Halloween Reads 2021

Image Credit: Wednesday Books

The nights are growing longer and there’s a chill in the air: it’s the season of fear! Now is the time for scary stories under the covers, and in 2021, there are plenty to choose from. Below are some personal favorites, from the eerie to the bloodcurdling. Read on, enjoy, and remember to charge those flashlight batteries…

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould understands that the living can haunt us as much as the dead. When a ghost-hunting gay couple and their teen daughter return to their hometown to investigate a series of disappearances, they must contend with local secrets and painful family history. Gould has masterfully captured what it’s like to be the queer kid in a small rural town, and that realism gives this supernatural thriller a unique emotional depth and nuance that will hook readers of The Raven Cycle and Sadie.

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Image Credit: Sourcebooks Fire

In a corrupt empire where magic is powered by sacrifice, What We Devour by Linsey Miller takes “eat the rich” to its logical conclusion. This dystopian fantasy looks thorny issues of inequality and revolution in the eye and refuses to flinch first. The heroine — a prickly, clever girl struggling to get her fiancé to accept her asexuality — is a rare Dualwright, possessed by the spirit of both a Noble and a Vile god, granting her access to terrible power. Maybe enough terrible power to seal the Door keeping the rest of the Vile from spilling out into the world, a Door that is beginning to splinter…. If you want a politically-savvy and utterly terrifying YA fantasy novel this Halloween, this is it.

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Image Credit: Feiwel & Friends

Maybe ghosts and demons aren’t your thing. No problem! For a smart, tense crime thriller, try The Silence of Bones by June Hur. I loved this book for its fast pace and lush historical detail. Set in Joseon (Korea) in 1800, it follows an orphan girl who has been indentured to the police bureau. Her task? Assist a young detective in the murder investigation of a noblewoman — avoiding political traps and dangerous secrets all the while. One problem: the detective may be the prime suspect. Can our heroine find the answers she needs to solve the crime before someone else kills her for her silence? If you’ve been on a historical K-drama binge or just want a change from Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, give this a try.

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Image Credit: David Fickling Books

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin is possibly the most frightening, most upsetting, most perfectly executed horror novel I’ve read in the YA genre. Set in an apocalyptic, isolated version of Ireland, it follows a group of teenagers who are preparing for the titular Call, when they will be snatched from the human world to be hunted by the Sidhe. If they can survive a day in the fairy world, they’ll be returned, but no one who comes back is ever the same. The heroine is physically disabled and doesn’t stand a chance of surviving, but she’s determined to try. I won’t sugarcoat it: this is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of YA horror. It reads like The Cruel Prince and The Hunger Games had a vicious murder baby. That said, it is one of my favorite books, and it will absolutely delight readers who wish fairies in fiction went just a little bit harder. Just don’t expect to be able to get through it without taking a break to cool off.

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Image Credit: Katherine Tegen Books

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand is all about atmosphere. On an island off the Maryland coast, a wealthy family of mysterious women raise horses and commune with a dark power; a teenager hunts for her best friend’s murderer; and a lonely newcomer races to save her sister from a similar fate. The fantastic queer cast is a huge bonus (with an asexual lead and a fraught F/F romance) to an already creepy, spine-chilling horror novel that will have you looking over your shoulder the whole time you’re reading. If you like movies like The Witch or The Ritual where people are making deals they really shouldn’t make with monsters from the fringes of the human imagination, you will love this book.

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Image Credit: Delacorte Press

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White brings new life to Mary Shelley’s classic with a gothic tale of mad science, betrayal, and fear that’s just as chilling as the original. Following Victor Frankenstein’s doomed bride, Elizabeth, this novel explores the monstrous lengths people will go to for survival as the title character rushes to preserve her fragile place in the life of a man who may be more of a monster than the one he created. This is a terrifying, feminist successor to the first masterpiece of science-fiction, and it is one of my all-time favorite books. If you’ve ever read or watched a version of Frankenstein and though, ‘Hmm, I don’t know about this Dr. Frankenstein guy,’ this book will be extremely validating.

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There are so many more books I could feature this year, but with only a few days left until Halloween, I’m keeping the list small. Because horror is one of my favorite genres, though, you can be sure I’ll be covering more books in the future. Subscribe below to get an email update when I publish a new post!

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