Illustration by Stephen Gammell
What's that behind you?
As someone who is terrified of scary movies, I will never understand why I would subject myself to reading scary books. I was never one to find joy in the rush of adrenaline that thriller and horror genres produced but there was something about Stephen Gammell's creepy drawings that graced the cover and filled the pages of Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark always pulled me in.
And, in reading those, I realized that the great thing about scary books is that — unlike with films — you can go at your own pace and imagine the scenes yourself. That’s not to say the stories weren't scary or that I didn't read plenty of those books in a single sleepless night, but I liked having that little bit of control as a reader.
With the anticipation of Halloween, it's time to get your scare on! And these scary stories and thrillers listed below are sure to leave you feeling creeped out in the best possible way. Any questions?
Trick or Treat Yo' Self
Breezy Lin has been dead and buried for a year—murdered and tossed into a shallow grave. So when she wakes up and claws her way out, no one is more surprised than she. She may not remember the last year, but she does remember the events leading to her murder. Worse, she suddenly finds herself possessing creepy powers: she can sense when someone has killed, and she can use that darkness to kill them. Also, she can’t die (again), and it’s not for lack of trying. Confused and alone, Breezy soon finds herself caught in a dangerous web of monsters and monster hunters, and she’s not sure where she fits into that equation or if she has any chance of being redeemed.
A wealthy young woman weds a man in a lonely old house, and at night she hears a forlorn song of unavenged murder lilting from the walls. A girl spends the summer with her brother and his fiancée, who is not what she seems. Three sisters wait for their father to return, but one by one they disappear with a tall man in a broad-brimmed hat. All the tales in Carroll’s debut graphic novel are fairly standard ghost stories, but it is her eerie illustrations—popping with bold color on black, glossy pages—that masterfully build terrifying tension and a keep-the-lights-on atmosphere.
In a small town in Nebraska, a series of grisly murders starts with the high school musical's star, who is found with a smiley face carved into her throat. The next one targeted is the football running back, whose head is sliced open and brain slashed. Only high school students are targeted, and recent transfer Makani Young and her friends wonder who will be next while trying to find a pattern in the victims. Meanwhile, Makani is enjoying her blossoming romance with loner Ollie, whose loner status has invited suspicion that he could be the murderer. When Makani is attacked, she and Ollie fight off and identify the attacker. The race is on for the town to catch him, and fear is everywhere.
When 16-year-old Maddie Davenport heads into the Colorado wilderness to camp for a week with family and friends, her biggest fear is looking like a fool in front of their hunky guide, Caleb. She laughs off the scary stories that her aunt and brother tell around the campfire, until Caleb tells a truly terrifying tale about the Mountain People—a community of feral men, women, and children who prey on hunters and hikers and carve antlers into their victims’ foreheads. Caleb assures Maddie that it’s fiction, but the next morning, the group finds antlers emblazoned in red on the side of one of their tents. Shortly thereafter, people begin turning up dead, forcing Maddie and company to question whether the legend is real or if there’s a killer in their midst.
Fourteen YA authors mine familiar elements from popular culture to craft new tales of supernatural horror and psychological suspense. The author’s inspiration is revealed at the end of each story, ranging from slasher flicks like I Know What You Did Last Summer to classics such as Frankenstein. Urban legends and ghost stories rub elbows with disturbing romances and bloody tales of revenge. These chilling tales are full of suspense and dread that will haunt readers long after the last page has been turned.
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania-- derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever. Now laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. But it's not a life Jane wants. When families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy... and the restless dead are the least of her problems.