Happy Pride month from all of us at Out For Blood! As always, we’ve been eating up spooky goodness to share with you! Keep reading to see our horror book recommendations for this month.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Content warning: mental illness, self-harm, bodily fluids, sexual acts and intimation, violence
Read if you like: From the Corner of his Eye by Dean Koontz
Plot: ‘“What does that say about you or anyone else that my sister’s nationally televised psychotic break and descent into schizophrenia wasn’t horrific enough?”’
Fifteen years ago, the Barrett family were the subject of a reality tv show examining the supposed possession of fourteen year old Marjorie Barrett. The younger sister Meredith recounts events through her then eight year old eyes, but also acknowledges the false memories and outside influences of those years in between. Unpredictable characters and unreliable witnesses abound, with a nice twist provided by interludes of The Final Girl blog, analysing The Possession reality show in hindsight. And a delightfully ambiguous ending.
Spookiness: Although Marjorie’s actions and words are often unnerving, the greater for being perceived through a child’s eyes, much of the story’s impact stems from the powerlessness of the Barrett family to prevent their lives getting more out of control and failing to ‘help’ Marjorie. That a mentally ill child can be taken away from a clinical treatment to be subjected to manufactured exorcism by adults is pretty horrific considering the mid-2000s setting.
Queerness: Gender roles, expectations, and misogyny are explored and exposed. The overwhelming force behind events is driven by a toxic masculinity exhibited by the father, John Barrett, the Catholic priests, and the almost exclusively male tv crew.
Read by: Alvina (she/her)
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Content warning: mental illness, eating disorders, xenophobia, racism, suicide
Read if you like: We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Plot: White is for Witching is, on the surface, a story that follows Miranda and her twin brother Eliot who move into their ancestral family home in Dover with their father. The prose is lyrical and poetic, told by multiple narrators, and jumps around in time. The house, now turned into a bed and breakfast, wants to keep Miranda inside and safe… but resents strangers entering the threshold.
Spookiness: The book unfolds as a critique of British nationalism and the dehumanising ways immigrants and refugees are treated. “White is for witching, a colour to be worn so that all colours can enter you, so that you may use them”. Oyeyemi subtly layers European vampire tropes with Caribbean folk tales of the soucouyant to show white supremacy as all-consuming. In this modern gothic tale, the horror within Miranda’s house is unsettling and surreal, and highlights the insidious ways that racism permeates all structures.
Queerness: In the latter part of the novel, Miranda develops a relationship with Ore, a student she meets at University. The depiction of queer sexuality is intense, and their relationship is at times overwhelming for both young women.
Read by: Elecia (she/her)
Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand
Content Warnings: familial abuse, acephobia, violence, discussion of suicide, gore, self-harm
Read if you like: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
Plot: Sawkill Girls is YA horror novel that follows three different girls who live on Sawkill Rock. Girls have been disappearing on the island mysteriously for years, prompting the formation of a local tale about an entity called ‘The Collector’. Our three protagonists – Zoey, Marion, and Val, must come together despite their differences to figure out what is going on and save the residents of Sawkill.
Spookiness: Trauma, grief, and loss feature heavily throughout the book. This is definitely not recommended for younger teen readers as some of the scenes are very dark. There’s threat, tension, gore, cults, and monsters (both human and paranormal!)
Queerness: There is varied queer representation in this book – although, there isn’t too much consideration of contextualising anyone’s identity in terms of privilege (especially white privilege). Zoey, who is black, is asexual and shows attraction to multiple genders (cw: there is an acephobic comment from another character which is later challenged). Marion is queer and has a relationship with another girl in the book, and Val is bisexual. The book includes a queer sex scene which isn’t hidden or coded which is hugely refreshing to see in YA. Plus, sexism is challenged frequently in Sawkill Girls, particularly the trope that pits young girls against each other.
Read by: Elecia (she/her)