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The days grow shorter. The evenings grow darker. You’re trying to figure out a costume to wear to school next Friday. In the spirit of the season, we review three new novels for those seeking a thrill this Halloween.
Edgar Cantero’s first book in English, The Supernatural Enhancements, is a secret society mystery/haunted house gothic that moves closer and closer to horror as it goes along. In case it isn’t clear, A’s mute friend Niamh is a teen, and she proves to be one of the most intriguing elements here. (And their dog, Help, is the most lovable.) Any readers you know who are obsessed with dreams–and I’ve certainly run into a few through the years–will LOVE this book.
The Boy Who Drew Monsters is by Keith Donohue, known for his haunting fantasy debut, The Stolen Child. He is a literary writer, whether tackling fantasy or horror, so you know you can expect excellent writing in his latest. If you are a horror reader, you will enjoy Peter Straub’s review in the Washington Post, which is like a short course in the appeal of the genre.
A Sudden Light is something new for Garth Stein, known for his hit debut, The Art of Racing in the Rain. A Sudden Light is the #1 Library Reads pick for October and found a spot on the Indie Next list this month as well–so, a favorite of both librarians and booksellers. This ghost story of family secrets is more creepy than scary, but certainly intriguing.
More? This would be a great time to recommend Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, one of 2014’s most effective scary novels, and let me point out that Horns is coming to theaters on October 31st, starring Daniel Radcliffe. Put Joe Hill’s novel on display now, and watch the hype build!
CANTERO, Edgar. The Supernatural Enhancements. 368p. diags. illus. photos. Doubleday. Aug. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780385538152. LC 2013027730.
Judging by the cover, this is a gothic horror tale focused on a creepy house. And that’s correct, but it’s so much more. A (no longer name given) inherits a mansion he’s never seen in Virginia, and, with it, a mystery. Ambrose, his distant relative, was a member of a mysterious group of men that met annually, and A wonders if Ambrose was murdered, instead of being driven to suicide by the house ghost. A and his female companion Niamh, a mute, are determined to discover the secrets of the cursed house, its old-fashioned visitors, and cryptic messages from Ambrose. Told through dream journals, video transcripts, letters, photographs, and other writings, the novel is unique in design and doesn’t fit into a genre easily. The setting might be gothic, but the two main characters are lovable and bright new adults. The platonic interaction between A and Niamh keeps readers questioning and the twist at the end of the novel is unexpected. Cryptology, crystal balls, break-ins, a loyal dog, ancient mysteries—what’s not to like? Give this to smart teens who appreciate the witty dialogue in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006), the creepiness of the books by Ransom Riggs, or the nerdy codes and clues of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, 2012), although this is a more rural tale.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
Jack Peter has never been the dream son Holly and Tim Keenan had hoped would complete their small family. But things became far worse the summer Jip turned seven and he and his only friend Nick nearly drowned in the surf. Now, 10-year-old Jip is terrified to leave the house, preferring to spend his homeschooled days with his father. The boy has had many obsessions over the years that he demands Nick share (from war to board games to model ships), but his latest is the most disturbing: drawing monsters. Jip appears to have developed a sudden talent for rendering the macabre. Soon Holly begins to have auditory hallucinations at home in their coastal Maine saltbox—it sounds like someone or something is trying to get in. Tim is certain he sees a naked man or some type of beast in the headlights, running off on the beach. Holly is worried about Jip, who is increasingly agitated and even violent. She looks to a priest for help, coming away instead with unbelievable stories of shipwrecked undead. Now Nick’s parents have gone away for Christmas, leaving him with the Keenans. He begins to realize the power of Jip’s pencil as his friend draws like a boy possessed. Donohue masterfully turns real life family drama on its ear, with a Stephen King-worthy spin that gleefully extends the novel’s title. Teens will love this psychological horror story, which combines chilling atmospherics with unsettling nightmares come to life.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD
Fourteen-year-old Trevor isn’t happy that his parents have separated temporarily. He is stuck traveling with his dad to Riddell House, his father’s childhood home outside of Seattle. Something drove his father away from Riddell House years ago—Trevor hasn’t even met this side of the family before. His stunningly beautiful Aunt Serena and Alzheimer’s patient Grandpa Samuel help him feel at home. After only a few hours at the decaying mansion, Trevor discovers mysterious family secrets. Does the house have a ghost? If so, whose ghost is it? Coming off the success of his bestselling debut novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain (HarperCollins, 2008), Stein returns with this eerie novel. The first half reads like creepy gothic novel—haunted house, mysterious characters, and a dysfunctional family. But the work takes a spiritualistic turn when Trevor is able to see, hear, and converse with family ghosts. The surprises he uncovers from family letters and journals are unsuspected, but the conversations with ghosts in and out of dreams seemed out of place. Give this to teens who want a Halloween read that isn’t as scary as Joe Hill’s Horns (William Morrow, 2010) or as complicated as Helen Oyeyemi’s White Is for Witching (Knopf/Nan A. Talese, 2009).—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
Filed under: Weekly Reviews
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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