Spooky Season Reading Recommendations

Ashley Mcfadden, Editor-in-Chief

“House of Hollow” by Kathrine Sutherland   

  Iris Hollow and her two sisters go missing when their parents look away for two seconds on New Year’s Eve. One month later, they return to the same spot, naked, dirty, and having no memory of the past, but otherwise unharmed. 10 years pass and life goes on. They are always hungry and have black irises, along with crescent shaped scars at the base of their throats. Otherwise, life is normal. Grey and Vivi, Iris’s older sisters, drop out of school when they are 15. Grey becomes a supermodel and known world wide for her strange fashion line. Vivi goes on to be a musician, always moving around. Iris has plans of becoming a doctor and going to a college where no one knows her story. Until Grey goes missing and suddenly there is a creature wearing the skull of a bull as a shield that follows Iris wherever she goes. When it becomes obvious that Grey isn’t going to appear, the sisters must reunite to follow the clues she left for them and finally figure out what happened on that night 10 years ago.

  If you’re looking for a book that will leave you wanting to sleep with the lights on, “House of Hollow” will get you pretty close. It was a quick read for me, though it definitely left me more than a little creeped out, and very few books make my skin crawl. Especially when reading it under just enough light to illuminate the pages. I would argue it’s definitely the best way to read it and get the full experience.

  Around a quarter of the way through the book, and at roughly midnight, something about the string of words “someone had been attacked in this room. Someone had fought back in this room. Judging by the amount of blood that had been spilled, someone had died in this room” sent unwanted shivers down my spine.

  The book also touched on the subject of sex trafficking and how women and kids disappear all the time despite the bare news coverage. It was easily woven into the plot line and made sense for it to be touched on in a way that wasn’t quite so in your face yet still being able to explain an aspect of how women are treated in the news in an effective way.

  Overall, it was one of the more cohesive plots I’ve read recently, especially of the horror/thriller genre. The end felt like it actually fit and the author did not just throw it in there for another “haha you didn’t see it coming” factor. The characters also felt whole. Grey, though she wasn’t fully explained as the other two, there was still a level of depth that the characters all seemed to have.

Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars

“Mary Will I Die?” by Shawn Sarles   

  In fourth grade, Calvin, Elena, Steph and Grace are waiting at Elena’s house for their parents to come pick them up after school. Seeking attention, Elena suggests they play Bloody Mary, a game that plagued many children. They spoke her name 13 times instead of the traditional three because it’s what Elena’s Grandma’s fairy tales book said. If they saw a face other than Mary, it was meant to be their soulmate. If they saw her, it was a sign you would die young. Calvin was the only one to see her. Five years later, what happened that day after school is a distant memory until the four start hearing voices and accidents begin to happen around them. People get hurt, and Bloody Mary won’t stop until she’s free.

  This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and October was the perfect month to read it. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected, for one being the main age group that the books followed. I don’t typically read books where the main characters are lowerclassmen in high school (mostly because there just aren’t that many stories out there with that age group) and I think that it just captured the way freshmen act perfectly, despite the author being an adult.

  The story takes place over the course of the month, leading up to the event of the season: the fall carnival and is told over an interval of four perspectives. Only, leading up to the event, the four start hearing voices and Calvin starts drawing his visions more frequently. When Calvin draws Elena’s boyfriend being hit by a car, moments before it happens, they know they need to reconvene. In doing so, Elena begins to learn more about her Grandma’s path that she already had laid out for her, as all women in her family have.

  In comparison to “House of Hollow,” “Mary Will I Die?” has a much faster pace, and it makes reading it in one sitting extremely easy. The characters themselves all have distinct points of views and different voices that made it easy to distinguish which character’s point of view was being used for the chapter.

  Overall rating: 3.75/5 stars

“Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas   

  Yadriel can see spirits, it’s just part of who he is. However, when his family refuses to accept him fully, it turns into a regular teenager rebelling against his parents, only to land himself in more trouble than he would have liked. He hasn’t been accepted by his family because he’s trans. In his Latinx family, they are separated based on if the women, brujas, can perform healing magic, or if the men, brujos, can sever the ties between life and death. His father has only ever allowed him to be seen as a bruja even though Yadriel knows that isn’t who he is.

  When Yadriel’s cousin, Miguel, goes missing, Yadriel and his best friend, Maritza, set out to find him, only to summon the wrong spirit. Julian Diaz was coined the school’s resident bad boy due to the rumors surrounding him, even if he and his friends know they aren’t true. In order to find Miguel and allow Julian move on to the afterlife, Yadriel forces Julian to make him a promise—if he helps figure out what happened to both his own body and Miguel’s, he’ll willingly let Yadriel sever his tie to the walking world, otherwise, Julian refuses to go peacefully. Only, the longer Yadriel spends with Julian’s spirit, the more he realizes he doesn’t want him to leave.

  I love this book. It was one of my favorite reads of 2021 and it was a perfect read for the upcoming two days of Día de los Muertos. The book covers so many topics that many students are either learning about or are involved in. It takes very deliberate stances on transphobia, homophobia, racism, and classism. The characters are also so diverse in terms of their ethnicities, but also how they act and view the world. Even though Julian is a literal ghost, the characters felt like real people. The relationships between friends and family were also extremely realistic to how kids act with their parents or what the realities of parents accepting their kids coming out look like.

  “Cemetery Boys” dives into the culture surrounding Día de los Muertos, even going as far as to include less known legends, a majority of which does not get covered in your average Spanish class. Because the author is also Latinx and trans, it makes Yadriel and Julian’s story even more impactful than if it were someone else who wanted to write about the culture but wasn’t actually involved in it. Even Thomas acknowledges this in their acknowledgments.

  The only negative thing I really can say about “Cemetery Boys” was that the last fifty or so pages seemed rushed, and I think I can speak for anyone who has read this book that we would not have minded a higher page count if it meant it didn’t move as quickly in comparison to the rest of the novel. If the conflict between the characters had been expanded on a bit more instead of shoved into one chapter, I think it would have added to one of the overall motifs of the novel.

  A note going into the book is if you want direct translations from Spanish to English, have Google Translate handy. Even though the book is English, there are some important sayings that are in Spanish that add some level of meaning to the book. Though you don’t really need to know the language to enjoy the book, knowing it ahead of time made it more fun for me because I realized I was excited that I actually could translate the sentences in my head.

  Overall rating: 5/5 stars