Literary Horror: The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Yesterday Allison, Nicola and I recommended read-alikes for A Court of Thorns and Roses fans as part of our new “What Next? Wednesday” series. Since I love recommending similar books, this post compares recent and upcoming favorites.

Bone GapThe walls around us23346358If, like me, you loved the eerie beauty of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap and Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, I recommend you read Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season when it comes out in mid-August. I consider all three books literary horror because their magical realism and eloquent, imaginative prose amplify the horror narratives and play to our most primal fears.

In case you need a reminder, Bone Gap is about a teenage boy, Finn, who was the only witness to the disappearance of his brother’s girlfriend, Roza. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Roza’s narrative reveals that, in fact, a scary man–who’s both magical and realistic–has taken her.)

Also told in alternate voices, The Walls Around Us is a creepy supernatural novel about Juvie inmate Amber and Violet, a competitive dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that same detention center. Amber is a ghost who keeps reliving a prison break, while Violet is tormented by memories of the murders that took place three years earlier, leading to Orianna’s arrest.

Like Bone Gap‘s small midwestern town “full of…gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever,”The Accident Season’s small Irish river town, with an enchanting run-down haunted house (an ideal venue for a Halloween party), is a perfect setting for a horror story. Seventeen-year-old Cara’s family is cursed. Every October (the accident season), Cara, her mother, her sister Alice, and her step-brother Sam find that no matter how many precautions they take, “[b]ones break, skin tears, bruises bloom,” and sometimes family members (her father and uncle!) die.

Bone Gap and The Accident Season do not have similar plots, but both books’ characters grapple with confusing romance, dark memories and secrets, violence, and uncertainty about what is real versus imagined. And, like The Walls Around UsThe Accident Season is a ghost story. Haunted by a missing classmate only she remembers (who keeps showing up in her family photos), Cara realizes the accident season is much more than a family curse.

These novels aren’t classic-horror scary, but their lyrical prose and original, creepy narratives will haunt you for a long time to come.

Alyssa Raymond is a regular contributor at Coven Book Club and its YA sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, the publisher, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with digital review copies of these titles for review purposes, and her opinions are her own. Please follow Spellbinding Books onTwitter and Tumblr.

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Winter 2015 YA Wrap-up: January – March Books

Now that winter is officially coming to an end, it’s a perfect time to highlight my favorite Winter 2015 YA releases, along with a few titles that are still on my TBR list.

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Marissa Meyer’s Fairest is the latest book (following Cress) in The Lunar Chronicles: a science-fiction retelling of Cinderella (Cinder, 2011), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet, 2012), Rapunzel (Cress, 2012), and Snow White (Winter, Nov 2015). The series’ overarching plot involves the main characters trying to stop the Lunar queen (who can control minds with her powerful glamour) from threatening the humans, androids, cyborgs, and Lunar refugees that live on Earth. If Prince Kai won’t marry Levana, she’ll attack Earth!

Fairest (2015) tells Levana’s story of how she became the villain we love to hate. While the other books depict her as rather one-dimensionally evil, Fairest reveals the underlying reasons for her villainy. It does not justify her evil behavior but portrays her as a surprisingly complex and sympathetic character.

Jodi Meadows’ The Orphan Queen is an engrossing YA fantasy about a tough princess, Wil, who wants desperately to take back her conquered kingdom. Nearly ten years ago, the Indigo army attacked her homeland Aecor and killed every noble adult, putting their children in an orphanage (from which Wil and her orphan “family,” called Ospreys, escaped).

The Ospreys are stealthy thieves who have been plotting for years to infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom. To spy on the Indigo Court, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, impersonate refugee nobles who have fled a fallen kingdom for the safety of Skyvale Palace. Not only must Wil hide her true identity from Crown Prince Tobiah (whom she fears might recognize her from ten years ago), but she must keep her magical abilities secret. Magic is banned from the Indigo Kingdom to prevent the toxic by-product of magic (called wraith) from spreading. Wil must also avoid another confrontation with Black Knife, a vigilante who is really good at catching magic-users (besides herself). Full of risky adventure, magic, and romance, The Orphan Queen is a great choice for fans of Graceling and Throne of Glass.

I love modern retellings of fairy tales and myths involving magic, curses, and physical transformations. Cat Hellison’s Beastkeeper is influenced by “Beauty and the Beast,” yet thirteen-year-old Sarah’s struggles to understand and cope with her family’s curse is its own unique and lyrical fairy tale.

Why did Cody’s best friend Meg kill herself? Gayle Forman’s I Was Here explores this difficult question with emotional complexity and resonance. Whether you’re a fan of If I Stay, or just want to read something profoundly heartbreaking and heartwarming (along the lines of All the Bright Places), I recommend this book.

If you have read Lauren Oliver’s previous books (Delirium, Panic, etc), then you know she’s an excellent writer who realistically portrays what it’s like to be a teen. With its surprising plot twists and turns, Vanishing Girls is an emotionally turbulent account of how sisters Dara and Nick went from being inseparable to estranged after a terrible car accident pushed them apart.

Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky, which just came out yesterday, takes place in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, but it’s not a typical American frontier myth featuring stereotypical cowboys and cowgirls. The “cowgirl” narrator, fifteen-year-old Sammy, is Chinese, and what she struggles to overcome on the American frontier is racism. When her father’s death and another horrible incident force Sammy to flee Missouri, she and a runaway slave, disguised as male, join a group of guys heading for California on the Oregon Trail. Click here to read what Stacey Lee had to say about creating Under a Painted Sky.

SEQUELS: Since you may not have read the first books in these series (The Winner’s Curse and Seraphina), I’m not going to discuss the plots of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Crime and Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale. Overall, The Winner’s Curse trilogy is about the very complicated romance between a general’s daughter and her slave that takes place in a world similar to the Roman Empire’s conquering of Greece. (Read Nicola’s recommendation here). Seraphina is also about prejudice, political struggles, complicated romance, and war, that is set in an alternative-medieval world where dragons coexist uneasily with humans.

A RECAP

Here’s a recap of what I’ve recommended for Coven Book Club already (with links to those posts): All the Bright Places, Red Queen, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, MonstrousNightbirdEchoA Darker Shade of MagicBones & All and Bone Gap.

MY TBR PILE

Here’s what’s still in my Winter 2015 TBR pile: The Mime Order (read Allison’s recommendation here), A Wicked Thing (read Nicola’s recommendation here), The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Wrong Side of RightEverything That Makes YouWhen Reason BreaksMy Heart and Other Black Holes, and The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

I’ll be back tomorrow to share with you my favorite YA books coming out this spring!

Alyssa Raymond recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult) for Coven Book Club and its newly-launched sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, Netgalley, and the publishers for sending her ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Twitter.



New Literary Horror: The Walls Around Us, Bones & All, Bone Gap

For my February finale, I’d planned to follow up on my last post with a look at my favorite series of fairy tale retellings: Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. But I just couldn’t wait any longer to recommend three March releases in a different genre—literary horror. Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, and Camille DeAngelis’ Bones & All show how eloquent and imaginative prose can amplify horrific events and our most primal fears.

Like a classic horror movie, Bone Gap is set in a stereotypical Midwestern town, with cornfields that haunt the main protagonist, Finn. They talk to him and grow at an alarming rate, among spooky scarecrows and crows that threaten to pluck out his eyes and peck him to death. Like a chorus in a Greek play, the people of Bone Gap introduce Finn as a freak, calling him Spaceman, Sidetrack, and Moonface because he is distracted and avoids eye contact. Finn’s strange behavior is more understandable when he becomes a main narrator and the horror story develops. Two months ago, he was the only witness to the disappearance of Roza, his brother’s girlfriend. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like.

Roza’s narrative reveals that a man with eyes like ice has taken her because she is a beautiful woman who will love him. Her abduction seems mythical (think Persephone) and Bone Gap uses magical realism to emphasize its sinister nature. But while the captured woman is often powerless and voiceless in myths, Roza has agency and willpower. Bone Gap emphasizes the victimization of women that is typical of horror and empowers “the damsel in distress.”

Also told through alternate voices, The Walls Around Us is a creepy supernatural tale, combining prison drama and dance rivalry — “Orange is the New Black meets Black Swan” as some reviewers have called it. There’s Amber, imprisoned in a girls’ juvenile detention center, and Violet, a dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that detention center. The book opens with Amber experiencing a phenomenal event: suddenly the prisoners are set free from their cells. But she is a ghost reliving what happened years ago, and they didn’t really escape.

In her first narrative, Violet is onstage during her last performance before achieving her dream of attending Julliard. But she feels broken: on stage, she loves people and they love her, but offstage she is haunted by dark memories and secrets. During intermission she visits the site where a crime took place three years earlier, leading to Orianna’s arrest. Enthralling prose and magical realism unite the stories of Amber, Violet, and Orianna, and explore complex issues of lies and truth, disadvantage and privilege, wrongdoing and justice, guilt and innocence, betrayal and friendship, vengeance and forgiveness.

Bones & All wrestles with similar issues, and it is not your typical horror story, nor is Maren Yearly your typical villain. Like most teenagers (and humans, for that matter) she wants to belong and feel normal, be loved and love herself; but a dark secret keeps her ashamed and alienated. In the opening scene, we learn that Maren devours people, starting with her babysitter when she was just a few years old. She tries to distance herself from everyone emotionally and physically, but if they do get close it’s not like she can’t not eat them. Then she and her mother have to move again…and again. While living with her secret is difficult, as long as she has her mom everything turns out okay; but she wakes up on her 16th birthday to discover her mom has abandoned her, leaving behind her birth certificate with her unknown father’s name. Hoping to find answers to her cannibalism, Maren’s search for her father turns into a much greater adventure.

From its poignant beginning to its unconventional ending, Bones & All will mess with you (in a good way). Horrifying and entertaining, loathsome and loving, cruel and forgiving, confining and adventurous, bizarre and normal: this novel will challenge your emotional footing, moral compass, and plot expectations. Normally heroism is about gaining justice by defeating “the monster”, but in this original and spectacular novel heroism is about Maren accepting and being loved for “the monster” she is. DeAngelis’ choice to narrate her novel from an antihero’s perspective, portraying Maren sympathetically and with integrity while she confronts the shame and loneliness of her crimes, challenges us to ponder many philosophical questions about what it means to be good versus evil, a villain rather than a hero, and guilty rather than innocent. When is killing someone or something considered a crime rather than a natural instinct or as necessary for survival? Maren will take your eyes and your heart, but I hope you enjoy being devoured by this deliciously dark novel as much as I did.

Alyssa Raymond loves to read, review and collect books–thanks to her many years as a bookseller. She can’t wait to share with you her favorite new and upcoming releases and thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with advance reading copies in exchange for her honest reviews.