The following titles are recommendations to readers who want a frightened “AHHHH!!!” added with a heartwarming “AWWWWWWW”
A word of warning that dark and/or brutal scenes abound in the following books. But also expect moments of tenderness and love that only serve to highlight both aspects of the story. Because let’s face it, how can you truly appreciate works that may (or may not) kill off characters if you don’t even care about the characters?
And how exactly do you realize the depth of love you have for the fictional characters of a story if you don’t have a sinking feeling that they might be lost or hurt beyond repair?
The stories listed below may (or may not) have caused this poster a tear or two because of the hardships these characters experienced.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This book starts with the massacre of a family. And the only survivor is a baby boy who only avoided the fate of his parents and older sister because he managed to gain the sanctuary of the graveyard. Hence the baby boy Nobody “Bod” Owens is adopted by the ghost couple Mr & Mrs Owens. And as Mr & Mrs Owens are incorporeal, Bod has an additional guardian in Silas (who may look human but is strongly implied to require an “alternative form of sustenance” and can somehow convince murderers that the baby boy they’re looking for did not come into the graveyard).
Some may call this story a sort-of but not-quite adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. But I honestly think it stands on its own. With an interesting though not-exactly light-hearted setting, I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a slow and adaptive introduction to urban fantasy. The book explores themes of growing up without going into the sex and hyper-violent side of grittiness.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
This book is a cross of a lot of genres. Part historical fiction and part fantasy, this story centers (but is not isolated) on the death of President Lincoln’s son Willie. Willie’s body is placed in a cemetery filled with ghosts who have not moved on. Young Willie, who has not realized he’s dead, is urged by those same ghosts to move on as he is a child and it is not a good thing for child ghosts to linger.
But a visit from Willie’s distraught father in the middle of the night with Lincoln’s accompanying promise to come back again makes Willie unwilling to leave. His father promised to come back to see him after all.
This incident causes every ghost in the cemetery to give young Willie notice…
Personally, I suggest that any potential reader listen to the audiobook version. There are a LOT of ghosts in this cemetery. And that seems to be reason enough to warrant the LOADs and LOADs of narrators this audiobook got. AND I LOVE IT.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
When I first learned of this title, I thought:”Oh great! Another YA Dystopia fiction!”
But reading it certainly gave me a good idea why this book received the acclaim and awards it did.
Main character Jonas can be described as a nice young boy you meet in everyday life. No he is neither an orphan nor an action-kid who can beat up grown ups and kill bears. In fact, his childhood is pretty idyllic. But then he learns that the seemingly perfect society he lives in has dark secrets.
And thus, he finds himself in a position to make choices. Ones that would definitely go against the society he grew up in. But given everything he has learned, it is the only brave and right choice he could make.
And this (I will not spoil it for potential readers) is why The Giver has a higher chance of being a required reading in your school curriculum rather than The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. Definitely a classic. And the type of book parents prefer their kids reading as opposed to Naruto or Bleach
It by Stephen King
First of all, this is a VERY LONG BOOK. But I think it is very well worth the time and effort of reading. The eponymous IT is dormant for about twenty years or so in the town of Derry. But when IT wakes up, expect deaths (mostly of young children) to occur. A group of children decide to kill IT and almost succeeds. Being unsure of whether IT is really gone, they make a pact to come back and finish the job if IT comes back again.
About twenty years later, killings start up again in Derry. And the children who have grown up are at a disadvantage. They don’t seem to remember how they managed to survive and defeat IT the first time. But IT remembers and wants revenge.
What’s so good about IT? For one thing, IT is some sort of eldritch monster. No one who has read the book, seen the TV miniseries or the latest 2017 movie can doubt how terrifying and deadly IT is. But somehow, the children (who by the way have no special powers) managed to stand up to it and almost defeat it.
I choked up with tears during the ending of this book. It is that good. But for the sake of not spoiling you. I won’t tell you why. JUST READ THIS BOOK
Though just to be clear, this is a Stephen King book. So expect a lot of death and violence (some of which happen to kids and maybe even a dog or two) and some explicit sex.
Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
Recent TV shows and horror movies portray Krampus as the evil version of Santa Claus. But this book gives Krampus more depth in his actions and motivations.
In this version, Krampus has a score to settle with the being we know as Santa Claus. Unfortunately, humans are in the crossfire of this grudge, especially a guy who just wants but can’t afford to get his daughter a present but somehow gets a hold of Santa’s sack…
I honestly did not know what I was thinking when I decided to read this book. But I was pretty glad I did.