YA Horror: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

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Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is an anthology of fourteen horror stories by many of my favorite YA authors. Seriously. Look at this list of contributors and try not to drool!

We have Nova Ren Suma (The Walls Around Us), Carrie Ryan (Daughter of Deep Silence), Cat Winters (The Uninvited) Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows), Megan Shepherd (The Cage), Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die), April Genevieve Tucholke (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), Jonathan Maberry (Rot & Ruin), Jay Kristoff (Illuminae), Stefan Bachmann (A Drop of Night), Marie Lu (The Young Elites), McCormick Templeman (The Little Woods), A.G. Howard (Splintered), and Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood). I recommend reading every creepy story in this anthology, but I’m focusing here on the eleven written by women.

The first story, Suma’s “The Birds of Azalea Street,” opens with birds flocking at a murder scene. The parents in the neighborhood don’t understand why Leonard (“a perfectly nice man, an upstanding member of our community”) is dead, while their daughters (“who sense danger when everyone’s telling us it’s fine”) know he’s a creep. Ryan’s “In the Forest Dark and Deep” draws from Alice in Wonderland: Cassidy’s fun tea party in the woods becomes a series of scary encounters with the March Hare.

Winter’s “Emmeline” is about a dead girl in Northern France, 1918, who lures soldiers to join her in what’s left of her bombed out bedroom. A teen celebrity’s rehab is much more than her mother paid for in Bardugo’s “Verse Chorus Verse.”  In Shepherd’s “Hide-and-Seek,” Annie plays a game with Crow Cullom, death’s harbinger, after her stepdad nearly kills her. A dreams-come-true romance between “Marnie Monster” and the perfect boy becomes sinister in Paige’s “The Dark, Scary Parts and All.”

In Tucholke’s “The Flicker, the Finger, the Beat, the Sigh, “ a couple’s perfect future is jeopardized when a joyride turns nightmarish on a rainy night.  Lu’s “The Girl Without a Face” is about a Harvard boy with a dark past who’s haunted by a vengeful ghost. A group of boys from a plague-stricken community seek salvation in a shaman girl they’ve captured in Templeman’s “A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow.” In Howard’s “Stitches,” a girl dismembers her “sinful” father, selling his “offensive” body parts to “The Collector” and replacing them with a “good person’s” cadaver pieces. In the final story, Blake’s “On the I-5,” a murdered girl seeks revenge.

This anthology pays homage to classic horror films and literature, urban legends, fairy tales, and myths; yet these stories are original and disturbing in their own right. As the book’s website says, “Each author draws from a mix of literature, film, television, or even music to create something new and fresh and unsettling….There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror, to the supernatural, to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for anyone looking for an absolute thrill.”

Alyssa Raymond is a YA blogger for Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, the publisher, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with a digital review copy of this book for review purposes only, and her opinions are her own. Please follow Spellbinding BooksonTwitter and Tumblr.


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.


Books! Beautiful Books! – Spring 2015 YA is here!

YAY! YA SPRING IS HERE! Today I’m recommending An Ember in the Ashes, The Girl at Midnight, A Court of Thorns and Rosesand The Walls Around Us (pictured below) as my top picks so far for spring.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes (on the shelves 4/28) is great epic fantasy that explores familiar themes of tyranny, slavery, rebellion, magic, family loyalty, and forbidden love in a complex and unique way. Set in a brutal Rome-like world, the novel alternates between the perspectives of Elias, an elite soldier, and his mother’s slave, Laia. Elias unwillingly attends Blackcliff, where the Commander (his mother) trains him to be a Mask–an enforcer of the Martial empire’s laws. As he plans to desert the military, he’s chosen to compete for the Emperor’s throne, an opportunity that hasn’t come along in centuries. Laia is one of the conquered Scholar people. After her brother was arrested for helping the Scholar Resistance, she agreed to spy for the rebels as the Commander’s slave as long as they help save her brother. As Elias and Laia struggle to hide their true feelings toward the empire in order to survive, their lives intersect, further testing their beliefs and loyalties. I really hope there’s a sequel so that I can find out what happens next to Elias and Laia!

Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight (on the shelves 4/28) is a perfect choice for readers of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I immediately loved this book’s protagonist, seventeen-year-old Echo, a runaway pickpocket whose home is a hidden room in the New York Public Library. Like me, she’s a hoarder of books who’s guilty of Tsundoku–letting books pile up without reading them; she also steals treasures and uses magic to travel through the in-between from place to place. Echo has been adopted by the Avicen–an ancient race of feathered people with magical abilities who live beneath the city–and she is the only human who can see them. Her relationship with the Avicen puts her in danger of being caught by the dragon-like Drakharin. For centuries, the Avicen and the Drakharin have been enemies. According to legend, the only way to truly end their conflict is to find the very powerful Firebird. The Girl at Midnight switches between the perspectives of Echo and Dragon Prince Caius as they both seek the Firebird.

Throne of Glass fans will love Sarah J. Maas’ first book in a brand new series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (on the shelves 5/5). Inspired by Beauty and the Beast mixed with faery lore, this series features another strong heroine: nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre. After she kills a wolf in the woods, a beastly creature demands retribution by taking her to a faraway magical land inhabited by the Fae. When her captor transforms into the immortally beautiful Faery Tamlin, Feyre can’t help falling for him.

Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us (on the shelves 3/24) 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. (Read my full recommendation here).

Over the next couple of months, I’ll recommend some more of the upcoming releases pictured below. Happy spring reading!

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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 Tumblr and 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.