Two weeks ago, I had to gather supplies for our Hogwarts Hullabaloo, necessitating stops at our local craft stores and dollar store. Guess what I saw? Fall decor at the craft stores! Better yet, a tucked-away-until-time end cap of fake spiders and bats at the dollar store reminded me that summer reading was barreling toward its conclusion, and I needed to start thinking about my personal favorite of holidays: Halloween! What am I going to be? (Leaning toward Grumpy Catwoman, but not sure how I feel about a catsuit.) How will we decorate our yard? (Full disclosure: My fella is a Halloween fiend, and I’m more of a support staff type when it comes to the yard as that’s his baby.) Will we have a library program? Most importantly, what new scary stories and movies will be available for my terrification (new word!) and how will we decide whether to see Horns or Book of Life first?
Although the few movies we’re eyeballing won’t be out until October, I’ve already gotten a head start on horror with three early/mid-August YA titles.
Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
Simon Pulse, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 1442483784, August 2014
Dovey lost her best friend Carly to a hurricane named Josephine, and nothing’s been right since. After Carly’s funeral, Dovey’s doctor put her on antipsychotics to combat her sudden onset of hallucinations, but now Dovey’s had a vision of Carly and decides the meds have to go. Without them, her eyes are opened to the changes in her hometown of Savannah. Josephine wasn’t just a storm but a dark entity that never left and now holds court over a host of lesser demons and monsters, feeding on human fear and turning humans into undead slaves–including Carly. Dovey has to free her friend, but she will need help and is short on viable options. Her choices include her childhood friend Baker, who’s in love with her but is only human, and sexy Isaac, who has a hint of demon power and knows the underworld but cannot be trusted.
Scare factors: Demons, giant alligators, a possessed amusement park, undead corpse slaves, demons drugging an entire town, the frequent severing of pinkie fingers, and more!
Gore level: Medium high. Readers get some respite from bloody scenes, usually in the form of mind-trip scenes. Probably not a good suggestion for the squeamish.
Recommend to: Fans of paranormal/occult horror.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks Fire, $16.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 140229218X, August 2014
Murdered hundreds of years ago in feudal Japan, Okiko exists as a vengeful spirit, freeing the ghosts of murdered children by savagely destroying their killers. Stalking one serial killer connects Okiko with his intended victim Tarquin, a teen boy who isn’t safe even after Okiku shreds the murderer. A dangerous spirit is bonded to Tark, and Okiko must help his older cousin Cassie discover how the spirit became attached to Tark and how to save him from its destructive power.
Scare factors: Child murderers (pedophilia doesn’t play a huge role, just killing), vengeful spirits, possessed dolls, various occult forces
Gore level: High. Okiku’s vengeance is merciless and thorough, but not necessarily swift.
Recommend to: Since it’s highly derivative, J-horror fans who can’t get enough, as opposed to J-horror connoisseurs who might find it too been-there done-that.
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Razorbill, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 1595146385, August 2014
Clementine was just a little girl when the New South Bend townspeople came to burn out her “fiendish” kinfolk in the Willows, blaming them and anyone who used craft for the weird and dangerous happenings in town. Her house burned and her mother died, but someone put Clementine into the cellar with a trick bag that kept her alive and growing, pinned into place by willow roots. Ten years later, when a boy named Fisher digs her out, Clementine reunites with her cousin Shiny and tries to piece the mystery of her past together, starting with who put her in the cellar. Her investigation is derailed first by her growing relationship with Fisher, and then by the resurgence of the deadly magic that nearly destroyed the town ten years ago. Clementine begins to wonder if the townfolk were right about her all along.
Scare factors: Angry mobs, abusive parents, and multiple paranormal occurrences including but not limited to hellhounds, fiends, rampaging rivers of black water, and witchy grandmas
Gore level: Medium. Characters get wounded frequently and Clementine begins the book with her eyes sewn shut.
Recommend to: Fans of light paranormal/occult horror, fans of the Southern Gothic tradition