Scary, Hairy, and Just Plain Thrilling: 10 Books about Monsters and Magic to put you in that Halloween Spirit

-Guest blog post by Celia Adams, Senior, and President of HPU’s Book Club

Halloween is days away from being upon us, and that means candy, haunted houses, and the chance to scare ourselves silly with that mayhem and mischief this holiday brings. For some of us, the best part is stuffing ourselves with chocolate, and for some it’s dressing in crazy costumes. If you’re the kind of person whose favorite thing is immersing yourself in the perfect scary story, check out these reads for all your terrifying tale needs.


1. The Diviners by Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

If you want ghosts, curses, and supernatural abilities, all set against the backdrop of glamorous 1920s New York, this is the book for you. Between the characters’ twisted paths, the incredibly developed occult, and the ever-terrifying string of murders, this book will suck you in and keep you there. But be careful, Naughty John is looking for his next victim.


2. The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Darkly fascinating, morbidly curious, and based on an H. G. Wells novel to boot, this novel is perfect for the casual horror fan that likes a little romance and intrigue mixed in their plot. I have to give Megan Shepherd creditshe loves to blur the lines between humanity and something else. This Gothic novel about secrets we’d do anything to know and truths we’d do anything to protect will leave you breathless.


3. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets … until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything-except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable-and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost … as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Full truth: I always had a huge problem with the character of Elizabeth when I first read the Mary Shelley classic. The woman was a feminist, yet she wrote the least feminist-female character I’d ever seen. So I was so happy to see Kiersten White redeem the character by exploring her past and motivations to remain meek and submissive in order to better navigate the world of her insane companion, the one and only Dr. Frankenstein. I loved Elizabeth’s character because she was a master at doing what needed to be done. For the classic horror fan, this might be the Halloweekend read for you!


4. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Come on, I couldn’t really do a scary-reads YA recommendation list with ONLY sci-fi and fantasy novels (I tried, they wouldn’t let me). So what’s a Halloween without a good murder mystery to keep us on our toes? This is Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club and like any good mystery, the fun of it is trying to figure out what the title tells you must be truewho is the murderer?


5. Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? More importantly, who doesn’t love a queer paranormal mystery vengeful ghost story that reads like watching a classic film noir? That’s right, you heard me; we have a gay ghost! This book is a great urban fantasy that spins the “I see dead people” trope on its head and wraps up a murder mystery and ghost story in one. It’s got well-executed characters, (no pun, I swear!) and is the grittiest, most vivid urban-fantasy-thriller you’ll be glad you gave a chance to.


6. Help for the Haunted by John Searles

It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.
As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

Do you love being creeped out of your mind? Do you want to live inside the mind of a very troubled teenage girl? Do you want every brand of hauntings and curses and every paranormal problem in between? Then this might be the book for you! This Goodreads Choice Award Nominee captures the vivid eeriness of Stephen King, the quirky tenderness of John Irving, and all the horror felt by a young heroine determined to find out what happened that winter night.


7. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

For those of you who saw magic in the title and maybe the spooky tales aren’t the ones for you, here’s one of my personal favorites. Don’t worry thoughit’s still got curses, ghosts, and witches (ahem, casters). The first (and let’s be real, second) time I read this, I could hardly put it down, There’s something about Gatlin and Ethan and the beautiful writing of this book that pulls you in and makes you never want to come back. Good thing it’s the start of a series of four!


8. Wilder Girls by Rory Power

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Someone described this book as ‘feminist horror’ and honestly, I can’t do better than that. For the gore-fanatics, this book is it. It’s violent and bloody, the school is under siege by a horrible plague that transforms the wildlife and kills countless girls, and the ones who survive get gruesome (yet kind of awesome) deformities. It may be a survival story but there’s more than enough blood and spilled intestines to earn its place with the most gruesome Halloween fans.


9. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

What’s Halloween without a bare-bones slasher tale? This book may be a little heavy on the teen relationship drama, but who doesn’t love a little air of romance while running from your lives from a serial killer? It’s quick, a little cheesy, still plenty creepy, but probably nothing to give you nightmares about. Not all horror has to be horrifying!



10. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

In honor of the 3-year anniversary of my first reading this one, let’s talk about my favorite creepy story ever! Words cannot express what a good decision I made choosing this as my Halloween 2016 read. This is a Victorian-era murder mystery, feminist adventure, scientific exploration meant for all of you gobbling up those serial killer documentaries on Netflix. Audrey Rose is a forensic student who tries to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper by examining his victim’s corpses. How cool is that! And she’s also the most boss heroine while still in proper Victorian attire ever, so jot that down.

-Guest blog post by Celia Adams, Senior, and President of HPU’s Book Club


Librarian’s note: Want to check out one of the titles in this list? Several of them are on display this week at the Learning Commons (3rd floor Wanek Center). Click the title or cover image to check availability. You are also welcome to join the HPU Book Club–we meet weekly to discuss great (mostly YA) novels just like these! In fact, the first book on this list (The Diviners) is our current selection. To join, just e-mail Leanne Jernigan at to receive more information.