As we head towards All Hallows’ Eve, our taste for creepy tales awakens. Perhaps it’s an instinctive pull back to fireside stories of ghosts and beasties as the nights draw in? I think there is an element of this in us all. And although I am a complete wuss and do not enjoy horror films or downright scary books, I do appreciate a little light scare every now and again. So here are some recommendations which may not be all-out horror, but are definitely tense and creepy in a way which suits the general October vibe of gradually darkening evenings.
The first four here are YA, with an adult title to round off the set. All books are available now. Book title links take you to their Goodreads entries.
The Accident Season has a unique premise: Cara’s family is prone to accidents every October, like a curse. This idea exists as a fact behind the events of the novel, set in the October when Cara is seventeen. The novel’s fantastically unsettling atmosphere supports some great creepy touches: secrets, tarot cards, a masked ball in an abandoned house and a girl who mysteriously and impossibly appears in all of Cara’s photographs. This is Irish author Moira Fowley-Doyle’s debut and I recommend it to YA fans who enjoy a slightly dark, somewhat unusual read with paranormal/magical elements in a contemporary setting.
James Dawson’s Under My Skin and Say Her Name are deliciously creepy UKYA reads with a strongly contemporary feel. Say Her Name is the scarier of the two (nudging the edges of my capacity for scariness), focusing on the Bloody Mary urban legend invoked in a boarding school. Under My Skin is less ‘jumpy’ scary, but pretty creepy nonetheless, featuring mild-mannered Sally who finds herself drawn to a tattoo parlour and soon finds herself sharing her body with pin-up girl Molly Sue, who is a million miles from mild-mannered. As always with Dawson, both feature sharply authentic UK teen voices.
Sally Nicholls’ Close Your Pretty Eyes is a quick read (which is just as well because putting it down is hard…). Damaged and fragile, Olivia is bounced around in different care situations. The first-person narration is tense and tight, but still allows the reader to see where Olivia is misinterpreting people’s intentions. The creepiness comes in when Olivia begins to hear the ghost of a Victorian baby farmer, which no-one else in her new foster home can. I found this a well-constructed and at times deeply disturbing read. It’s another very contemporary UKYA book with grit and plenty of tension.
My final choice for this theme comes from the adult shelves: In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is a psychological thriller centred on a hen weekend in a woodland cottage. Main character Nora is invited to the hen do of a school friend whom she hasn’t been in touch with for 10 years. The action flicks between the aftermath (Nora in hospital, eavesdropping on the police outside her room and trying to piece together her memories), the lead up and that fateful weekend itself. Fantastically tense and pacy, I strongly recommend this for lovers of mysteries and thrillers.