A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
It’s almost Halloween — time to be reading about monsters, murders, haunted castles, and bumps in the night. Though printed stories have changed massively in the last few centuries, what scares us hasn’t changed much at all.
Read on for recommendations of gothic classics, and the Author Allsorts books which bring them right up to date…
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde vs. The Hanged Man Rises
What could be more disturbing than finding your body involuntarily taken over by something evil? Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the classic example; The Hanged Man Rises is even creepier. Like Dr Jekyll, Sarah Naughton’s debut is set in a dark Victorian London. A child-murderer has been caught and hanged, but the murders keep happening — how has the killer survived? A wonderfully dark and clever read.
Frankenstein vs. The Lost Girl
Frankenstein is a Halloween staple, but it’s impossible to read without feeling sorry for the stitched-together creature who’s hated by everyone he meets. Sangu Mandanna’s Eva in The Lost Girl is similarly man-made, created to replace the girl she was modelled on if her original ever dies. Eva looks normal enough, but is hated by most of the world, and even hunted for what she is.
The Lost Girl isn’t a horror novel, but it addresses a lot of Shelley’s themes — can science go too far, and what are the responsibilities of creation? Frankenstein aside, it’s a great read, with action, romance and a multi-cultural setting, and worth picking up any time of year.
The Haunting of Hill House vs. The Dead House
The Dead House — a YA horror novel about two girls inhabiting the same body — is like a mix-up of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Haunting of Hill House, and a found-footage scary film. Like The Haunting of Hill House, Dawn Kurtagich’s debut features a malevolent mansion, lots of “is it real or in her head?” psychological weirdness, and spins towards a dramatic and unsettling conclusion. The Dead House is a truly creepy novel, filled with classic horror motifs. One to pick up if you want to be scared this Halloween!
Herbert West—Reanimator vs. Dead Romantic
Lovecraft’s 1922 short story is a parody of Frankenstein, with extra sci-fi elements and more zombies. C.J. Skuse’s YA reimagining, Dead Romantic, follows two schoolgirls on their quest to create the perfect boyfriend out of dead (yet good-looking) body parts. As in Lovecraft’s story, the girls experiment on dead animals first (cue zombie hamster mayhem), discover that reanimated creatures are not the sanest, and launch a search for the freshest human parts for their reanimation serum. Unlike Herbert West, Dead Romantic is hilarious, so is perfect if you like a little giggle with your gore.
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas vs. The Glass Demon
M.R. James’s short stories are mysterious, chilling, and perfect for this time of year. Helen Grant’s YA mystery The Glass Demon has more than a little of M.R. James about it, and is even inspired by the same true events (surrounding the stained glass of Steinfeld Abbey) that inspired James’s story The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.
In The Glass Demon, an academic drags his family to Germany in search of a set of ancient and invaluable stained glass windows, which superstition says are haunted by a demon. Like in many M.R. James stories, the search has unexpected and fatal consequences. Unlike in a James story, it’s the academic’s teenage daughter, Lin, who’s determined to save the day, and there’s a dash of romance to balance out the murder.
Moondial vs. The Serpent House
If you’re a fan of Helen Cresswell’s Moondial, with its time-slips back to the Victorian era and its ghosts and hints of witchcraft, then The Serpent House is for you. Bea Davenport’s novel is about a girl in 1899 who can time-slip back to an eleventh century leper hospital, and finds herself increasingly forced to do so. Add some unconventional medieval medicine, lots of creepy snakes, some magic and witchcraft, and you’ve got yourself a thoroughly entertaining read.
The Hound of the Baskervilles vs. Monster
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about the murderous Hound of the Baskervilles, a local legend of a giant dog which terrorises the moors. In Monster, C.J. Skuse brings us the Beast of Bathory, a giant cat which is equally the stuff of local legend, and equally deadly. The Beast stalks the land around a girls’ boarding school, picking off animals and the occasional human. When a small group of girls are stranded in their isolated school over Christmas, they become prey to the Beast. The mystery builds slowly — is the Beast real? Who can be trusted? — and leads to a satisfyingly dramatic conclusion.
Which scary classics and YA books will you be reading this Halloween?
Kendra Leighton is a YA author represented by Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency. Glimpse, her debut novel, is a modern ghost story inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem ‘The Highwayman’.
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