Ginger Nuts of Horror
As one of the few horror websites to regularly feature YA horror we recently reviewed the novels that have been nominated for YA section of the Bram Stoker 2016 Awards. The overall winners being announced at the end of April. As the latest YA short list only features American novels this article presents an ‘alternative’ shortlist of six great YA horror which we gave great reviews on the Ginger Nuts of Horror site during 2016. We have nothing against our American horror friends and two of our six hail from the USA but were surprised their selection did not have a more international flavour. One wonders what that famous Irish writer Bram Stoker would make of the fact that an award which proudly wears his name has no British or Irish entries at all? Never fear Bram, we have an Irish author on our alternative Ginger Nuts list just for you…. So everyone raise a Guinness to Peadar O'Guilin and his fantastic ‘The Call’ novel, which is listed below
Horror really is a worldwide phenomenon, with our genre continuing to grow and thrive into an international horror community which interconnects 24/7 through social media where a chat with an author you love is often only an email away. In the horror world everybody knows everyone and we believe the Stoker Award really needs to reflect the worldwide horror market more effectively. It should look beyond the American cabbage patch. There is great YA horror everywhere and some of our favourites are below.
I have been a horror fan all my teenage and adult life and a school librarian for more than twenty of them. The bread and butter of my job is recommending the books I enjoy to my school readers and the six listed below have been picking up rave reviews from my many teenage readers. They are a mix of clever and challenging fiction which deal with different aspects of horror through fantasy, science fiction, madness and fear.
Let’s stick with fear…. Our selection provides this ingredient in spades. Sadly the official Stoker YA list does not and although there are some pretty good books, genuine scares are lacking. Think back to the horror novels you remember best as a kid and the titles which leave the greatest impression are often those which ramped up the scares. Our six books most definitely do that; from the weird timeless house the teenage girls inhabit in ‘The Woman in the Walls’ to the terrific ghost story anthology in ‘The Wrong Train’ which harks back to the classics of the early 1900s to the madness and paranoia in ‘The Creeper Man’. There is something for everyone here.
We present the ‘international alternative’ The Ginger Nuts of Horror YA horror, best of 2016...
Amy Lukavics – “The Woman in the Walls” (America) – Absolutely terrific haunted house story about a sister and her cousin living in an isolated house. How the HWA neglected this book is a complete mystery to me. They MUST know who she is? Lukavics has written two terrific YA horror novels and is destined for greatness. Her debut novel, set in the prairies of frontier America “Daughters Unto Devils” was an exercise in fear and madness, her third novel “The Raverous” out next September is another horror. I can’t wait. HWA you are looking at the future of YA horror. You should take note for next year.
Ginger Nuts said: “The author doesn’t disappoint with another complex, character driven, and highly enjoyable supernatural tale which reveals its secrets gleefully slowly in an excellently paced novel which deserves to find a large with teenage and YA readers. Seventeen year old Lucy lives in a huge house in the countryside with her cousin Margaret, they rarely see anyone except for her distant and distracted father and Margaret’s mother, her aunt, who is more like a surrogate mother. Lucy’s natural mother died when she was three and there are hints of foul play in the murky family history. Most of the time her father is persistently occupied planning fancy dinners and events for a club which only ever seems to meet in their house, and don’t seem to do very much else except sponge from her family. But there is obviously more going on and part of the fun in this novel is the finding out.”
Jeremy de Quidt – “The Wrong Train” (UK) – Everyone likes a good ghost story, right? Then look no further, a scary series of inter-connected supernatural stories lynch-pinned by a little boy stuck with a creepy old man at a deserted train station. Apparently De Quidt does not read horror, making this achievement even cooler. A great collection for kids.
Ginger Nuts said: “Behind a rather drab looking book-jacket lurks a truly delicious collection of eight short stories aimed at the teen/YA market, or anybody who enjoys a bloody good old fashioned scare…. And to be frank, if any adult horror writers (published or unpublished) out there want an A-Z lesson on how to construct supernatural stories for children, then look no further than this masterful anthology. Many of the tales sneakily play on the insecurities of everyday life, especially those irrational fears that put children on edge, from the outdoor light which randomly flashes on and off, to the smelly old photo album, not forgetting the strangeness of a new house or even the invisible friend who is just a tad too real. Jeremy De Quidt presses all the right buttons in building an overwhelming atmosphere of darkness which permeates throughout all unique eight stories.”
Gregg Hurwitz – “The Rains” (America) – A great fusion of horror and science fiction, easily the best teen alien invasion/zombie novel I read in 2016. Perhaps the HWA might stick their noses up at a bestselling thriller writer turning to YA science fiction/horror? It’s well worth a closer look though, with fast paced zombie style action which would be brilliant for the bored teenage boy and once you get sucked into the breath-taking pace you’ll forget you even have a mobile phone.
Ginger Nuts said: ‘“The Rains” is a brutally successful mish-mash of horror, science fiction and adrenaline pumping adventure. In fact, you’re unlikely to find a faster paced YA novel this year if you tried. It stops for the odd breather, but on the whole is unrelenting from beginning to end and I found myself reading it very fast through the multiple mini-climaxes which keep the book moving at a furious lick, helped by the fact the plot plays out in just one highly explosive week.”
Dawn Kurtagich – “The Creeper Man” (UK) – Almost impossible to classify. Two sisters escape an abusive home and live with an aunt who just gets weirder and weirder. Read very carefully to figure out what the hell is going on with one of the greatest unreliable narrators in teen fiction. In America this novel is known as “And The Trees Crept In”. Kurtagich really is an author to watch and I also highly recommend the equally strange “The Dead House” also written in a fragmented and challenging style.
Ginger Nuts said: ‘“Creeper Man” by Dawn Kurtagich, first published in 2016, is easily the cleverest YA horror novel I have read in a good while. It was challenging, twisty, unpredictable and layered in such an intelligent way adults would could enjoy it as well as any younger reader. It was very, very clever. On the simplest level the plot revolves around two sisters who escape London and their violent father to live with an aunt in a remote country house in the middle of a forest. Something happens to the aunt and she seemingly shuns the girls and locks herself in the attic. The intimidating dense and surrounding forest seems almost alive and threatens the sanity of the girls, which is questioned repeatedly throughout the novel. For much of this multi-layered corker you can never really be sure whether there is a supernatural entity at work or whether everything is psychological. The Creeper Man of the title is a superb creation and is as effective as any bogeyman creation in most adult horror as he and the imposing forest move closer to the girls as the sanity of the elder girl disintegrates.”
Peader O’Guilin – “The Call” (Ireland) – Humdinger fantasy horror, ancient fairies from Old Ireland to rip teenagers out of time for three minutes (‘The Call’) most are killed, but the heroine (who has cerebral paulsey) is too tough to die. An outstanding novel which fuses fantasy, mythology and horror perfectly. When I was in America recently I saw this novel prominently displayed in a couple of bookshops when I was recently in America, maybe it will qualify for a Stoker nod next year? I know kids gagging for a sequel….
Ginger Nuts said: “The Call” by Peadar O'Guilin was totally terrific on many levels and the finest mesh of horror and teen fantasy I’ve read in ages. It has a great plot: in this weird version of Ireland the country has been sealed off from the rest of the world by a supernatural barrier. In this Ireland teenagers can be ‘Called’, this means they are summoned to another realm where they do battle with the Aes Sidhe, the ancient rulers of Ireland before they were banished in a great war. These as very evil fairy creatures and down-right nasty creatures which are incredibly cruel and live to torture humans for sport. The way the ‘Calling’ works is really great, any teenager can disappear into thin air for three minutes and they reappear in the fairy world where they are hunted. Most are killed horribly, mutilated or tortured, only one in ten return unharmed. Although they are only gone for three minutes in the fairy world this is 24 hours or longer, so avoiding death is almost impossible. Kids no longer go to school, instead they go to battle schools where they are taught how to survive the ‘Calling’ which will happen sooner or later. The plot revolves around a girl called Nessa, who has polio, and so cannot run properly, so nobody gives her a sniff of survival, however she is one TOUGH cookie.
Kenneth Oppel – “The Nest” (Canada) – Strange and psychologically challenging tale of a boy who has a new sibling born prematurely, whilst coping with loneliness and his distracted parents he becomes obsessed with a wasp’s nest outside his window and can feel them talking to him. This brilliantly inventive author is forever coming up with new ideas and I was thrilled to see this terrific novel recently given away free by the National Book Trust in the UK to tens of thousands of children in a recent literature drive, billed as a ‘future classic’. Sorry National Book Trust, but Ginger Nuts championed it first when it first appeared in hardback! Oppel was previously nominated for a YA Stoker in 2011 for “This Dark Endeavour” his great look at the young Victor Frankenstein.
Ginger Nuts said: “Straight off the bat I would like to point out that this is an exceptionally odd book, and because of this oddness it’s pretty difficult to gage who it is actually aimed at, or who might enjoy it. It’s one of those novels that when you read as an adult, you pick up on lots of subtleties that child readers will either miss or ignore. I have a ten year old who reads a lot and I think she’d struggle with this novel, so I’d probably recommend it to slightly older kids, twelve plus probably. Having said that, it’s one of those books which a parent and child could have fun talking about together as it deals with a number of complex issues including death, illness, loneliness and loss very sensitively. It’s not strictly a horror novel, but merges effortlessly into several genres.”
That’s it. I hope you find something to read from these six books, or something to try on a niece, nephew or any kid who needs to find the reading bug.