Hor­ror thrillers will make teens squirm

Scary movies are cool and all, but teens have a bevy of hor­ror-tinged fare to dig into for lit­er­ary thrills and chills. Here are rec­om­men­da­tions for scary new young-adult nov­els.

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“Not Even Bones” By Re­becca Scha­ef­fer

HMH Books for Young Readers, 368 pp. ★★★☆

There’s a def­i­nite “Dex­ter” vibe to this YA se­ries kick­off ex­plor­ing the fine line between hu­man and mon­ster. Re­becca Scha­ef­fer’s gory land­scape is built on the ex­is­tence of “un­nat­u­rals,” groups of crea­tures – many of whom look like nor­mal folks – that are de­fined by their hor­ror-ready char­ac­ter­is­tics. Some eat the souls of vir­gins, some con­sume fat, some gorge on pain, and Nita is a part-hu­man, part-un­nat­u­ral teen girl who dis­sects any of these things that her ruth­less mother puts on her ex­am­i­na­tion ta­ble. Black mar­kets ex­ist for un­nat­u­rals’ limbs and other parts. While Mom usu­ally brings her dead mon­sters to carve up, Nita is shocked when Mater de­liv­ers a liv­ing child. Nita helps him es­cape, which leads to her ending up on the chop­ping block and try­ing to sur­vive this shady busi­ness.

“Grim Lovelies” By Me­gan Shep­herd

HMH Books for Young Readers, 384 pp. ★★★g

If you thought the talk­ing mice from “Cin­derella” could have used more agency, than you’ll want to say “Oui” to this dark fan­tasy fable. Anouk is one of sev­eral “Beast­ies” (mangy an­i­mals given mag­i­cal life) un­der the em­ploy of Mada Vit­tora, a mem­ber of the French mag­i­cal so­ci­ety the Haute and a lady aim­ing to be top witch in Paris. Anouk, a maid who can’t ven­ture out­side thanks to a spell, finds her boss dead and bloody on the floor and be­comes the No. 1 sus­pect. The good news is she can walk Parisian streets now, but the bad news is she and the other Beast­ies, with the Haute in pur­suit, have to find the real killer in three days or else change back to crit­ters. Me­gan Shep­herd’s saga de­but is a pleas­ant bit of ur­ban-fan­tasy world­build­ing buoyed by enough in­trigue and action to get you ex­cited for the next chap­ter.

“The Dark De­scent of El­iz­a­beth Franken­stein” By Kier­sten White Dela­corte, 304 pp.


Two cen­turies af­ter Mary Shel­ley’s clas­sic “Franken­stein,” Kier­sten White un­leashes a fas­ci­nat­ing gothic retelling from the point of view of mad sci­en­tist Vic­tor Franken­stein’s love in­ter­est. With more than a lit­tle mod­ern rel­e­vance, “Dark De­scent” chron­i­cles in flash­backs how El­iz­a­beth Lavenza was taken in at an early age by the Franken­stein fam­ily as a close con­fi­dante to their strange lit­tle boy, and later, when she’s 17, trav­el­ing to In­gol­stadt to find Vic­tor af­ter he left Geneva “due to the fear of be­ing un­able to fix things.” She does fig­ure out what he has been up to – yes, the in­fa­mous mon­strous cre­ation plays a big role here – and other char­ac­ters are em­broiled, from El­iz­a­beth’s travel com­pan­ion Jus­tine to Ger­man book­seller Mary. What’s in­ter­est­ing is the por­trayal of El­iz­a­beth as a morally du­bi­ous heroine who’s fiercely loyal to Vic­tor though def­i­nitely a girl whose sur­vival is of the ut­most im­por­tance.

“Sawkill Girls” By Claire Le­grand Kather­ine Te­gen Books, 464 pp. ★★★☆

Fe­male em­pow­er­ment meets “Stranger Things” in Claire Le­grand’s novel about a trio of teenagers who take on the dark force in­hab­it­ing the re­splen­dent is­land of Sawkill Rock. Dozens of girls have van­ished over the years in this place, which of­fers a pas­toral set­ting and an ur­ban leg­end re­gard­ing a ne­far­i­ous Col­lec­tor. Brunette new­comer Mar­ion is thrown head­first into the su­per­nat­u­ral drama af­ter mov­ing to the Rock af­ter the death of her fa­ther. She meets Zoey, the African-Amer­i­can daugh­ter of the po­lice chief who’s still hurt­ing from the dis­ap­pear­ance of a close friend, plus Val, a blond girl from the is­land’s wealth­i­est fam­ily and one with a con­nec­tion to the afore­men­tioned dark­ness. It’s def­i­nitely old-school hor­rorthriller stuff, but for a con­tem­po­rary au­di­ence in­ter­ested in com­ing-of-age les­bian ro­mance, re­la­tion­ships between women and a well-de­vel­oped cast of char­ac­ters.

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