9 Spooky YA Reads (And One Bonus Adult Book!) for Halloween

If you're spending this Halloween in, that doesn't mean you won't be frightened...
Publish date:
October 31, 2014
shoppables, reading, s.e.'s bookshelf, halloween, YA, xoBooks

If, like me, you will be spending tonight collapsed on the couch after a 60-hour work week, crossing your fingers that no one will come to your door and curling up (FINALLY!) with a book, you can still get into the spooky spirit. Whether you're picking these up at your local independent bookstore or loading them on your Kobo, these nine creepy reads will keep your fingers tingling -- and, for those of you who aren't into YA, I've got an adult book to recommend too.

1. "Long Lankin," Lindsey Barraclough

OK so this book. This book actually frightened me so much that I was afraid to go to the bathroom, and had a serious debate with myself over whether to just pee myself, or get up, race from lightswitch to lightswitch, and use the toilet like a grownup. I am not kidding. It creeps me out so much that even seeing the cover makes me nervous.

The book is based on an English ballad (folklore retellings, yeah!), and in this version, set in the 1950s, Long Lankin is a boogeyman after the children of a village and he's been terrorizing the same family for centuries. This book is atmospheric and totally eerie and you will spend several days after reading it not wanting to go outside and keeping all your doors and windows shut.

2. "The Mark of Cain," Lindsey Barraclough

Was Lindsey done terrifying readers? No, she was not. I'm not positive this book is available in the U.S. yet, in which case American readers have been momentarily spared unless they, like me, are both determined and sneaky when it comes to book releases. In this sequel to "Long Lankin," we get to jump back and forth in history to get spooked in two different historical eras! YAY!

I haven't read this book yet (I brought it back from Sirens), but I have high hopes for being terrorized all over again. Bring it, Lindsey.

3. "Anna Dressed in Blood," Kendare Blake

Kendare was one of the Guest of Honor at Sirens, and she was amazing (her speech was hilarious and involved a slew of NSFW commentary). I'd been a fan of her books before, but am an even more ardent evangelist now. "Anna Dressed in Blood" is the super-creepy story of a really terrifying and vengeful ghost who doesn't mess around when it comes to murder, ripping people's intestines out, and other cool stuff.

When she talked about the book, Kendare pointed out that horror, especially gross body horror, is something women are often left out of, and when they are in horror, they're victims, not perpetrators. "Anna" flips that dynamic in a really disgusting way! I say that with love.

4. "The Diviners," Libba Bray

An older release, "The Diviners" is worth a read if you haven't had a chance yet (bonus: it's now available in paperback). Set in jazz age New York, the book is a fascinating blend of New York culture, mysticism, ghosts, and general creepiness. As in other Bray books, there are some awesome ladies in this text, and there's a lot of cultural examination; in this case, the book really delves into the history of interracial relationships and how they were dealt with at the time.

It's also, of course, very eerie. The Big Bad is not a very nice guy, and he's willing to go to any lengths to get what he wants, including coming back from the dead. Rudely, Libba leaves us hanging at the end, setting up for the next book, which won't be here until next spring, because she's a terrible person who likes torturing her readers (kind of like Sarah Rees Brennan).

5. "The Kingdom of Little Wounds," Susann Cokal

I may have recommended this book here before, and the fact that it's popping up again should be a testimony to how much I love it, but also how creepy and upsetting it is. I read a lot of books every year, and a large majority of them don't stick with me. This one did, and it's quickly risen among the ranks of my favorites. "The Kingdom of Little Wounds" is, some argue, not even really YA, because it's pretty effed up, and we had a lively debate at Sirens about whether it would really be better termed an adult book.

Like, pretty terrible things happen in this book. It's billed as a "love story about syphilis," which should tell you a lot right there. Penises get cut off. People do really intense things. The government is totally corrupt and evil. You'll love it.

6. "Bleeding Violet," Dia Reeves

This book is GROSS. No seriously, if you don't like body horror, blood, and that sort of thing, don't read it. The rest of you, come on in, because this book is totally messed up on so many levels, it's awesome. It's not just about a girl who's basically obsessed with violence and does things like smashing her family members on the head with pans -- it's also about what happens when she comes to a town that's filled with weird supernatural things.

So, in "Bleeding Violet," the bizarre is totally normal, and Violet fits right in. It's a love story, but not a love story, if you know what I mean, and there are blood and guts from multiple dimensions. Which, like, what more could you ask for?

P.S. If you liked "Bleeding Violet," there's a sequel.

7. "Tender Morsels," Margo Lanagan

This is a classic in the creepy YA category -- you might be nodding your head at this inclusion on the list. If you haven't read it yet, though, you should, because it's an amazingly disgusting and creepy retelling of tales from the Brothers Grimm. It's totally gross.

Some people have accused it of being misogynistic or sexist, and I definitely respect that read, but the book strikes me more as a commentary on the roles women are restricted to in fiction, and on the history of violence against women. "Tender Morsels" doesn't condone violence against women or treat its characters like garbage for being unable to protect themselves. I'll let you read it and be the judge.

8. "Strands of Bronze and Gold," Jane Nickerson

Do you love Bluebeard? Then have I got a book for you! This retelling of the classic story is creeptastic and it's also about ladies kicking butt and taking names -- hey, eventually one of Bluebeard's wives had to fight back. This book is definitely one of the softer recommendations in my reading list, but I had to throw in at least one for people who aren't in love with blood and gore. It's still very atmospheric, so if you want something a little spooky but not totally gross, it's a good choice for you.

9. "Black Spring," Allison Croggon

Speaking of retellings (have you sensed a theme yet?), this book is inspired by (though not rigidly based upon) "Wuthering Heights." Yes, there are sweeping, mystical, brooding moors. But there are also witches, prejudice, and passion. It's a great blend of the creepy and the devoted, the weird and the wonderful, and while it might not leave goosebumps trailing down your spine, you may find yourself fixated on it nonetheless.

Given the plethora of Brontë/Austen/etc.-inspired things coming out these days, it can be tough to find something good. "Black Spring" is one of the few that stands out from the pack as something unique and supercool. So check it out.

And, impatient adult readers, here's the book you've all been waiting for....

10. "The Shining Girls," Lauren Beukes

Confession: I haven't read this book about a time-traveling murderer and the woman who swears vengeance on him yet. However, it comes highly recommended. Amy, who stocks the bookstore at Sirens and goes to great and meticulous lengths to find amazing books from around the world, always has fantastic advice tailored to individual taste. I demanded a disgusting, creepy, and terrifying book a la "The Kingdom of Little Wounds," and this is what she instantly picked up and thrust into my hands.

Amy assured me that it was totally gruesome and creepy, and that I would be unable to stop reading until I was done. So it's what I will be sitting down with for this Halloween, since the case (yes, you read that right) of creepy books I bought at Sirens still hasn't gotten here yet, and I can't wait any longer to crack this bad boy open.

What are YOU reading this Halloween?