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The Stories That Haunt Our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit

Most areas have some type of local legend that gets passed down through the ages.  Sometimes we hear about them on a large scale, like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland or the Mothman legend in Pittsburgh, and other times you only learn them when you visit the area.  Sit in a pub or sit around a campfire and someone will start telling you the story of how a house is haunted, a child drowned in a lake and haunts the shoreline, etc.

While reading Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey, which I reviewed yesterday, I was really struck by the setting and how it was steeped in a rich local mythology.  In this case the legends were true, there really were Otherworlders that interfered with local life.  Often the legends are not true, though they have no less power over the local culture.  Today I am going to share with you 10 (technically 11) more books that have strong local legends and superstitions, compiled in part with the librarians on the YALSA-BK listserv.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi.  (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”  Set in the 1920s, there is a lot of good stuff here.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up

Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
One dead cow later and it becomes clear that a creature of legend is stalking the ranch.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy comes from a long line of witches, but spends her time watching a ranch. Soon bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks.


The Siren series by Tracia Rayburn
Vanessa’s town doesn’t know what to do when a series of dead bodies wash up on the shore, grinning from ear to ear.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. 

Fury (Book 1 in the Fury trilogy) by Elizabeth Miles
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Have more to add to our list? Please share in the comments.


  1. The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, by Kate Milford. The latter talks about the curse of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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