Boys in the Valley
By Philip Fracassi
This book was a limited, exclusive release through Earthling Press and it’s currently out of print. Look for it to get a big re-release through Tor Nightfire soon. There’s an orphanage, a home for boys. They’re being raised up by some priests-some are good father figures and some are not. One night, the orphanage is visited by some strange men and bad things happen. After this night, some of the boys exhibit strange behavior. This escalates in unexpected ways. I have not read a book this compelling and actually terrifying in a long, long time.
By Tananarive Due
There are fourteen stories and a novella. Each story showcases Tananarive Due’s ability to draw readers into a provocative narrative across a variety of genres. What especially stood out to me is that Due has a love of history—it doesn’t matter if she is writing a dystopian, science fiction, or apocalyptic tale-historical elements are present and accounted for. Even her young protagonists seem to have a special curiosity about historical events. This aspect of her storytelling adds a special authentic flavor.
Hearts Strange and Dreadful
By Tim McGregor
Tim McGregor introduces his readers to Hester Stokely, a capable young woman orphaned at an early age. She has been adopted into her aunt and uncle’s family to help care for the Stokelys’ modest home and farmland. There is an ominous dread building behind the scenes; something sinister and evil. At the core of this novel is a love story between two young characters. Prepare to be hopelessly invested in this book.
By Ronald Malfi
A coming of age story set in the 1990s against the backdrop of something evil happening in a small town. Five friends set out to uncover the truth so they can catch a killer preying on the people in their hometown. My favorite scenes were whenever all of the boys were together for pages of dialog—it’s like you’re right there as a fly on the wall witnessing real boys in the summer of their youth—all their struggles, joys, attitudes, emotions are expressed realistically by an author who clearly lived it and can pull from a deep well of knowledge and experience.
Mapping the Interior
By Stephen Graham Jones
Junior is 12 years old, raised by his mother, a widow, who lives outside of the Indian reservation to “save her boys from drowning”. Junior’s brother, Dino, has special needs. Jones pulls the reader into Junior’s headspace effortlessly. Full of everything that makes me tick as a reader. Symbolism, foreshadowing, suspense, tension, fear, concern, and an emotional tidal wave that sucks you out to sea and spits you out.
By Nick Cutter
Cutter reminds me of Stephen King in the way that he can make you fall in love with his characters through in-depth, detailed backstory and character development. He’s brilliant at it. But all of this character development creates risk for you the reader because you don’t want what is happening to these young boys on their camping trip to happen. It’s painful. This book will absolutely disgust and upset you.
By S. P. Miskowski
S. P. Miskowski’s narrative seamlessly tracks all three, main characters through childhood, teenage years, and on into womanhood. Each woman is unique and identifiable. Most noticeably to me is the author’s ability to explore a variety of personal issues and struggles that the women face and translate them to the readers in a way that feels authentic and intimate. I’m recommending this to horror fans that love the following: Coming of age, occult, small-town drama, paranormal/demonic activities.
The Dead Girls Club
By Damien Angelica Walters
In the story from 1991, four friends form a Dead Girls Club where they get together to talk about true crime stories, serial killers, and, well…dead girls. They also talk about parents, music, movies, and their changing bodies. It felt authentic as several of the discussions hit on topics that concerned me and my friends when we were in junior high. Becca becomes fixated on telling her friends stories of The Red Lady at their Dead Girls Club. Ultimately, it’s her obsession with The Red Lady that leads to a tragic and mysterious event-ending club meetings and friendships.
30 years later, Heather—Becca’s best friend—is suddenly haunted by the past. I recommend this book to fans of coming-of-age stories, authentic female protagonists, rich-detailed storytelling, fast-paced thrillers with horror elements, and unreliable narrators with a big mystery to solve. I had a fun time with this one.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
By Grady Hendrix
What you’re signing up for when you read this book is the general plot of The Exorcist paired with Carrie vibes but lightened up with Hendrix’s unique brand of iconic cultural identification/nostalgia that looks a lot like a blender smoothie of Stranger Things, My So-Called Life and every 80s sitcom. Overall, I recommend this book for anyone—not just fans of 80s pop culture (although they would love this!) and not just fans of horror books, but everyone who likes a good story with witty dialog, great characters, and a well-crafted horror plot, with few laughs. How does that *not* sound like a good time?
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
By Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay can write teens. He’s got them down. I loved all the teens in this story almost too much. I loved the mother, Elizabeth in the same way I loved Winona Ryder’s character in the first season of Stranger Things when she’s hell-bent on finding her missing son. This book wrecked me. This story draws you in, grabs you by the heart, and gut-punches you. Hurts so good.
By John Boden
John Boden’s storytelling voice comes from a place of quiet introspection, a knack for remembering details, and a rare talent for expressing emotion. It’s authentic and genuine. Jedi Summer is a semi-autobiographical telling of a memorable summer in a boy’s life. Each chapter is a vignette or stitch in time that when read in one sitting is woven together to create a warm, nostalgic blanket for the reader to snuggle up under. Highly recommend although it is currently out of print and looking to be re-released with Cemetery Dance Paperbacks.