Genre: YA Horror

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Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow

March 30, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol OstowThe Devil and Winnie Flynn by David Ostow (illustrator), Micol Ostow
Published by Soho Teen on October 15, 2015
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Told as an ongoing letter to a friend, Winnie’s story is a heartrending mystery and a pop culture critique in the vein of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine and Beauty Queens—with illustrations throughout that recall the quirky, dark, and distinct aesthetics of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Winnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When her mysterious aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits Winnie to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, she suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.

New Jersey’s famous Devil makes perfect fodder for Maggie’s show. But as the filming progresses, Winnie sees and hears things that make her think that the Devil might not be totally fake after all. Things that involve her and her family. Things about her mother’s death that might explain why she’s never met Aunt Maggie until now.

Winnie soon discovers her family’s history is deeply entwined with the Devil’s. If she’s going to make it out of the Pine Barrens alive, she might have to start believing in what her aunt is telling her. And, find out what she isn’t.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

The Devil and Winnie Flynn is one of those books I didn’t know about until a good while after it came out. I like to think I stay on top of current and upcoming releases, so this doesn’t happen often! In addition to finding an ARC in my local used bookstore, I discovered my library had gotten a copy of it. SWEET! Using my loophole that I can check out a book from the library and it can skip my TBR jar whether I already own the book or not, I dove right into this spooky little tale. Except it wasn’t that spooky, just bad.

Read more »

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Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

March 23, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★

Review: The Women in the Walls by Amy LukavicsThe Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 27, 2016
Genres: Gothic, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
two-stars
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (Lucy self-harms)
Intersectionality: 0

A few days ago, I was at the local used bookstore with my best friend and I found a copy of Daughter Unto Devils. I’d read the book and loved it; she hadn’t. Meanwhile, she’d already gotten to The Women in the Walls and was terrified by it when I hadn’t even gotten to read it yet. Naturally, I peer pressured her into buying it and happened to pull The Women in the Walls out of my TBR jar the very next day. Reader, for how much I enjoyed my previous experience reading a novel from Amy Lukavics, I am disappoint. Read more »

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Review: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

June 10, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 3

Review: The May Queen Murders by Sarah JudeThe May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children on May 3, 2016
Genres: Gothic, Mystery, YA, YA Horror
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
one-star
Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

Warning: lots of animal death in this book.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Ivy is half-Mexican through her mother; her parents’ “love story” is nasty)
QUILTBAG: 0 (Heather is a lesbian and her story falls right into the old Bury Your Gays trope)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

It shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as it is to find a good horror novel. I’m fully aware it’s a genre as worthy and full of quality as any other, but I have such a bad radar for horror that I wonder sometimes if the good ones are just exceptions to a “YA horror is bad” rule! (Then I slap myself for being ridiculous.) The May Queen Murders was yet another novel that promised isolation, creepy happenings, and death, but it’s a letdown in almost every respect. Read more »

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Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

November 27, 2015 Diversity 1, Reviews 4 ★★½

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf BFYR on October 20, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Horror, YA Sci-fi, YA Thriller
Pages: 608
Format: ARC
Source: BEA 2015
Goodreads
two-half-stars
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Kady’s mentor is Chinese)
QUILTBAG: 0 (quick mention of one gay man with a husband and child on another planet)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

If you like YA novels and are on the Internet, it’s impossible to not have heard about Illuminae right now. It’s one of the most hyped YA novels in recent memory, is still climbing on the New York Times bestseller list and has been there since its debut, and is generally beloved by all for its brutality and readability. I can agree on the brutality and readability–Jesus, no one warned me this is horror in addition to sci-fi–but have to be the black sheep yet again. Read more »

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Review: Insanity by Susan Vaught

November 19, 2015 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Insanity by Susan VaughtInsanity by Susan Vaught
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on February 18, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: ARC won in a giveaway
Goodreads
three-stars
Never, Kentucky is not your average scenic small town. It is a crossways, a place where the dead and the living can find no peace. Not that Forest, an 18-year-old foster kid who works the graveyard shift at Lincoln Hospital, knew this when she applied for the job. Lincoln is a huge state mental institution, a good place for Forest to make some money to pay for college. But along with hundreds of very unstable patients, it also has underground tunnels, bell towers that ring unexpectedly, and a closet that holds more than just donated clothing....When the dead husband of one of Forest's patients makes an appearance late one night, seemingly accompanied by an agent of the Devil, Forest loses all sense of reality and all sense of time. Terrified, she knows she has a part to play, and when she does so, she finds a heritage that she never expected.

With her deep knowledge of mental illness and mental institutions, Susan Vaught brings readers a fascinating and completely creepy new book intertwining the stories of three young people who find themselves haunted beyond imagining in the depths of Lincoln Hospital.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2
Intersectionality: 2

There’s a certain sickness among readers wherein we get excited for a book, acquire it, and proceed to not read it because we’re excited about a different book by the time we acquire the first. Repeat into infinity and you may understand why bookworms own so many unread books. Insanity is one book that fell victim to Excitable Reader Synrome and sat on my shelf for a year and a half after I got it. Thankfully, Halloween always comes around and that means getting out all the spooky readers for a great big Spookython. Insanity is entertaining, unique, and has a strong start, but its potential quickly peters out and it’s hard to finish the book by the time you’ve gotten to part four.

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Review: Daughter Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

November 2, 2015 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review: Daughter Unto Devils by Amy LukavicsDaughter Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 29, 2015
Genres: Historical, YA, YA Historical, YA Horror
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

YA is in need of some good horror novels and Daughter Unto Devils is ready to answer that call and scare your clothes off this fall in a very nonromantic way. Also good for Thanksgiving if you’re especially angry at crimes committed against Native Americans over the last six centuries or so. ANYWAY. This is far from what I expected from Harlequin Teen as someone familiar with the kind of work they publish, but Daughter Unto Devils is among their best novels by far.

From the very first page, Lukavics is hard at work creating the eerie, open-yet-claustrophobic atmosphere that really makes this novel. Whether the Verner family is trapped on their mountain and in their home by snow or in their new home in the middle of an open prairie, the devil Amanda is certain she saw the winter before always seems to be on her heels. Surprisingly few spooky things actually happen, but once the gore and action really kick in at the end of the novel, the sparseness of events before makes everything that much more frightening.

The characters aren’t great, especially Amanda’s cardboard-like younger siblings Joanna and Charles, but pregnancy’s effect on Amanda and her relationship with her next-closest sister Emily are effective and well-written. Horror fans used to seeing characterization replaced by scares won’t be too surprised by the lacking characterization. Almost the entirety of the novel is about the Verner family leaving the mountain and settling in their new, mysteriously-blood-drenched new home, not the spooky things happening to them. This is a novel about atmosphere, not happenings, so if Amanda’s voice doesn’t immediately grab you or sell you on the spooky, you’re probably gonna have a bad time.

As satisfying as Daughter Unto Devils is, it leaves you wanting too. How much of the evil followed the Verners from the mountain and how much was waiting for them on the prairie? What brought the evil to the prairie in the first place if the massacre previously committed in the new home was a result of the evil, not the cause? Did someone–like Native Americans who aren’t in the novel at all but are the go-to cause of curses and the paranormal in horror–do something to make the white people kicking them off their own land suffer or did evil always live there? So many questions are left unanswered and the trademark final punch might leave you angry this is such a short little standalone.

Someone give Lukavics more book deals because she’s a one-of-a-kind voice in horror and I love what she does. Subtle horror beats out-and-out gore for me every time. In case your Halloween season consists of munching on candy and reading spooky books, Daughter Unto Devils is a necessary addition to the tower of terrifying lit.

BINGO 9 Daughter Unto Devils

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Review: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott

May 14, 2015 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ★½

Review: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran ScottWhat Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott
Published by Point on March 31, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Horror, YA Thriller
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Seeing things. You were just seeing things.

For city girl Callie Velasquez, nothing sounds more terrifying than a night out in the wilderness. But, wanting to bond with her popular new friends, Lissa and Penelope, she agrees to join them on a camping trip. At least Callie's sweet new boyfriend, Jeremy, will be coming too.

But nothing goes as planned. The group loses half their food supply. Then they lose their way. And with strange sounds all around her--the snap of a twig, a sinister laugh--Callie wonders if she's losing her mind.

Tensions swirl among the group, with dark secrets suddenly revealed. And then, things take a fatal turn: Callie stumbles upon a cold dead body in the woods.

Is the murderer close by, watching them? Callie has to figure out where she can turn and who she can trust, before her own life is at stake.

Kieran Scott weaves a thrilling mystery that explores love, loyalty--and the dangerous decisions we make in order to survive.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Brazilian main character, “latte-colored” supporting character)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0 (offensive treatment of schizophrenia)
Intersectionality: 0

More horror/suspense YA, please! We’ve all seen this movie: a bunch of teenagers wander into the woods, make poor decisions, and start getting picked off by the killer whose point of view we may or may not get during the madness (in the case of this book, we do get it).  They’re old tropes, yeah, but it’s quite possible to write a good novel with tropes everyone is familiar with to the point of wishing they’d go away. Sadly, What Waits in the Woods is not one of those novels. It stays too close to the lines drawn by more impressive works before it and doesn’t care much for subtlety. Read more »

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