I’m a coward when it comes to true horror stories, but I really love a good thriller. It can be fun to read books that are a little bit scary or creepy, although I find they tend to haunt me for way too long afterwards. One of the things I found interesting about this week’s prompt is that there are so many ways to interpret it. My first instinct was to choose books that I found scary or chilling, but I’ve also seen several responses where the blogger chose to include books that they were afraid to try, or with a dystopian world that seems a little too realistic. It was a bit tricky to think of books that really scared me!
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Defending Jacob by William Landay
I feel like I talk about this book all the time, but it is a book that I read two years ago that still sticks with me. This book is a thriller about a lawyer named Andy Barber whose teenage son, Jacob, is accused of murdering a classmate. Andy is convinced that this son must be innocent and wants to do everything in his power to protect him, but his wife is less certain. This book scared me because it really did a great job of leaving you guessing where you stand on Jacob’s involvement in the other boy’s death. Some of the scenes were particularly chilling, especially the shocking ending. It is a book that I never would have heard of without my reading challenge, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.
2) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
This is another very chilling thriller that focuses on a teenage boy. In this book, a young man named Kevin went on a rampage at his school, killing several other students and staff. The book is written in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother, Eva, to her estranged husband as she tries to come to terms with her son’s actions. I thought the book was a very powerful nature vs. nurture story, and like Defending Jacob, it really kept you questioning where you stand. Eva was such an unlikeable character, but for me that only contributed to the power of the story about whether Kevin really was a monster, or just an unfortunate case of a neglected child. This is another book that has really stuck with me.
3) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
To be fair, I did not love this book anywhere near as much as everyone else seems to. This book is told from the perspective of a teenager named Susie Salmon who was raped and murdered on her way home from school, following her in the after-life as she watches over her friends and family as they try to cope with her loss. The book itself wasn’t that creepy for me, although it easily could have been since I tend to find stories about ghosts very scary. The main reason this one scared me was because while reading a specific scene about Susie rushing past someone as a ghost, where she seemed to be only a fast-moving white light, I thought I saw a flash of light in my hallway and it startled me. It really creeped me out!
4) The Ghost at Dawn’s House by Ann M. Martin
This may seem like a silly one to add, but while I was thinking about books that scared me over the years, this was one of the earliest I could remember. This book is part of the Babysitter’s Club series, where the girls discover that there is a secret passage in Dawn’s house which she believes is haunted by a ghost. Dawn soon discovers an old book of her grandmother’s that talks about a man who used to live in the house who mysteriously disappeared, and assumes that this must be the ghost. It seems silly now to be so creeped out by this book, but I was so scared of it that I couldn’t even stand to have it in my room! After reading it the first time, I was so scared that I hid it away in the basement so I wouldn’t have to see it.
5) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
This book is scary on a completely different level, although I have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing itself. This book is an autobiographical account of Dave Pelzer’s childhood with a severely abusive mother. Dave was brutally beaten, starved, and tortured by a parent who, for some reason, considered him an “it” instead of a person. This was one of the first books about abuse that I’d ever read, and I was truly horrified to learn that people could behave so cruelly toward others, especially toward a child. While I knew that abuse existed, it was shocking to read a first-hand account of what it was actually like to live in that situation. I know that since then the veracity of the book has been called into question, but even if it were fictional, it is still horrifying to read!