Halloween is a special time of year. Special to me, certainly. And for any of you who are also like me, and enjoy a spooky tale to get you in a holiday spirit, I have six suggestions that might satisfy that morbid curiosity.
Through the Woods
– 5 Short Stories with Beautiful Illustrations
Age Range: 14+
Triggers: mild gore, dismemberment, body horror, death of a family member, murder, gun violence, animal death, and hunting
Perhaps it’s been a while since you read a fairy tale. They’re a bit more gruesome than you remember. Evil stepmothers dancing to death, good little kids fattened up and nearly chopped to pieces. It isn’t for the faint of heart!
But let’s say you’ve gotten tired of the same old stories time after time. These original stories by Emily Carroll will send a chill down your spine at bedtime, guaranteed.
If you’re interested but unsure, take the time to watch this reading of one of the five.
If it leaves you hungry for more, the entire work is even better!
A CLASSIC, MODERNIZED:
The New Annotated Frankenstein
– The Original Sci-Fi Thriller, Now with Illustrated Pages and Commentary
Age Range: 16+
Triggers: death of a loved one, murder, suicidal thoughts, body horror, raising the dead
Fun fact: Mary Shelley saw Frankenstein's monster in a frightening dream, which inspired her to write the novel of this crazed medical student and his sad, terrifying creation.
While it is a classic in the truest sense of the word, there's lots to chew on thematically with this weighty text, and great minds have added to this edition to make it all the more interesting. Horror fans will recognize the amazing director Guillermo Del Toro as one of them. With over 200 illustrations inside and 1,000 annotations, there's something in this version of the novel for even the most die-hard Shelly fan, or something to keep the attention of a more contemporary reader, unsure of how to keep up with the language. Do yourself a favor, and add this copy to your library this spooky season.
MAGICAL REALISM/LATINO LIT:
- A Troubled Ghost Story
Age Range: 18+
Triggers: incest, sexual assault, violence, death, grief, murder, adult/minor relationship, alcoholism, animal death, death of a parent, terminal illness
What if you're in the mood for something with a little more Dia de Los Muertos vibe than your typical fair? Then the book you need to pick up this season is Juan Rulfo's first work, 'Pedro Páramo'. It's a tragic tale, about the fall of a small Mexican village that ultimately becomes a literal ghost town, full of restless spirits. The past lives of these ghosts and the decisions they made continue to impact all, including our narrator, who walks in as a man looking for his father. What he finds will chill you to the bone.
Rot & Ruin
- YA Horror Fiction with Plenty of Action
Age Range: 12+
Triggers: zombies, death of a friend, gun violence, physical violence, stabbing, murder
Zombie fiction is almost entirely zombie apocalypse fiction, and 'Rot & Ruin' offers the same -- but with a twist. Jonathan Maberry's debut YA novel puts teenagers on the front lines of their communities. Zombie hunting is a job for those spry enough not to get themselves into trouble, and return home with food. The familial bond between Tom and Benny, the two main brothers, is put to the test during countless dangerous situations. Bloodlines aren't the only family one can have, of course. And Benny's friends, who make up the rest of the cast, are really enjoyable to read. With just a hint of philosophy on the nature of being human, 'Rot & Ruin' is zombie hunting fun you won't want to miss. Also, for 'The Walking Dead' enthusiasts, there are numerous comic book adaptions available as well, with less prose, and more gore-y zombie violence, if that's more your wheelhouse.
Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History
– True Crime Stories about the dark-hearted
Age Range: 18+
Triggers: death, child death, murder, sexism, suicidal thoughts, incest, sexual assault, sexual content
True Crime is an all the rage sensation in the US right now, and if you're as guilty of being on that trend as I am, you have to read Tori Telfer's incredible compendium of stories: Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History. True Crime as a genre tends to focus on the bad boys. There are more of them, statistically speaking. But truth is stranger than fiction, and women are not always the victims. Sometimes, they themselves are the perpetrators. And, women tend to kill for different reasons. If you're already curious as to what those reasons could be, do yourself a favor and pick up that wittily written text the next chance you get.
A LOVECRAFTIAN LENS,
A BLACK AUTHOR'S PERSPECTIVE:
The Ballad of Black Tom
– Return to Lovecraft's world, and see it for what it truly is
Age Range: 18+
Triggers: death of a parent, racism, police violence, scalping, eye horror
Charles Thomas Tester is a resident of Red Hook, one of Lovecraft's boroughs, with a dense and diverse, mainly immigrant population. The burdens of his life are altogether physical, intangible, and horrific. However, one day he discovers an occult tome and finds out the truth of the magic running New York City, and becomes the center of attention from some many-eyed, all-knowing beings.
While 'The Ballad of Black Tom' is on the shorter side,
novella length, it belongs on the shelf of any modern Lovecraft fan.
There's cult goings-on, there's a constant tension between our protagonist and his city, as well as rich detail to satisfy anyone with a special interest in the 1900's version of New York.
Injustice rather than ignorance fuels the horror in this piece, and it's a perfect example of the type of thing to sate an appetite when it comes to feeling haunted and pursued.