Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: YA Horror 2014

It’s October, which means everything is pumpkin flavored or scented and you can’t change the channel without running across a horror movie. While I’m not big on horror movies – I haven’t been able to watch them ever since I saw The Ring because if the scary isn’t going to stay inside the TV box then what is going to keep you safe? – but I still like to read it.

Last night’s #YALove conversation was all about horror (you can find a recap here). Naomi Bates asked what everyone read as a teen for horror and my go to authors were Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul. While I still read King and Koontz, it has been a while since I read some John Saul. Last year we shared a collection of Haunted Readings, all our best October ready booklists for you in one place. There are a few new titles for 2014 I want to make sure you all have seen.

Amity by Micol Ostow

Amity is a twisted look at an already twisted story: The Amityville Horror Story. In this version, two separate teens move into the Amity house ten years apart and the haunted happenings bring them together in really disturbing ways. Blood drips, the house seems to stare, and everyone who enters seems to change – and not in good ways at all. Don’t read it alone in the dark.

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

True fact: My favorite short story writer is Edgar Allan Poe and I desperately wanted to name either one of my girls Annabel Lee, but The Mr. was not sold on naming our daughter after a dead girl in a poem. When Annabel Lee’s mother dies, she ends up living with her father, whose experiments have always troubled her. In this new home she meets his young assistant, Edgar Allan Poe.  As a series of murders begin to plague the town, it is up to Annabel Lee to figure out what is happening and who might be involved. Check here for more Poe inspired YA lit. Pair this with The Madman’s Daughter or The Monstrumologist.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

If The Ring taught us anything, it’s that we should never trust a girl from a well. This dead girl from the well roams the streets hunting murderers. A strange boy with even stranger tattoos finds himself drawn to this spirit and soon the two of them are fighting creepy evil – their are dolls involved, it turns out dolls can be incredibly creepy (I’m looking at you Doll Bones by Holly Black). The Girl from the Well takes you from the American suburbs to Japan and keeps you on the edge of your seat while doing it.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

This may seem like a strange book to put on this list, but I think it’s a fitting choice. Afterworlds is two books in one. In the real world, Darcy Patel moves to New York to write her debut YA novel. And the debut YA novel, well that is a haunting read. In the novel Darcy is writing, Lizzie has just survived a massive terrorist attack at the airport and finds that she can now step into the Afterworld, a place between life and death where a madman is hunting her because he wants her power.

Sanctum (Asylum #2) by Madeleine Roux

Dan, Abby and Jordan barely survived their summer at a school set in an asylum, but now they are receiving disturbing pictures of an old time carnival. The three return to Brookline in an attempt to discover what it all can mean when they find themselves once again sucked into a tale of terror. Definitely put this in the hands of American Horror Story fans.

And if you are a horror movie fan, be sure to follow Daniel Kraus (who writes most excellent YA horror) on Twitter for the #31HorrorFilms31Days discussion. He’s sharing his favorite horror films, which you don’t want to miss.

Now it’s your turn: What new YA horror titles are you reading this month? What are some of your favorites, new or old? Tell us in the comments.

Book Review: Amity by Micol Ostow

At my previous library, we had a patron who would check out the Amityville Horror book over and over again. I am sure this book was written for him, and for all horror fans.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Connor’s family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she’s recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor’s nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren’t there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.

Karen’s Thoughts:


Amity begins with a letter. In this letter, a young man, Connor is writing about a new family that has just moved in and quickly moved out of Amity. 

We then begin our story. It is told in alternating chapters from then, which is 10 years ago, and now. In between there are a few other interjections, such as reports from counselors.

Each timeline focuses on the inhabitants of Amity, a house that seems to be alive and have a will of its own. This has house windows that look like eyes. It doesn’t seem to want to be altered in any way so the walls are impenetrable, you can’t even push a nail into them to hang up a picture. And it seems to want to claim its residents as its own. In fact, both MCs notice how once they arrive, they almost never seem to leave, not even to go into town and look around. Of course, when they do, they get the side eye from town residents because they know the story of Amity.

“She was shot in the head!”

Like any good haunted house story, Amity begins slowly with those subtle hints that something might be wrong. Those glimpses outside a window where you think you see something. A faucet that drips blood. An infestation of bees.

Then the momentum builds. Desperation creeps up. And then all hell breaks loose.

At the end of the day what readers want to know is simple: Is it scary? And the answer is yes. It kept me on the edge of my seat as the tension built and I read impatiently to read what would happen next. It took me a few minutes to get used to the alternating rhythm of the story and figure out who was who, but as it built momentum and you fall into its groove it delivers.

Amidst all of the scary house happenings, this is also the story of two different families facing very real problems. Connor’s family in particular is very interesting. It is clear very early on that the father is abusive, which we begin to realize as the family tries to navigate through this ordeal while also navigating this father prone to violence. In many ways, this horror rivaled that of the house. The inhabitants of the house, and the complex family relationships that they try to navigate, are almost as horrific as the house itself. And in each story, there is a strong brother/sister relationship that is then put to the test as the house draws them in and tempts them to the dark side. It is what happens in these relationships that haunts more than the house itself because the strong siblings are forced to realize truths about who they are and watch as their families begin to change and then the thin string that holds them together is unwound. And as a reader you are left with this haunting truth: things change, families fall apart, and we are not always what we seem.

The house is not the only thing hiding scary truths.

Recommended. Amity releases in August from EgmontUSA. ISBN: 978-1-60684-156-3.

Take 5: New Titles Coming from EgmontUSA

Get Happy by Mary Amato

Publisher’s Description: In this poignant, realistic, contemporary YA by a state master list star, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Gayle Forman, a young songwriter builds a substitute family with her friends in place of the broken family she grew up with.

A hip high school girl who loves music, writes songs, and is desperate for a ukelele, learns to her shock that her father did not abandon her years ago and has been trying to keep in touch. She begins to investigate him, only to discover that he has a new life with a new family, including the perfect stepdaughter, a girl who Minerva despises

Karen’s Thoughts: I simply love and adore Guitar Notes so I am very much looking forward to reading this. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a title that mentions Sarah Dessen and understands how glorious she is.

Publishes October 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60684-522-6

BZRK Apocalypse by Michael Grant

Brief Synopsis: A war is raging at the nano level as a group headed by evil geniuses tries to get control of nanotechnology and politics to create a world that fits their idea of utopia. Teens are being enlisted for their gaming ability to control the nanotechnology but now they have to figure out what side is the good side, or at least the less bad side, and see if they can stop the war before madness sets in.

Karen’s Thoughts:  This is a really good, thrilling series that reminds me a lot of Michael Crichton. I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion.

Publishes May 8, 2014. ISBN: 9781405263467

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Publisher’s Description: The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.

Karen’s Thoughts: You just read the part where it said “The Bourne Identity meets Divergent” right? Yeah, sign me up for that. Also, I’m all in for a female Bourne.

Publishes September 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60684-518-9

Amity by Micol Ostow

Publisher’s Description: For fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story, a gruesome thriller suggested by the events of the Amityville Horror.

Inspired by a true-crime story of supernatural happenings and gory murders, Amity spans two generations and beyond to weave an overlapping, interconnected tale of terror, insanity, danger, and death.

Karen’s Thoughts: The cover, the subject matter – teens (and me) are always looking for more horror and this coming out in the fall sounds like a no brainer. Plus, they recently announced they would be making another Amityville movie starring Disney star Bella Thorne. Should have some high interest.

Publishes August 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60684-156-3

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Publisher’s Description: A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father’s home in 1820’s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father’s assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they’re letting on.

Karen’s Thoughts: Look, I used my high school graduation money to buy the complete works of Poe, so I’m all over this. Here’s a look at some more YA lit inspired by Poe  

Publishes September 2014. ISBN: 978-1-60684-463-2 

Edited on 4/02/2014 because I had the UK version of the BZRK Apocalypse book up. The one you see now is the U.S. version.