Halloween has always been one of my favourite holidays. I continued trick-or-treating as many years as I could possibly get away with it. Good thing I’ve always looked a bit younger than I am! While I liked wearing a costume, I never really cared much what costume I had. I use the same robe for years and alternated between being a witch and a vampire. I’m a huge coward when it comes to reading or watching scary stories, although the plots often intrigue me. I chalk it up to watching The Sixth Sense when I was way too young for it — there are scenes from that movie that I still haven’t quite gotten over! I wanted to recommend a few books for people like me who want to get into the Halloween spirit, but without scaring ourselves too much! Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
When I first read this book, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is about a teenage boy named Jacob whose grandfather has always told him stories about his past at a special school for unusual children. After his grandfather’s death under strange circumstances, Jacob travels to Wales to find out more about his grandfather’s life. What makes this book such a great one for Halloween is the creepy atmosphere, and especially the old-fashioned photos that are included throughout. It is not really a horror book, but it has its creepy moments.
2. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
This was the first graphic novel that I read by choice (the other being required reading in a course I took at university). The story is about a young girl named Anya who falls down a well, where she meets and befriends the ghost of another young girl. The ghost attempts to help Anya survive high school. I definitely didn’t expect this book to be scary at all, so I was surprised to find that it had some moments that were genuinely creepy! However, it is still perfectly safe for people like me who don’t enjoy horror. At it’s heart, it is a great story about coming into your own in high school, and taking pride in your family’s background.
3. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
For those of us who are not a fan of ghost stories, there are plenty of other scary options. I often find psychological thrillers a lot creepier than stories about ghosts or monsters since the fear seems a lot more real. We Need To Talk About Kevin is definitely one of the creepiest stories I’d ever read. It mostly focuses on Eva as she talks about her life with her son, Kevin, the child she never wanted and immediately struggles to bond with. This book was a fascinating story that really highlighted the classic psychological debate of “nature vs. nurture” — was Kevin naturally evil, or was his behaviour a result of the way his mother treated him? It was a very chilling book, and easily one of the scariest I’ve ever read.
4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I don’t think this list would be complete without at least one of the Gothic classics. While it is usually viewed as more of a mystery than a horror book, the Gothic atmosphere is what truly makes it so perfect for Halloween. The book focuses on an unnamed young woman who marries Maxim de Winter, a man whose estate is still heavily influenced by his late wife, Rebecca. This is a beautifully written book that creates such a powerful presence for a character who technically does not appear in the story. It is a classic for good reason, and it is certainly a great read to get in the Halloween spirit!
5. Little Girls by Ronald Malfi
This is the kind of book that I never would have chosen if it weren’t for my reading challenge, which called for a book that scares me. The plot summary immediately caught my attention: a woman returns to her childhood home with her husband and daughter to help close off her late father’s estate. She soon encounters the child next door, who bears a strong resemblance to a childhood companion of hers who died when they were both children. This is the one book on this list that I would say is only for fans of genuinely scary stories. Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed it, but I was also very scared!
Happy Halloween, everyone!