It’s October, which means that the usually off-putting is fair game (edible eyeball truffles, human skulls on the front lawn, infantile presidential debates, etc.). And no one knows ‘mildly-unsettling-turned-terrifying’ like Neil Gaiman. If you’re like me, you may have blazed through all of his books and still be on the hunt for more creepy.
So here are 5 books this year that may thrill you even more than that pumpkin spice soy candle you picked up at Target:
1. The Nest – Kenneth Oppel
I finished this one last night while my poor husband tried to sleep. (Thankfully he bought me this uber-nerdy but very handy reading light for my birthday last month so I can stay up late and read without keeping him up– I realize now it was actually a present for himself.) The Nest is about a boy whose baby brother is sick. One day, he dreams that wasps are making a new baby in their nest located in the backyard, and they want him to help them switch out the wasp baby for the sick baby. It’s fast and creepy and taps into some pretty serious primal child fears, a la Coraline.
2. Bone Gap – Laura Ruby
I wrote about Bone Gap several months ago, but it deserves a second shout-out here. This book employs the delightfully off-putting strategy of giving you a world that’s 99% normal and 1% totally face-meltingly creepy-wrong. It’s about a young man on a farm in Bone Gap, Indiana whose friend is abducted by a stranger, and the young man’s Orpheus-like efforts to get her back.
3. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
This novella packs a punch. Tommy Tester is a 20-year-old black man living in Harlem in the 1920s, whose unusual experiences with a rich patron leads to releasing a leviathan into the streets of New York. A terrifying and remarkable piece, LaValle lays the horror of apocalyptic creatures side-by-side with the horror of racism, both of which were not laid to rest in the 20’s.
4. Vicious – V.E. Schwab
V.E. Schwab has pumped out a few books since Vicious, but this was my first introduction to her. The book tells the story of Victor, an anti-hero (with emphasis on anti) who finds himself wronged by a college roommate and, in the process, gifted with supernatural powers. The story follows the two men through a gripping, gritty game of cat-and-mouse. Other characters include a hulking inmate whose real strength is computer coding, a backstabbing sister, a large dog, and a tween girl who can raise the dead. A fresh and intense take on the superhero story.
5. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton
This book was truly unusual, with a whimsical and haunting narrative voice that was unlike anything I’d ever read. It tells of the life and times of Ava Lavender, a girl who is born with wings and is surrounded by strange and sorrowful happenings. (For instance, her aunt sang so much that she was transformed into a bird at a young age. You know, typical teen problems.) Ava catches the eye of pious Nathanial Sorrows, who mistakes her for an angel and is soon devoured by terrifying obsession. This book is heartbreaking and upsetting (and talk-to-your-daughters-about-creepers scary), but will still keep you captivated with its aching and thoughtful prose.