Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

One for Sorrow mixes ghost stories with historical fiction

One for Sorrow, by Mary Downing Hahn, (July 2017, Clarion Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780544818095

Recommended for ages 10-14

Annie is the new girl at her school. Desperate to make new friends, she’s thwarted when the school pariah, Ellie, latches onto her on the first day. Annie quickly discovers that there’s a reason the other girls don’t like Ellie: she’s a liar, a tattletale, and a thief who bullies her way into Annie’s life. When Ellie is out sick for a few days, Annie manages to befriend the other girls at school and becomes one of Ellie’s tormentors. When the 1918 flu epidemic reaches Annie’s town, it claims Ellie as one of its victims, but Ellie’s spirit won’t rest. She returns as a vengeful ghost, punishing all the girls who bullied her through Annie, thus ensuring that Annie will be as hated as Ellie was in her lifetime.

Mary Downing Hahn is one of the reigning queens of middle grade horror. I still can’t look at a doll in the same way after reading Took (2015), and she’s the first author I go to when my library kids ask me for a good, scary story. One for Sorrow, inspired by the 19th century nursery rhyme, seamlessly blends elements of an intense ghost story with historical fiction. Hahn addresses World War I and anti-German sentiment and the 1918 flu epidemic in a small American town while drawing on her own mother’s childhood for inspiration, having her characters visit various homes with funereal wreaths on the door in order to eat their fill of sweets and pastries put out for the wakes. Ellie’s vicious haunting will keep readers turning pages late into the night, feeling Annie’s helpless frustration as Ellie systematically destroys her reputation and her life.

 

Mary Downing Hahn has won many awards for her writing. You can find out more about her (like the fact that she’s a former children’s librarian!), her books, and her awards, through her publisher’s website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Can you escape Monsterville?

monstervilleMonsterville: A Lissa Black Production, by Sarah S. Reida, (Sept. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510707337

Recommended for readers 9-13

Jumanji meets Goosebumps in this fun and unexpectedly touching novel. Lissa Black is not happy with her family’s decision to move out of their Manhattan apartment to a house in Freeburg, Pennsylvania, inherited when her great-aunt passes away. She’s away from her friends, her school, and the conveniences of living in New York City; she’s only got the neighbor kid, Adam, who’s set on making her appreciate life outside of the city, and this weird game, Monsterville, that she found in her aunt’s basement. Just as Lissa is set on languishing in the wilds of PA, she discovers a sad, shape-shifting goblin she calls Blue, who’s escaped from Down Under. Blue’s so sad that Lissa and Adam feed him and check in on him, but when Lissa discovers he can shape-shift, she decides to make a documentary starring Blue. But an interview with the goblin uncovers secrets that put Lissa’s family at risk. When her little sister is kidnapped and taken Down Under on Halloween, Lissa and Adam have to go in after her, and the Monsterville game is their only hope of making it back.

Lissa is hard to like at first: she’s a great older sister, but largely self-centered and snobbish at the novel’s outset. As the story progresses, and the urgency not only of Blue’s situation, but her sister’s, hits home, though, Lissa rises to the occasion and grows into a strong female character that I was rooting for. I liked her supportive, loving family and I really liked the glimpse we got of her mysterious aunt. I think a Monsterville prequel is in order, to tell her story! There was great world-building Up Above and Down Below, with Adam acting as Lissa’s – and the reader’s – guide to rural life, and the Monsterville game laying out Down Below for us before we even get there. I ended up loving this book and can’t wait to booktalk this. A film glossary at the end introduces readers to film terms, most of which show up in Monsterville – Lissa is a filmmaker, after all.

Challenge your readers to make up their own version of Monsterville! What monsters would inhabit their Down Under? What would counteract the monsters and help humans escape? This could be a great summer reading group program, just saying…

Monsterville is Sarah S. Reida’s debut novel. Find teacher resources at LissaBlackProductions.com, which also links to Sarah’s author blog and appearances.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Doll’s Eye is SO creepy. Perfect for horror fans.

dolls-eyeThe Doll’s Eye, by Marina Cohen, (Feb. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722040

Recommended for ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Hadley is not thrilled with her mother’s decisions. Since she married Ed, whose 6 year-old son, Isaac, is nosy and allergic to everything, means Hadley’s constantly chasing him away from her stuff AND her entire way of eating has changed to accommodate Isaac. They’ve moved out of their apartment and away from her friends to live in this huge, dilapidated house, away from everything, because her mom and Ed got it cheap. Her mother even broke her promise to send Hadley to summer camp with her best friend, to go on a family road trip instead. And worst of all, her mother seems to have no time for her anymore. The only neighbor her age is a bug-obsessed kid named Gabe; at least the tenant, an older woman named Althea, treats her like a granddaughter.

Hadley discovers an old dollhouse with a doll family, and wishes her family were perfect, just like the dolls. But you should always be careful with wishes…

Doll’s Eye is creeptastic and perfect for middle grade horror fans that are ready for some more scares in their reading. Hadley is well thought-out and written, and her supporting characters will keep readers turning pages. Wacky former neighbor Grace is a delight, a scary movie staple as the person who’s in tune with the spirit world. The unexpected ending will get some strong reactions – Doll’s Eye is a great book to give to Goosebumps fans who are ready to go next level.

Give this to your Mary Downing Hahn fans and tell them between The Doll’s Eye and Took (by Hahn), they’ll be looking at their dolls (or their siblings’ dolls) with a very different set of eyes.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Humor, Teen

Drama, demons, and the Revenge of the Evil Librarian

evil-librarianRevenge of the Evil Librarian, by Michelle Knudsen, (Feb. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0763688288

Recommended for ages 13+

Cynthia and her BFF, Annie, have finally settled down after the events from Evil Librarian (#1), where Mr. Gabriel, the librarian in question, tried to make Annie his demon bride. Cyn’s now dating her crush, the gorgeous Ryan Halsey, and the two are off together to drama camp, where Cyn’s hoping to start working on set design. She’s ready to embrace the summer and all it has to offer, especially with Ryan at her side, but the demons have other plans: Aaron, demon-ish consort of the demon queen, looks Cyn up and reminds her that she owes the queen a few favors, for one. And things with Mr. Gabriel may not be quite over just yet.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian is the follow-up to 2014’s Evil Librarian, and it keeps a lot of the fun tone set in the first novel. There are demons at a theatre camp, a romantic rivalry, and a showdown to remember. Cyn is head-over-heels for Ryan, and the ups and downs of their romance – impacted by the fallout from the first book – will appeal to YA romance readers. Peter, another camper, is an endearing character whose background will crack readers up, and Jules, Ryan’s longtime summer camp “friend”, is the classic romantic rival.

Liven things up with your drama/theatre club readers and pair this with Stephanie Kate Strohm’s Taming of the Drew. If you’ve got readers who enjoyed the first one, they’ll love this one (and wait for the next one); if you have readers who enjoy their YA with a smidgeon of paranormal or horror, booktalk this one.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Ghosts roam The Shadow House… but who are they?

shadow-house_coverThe Gathering (Shadow House #1), by Dan Poblocki, (Aug. 2016, Scholastic Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545925501

Recommended for ages 8-12

Poppy is pretty much an orphan, abandoned as a baby and raised in a group home, where she’s known as “Crazy Poppy” because of the ghostly friend that lives in her mirror and who leaves her little gifts. She receives a letter from a long lost relative, thrilled to have found her, and invites her to live with her at Larkspur Estate.

Marcus is a musical prodigy who always hears music in his head. He receives a full scholarship to the Larkspur Academy of Music and can’t wait to be around other musicians.

Azumi is lost without her sister, who disappeared into a Japanese forest on a family trip. She receives word that she’s been accepted to the prestigious Larkspur Academy, where she can start over in a place where no one knows her.

Dash and Dylan are twin brothers, child stars who have left their show to go on to bigger and better things. They’re offered the chance to star in a horror movie to be filmed at a school… Larkspur Academy.

When the tweens all arrive at Larkspur, they realize that something is wrong. No one is there to greet them or explain what’s going on. Children wearing ghostly masks show up and try to attack them. What is really going on in the Shadow House?

This first book in a new middle grade horror series is a lot of fun, with a lot of creepiness that kids will love. If they’re ready for a little more than Goosebumps, but not old enough yet for Madeline Roux’s Asylum books, this is the book to give them. It’s a fast-paced read, switching between the points of view of the main characters (one of whom is hiding a whopper of a secret) and revealing little bits of information at a time. The ending left me a little wanting, but I’m hoping that book two, due in December, will clear the confusion up.

Scholastic is going all out with this series. There’s a Shadow House website with links to a healthy print excerpt, an audio excerpt, and an app that lets users explore the Shadow House. I haven’t downloaded it, but I may snag my son’s iPad (my phone is almost out of memory) and try it out. If you use it, comment here and let me know!

If you have horror fans, add this one to your list. I’ll booktalk this with the Haunted Mansion and Haunted Museum series.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Skin crawling YA horror: The Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics

women-in-the-wallsThe Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics (Sept. 2016, Harlequin Teen), $18.99, ISBN: 9780373211944

Recommended for ages 13+

Lucy Acosta lives with her cousin, Margaret, her aunt, Penelope, and her father, Felix, in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods. Her mother died when she was three, leaving her to be raised by her loving aunt and distant father. When Lucy is 17, Penelope takes a walk into the woods and disappears, throwing the household into chaos. Margaret, Penelope’s daughter, is becoming unhinged, telling Lucy that she hears her dead mother talking to her through the walls, telling her to join her. Her father, obsessed with throwing dinner parties for the exclusive club he belongs to, ignores Lucy’s pleas for help; he won’t accept any sign of weakness. As Lucy tries to get to the bottom of the voices in the walls, she starts hearing them too; and when she begins digging into her family’s legacy, the things she find may doom her.

This was a gloriously creepy novel with just enough gore to move it from haunted house novel to horror. Think Wicker Man meets The Legacy (wow, did I just date myself with that reference), with wonderful madness tossed in, to make things interesting. Be warned, delicate sensibilities and stomachs may find some of the language and violence too much. This is not a book for your conservative readers.

Lucy and Margaret are fairy skin-deep characters with the potential for deeper storytelling, but it’s not really their story, as you’ll discover. The real development is going on around them. Think of Lucy as the narrator – which she is – and the host of the story. She’s the central character, but she’s in the dark almost as much as we readers are. The supporting characters are where the story lies, and when the elements all come together, this is a page-turning read. Horror and suspense fans will enjoy this one.

Posted in Horror, Humor, Teen, Tween Reads

Gina Damico’s Wax: You’ll never look at a candle the same way again.

waxWax, by Gina Daminco, (Aug. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544633155

Recommended for ages 12+

Welcome to Paraffin, Vermont, home of the Grosholtz Candle Factory. The town stinks. No, really, it does; imagine all those different scents in the air all the time, and what they must smell like when combined? Seventeen year-old Poppy is so tired of Paraffin and their candle tourism, but she and her bestie end up touring the factory one day, for giggles. She ends up discovering some batty old woman talking about living wax, and gives Poppy a candle that will protect her. When gets home, there’s a naked teenage boy in her trunk. A boy who looks suspiciously like a wax figure that she saw in the batty old woman’s workshop. He doesn’t really know much about who or what he is, but he answers to the name, Dud. A fire destroys the workshop, and with it, any chance for Poppy to talk to the woman and discover more, but no worry: she’s going to find out what’s really happening in the town of Paraffin soon enough. People are starting to act a little odd. A little… waxy.

Wax, like Damico’s previous book, Hellhole, combines horror with humor, with laugh-out-loud results. If you’re like me and love horror comedies like Evil Dead: Dead by Dawn and Return of the Living Dead, with a little less gore, you’re going to enjoy Wax. There’s something really horrific going on in the town of Paraffin, but with a sarcastic lead character like Poppy and a sweet, but dense sidekick named Dud, just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s some true creepiness here; it’s not all snorts and giggles, so horror fans, if you want a break from gore and just want some good storytelling, pick up this book.

I loved Wax because there’s a good story and good characters, and it reminded me a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets one of my favorite cult films from the late ’80s. Does anyone remember Waxwork? I have such great memories of being in college, staying up all night, and watching movies like Waxwork and the Puppet Master movies from Full Moon Entertainment. If you haven’t treated yourself to a viewing of Waxwork, I highly encourage it. Here’s the trailer.

But back to the book. Give this to your morbid humor fans who enjoy a little chuckle with their scares. Please booktalk this one with Damico’s Hellhole, because I feel like that book doesn’t get the love it deserves. Quirk Books has a great list of horror comedies that you can display, too, and don’t discount the tried and true work horses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Have teens who love movies? Have a horror fest with the cheesiest of cheese! My teen and I bonded over Evil Dead 2, and my tween understands the power behind the phrase, “Hail to the King, baby”.

Shop Smart, shop S-mart, and consider adding Gina Damico to your horror collection if you’re a fan or have fans in your patronage.