Sometime during the month of September a peculiar thing happened. The temperature began to drop, the sky became increasingly cloudy, the leaves began to change color, and gusts of wind sent them flying through the air. As a recent transplant from the South, I had no idea what was happening. Is this some kind of apocalypse? Are aliens planning to invade and enslave mankind? I was frightened and asked a passerby what was going on. “Sir, sir” I pleaded. “Please tell me what kind of sorcery is happening among us!” The man looked at me with a bewildered look and replied “It’s fall, lady”.
Ok, that might be a little dramatic. Even though I spent five years in western North Carolina where we had beautiful foliage, I’m still amazed every time I see the seasons truly change. In south Georgia, where I grew up, we had two seasons: hot and really hot. Now that my family and I have moved to Minnesota, we’ve already had the joy of experiencing a very mild summer. Now we’re enjoying the beginnings of a true fall and I am in a state of autumnal bliss. I’ve got pumpkins strategically placed around the house, ghost lanterns hanging in the family room…you get the picture.
In addition to pulling out my bright orange box of Halloween decorations, I have pulled together my favorite slightly scary stories from several different genres. I don’t really read horror stories. I don’t do well with horror. I watched Friday the 13th when I was 16 and had to sleep on the floor of my parents’ room for a week. I’m sure they loved that. I do, however, love a good creepy tale or psychological thriller. Here are 12 Halloween-themed books perfect for any aged reader.
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds – this book will always have a soft spot in my heart. When my son, who is now almost five, was barely two years old we got this as a book/cd combo from the library. We put the cd in our cd player (what are those again?) and read along with the book. Jude FREAKED out. He ran out of the room screaming “No carrots! No carrots!” It was so cute! Needless to say, we never read that book again.
Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden – This book is not scary at all, but it’s a play on the classic “peek-a-boo” game. It’s a fun flap book for little hands.
The Stonekeeper (Amulet 1) by Kazu Kibuishi – My daughter gave her thoughts on this book in a previous post and apparently it’s not scary to 8-year-olds. But can someone please tell me what’s not scary about a giant octopus coming out of a hidden door in your basement and kidnapping your mother? That’s downright terrifying!
The Witches by Roald Dahl – Old ladies…killing children. What kind of kid’s book is that? Well, that’s Roald Dahl for you. I used to teach a short story to my middle school students by Roald Dahl in which an innocent young traveler is turned into taxidermy by a crazy old lady. James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, the BFG, they’re all twisted. But that’s why we love him so much.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Absolute. Favorite. Book…of all time. Buuuut, you might hear me say that about 1,973 other books. Seriously though, this is a fantastically creepy book. Other mother? No thank you.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman – Ok, I’m just going to tell you the basic premise of this book and you decide if it’s creepy or not. It’s the future and there’s been a massive civil war over abortion rights. After devastating bloodshed on both sides, an agreement has been made to stop the fighting: abortion is outlawed, but parents can choose to have their kids “unwound” once they become of age. This pretty much means that their organs and body parts will be donated to help others live. Ok, I’m getting creeped out all over again just talking about it. It really is a good read though.
Don’t Look Behind You by Lois Duncan – written by the queen of teen horror, this psychological thriller is a must read. After reading this one, I was literally scared to look behind me. I still am. Wait. Who’s that behind me? Oh it’s just my kid wanting me to get him a snack. Scary.
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh– Have you ever watched a scary movie and you just can’t stand the anticipation of the inevitably goory, gruesome scene to come so you fast-forward to get the scary part over with? Have you ever done that with a book? I did that with this one. This book has a twist you just don’t see coming and it messes with your mind. There are some sensitive topics in this book, hence the skipping pages.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – this one literally had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Every time I thought I figured out what was going to happen, everything changed. I’ve been on the fence about reading the subsequent novels by Hawkins. Comment below if you think they’re worth reading.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – This is the ultimate scary story. It’s a classic and I’m surprised more people haven’t read it. This is THE book to read if you enjoy a truly creepy tale. Twisted and disturbing, the first-person narration combined with jumbled flashbacks sticks with you long after you’ve finished. Fun fact: the author died three years after this book was published. Coincidence? I think not. I guess she forgot to check the sugar bowl.
Met Her on the Mountain: A Forty-Year Quest to Solve the Appalachian Cold-Case Murder of Nancy Morgan by Mark Pinsky– I happened to randomly pick this book up at the local library in Fletcher, NC, a town nestled in the valley of the Blue Ridge mountains. I started reading it because I love documentaries about real-life murders and I was familiar with the region the book was about. I completely devoured this book. It sheds a light on the dirty secrets of Appalachia. Nancy Morgan was an outsider murdered in a remote area of western North Carolina. A reporter goes on a 40-year quest to uncover the grizzly truth.