You can find southern sans Gothic (see: Magnolia, by Kristi Cook) or Gothic set elsewhere (April Genevieve Tucholke’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), but there’s something about the combination of the two that creates the perfect storm, often literally. Nothing goes together quite like grits and ghosts, sweet tea and spookiness, hurricanes and hellfire. Here are five of our favorite YA novels featuring the darkly supernatural south.
Beware the Wild, by Natalie C. Parker
The idea of being so deeply immersed in a world you can practically taste the glowing swamp water might not sound particularly delicious, but trust me: in this case, it absolutely is. Parker’s debut is rife with gorgeous atmospheric detail that pairs perfectly with this twisted tale of a swamp that swallows those who get too close and spits out replacements, confusing the lives of the couple in the town of Sticks, Louisiana, who know the truth but may not be able to do anything to stop it.
Made for You, by Melissa Marr
The town of Jessup, North Carolina, has always been a peaceful one…until the night someone hits Eva Tilling with a car and leaves her for dead. Thus begins a story told in alternating perspectives by Eva, a pretty, popular sweetheart whose injuries have left her face marred and granted her the ability to see the deaths of those who touch her; the obsessed, murderous stalker who calls himself “Judge” and reasons through the process of sending Eva “messages” in order to “save” her; and Grace, Eva’s best friend, who, being Asian American, is a perpetual outsider in Jessup. As Eva gets closer to an old friend, Judge grows increasingly desperate and dangerous, and Grace may be forced to pay the ultimate price.
Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S. Dawson
When Hurricane Josephine comes to Savannah, Dovey has no idea just how much she’s about to lose. Not only is her best friend killed in the storm, but Dovey reacts to the tragedy with a psychotic break that results in her spending the next year in a medicated fog. As she finally begins to come back to herself, she learns that all is not as it seems in Savannah, nor is everyone who they seem…or even what. Dovey tangles with demons, magic, and a couple of teenage boys in an effort to put Carly’s soul to rest, and the result is a dark, twisted, horror-filled tale that will have your jaw dropping on the last page.
Compulsion, by Martina Boone
Barrie Watson arrives at her aunt’s South Carolina island plantation with no knowledge of the area or her family beyond the mother who recently passed away and the father who died in a fire years before. There, she learns her compulsion to find and return lost items to their owners is in fact one of three compulsions that befell the three central families of the island—gifts or curses, depending on the family. Together with Eight—scion of one of the other families—Barrie unlocks years of secrets and mysteries behind the past she never knew and the present life she’s in danger of losing.
Sweet Unrest, by Lisa Maxwell
New Orleans. Voodoo. History. Romance. Murder. Maxwell’s debut has all those southern Gothic elements, wrapped up in the absorbing, compelling story of a girl who dreams of her past life and the guy who’s still living in it. With narration in both the antebellum past and the present, Sweet Unrest beautifully contrasts culture and race relations against the backdrop of one of the favorite cities of the south, for a read I didn’t want to put down until I’d finished every last word.
What’s your favorite Gothic read?