Tag Archive: horror

through the woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

This graphic novel is haunted by authors like Neil Gaiman and the Brother Grimm.  The tales here are gruesome in the best possible way, frightening and oozy and delightful.  Our Neighbor’s House is a strange tale of a family that disappears one by one into the frigid snow following a man in a wide-brimmed hat until there is only one girl left.  A Lady’s Hands Are Cold tells of a women married into a loveless marriage who begins to hear voices calling from the walls and floors of the house.  His Face All Red is a story of murder and the undead. My Friend Janna tells of what happens when fakery of the occult becomes real and dangerous.  The Nesting Place will have your skin crawling, or perhaps it’s what lurks behind your skin.  Each story is a gem, strange and beautiful and entirely horrific.

Carroll does both the stories and the art here and they are married together so closely that they could not be extricated.  Though they are all clearly done by one person, the art changes from one to the next, definitively showing that you are entering a different place with different people.  There are old stories with coaches, horses and corsets as well as more modern tales too. 

Yet though they are clearly different, you start each one with that unease in your stomach that Carroll seems to be able to generate through her use of colors and the way that her characters gaze from the page.  Something is wrong in each of the stories and you can’t finish until you figure out exactly what it is.  The effect is haunting, haunted and wildly exhilarating.

A true delight of a read, this graphic novel for teens is completely disturbing and filled with horror.  In other words, it’s perfection for horror fans.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

rules of summer

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

Enter the surreal world of two brothers with a picture told in few words and many pictures.  The book takes place in the previous summer and explains what one of the brothers learned that summer.  The lessons are strange, but the images are even wilder.  The first lesson is “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.”  It is accompanied by a wonderful and magnificently creepy image of a huge rabbit the size of a house with a red eye staring over the wall as the two brothers cower on the other side.  As the pages turn, the world gets odder and odder, forming a cohesive world but one that surprises, horrifies and delights.

As Tan blends humor with his frightening images, one starts to see a world that is beyond our own and yet strangely parallel.  These brothers live in a different world, one with its own rules and laws but one that is hauntingly familiar to our own.  Perhaps my favorite series of images is the series of pictures for “Never wait for an apology” where the younger brother is padlocked in a small steam engine with smoke pouring from the smokestack.  Black birds fly past.  Since all of the other images were done as single picture, I didn’t expect to turn the page and see the image continue from farther away.  It all evoked so brilliantly the loneliness, the trapped feeling, the isolation of waiting for an apology. 

Tan continues to surprise and delight in this new picture book.  While not for everyone, there are some children who will adore this skewed world that speaks to our own.  Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

night gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

A book sure to create some shivers, this is a thrilling gothic horror book for children.  Molly and Kip are two Irish children abandoned by their parents as their family fled to England due to the Great Irish Potato Famine.  No one will hire Molly as a servant until a man hires them to work for his family at their isolated and decrepit mansion.  It quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem in this family.  Molly finds a painting done of the family a year earlier, and they have changed considerably with their hair turning black and dull to their skin losing all color.  Perhaps it has something to do with the locked green door in the house, a door that Molly yearns to find out what is behind.   But opening that door unleashes a terrible force, one that answers your wants but destroys you in the process.  How can two children stand up to a centuries old curse?

Auxier’s storytelling skill is incredible.  He weaves a world of darkness, creeping misery and despair so cleverly that readers will feel the chill on their skin before it reaches their thoughts.  The children are steadily drawn into the strangeness surrounding the house and family, succumbing to the temptation of safety, the illusion of a home, and not seeing the proof around them of what is happening.  For the reader, this is a book that steadily builds and builds as the tension mounts and the nights get more frightening.  It is a wonderfully creepy read, one that simply can’t be put down.

The themes of the book are beautifully crafted.  The book speaks to the importance of love and family, but even more so it is about what happens when greed becomes consuming, literally.  It also is about the power of storytelling and stories, the way that they can teach, terrify and soothe.  And finally about the terror when a story comes to life right in front of you. 

An extraordinary horror novel for children, this book will be enjoyed by young readers but maybe not right before bed.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet.

sorrows knot

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

The dead live in every shadow.  There are small dead and larger dead, but they are all dangerous.  That’s why the women of the Shadowed People have binders, members of their tribe who are able to use knotted string to turn the dead away and even destroy them.  Otter is a binder, daughter of Willow, one of the strongest binders ever.  As she spends the last of her childhood playing with her two best friends, Cricket and Kestrel, she is almost entirely carefree.  Then Cricket is attacked by one of the dead, and suddenly life is not so simple.  The wards around the town seem weaker, and Willow is slowly becoming insane as her power to bind turns inside out.  As one of the strongest dead, a White Hand, stalks the village, Otter’s must find her own role not only as binder but as a woman of the Shadowed People.

This is the second YA book by Bow and it is a stunner.  First, you have the fact that it is entirely unique.  It’s a horror novel set in the distant past and populated by aboriginal tribes.  The entire world that Bow has created is well developed and manages to be familiar yet profoundly different from anything you have read of before.  Then you have the characters, who are strong and amazing.  There is Otter, the brave and proud girl who transforms into a woman before your eyes, but not before facing the horrors that are plaguing her world.  Kestrel, the ranger, who is also brave but loves deeply and ferociously too.  And Cricket, the storyteller, quick-witted and one of the few boys in the village of women. 

It is Bow’s writing that really sings throughout the novel.  It is her writing that shows us the world she has built, lets us love these characters so deeply, and allows us understand the danger and horror as well.  Here is a quote from page four, early in the book, that shows her skill in creating a place:

So Otter was born, and so she came to girlhood, among Shadowed People, the free women of the forest, in the embrace of mountains so old they were soft-backed, so dark with pine that they were black in summer.  A river came out of those mountains, young and quick, shallow and bone-cold.  Where it washed into a low meadow, the people had cleared the birch saplings and scrub pines and built a stronghold of sunlight.

Her voice is that of a story teller, filled with rhythm and intention.  She captures the setting she has created in just the style of her writing.

Unique and amazing, this book offers a fresh take on horror and an incredible teen heroine who faces death in many ways.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

engines of the broken world

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee

Merciful’s mother has finally died.  After years of growing more and more confused and cruel, she died as the weather grew colder and colder.  Merciful and her brother Gospel had wanted to bury her properly but the bitter weather had worsened and prevented them from digging a hole.  The snow came too, lashing the windows and keeping them from even venturing out to the barn to check on the animals.  So they put their mother under the table and went to bed.  The Minister, in an animal form, said prayers over her but was also firm in saying that she needed a proper burial.  Merciful is starting breakfast the next morning when she hears it, a voice she thought she would never hear again, singing her childhood song.

This novel is completely unique.  It is the story not of a post-apocalyptic world but of the days leading directly into an apocalypse.  Yet it is also a book that explores religion in a way that will certainly bother many people.  This is a religion beyond decay, heading into the final days, one that is flagging but still powerful.  Even better, it is one that is familiar to many of us.  Now add zombies to this complex world, and you are starting to understand why this book is so difficult to explain.

Against this dire setting, we have two young characters Merciful and Gospel.  The two do not get along, both approaching the world from different places.  Yet given the claustrophobic setting, the two are forced to see the truth about each other and their strengths.  It is this setting of a blizzard at the end of the world that makes this book so haunting.  Vanhee writes in a voice that we haven’t heard before either, he tinkers with perception of the characters, and he has created a book where you can’t trust much at all.  It is a wonderfully slippery book, that changes underneath you and turns into something unexpected.  Yet it is also filled with moments of great beauty and character. 

A horror book for teens, this is also something much more.  It is a beautifully written apocalypse that is harrowing, striking and powerful.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.


Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Intertwined stories that range from the near future of 2073 to the distant past of the Vikings, this book lures the reader in with dark promises, strange happenings, and dares you to follow your curiosity deeper and deeper.  When Eric Seven arrives at the island of Blessed to see if the claims that people have discovered how to live longer (if not forever) are true, he is greeted with warmth and immediately set up in house of his own.  No one lives on the western side of the island and the eastern side only has adults, no children.  Eric starts out with drive to discover what is wrong, but the longer he spends on the island and drinking the tea the community provides him, the less he wants to explore at all.  When he travels to the western side of the island finally, his story forms the door to those that follow.  Layer upon layer, the lives of the people on Blessed are told, each layer revealing something new and equally odd.  This impressive novel is impossible to put down until the final story and the real truth is revealed in all of its horror.

Immediately upon opening this book, the strangeness of the story was apparent.  As Eric slips into complacency, I was almost screaming at him with frustration.  It was the ideal way to open this book where so much hinges upon the moments of hair raising oddity that link the stories.  Sedgwick has built this book so exquisitely that there is no guessing at the ending until it comes.  It is a story of love but also of revenge, of brotherhood but also of murder. 

Set on a Scandinavian island that is remote, Sedgwick uses the unusual formation of the island as a large part of the story.  The two halves nearly severed from one another, they are two worlds connected only slightly.  So the island itself reflects the story of generations of people who remain connected as well.  The inclusion of the dragon orchid and the powerful tea it brews is also a great symbol within the story.  The orchids are powerful, strange but also beautiful and delicate. 

This compelling novel is amazing teen literature.  It has enough depth to be used in a classroom where the symbolism and incredible writing can be celebrated.  It is also a riveting combination of romance and horror that will thrill discriminating teen readers.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

cavendish home

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Victoria has always tried to be the best that she can be with her perfect hair, great grades and neat room.  So when she gets a B in music, she is distraught and refuses to show her parents her report card.  Lawrence, her one and only friend, doesn’t have the same appreciation for perfection.  He’s a musician who is often untidy and has a habit of humming constantly.  As Victoria obsesses about her grades, she starts to notice that strange things are happening around town.  Some of the students at her school have disappeared and no one seems to care.  When Lawrence disappears and his parents are unconcerned, Victoria realizes that there is something horribly wrong.  She knows it must have to do with the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, an orphanage which never seems to have any children around.  In Mrs. Cavendish, Victoria finds another person with a will for order and perfection.  In Victoria though, Mrs. Cavendish may have met her match.  As this book turns from mystery to horror, readers will taken on a frightening ride.

From the endpaper that is designed with bugs to the bugs scattered along randomly inside the book, readers will realize that this is a little darker than most mysteries.  It begins as a classic story of a girl who is top of her class and fairly self-centered.  She is likeable despite these faults thanks to her natural inquisitiveness and bravery.  As the book becomes more dark and creepy, Victoria rises to the challenge, turning into a heroine before your eyes.  It’s a credible and impressive transformation.

Legrand slowly builds the tension in the book, creating a story that you can never quite relax into.  A great example of this is on page 83:

Outside, the streets glistened. Storm clouds sat fat, black, and heavy all along the sickly yellow sky. Victoria wondered if they would ever break or if they would just keep spitting bits of rain forever when no one was looking. She tightened her grip on the umbrella beneath her raincoat and tried not to think about how it felt like the trees were watching her.

It’s a book that twists and turns, becoming the unexpected. At several moments, I thought I had figured it out and the doubted that that would be the outcome in a children’s book.  Children will delight though in realizing that Legrand does not shy away from the horrid, the frightening and the disgusting. 

This is a wild ride of a book clothed in a classic mystery disguise.  Get it into the hands of children who enjoy a good shivery read.  It’s perfect for reading at night under the covers, if you are brave enough.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.


White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick


Released July 5, 2011 in the US.

In a tiny English village that is being slowly eaten by the sea, Rebecca and her father spend their summer.  Rebecca is all alone, her friends back home ignoring her, thanks to her father being accused of something horrible.  Then Ferelith enters her life, a strange girl who speaks in riddles, plays dangerous and illegal games, and gets Rebecca thinking of something other than her despair.  But everywhere there are secrets, some hidden, walled up and shocking.  Some from long, long ago that have never completely died.  Some that search for angels or devils.  Some that may trap new people.  Secrets are at the heart of this eerie, frightening read that is perfect for dark summer nights.

Nominated for the Carnegie Medal in Literature, this book is a taut, thrilling ride that combines several elements into a disturbing novel that is impossible to put down.  There is the amazing setting of Winterfold, a town that is withering away as the sea reclaims chunks of the cliffs.  The setting is a powerful piece of the book, a presence that is important and vital to the entire story.

Then there are the characters.  Rebecca, a thoroughly modern teen, who finds life in Winterfold even for the summer entirely too dull.  Ferelith, the strange girl, who both loves Rebecca for who she is and also hates her for it.  And finally, the voice from the eighteenth century who speaks of horrors, of blood running, of experiments, that will amaze and torture.  They come together to create a book that is wild, vivid and scary.

A modern gothic story, this book is intense and horrific enough that you will want a light on.  Seriously.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

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Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Released June 14, 2011.

Chloe knows that she can depend on her older sister Ruby.  Ruby is a girl who has always seemed to be more alive, more beautiful and more intense than anyone else.  She has series of boyfriends, some of whom never go away, lingering for more attention from Ruby.  Chloe knows that Ruby would do anything for her and that she will always live with Ruby.  But that all changes one night at the reservoir when Ruby asks Chloe to swim across the water and return with a trophy from a long-sunken town below the surface.  Chloe trusts Ruby implicitly, knowing the Ruby would never let anything happen to her.  So she starts across, but she doesn’t find the other side of the reservoir, instead she discovers the body of a dead girl floating in a boat.  Now Chloe is sent away to live with her father.  But Ruby will not allow them to be separated from one another and will do anything to get her sister back.  Anything.

This is horror fiction that is literary at the same time.  It takes its time slowly becoming more and more eerie and strange as the reader continues.   The journey here is a large part of the book, as layers are peeled away, readers begin to understand more and more about the sisters, about Ruby, and about the dead girl, London.  It is a book that gives readers the space to think, to untangle the knot, to solve the puzzle.  It is a joy to read.

The prose is beautiful even at its more horrific and strange.  In the early pages there is this section from page 34 that epitomizes the beauty of the language:

It felt like we could have made it to the station in seconds, flown there and back with a canister of gasoline, our eyelashes glistening with frost, our bones weightless from cold.

And you can see within that passage that even the most mundane, running out of gas, can be made sinister yet mesmerizing.

Chloe is a character who struggles with living in her sister’s shadow even as she basks in the attention that it brings her from others and from Ruby.  Their relationship is strange, but Chloe continues to see it as normal.  Readers must wrest their thoughts free from Chloe’s to begin to understand what is happening.  The world the two sisters inhabit is beautiful, troubling and irresistible.

The design of the book is very effective.  From the cover that is beautiful but haunting to the way the chapter titles are done.  Each chapter title is pulled from the first few words of the chapter, giving the book an echo and each title even more strange weight.

Highly recommended, this is a phenomenal horror novel filled with gorgeous writing and a strong paranormal feel.  Ideal for teens who think they have read it all.  This is a book full of surprises and twists that will have them regretting reading it after dark.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin Young Readers Group.

Also reviewed by:

And you can check out the book trailer:

Cryer’s Cross: Thrilling Fun


Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

The tiny community of Cryer’s Cross has been witness to a tragedy when Tiffany disappears without a trace.  Because the town is so small, 16-year-old Kendall knew Tiffany though she was several years younger.  Returning to their one-room high school, Kendall needs to tidy the desks and room before a new school year begins thanks to her OCD.  Kendall returns to her areas of comfort, playing soccer, dreaming about leaving Cryer’s Cross for Juilliard, and her boyfriend Nico.  When Nico begins acting strange and then disappears, the community enforces a curfew.   After Nico disappears and soccer is cancelled, Kendall’s OCD becomes much worse.  She only finds relief when playing soccer with Jacian, a new boy in school who manages to both bother and intrigue Kendall.  When Kendall starts hearing Nico’s voice when she sits at his desk and receiving messages through the graffiti scratched into its surface, she is drawn into the horror that lives in her small town.

This thriller has great teen appeal.  It is creepy, frightening, but not fully horror.  Just right for teens who want a little scare but not too much.  The romance is nicely built in the book as well.  I liked that it was not instantaneous but rather built as they got to know one another better. 

The pacing is well done, drawing out the scary moments and allowing the story time to build.  I found it nearly impossible to put down, my mind kept working on unraveling the mystery even when I was not reading.   The conclusion was exciting, frightening and great fun to read.  It was also nicely foreshadowed in the book, making it very satisfying.

A thrilling, fun read that is sure to appeal to McMann’s fans.  The cover is eye-catching and will welcome additional readers too.  Get this in the hands of teens who want a jolt of terror in their reads.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon Pulse.

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