Late last night I watched two particularly creepy TV programs…which meant I was jumping at my own shadow all night! Probably not the best sort of thing to be doing right before bed. But it got me thinking…
I VERY MUCH dislike scary movies. Suspense I can do — but any sort of horror movie will probably see me running from the room. Scary movies are just not my idea of entertainment and it often boggles me why other people enjoy watching them so much.
I have recently started enjoying Syfy’s new show ‘Helix’, which is a Sci-fi thriller, but I feel like TV shows are different than movies; they offer more character development, more plot, and more insurance that your favorite character will not die (there are many more episodes left!). Plus, it’s Science fiction — I just couldn’t resist.
Scary and suspenseful books, however, are an entirely different thing. I can scare myself a little without having to be plagued by terrifying images and an unsettling soundtrack like in a scary movie. I can put down the book for a little while if I start feeling too creeped out and come back later without hearing protests from my fellow movie-watchers about my leaving the room or covering my eyes and/or ears. Scary books give me just the right amount of controlled fear, and, when done right, are still truly and convincingly terrifying.
So I’ve decided to share with you my list of the best scary books I’ve read, in no particular order:
1. Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon
Strangelets features three different teenagers from around the world that are transported to an undesirable future the moment before they were dying in their present lives. They don’t know where they are or how they got to the future, but they must come together to get back home.
Sounds a little out there, right? But my terror was real when the teens were being chased by all sorts of creatures that shouldn’t exist. Plus, Gagnon’s international and dysfunctional characters made for an entertaining read aside from the mystery and fear.
2. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
When I think of all the books I’ve read, none terrified me quite like this one. After reading 172 Hours on the Moon (unwisely read late at night, I might add), I was almost too scared to leave my room to brush my teeth before bed. I’m pretty sure I scrounged for a flashlight and couldn’t even look at my own reflection in the mirror without jumping (something readers of the book will understand!).
Three teens from Japan, Norway, and France win a NASA lottery to go to the moon, and each winner has something they want to leave behind — or gain. But they find that they are not alone on the moon, and no one, especially not the agency that sent them to the moon, is coming to save them.
It is supremely cool that this was written by a Norwegian author, and I love that the main characters are international (again!). And it doesn’t get much more awesome for a setting than the moon, especially if you like Sci-fi like me. GUARANTEED to scare the living daylights out of you.
3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Unwind is maybe more of a Sci-fi book than a thriller, but it is still horrifying nonetheless. There are some scenes in here described so graphically that some people more sensitive to that kind of stuff may want to avoid reading this. As for me, I just kind of read it in a state of numbed shock.
In the future, after a civil war has been fought over abortion, an unsettling compromise was reached: abortion of an unborn child is illegal, but children between the ages of 13 and 18 can be surrendered by the guardians to the state, where the child will be ‘unwound’ and all of their organs, tissues, and blood harvested and donated. The book follows three teens signed over to be unwound for different reasons: one becomes ‘too difficult’ for his parents, another is in foster care, and the last one has been raised as a ‘tithe’ with the sole purpose of being unwound.
The book raises so many questions about the morality of these future practices, but also of today’s practices. It examines what happens when we go too far in pursuing an issue, and all the serious consequences that can ensue. Any teenager living in this future would be constantly scared of being unwound, and you just might too while reading this.
4. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
It’s been years since I read this book (at least, it feels like it). But I do remember the basics of This is Not a Test. The book takes place right in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and if the blood splatters on the cover aren’t indicator enough, there are some good gory parts. But that’s not all.
The main character of this book has just recently decided to ‘end it all’ when the zombie apocalypse hits in the form of a disease that turns regular people into mindless, monstrous, rabid beings. Suddenly she and five other teens find themselves barricaded together in the high school, trying to survive and keep safe. As the main character watches everyone else stubble and fight to live, she too begins to see her life as valuable again. But will she survive to live once more?
Any part of the book when they were fending off zombies never failed to scare me. But I wouldn’t say that the zombies were the best part of this book. What I loved was the interactions between the teens of different tempers and social groups, and seeing how each teen reacted to their situation. And it looked at a classic human trait — the will to survive against all odds, and to cling to life even when surrounded by death and misfortune. All in all, it’s much more than just a zombie book.
5. The Gone series by Michael Grant
When all the adults of Perdido Beach, California suddenly disappear, everyone under fifteen is left to fend for themselves. They soon discover that the whole town is under a transparent dome, meaning no one can leave and that there is no way to get help. Chaos ensues as kids run wild and bullies rule the town — and then the mutations start. Normal kids begin developing powers and abnormalities, and not all of the kids use them for good. Will they be able to come together to defeat the evil that has taken root in the town?
There are many different kinds of terror in this book. The fear of living without parents (aka without security, planned meals, or care for the little ones), the fear of chaos and lawlessness, and of course, the fear of the strange mutated creatures that populate the town. The series manages to be both scary, gripping, and fun at the same time, however strange a combination that is.
What did you think of the titles on my list? Have you read any of them? Do you have any favorite YA horror/thriller books?