February 19, 2018

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Your Worst Nightmare | SLJ Spotlight

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Looking for a good scare? Check out the latest spine-tingling YA offerings sure to keep teens up at night. From ghost stories to titles about demonic possessions, these works will have readers checking under the beds and peeking around corners.

redstarKurtagich, Dawn.  352p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBNYA-SP-Kurtagich-And The Trees Crept In 9780316298704.

Gr 9 Up –When Silla and her younger sister Nori arrive on the doorstep of their estranged aunt’s crumbling manor, they are cold, injured, and on the run from someone awful. Things start sliding into macabre territory right away, and within a few years Aunt Cath has gone mad and locked herself in the attic permanently. The two sisters and their mysterious friend (who has appeared from the forest) are trapped on the property with little food and a giant fear of both the Slender Man–type figure who may live in the woods, and the trees themselves, which appear to be closing in on them. Silla’s dreamlike and unreliable narration works hand in hand with a host of unanswered (and unasked) questions to prime readers for a twist ending, which savvy consumers of horror will figure out. There’s a bit of a romance, and the novel ends on an emotional exploration of the traumas that led to this nightmare. Kurtagich’s horror imagery is satisfying and affecting—her descriptions of the day-to-day decay the girls face are as rich and scary as the monstrous man who scuttles around on all fours and the teeming mud pits that are waiting in the woods. VERDICT A great next read for teens who enjoy being scared; purchase where horror is popular.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

Olson, Norah. What the Dead Want. 320p. ebook available. illus. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062410115. OLSON, Norah. What the Dead Want

Gr 8 Up –Gretchen is a high school student looking forward to a summer in New York City when she receives a letter from her estranged great-aunt Esther. She discovers that she has inherited her family’s mansion. Gretchen’s mother mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier, and the teen hopes to find some answers by traveling to the Axton mansion. Gretchen is unexpectedly left alone in the house and begins to encounter ghostly visions. This tale is mostly a ghost story but also has aspects of historical fiction, as Gretchen uncovers the truth about her ancestors. She finds stacks of pictures and letters that help her piece together that her family were abolitionists who aided slaves escaping their masters. The narrative becomes a bit of a mystery as Gretchen and her new neighbors, Hawk and Hope, try to get to the bottom of what happened on the site of the mansion and why there are sinister, creepy characters in the house. The haunting truth is exposed after two hectic days, which strains credulity. Readers will be wondering why Gretchen’s mother and aunt couldn’t figure it out in 40 years. Fans of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will enjoy this horror tale. Interior art often opens each chapter and is peppered throughout, adding to the haunting effect. VERDICT A title recommended for any collection in need of a unique horror story that has more than just ghosts.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

Sirowy, Alexandra. The Telling. 400p. ebook available. S. & S. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418898.SIROWY, Alexandra. The Telling

Gr 8 Up –Lana has been living in the after—after her stepbrother and best friend Ben was murdered in front of her and his girlfriend, Maggie. Before, she spent her time working to graduate from high school and get accepted to college and hanging out with her best friend. Now, she needs to distract herself from Ben’s death, so she becomes friends with The Core, a group of popular teens who drink and carry out dares. While cliff-diving at Swisher Spring, Lana finds Maggie’s body buried underwater. The protagonist becomes the prime suspect, as she knows the cliffs well. Lana and her friends don’t know what to think. One of Lana’s classmates turns up missing. Someone’s dogs are killed. Lana wonders if Ben’s ghost isn’t still around, taking justice for how she’s been treated. This story is realistic, descriptive, and hard to put down. Lana is a likable character who is dealing with tragic loss in the best way she knows how. Told in first person, the narrative slowly reveals details to readers as Lana becomes aware of them. Teens are left wondering who could be the culprit and if Lana will discover the identity before it’s too late. The secondary characters are distinctive enough to stand alone, but Lana and Ben are the real focus. Readers may anticipate the ending, but there are plenty of plot twists along the way. References to drinking and sex throughout make this appropriate for high schoolers. VERDICT Recommend for fans of realistic murder mysteries with twists and where nothing quite fits together.–Natalie Struecker, Atlantic Public Library, IA

Vega, Danielle. The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores. 320p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147264. VEGA, Danielle. The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores

Gr 9 Up –Sofia Flores has lost everything. After months of therapy following Riley’s murder, she has finally convinced herself that Brooklyn’s demonic possession was all in her head. When her mom gets into a fatal car accident, Sofia has to relocate to a Catholic boarding school. It is old, with a strict morality code. Sofia meets her new roommates, sweet Leena and bad girl Sutton. The protagonist manages to catch the eye of a hot altar boy during mass. He happens to be the same boy whom Leena fancies. As temptation clouds Sofia’s judgment, she starts to believe Brooklyn’s distant claim that she is indeed evil. Can she resist sinning? This pulse-pounding follow-up to Vega’s Merciless focuses on Sofia as she attempts to put the horrible events of the first novel behind her. As Sofia deals with unfamiliar religious surroundings, she begins to think that she’s beyond redemption. She tries to find support in friendly Sister Lauren and creepy Father Marcus but can’t shake a dark sense of foreboding. With strong, well-developed supporting characters, this novel is a terrifying delight of a read. Sometimes Sofia can’t help but give in to her dark side, but readers will be hard-pressed to root against her. This sequel could potentially work as a stand-alone but will be especially enjoyed by fans of the previous volume. With an intensely violent climax, this story will work well for horror readers who don’t shy away from prose that may make some readers squeamish. VERDICT Hard to put down, this scary novel is a must-read for teenage fans of fright.–Ryan P. Donovan, Southborough Public Library, MA

These reviews were published in School Library Journal’s June 2016 issue. 

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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