Today on the B&N Teen blog, we welcome books-with-a-body-count author Gretchen McNeil, she of the insta-book-to-film buy-in—her book Ten was turned into a 2017 a Lifetime Original movie, her Don’t Get Mad series hits screens via BBC/Netflix in 2020, and you can be sure her Alcatraz 2.0 #MurderTrending series will inspire an adaptation soon enough! In the meantime, though, you can dig into the sequel, #MurderFunding, on shelves now.
Gretchen paused her killing (it) spree to share some horror must-reads, even for the most squeamish among us.
“I would totally read your books except I don’t do horror.”
If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this, I’d have enough spare change for a grande Caramel Macchiato. No joke.
It’s the label, I think, that turns people off. “Horror” conjures up images of whatever movie you saw when you were eight that gave you nightmares for a year (mine was The Exorcist) usually in the form of vampires, werewolves, or some masked killer hunting down scantily clad teens at summer camp. But horror is more than Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, more than Pinhead or Jigsaw or demonic clowns that live in the sewer. Horror is not (just) about monsters and blood splatter—it’s about the creepy crawly feeling that shimmies up and down your spine when the atmosphere, tension, and expectations of fear are just right. Done well, you never even have to see the bloodshed: the mere implication should be enough of a scare.
Horror, to me, transcends genre. You can have supernatural horror and contemporary, real-world horror. Sci-fi horror and fantasy horror. Steampunk romance horror with elves? Why not! It’s a layer, a style, a feeling, and it comes in all shapes and sizes.
Even for those of you who swear you don’t like it.
So I give you list of horror recommendations for those of you who swear you don’t like horror. Try one. I bet you’ll like it!
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
If you’ve seen the Netflix series (which I loved fiercely right up until the last episode–don’t get me started) then you’re probably looking at me right now thinking, “Is she insane? That scared the pants off of me!” While I may be insane, I highly recommend this novella which shares little with the series other than the opening lines (my favorite in ALL of fiction, sorry Jane Austen) and some character and place names. Jackson’s masterpiece is all about atmosphere, terrifying without the jump scares. There’s a reason it’s on so many “Top Ten Horror Novels of All Time” lists, usually at the top.
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
But this is a mystery novel, Gretchen. Not horror! I beg to differ. Dame Christie’s masterpiece is one of the most terrifying novels I have ever read. The horror is in the set up (one that I lovingly borrowed for Ten)–strangers trapped on an island, hunted down one by one. There is nothing more horrifying.
Camp So-And-So, by Mary McCoy
In the same way that Scream took a film genre and dissected it to its trope-y core, McCoy gathers together all of your summer camp scenarios in one smart, twisty, girl-powered novel that will make you want to start from the beginning again once you get the end.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters
Cat Winters’s debut is the gothic historical YA of my dreams. Spiritualists and the Spanish Influenza combined with archival early 20th century photographs? The flavor of this Bram Stoker Award nominee grabbed me from page one.
The Indifferent Stars Above, by Daniel James Brown
Can non-fiction be classified as horror? This terrifying account of the Donner party as told through the eyes of one of the few survivors is scarier than most books I’ve read. You won’t be able to put it down.
Paperback $5.00 | $6.95
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
This novel gets a bad wrap. Why? Because it’s normally viewed as a romance. Me? I call it straight up horror. I recommend reading this with the mindset that Heathcliff and Catherine should be kept as far away from each other as is humanly possible…it’ll shed new light on this gothic horror.