Archive for Horror

Booktalk: The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls cover

Recently I was on the lookout for “crossover” books (for older children and younger teens) that fit into the scary / dark / creepy category to share with my colleagues to help answer one of our most popular questions from our patrons.  I came up with a list of titles, and as soon as I’d completed the list THIS book came in, and when I read it I realized that it should’ve gone to the top of that list.  (FWIW, Doll Bones by Holly Black also looks like a strong contender for that list, but it just came out so I haven’t read it yet).

The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand is one of the best crossover books I’ve read in years, and it would be a great book to put into the hands of any readers who loved Coraline by Neil Gaiman because it has a similarly dark and creepy feel.  And while the reading level is appropriate for older children and younger teens, the story is so engaging and well-written that it can entice older readers (even grownups!) who enjoy scary stories.  Oh, and while right now the book is only available in hardcover (so you should each get at least one copy for your collections NOW), it’s coming out in paperback in August (so you can order more copies to satisfy more readers!)


Victoria is as close to perfect as a girl can get.   Her hair, her clothes, her manners, her grades, everything has always been perfect.  One of the only things about Victoria that isn’t perfect is her friendship with with a boy named Lawrence, because Lawrence isn’t perfect at all.  Lawrence is quiet, and shy, and awkward, and always going around looking messy with his shirt untucked.  He’s really kind of embarrassing.  He’s definitely not the kind of friend a perfect girl like Victoria should have.  But then one day Lawrence disappears, and nobody seems to care.  It’s almost like the other kids and teachers don’t even remember him.  But Victoria remembers him, and Victoria cares.

As she starts investigating Lawrence’s disappearance, Victoria starts learning about other boys and girls who have gone missing from the same neighborhood.  Victoria finds clues that point her towards a weird house in the neighborhood called the Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls.  The more she investigates the home, the more she learns about how many of the boys and girls who go there come back looking and acting … different than before.

And Victoria also learns that some of the boys and girls who go to the home never come back at all.

Booktalk: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

To answer your first question, no, this episode is not about the tasty (???) marshmallow Easter candy, although I do admit that the timing is entertaining!

Today we’re revisiting the weird and fabulous world of Scott Westerfeld, previously seen in last year’s episode where I booktalked his phenomenal science fiction novel UgliesPeeps takes the classic idea of vampires and gives it a sci-fi twist by using the idea of the condition being spread through parasite infections.  And for readers who enjoy Peeps, the story that begins in this book continues in the novel The Last Days.


My name is Cal, and I’m trying to find my ex-girlfriend Sarah.  Now don’t get me wrong; the reason I’m doing it is because she’s no longer entirely human … and I’m the one who made her that way.

It turns out that I’m a carrier of a parasite that’s been infecting people for thousands of years.  I’m telling you; I didn’t know I had infected her until it was too late.  I didn’t even know that I was sick.  But I did notice that my senses of taste and smell and eyesight were more powerful than before.  I did notice that I was stronger than before.  I did notice that it was almost impossible to sleep at night.  And I did notice an increased desire for red meat.  But because I’m a carrier, I can still live like a normal human being.  Well … MOSTLY normal.

But for the rest of the people who are infected by this parasite (like my ex-girlfriends, for example), it changes them in even more ways.  It makes them lose a lot of weight.  It makes their eyes huge.  It makes them hate the sunlight.  It makes them angry.  It makes them crazy.  And it makes them kill people.  A thousand years ago, or even a hundred years ago, we would have called them vampires.  But now we know better.  Now we call them parasite positives, or peeps for short.

When I find Sarah and the Night Watch team takes her away, that’ll be one less peep around to spread this parasite to other people.  But while Sarah is the last ex-girlfriend I need to track down, I still have one more big job to do.

I still have to find the person who infected ME.

Booktalk: Professor Gargoyle (Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #1) by Charles Gilman

Truth be told, I first picked up Professor Gargoyle because I’m a big fan of HP Lovecraft, and I was interested in reading a children’s book written by a fellow Lovecraft fan.  Then I picked up the book and was worried because it looked kind of … gimmicky.  Yes, the animated cover that goes back and forth between a normal looking teacher and a hideous monster when you tilt the book is COOL and all.  But I was worried because I thought that the book might rely too much on the cover for sales and the story might not live up to the hype.  Luckily, the story was engaging, a little scary, and a lot of fun.  This will be a good series for fans of the Goosebumps series, for reluctant readers, and for grownups who would like to add some Lovecraftian influence to the younger generation.  Visit the Lovecraft Middle School website to learn more about the series, about HP Lovecraft, and about the secret identity of Charles Gilman!


Robert is having a tough time at Lovecraft Middle School.  All of his old friends are now going to Franklin Middle School, and he doesn’t know anyone at this new school … except for Glenn.  The bully who’s been tormenting Robert for years.  On their very first day at Lovecraft, Glenn throws chewed-up gummy worms in Robert’s hair AND demands money from him.  Just like old times.  And that was during the school’s welcome ceremony.  Robert hadn’t even set foot in the school yet!

When he went inside to find his locker, Robert got another unpleasant surprise.  He opened his locker, looked inside, and sitting on the top shelf staring at him was a large … white … rat.  And suddenly there was a lot of screaming going on all around him.  Because there wasn’t just a rat in Robert’s locker.  There was a rat in EVERY locker.  And all at once, dozens and dozens of rats came leaping out of the lockers, running down the hallway, and stampeding through the door of the school.

But believe it or not, that wasn’t the weirdest part of Robert’s first day at Lovecraft Middle School.

Booktalk: The Boy Who Couldn’t Die by William Sleator

Speaking of great covers … actually I would have included this book in my collection of favorite covers of YA novels, but that would have made thirteen covers instead of a dozen, and it wouldn’t have looked as good on the page.  To sum up, while The Boy Who Couldn’t Die is a great story that’s fun to sell to an audience, kids will pick up this book even if you don’t say a word about it.

And while I’m definitely a fan of this book, I’m also going to recommend reading ANY books by William Sleator whenever you want books that use fantastic and unusual elements to great effect.  My favorite Sleator book of all time is House of Stairs, which I have loved ever since I was a kid.  But I’d also highly recommend Others See Us, Oddballs, and Test.


Ken just got a bargain for $50.  Of course, it’s not a service that many people provide – in fact, there was only one person he found who would do it at all.  For $50, a lady he found in a psychic magazine will take his soul away so he can never die.  Now, most sixteen-year-old boys don’t think about death at all, but two weeks ago Ken’s best friend died in a plane crash, and since then he hasn’t been able to think about anything else.  In his mind, immortal = safe, and as soon as he’s safe, his life will be perfect.

But Ken never imagines the downside of being immortal.  He never imagines that he’ll have a lot of explaining to do when his hand isn’t burned after touching a pan that just came out of the oven, or when he’s beaten up by one of the toughest guys in school and isn’t even scratched.  He also never imagines that food would lose its taste, that his friends would start staying away from him, or that his nightmares would become more terrible … and more real.  Maybe $50 wasn’t such a bargain, after all.

Booktalk: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Generation Dead is a zombie novel, but it’s not the one-dimensional “scary monster” story you might expect.  This is the story about what happens when people come back from the dead, and then the rest of society tries (or fails) to make room for them.  Horror fans will enjoy the scary elements, and thoughtful readers will take the opportunity to examine the sociological implications of whether or not zombies have “human rights” that deserve to be protected.

You can learn more about the Generation Dead series at Daniel Waters’ blog or at


Tommy Williams is trying out for the football team.  This wouldn’t be so unusual, except for the fact that Tommy is dead.  Well, to clarify, he isn’t dead exactly.  He’s differently biotic.  Living impaired.  A zombie, if you will.  Tommy Williams is just one of the many teenagers across the country who won’t stay dead.  Hundreds and thousands of formerly dead teenagers are coming out of their graves, and returning to the things that used to be familiar to them.  Like home, like school, and like football.  There’s been a lot of resistance from the living to the whole idea of dead teenagers coming back to life.  What rights should they have?  What should we call them?  Why did they come back to life?   And how can you make somebody die and STAY dead?  A boy trying out for the football team shouldn’t be that unusual.  But when the recently dead Tommy Williams tries out for this football team, and he proves to be a better and stronger player than many of his living teammates, it’s like lighting the fuse attached to a stick of dynamite.  Because a zombie who tries out for the football team is a zombie who’s crossing the line.  And a lot of kids at Oakvale High plan to teach Tommy Williams a lesson.

Booktalk: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Sure, we’ve all read stories about cool, distant vampires and the swooning women who love them. Whether the vampires are of the bloodthirsty or sparkling varieties, we spend most of those stories focused on the couple, waiting to see how long it will take for the human woman to melt his cold, undead heart.  What I enjoyed about Team Human is that it’s a vampire story that isn’t focused on the vampire at all.  Instead it focuses on that swooning girl’s best friend, and we get to experience the love story through the perspective of a girl who is understandably worried.  How would you feel if your best friend was thinking about literally throwing her life away?  Wouldn’t you be angry, upset, and afraid?  How far would you go to protect her?

Check out the websites of Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan to learn more about these authors and the rest of their fabulous stories.


Friends don’t let friends date vampires.  At least, that’s what Mel has always believed.

Mel and her friends live in New Whitby, Maine, a city that was founded by vampires.  Now, it’s not that Mel objects to vampires in general.  As long as they stay in their part of town and leave the humans alone, it’s just fine.  But when one of the vampires shows up at Mel’s high school — the HUMAN high school, Mel starts getting upset.  And when Mel’s best friend Cathy, a girl who has always admired vampires from afar seems interested in getting as close as possible to THIS vampire, Mel starts getting REALLY upset.

Yes, it’s true that most vampires obey vampire laws and human laws.  It’s true that they have a steady blood supply now, so they don’t need to attack people anymore.  But it’s also true that sometimes when humans fall in love with vampires, they CHOOSE to be bitten.  They CHOOSE to transform.  And that transformation can sometimes lead to death, or even worse.

Much, much worse.

Mel and Cathy have been best friends for years, and Mel will do anything to protect her.  But the way Cathy keeps looking at Francis the vampire, as she sighs dreamily over his cool skin and his undead eyes, Mel has very good reasons to be worried.

Booktalk: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya’s Ghost is the first of what I hope will be many books by Vera Brosgol, and it’s one of my favorite graphic novels.  It’s a stand-alone story that takes realistic fiction and gives it a paranormal twist, and it features a protagonist who is refreshingly fallible.

To give you a little behind-the-scenes insight, I’ll tell you that I recorded this booktalk several days ago, just a few minutes after I finished writing it.  In a future “how-to” episode I’ll be talking about how and why booktalks can evolve over time, but I can tell you that I’ve already made multiple changes to this booktalk and I haven’t even presented it to an audience yet.  So stay tuned for that future episode when I’ll tell you about some of the changes I’ve made and why I made them.


Anya is a Russian girl who doesn’t fit in at her American school.  Over the last few years she lost weight and she lost her accent, but she still can’t get the other kids to like her.  There is one Russian boy at her school, but Anya doesn’t want to hang out with him because he’s much too Fobby (that’s Fresh Off the Boat).  And then one day Anya has an accident that changes her life.  She falls down into an abandoned well, and at the bottom of that well she finds a skeleton.  And hovering just above that skeleton is the ghost of a girl.  When Anya sees that ghost, she has the reaction that you might expect.

That’s right — she freaks out and starts screaming.

But little by little, as the ghost talks to Anya and Anya talks to the ghost, Anya starts to calm down.  By the time she gets rescued, she’s starting to become friends with the girl who used to be Emily Reilly.  Anya starts learning the advantages of being friends with a ghost.  Emily can help Anya cheat on tests by telling her the answers the other kids chose.  Emily can sneak a look at Sean’s schedule so that Anya can just happen to bump into him after class.  Emily can tell her the best places to hide where the principal won’t be able to find her.

Anya wants to repay Emily for helping her out, and she offers to do some research and see if she can find out what really happened to Emily.  But the more Anya learns about Emily, the more she realizes that Emily has been concealing the truth about herself.  And Emily has been dead for almost 100 years; she’s had a LOT of time to think about what she really wants.  Anya is going to learn just how dangerous befriending a ghost can be.

Booktalk: Look For Me by Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn

As you may remember, one of my criteria for including booktalks on this blog and podcast are that the books themselves be in print.  Which means that some of my favorite books have been in limbo, and I check those titles periodically to see if they’re in print again.  I was delighted to see that Look For Me by Moonlight was available again so that I could share it with you.

I’m a big fan of many books by Mary Downing Hahn (who needs a website update, BTW, since her books are still being released).  Most of my favorite books of hers include some compelling supernatural elements, often but not always in the form of ghosts.

If you’re in charge of ordering books for teens in a school library, a public library, or even a classroom library, you should order several copies of this book.  It’s an older book about an ever-popular topic, and teenage girls will be reading and sharing this book with each other before you know it.


Cynda is sixteen years old, and her life is about to change completely.  Ever since her parents divorced and each of them remarried, Cynda has been going back and forth living most of the time with her mom and Steve and the rest of the time with her dad and Susan.  Mom and Steve have moved a lot over the years, dragging Cynda along with them.  But once she hears they’re moving overseas, she puts her foot down.  She’s not going.  So the family reaches a compromise – Cynda will go to live with Dad and Susan for six months, and then take it from there.  Cynda’s glad they listened to her for once, but when she gets to her new home, she realizes how hard this is going to be.  Dad and Susan already have one child together, and there’s another one on the way.  Cynda feels like a stranger in her new home – she doesn’t fit in, and no one understands her.

But then … she meets Vincent.  He is older, sophisticated, handsome, intelligent, caring, sensitive – he’s everything she wants!  Vincent listens to her.  Vincent understands her.  And there’s something about him that’s mysterious … almost magical.  As Cynda falls in love with him, it becomes harder and harder for her to see Vincent for what he really is.  Cynda is about to learn a hard lesson – that evil can only come into her life if she invites it first.  But by the time she realizes this, it will be too late … because she’s already given the invitation.

Booktalk: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood is a wonderfully creepy and scary story.  Cas is a likeable protagonist, and Anna is a great character, too … once you get to know her.  The character of Anna and the reason she got her distinctive name will definitely intrigue your teen readers!  Check out Kendare Blake’s website to learn more about Anna Dressed in Blood and her other exciting books.  And stay tuned for the release of Girl of Nightmares in August!


Cas has led a very unusual life so far.  His mother is a witch, and his father was a ghost hunter.  Cas’ father hunted ghosts for years until someone … or some THING … killed him.  Now Cas uses his father’s weapon to kill ghosts.

Right now, Cas is going to pick up a hitchhiker.  This hitchhiker haunts a road in North Carolina, and every time someone picks him up he’s happy and friendly for the first several miles until the car reaches the bridge — the bridge where the hitchhiker was killed.  That’s when he transforms into something else — an angry spirit that wants to get revenge by destroying the driver of the car.  The hitchhiker has already killed more than a dozen people.  Cas has to make sure that he won’t kill anyone else.

As soon as he takes care of the hitchhiker, Cas and his mother are moving to the town of Thunder Bay so that Cas can hunt another ghost.  This ghost is called Anna Dressed in Blood because when her throat was cut she bled so much that her white dress turned completely red.  Cas doesn’t know it yet, but Anna is more powerful, more dangerous, and at the same time more human than any ghost he’s ever encountered before.  Anna might change his life … if she doesn’t end it first.

Booktalk: iDrakula by Bekka Black

At long last, here’s a classic story retold for a young and tech-savvy generation!  Bekka Black (otherwise known as Rebecca Cantrell) tells a story that is firmly rooted in the original novel but then diverges in several unusual ways.  iDrakula is an excellent choice to give to a teenager who spends too much time on the computer and not enough time reading books.  iDrakula is a visually stunning book, and even when I don’t booktalk this book the kids who pick it up and flip through it inevitably end up showing it to their friends.  If you like the book, you can also check out the iDrakula app — in this version of the story you can see the emails and text messages, and as an added bonus you can listen to the characters’ voicemails, as well.  The free version of the app contains the beginning of the novel, and after you’re finished with that part of the story you have the option to buy the rest of it.  Talk about tech-savvy!  Oh, and in case you were wondering if this “cell phone novel” idea was the beginning of a trend, the answer is yes.  According to the author, iDrakula is the beginning of the iMonsters series.  Neat!


Jonathan Harker travels to Romania to meet with an important client, a mysterious man who looks like he’s about a hundred years old.  While in Romania, Jonathan has some very strange experiences.  He writes about some of them to his girlfriend Mina, but there are other experiences that he doesn’t remember at all.  At least, that’s the way it seems after he has a nervous breakdown.  This is a story about Jonathan, Mina, Lucy, Renfield, Van Helsing, and a very old vampire.  But it’s not the story that you THINK you know.  Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel is reimagined in this book, which tells its story through emails, websites, text messages, and photographs.