I spent an awful lot of time not moving this weekend because of my best friend Kidney Stone, who has been around so long that lil guy is gonna get a name. The upside of all that not-moving is that I finished a deliciously creepy book that was so well written, I stared at it a good long while Saturday night, trying to decide if I wanted to know what happened next more than I wanted to sleep. Because The Boy Who Drew Monsters is about a fecking creepy-as-heck kid who draws monsters (spoiler) and then those things all come to life. They come to life and CHASE YOU DOWN, so reading before bed – uh-uh, no way. It’s Keep In The Freezer kind of scary, you guys.
So that got me thinking – I’ve read two books back-to-back that have scared the bajeebus outta me and weren’t by Stephen King. Could I name 8 more?
10. Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson. It’s like The Stand meets Escape from New York with a little mid-Hurricane Katrina Superdome thrown in. This is only going to work if you’re okay with a little cheesiness, but I had a lot of fun!
9. Snowblind, by Christopher Golden. Monsters that exist only during epic blizzards in this sleepy little New England town? Yes, please! Guaranteed to make you long for a fire and some soup, even in the middle of summer. Still a little cheesy, and I was able to read this one before bed, but probably only because it wasn’t snowing.
8. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby and Other Stories, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Holy jeebus – these stories scared my socks off. I still can’t sleep if I can see the cover of the book, never mind trying to read the story if it’s dark out. I’m not a short story person, but horror stories have always been my exception to the rule…leaving out the rest of the story makes my mind fill in the blanks. Far too many blanks.
7. The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey. Okay, technically this one didn’t scare the socks right on me (to hide my toes), or make me dart my eyes about the room checking for monsters sneaking up in the shadows. But it was a page-turner that completely sucked me in and made me go from complaining about it to my sister to insisting she read it. That is pretty strong character development.
6. The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes. I spent half the book scared out of my wits that the bad guy would get the good guys, or that the bad guy would get away. I adored all of the traveling (through doors! no less) and shout-outs to King’s literary canon, but this story and tension steadily built from the first page was Beukes’ own creation. I was less thrilled with her follow-up book, but can’t wait to read more like this, that make me literally squee out loud while reading!
5. Bird Box, by Josh Malerman. Everyone in my bookish communities was raving about this book before it even came out! Impossible to read in the dark, they said. You won’t be able to put it down, they said. They were right. And they should have added that you’d buy a copy and send it to your other reader friends in hopes of creating protective juju. Haunt them, not me. And whatever you do, DO NOT PEEK. You’ll go mad. [Also: this isn’t the cover art on my book, but how much would you LOVE having that on a three-foot canvas in your living room?!]
4. The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donohue. I maybe bought this book for myself as a gift from the Easter Bunny, and I maybe did it because after I read the first page in the book store (to make sure I’d enjoy it), I sat down in the aisle and kept reading until Jeff was ready to leave. The writing is that compulsively readable. And then I promptly forgot about the book because the Easter Bunny hid it really well, and then I found it, but had to wait for daytime because IT’S ABOUT SCARY THINGS COMING TRUE. And I maybe believe in magic way more than I should. Monsters are vindictive, you guys, and if you don’t believe in them, I’m afraid they would do their very best to prove they were real. Yep, nope – no more drawing in my house. Pencils and paper and crayons – all hidden. But now I’m thinking maybe I should burn them all, just to be safe.
3. Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. I read this a few years ago while tearing through a list of classics I’d never read and was mad no one made me read it earlier. I also realized something that should have been more than obvious: I’m a sucker for gothic romances. Rebecca, The Turn of the Screw, The Thirteenth Tale, Her Fearful Symmetry… I love them all. Being scared is so much better than being in love!
2. You, by Caroline Kepnes. The ending shocked me because…well, you go read it and then I’ll talk with you for hours about what I thought was going to happen, or what could have happened, and what might have changed. I sucked down the words to this book so fast, and it’s a good thing because it was one of those books I would have ignored my children for. It wasn’t the kind of book that made me afraid of shadows (thank god), but it did make me paranoid about every single thing every person said. It ate at me and really could have driven me mad if I hadn’t found another good read to sink into immediately afterwards. The plot, the structure, the characters were all so perfect that I’m refusing to read the sequel. I want the perfection to stand in my mind without being watered down or blemished in any way by what cannot be an equally satisfying second installment.
1. N0S4A2, by Joe Hill. I finished The Fireman right before The Boy Who Drew Monsters and those two books together were what got me thinking about this list. In fact, all of Joe’s books belong on here. N0s4A2 was his creepiest, though, with the most delicious bad guy, the getaway car that has shown up in my nightmares, and the fact that I will forever be peeking over my shoulder when I hear Christmas music. CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Thanks a lot, Mr. Hill.
There were many books I wanted to add – Turn of the Screw by Henry James, A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, and even Beloved by my beloved ToMo, because Beloved’s ghost? That scene where she chokes the crap out of Sethe and makes tables fly around? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t turning pages with a bit of trepidation after that. Although plenty of other things in that novel qualify for “horror story”for entirely different reasons.
So there you go, Constant Readers. Do tell me what I’ve missed! Some summers it’s trashy no-thinking-required books, and some summers it’s a YA readathon, but apparently this summer wants to be filled with scary stories. Give me your favorites!
Tags: Beukes, Bird Box, Carey, Caroline Kepnes, Christopher Golden, DuMaurier, horror books, Joe Hill, Keith Donohue, lists, Malerman, N0S4A2, Rebecca, scary books, Snowblind, The Boy Who Drew Monsters, The Fireman, The Girl with all the gifts, The Shining Girls, Top Ten, You