Every year around this time, readers are looking for creepy and scary book recommendations, and it’s a challenge for me because I really don’t enjoy reading scary books. That impending feeling of doom that readers of spooky books crave? I do what I can to avoid that feeling. So, just about every year at this time, I ask my well-read colleagues at Central Rappahannock Regional Library for recommendations that I can share, and this year they have some great creepy book suggestions for upper elementary and teen readers.
The Agony House by Cherie Priest
Denise moves back to New Orleans with her mother and stepfather, starting over after years of being away following the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. They move into a dilapidated house that is more than the average fixer-upper and soon begin to experience mysterious voices, freakish accidents, and more. After Denise finds that a mysterious comic book author died in the house and then finds one of his old comics, things get worse until one night, there is a frightening confrontation. Sarah Hutchinson, Youth Services at Porter Branch, recommends The Agony House for teens who love paranormal spookiness.
Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega
Megan Northcote, Youth Services at Salem Church Branch, recommends Claribel Ortega’s debut novel, Ghost Squad, as a perfect choice for upper elementary readers looking for a light-hearted, spooky read this fall. Drawing from the author’s Dominican heritage, this action-packed novel is filled with cultural flavor. Lucely Luna has a deep love for family, particularly her father (whose ghost tour business is on the rocks) and her deceased relatives, who live as fireflies (or cocuyos) in her backyard. When she learns from one of these cocuyos that an evil force is descending upon St. Augustine, Lucely forms a “ghost squad” with her best friend, Syd, and Syd’s grandmother, Babette, a witch and occult store owner. But Syd and Lucely’s first ghost spell goes wrong, releasing even more evil spirits. With the Halloween Festival quickly approaching, will the ghost squad have enough time and witchy superpowers to save Lucely’s hometown, her father’s business, and her firefly relatives whose lights are fading fast? Creepy catacombs, fun-loving cats, and enchanted books are just a few of the delights readers will encounter in this page-turning mystery.
The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn
Jules has had to move again because her father has been hired to fix an old house. Initially, she thinks the house is nice, but, as she stays there longer, it becomes apparent a girl who lived there a long time before is trying to communicate with her. As Jules hears voices and sees flashbacks, she tries to figure out what is going on so she can help this girl with her past. Naoko Kataoka, Youth Services at Salem Church Branch, and her daughter Zoe recommend The Girl in the Locked Room for upper elementary and teen readers.
Grimoire Noir by Vera Greentea
Magic, ghosts, and mysteries collide in this graphic novel for teens. After his sister is kidnapped, Bucky sets out to find her, but his town’s local coven is making it difficult. The clock is ticking, as the rain created by his mother’s crying threatens to drown the town and unleash a sinister force. Colleen Hybl, Youth Services at Fredericksburg Branch, enjoyed Grimoire Noir for the wonderful illustrations and the creepy mystery that pulls the reader into the story.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
A farm with a history of people disappearing, lots of weird scarecrows, and a family graveyard doesn't seem like the best place for a school outing. On the way home, Ollie realizes she'll have to take the creepy bus driver at his word when he says: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." When she leaves the bus, two classmates follow reluctantly, and Ollie knows they'll have to run, hide, and think fast if they want to see the sun rise. Mary Buck, Branch Manager at Howell Branch, recommends Small Spaces for upper elementary and teen readers.
Darcie Caswell is the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL. This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.