It’s never too late for a good horror book. In October, we got major chills from The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass. The Taking of Jake Livingston follows Jake, a teenage medium, as he investigates the mysterious murder of his neighbor and peer, Mateo. Jake soon discovers the unthinkable: Mateo was targeted the year before in a bloody school shooting, and the deceased perpetrator is back from the dead to finish his killing spree. A gruesome and intersectional look into school politics and gun violence in America, The Taking of Jake Livingston will devour you whole and leave you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page. Because this is one of my favorite genres to read, I wanted to share some of my favorite teen horror titles to keep you well-stocked all year long.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland combines zombie action, gruesome American history, and coming of age all into one kick-ass story. Dread Nation follows Jane, a Black teenager born just days before the first “shambler” outbreak in 1776 New York. Now that slaves have been emancipated, Jane, alongside other Black and indigenous children, are being pulled from their homes and trained to fight the zombies, eventually to act as personal bodyguards for wealthy white people. During her training, Jane is drawn into a dangerous plot to establish a vaccine. She forms unexpected alliances in an attempt to protect her chosen family, but in the end, she is forced to remember who the real enemy is. Ireland addresses important topics such as white-passing privilege and the intersectionality of racism and sexism in United States history. This series is complete with just two books.
Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly DeVos is hands-down one of my favorite books of the year. The novel follows six different teens, all sent to the same fat camp over winter break. Little do they know that the camp they’re attending is run by a large company that manufactures dangerous diet supplements. The group refuses the brand-new supplement bars that the camp distributes on the first day, and they watch as dozens of campers drop thirty, fourty, fifty pounds overnight… and then turn into extremely fast, athletic zombies. The camp is snowed in, the power goes out, and the adults flee the camp. It’s left to six teens to survive the night and escape with their lives. Eat Your Heart Out deals directly with the unhealthy and horrifying effects of diet culture and the beauty industry while simultaneously referencing classic horror movies and tropes. It’s one wild ride, y’all.
Horrid by Katrina Leno is one of those solid, chilly slow-burn horror novels that is very satisfying to read. The story follows Jane, a misfit high school student, as she moves across the country to her mother’s family estate, which has been sitting empty for a few years. Jane begins to notice some spooky things happening around the old house: doors opening and closing by themselves, whispering, footsteps on the floor above when she is home alone. Her new friends at school seem to know bits and pieces of her family past, things that her mother has never talked about. Can Jane piece together what is happening at North Manor before the past reveals itself in violent ways? Drawing on classic horror authors like Agatha Christie and Stephen King, Katrina Leno crafts an un-put-downable horror story that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
Tiffany Jackson works her magic again with her most recent novel: White Smoke. Described as The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out, White Smoke tells the story of Mari and her family as they - you guessed it - move across the country and into a haunted house.This house in particular is owned by the Sterling Group, a organization looking to rebuild the once-great town of Cedarville and restore it to its former glory. As Mari begins to settle in, she discovers a few strange things about the town; not only does Cedarville have extreme laws against marijuana possession and distribution, the town also runs for-profit prisons that house a massive amount of the population, their crimes mainly including - surprise, surprise - marijuana possession and distribution. Jackson gives us a rollercoaster of a haunted house story and weaves political and social critiques in between the pages to create a reading experience like no other. Seriously, Tiffany Jackson is a thriller genre mastermind.
Dowry of Blood by S T Gibson isn’t your average horror novel. It’s a retelling of sorts - a re-imagining of the story of Dracula through the eyes of one of his brides. As Constanta watches from her husband’s shadow, he brings new people into his “web of passion and deceit”; Constanta is left to decide what she desires more: her love for her husband or her personal freedom. Dowry of Blood is perfect for those who love the classics, but still want that extra kick that modern horror brings to the table.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White brings a new perspective from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to life. Much like Dowry of Blood, Dark Descent gives audiences the point of view of the scorned love interest, and the dark consequences that come with loving the villain of their story. The novel begins when Elizabeth joins Victor during their teenage years, encouraging him to pursue his nefarious endeavors. The way that White details the decline of Victor Frankenstein is fascinating, especially from the clouded viewpoint of his beloved.
Creepy Legends & Mysteries
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has everything you need in a quintessential spooky teen book: a compelling protagonist, a foggy island setting, and a mysterious family past. The novel follows Jacob as he travels with his father to a remote town in Wales. His grandfather grew up on the island, and Jacob remembers hearing all about the various residents of an orphanage tucked away in the woods: a girl who could fly, a boy who could turn invisible, and even a child with a mouth on the back of her head. Even though Jacob has never visited before now, the island begins to feel a little too familiar, and his grandfather’s twisted tales begin to come alive around him. A chilling adventure full of heart, soul, and very terrifying monsters, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children does not disappoint. I’ve loved this book for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure you will love it, too. The series is finally complete, six books in total, with the addition of a mediocre film adaptation in 2016.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is probably the closest to The Taking of Jake Livingston, with its ghosts and unique queer representation. When Yadriel performs a spell to prove himself and his identity to his traditional family, he accidentally summons the spirit of his dead classmate, Julian. Yadriel agrees to help Julian uncover the mystery surrounding his death, and hijinks ensue along the way. Full of heart and heritage, Aiden Thomas’ debut is a classic in the making.
Thanks for checking out the blog this month! Stay tuned for my next recommendation post on graphic memoirs to coincide with our November book, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei.