. Provided, you know, that the mood you want to be in is “murderous rage directed at my cousin.”
Blood Covered (Corpse Party #1): The first volume of this series is the only one I’ve read, but I liked it well enough to immediately order the next three volumes.
It’s a grisly horror story set in a school (which is itself located on the site of another elementary school, torn down after a teacher’s death), and while I love all horror story school settings, this book has even more fun with it than usual. Right from the first lines I was hooked, because the haunted school is an elementary school, so it starts with “it was a dark and stormy…late afternoon,” and the dire warning that the ghost appears if you stay at the school after seven p.m. Ha. Seriously, isn’t that pitch-perfect for a haunted elementary school?
Mild warning: whoever drew this is under the impression that schoolgirls have larger breasts than is biologically or gravitationally likely. I wasn’t offended, but I did roll my eyes often enough that I’m lucky they didn’t get stuck that way. If that sort of thing gets to you, you may want to give it a miss.
I love My Best Friend’s Exorcism so much that I have literally bought MORE THAN ONE COPY for MORE THAN ONE FRIEND. That’s right: I bought it for people, then fell in love with the paperback cover and bought it for THE SAME PEOPLE all over again. I’m not saying they have restraining orders out, I’m just saying I’d understand it if they did.
This book is epic and broad and sweeping. All the best and worst of the 80s is contained, or at least hinted at and summoned up to haunt you, in this book. It has my favourite exorcism scene of all time.
It also has a pet death, which I know makes it a hard NO for some people. That was the only scene I wish could be rewritten, because I am not up for sudden SAD when I want to feel nostalgic-yet-terrified. But other than that, it’s one of the most fun books I’ve read in the past year.
The Orca Currents books are designed for struggling or reluctant readers who have YA lives and interests but don’t have the reading skills to go along with that. So they’re complex stories told simply, with surprisingly rich characters. Think “Degrassi” or “Bluford” and you’ll kind of get the moral and emotional tone of many of these books.
Before you dismiss these because you aren’t a struggling reader (or someone who works with struggling readers): I’m the readeriest reader that ever read, and I literally devour Orca Currents by the handful. They’re stunning examples of controlled plot and “show don’t tell,” all deployed in fewer pages than seems possible for the sheer amount of character they offer. Curious yet? Shallow Grave is very much a traditional ghost story, set in the immediate present. It’s so Canadian you can hear the waves against the dock, I swear. On a somewhat lighter note, Rise of the Zombie Scarecrows features a kid trying to make a horror film for a class project, and stumbling across a murder plot along the way.