The Night She Disappeared

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry is more of a thriller than a horror novel, but I think the situation (budding serial killer, kidnapping of a teenage girl) is horrific enough to warrant its inclusion in this blog.

The Night She Disappeared begins interestingly enough, with Drew and Kayla working late one night at Pete’s Pizza. A call comes in requesting a pizza delivery; the caller asks for Gabie to deliver it. Gabie isn’t working that night, so Kayla takes the delivery. She doesn’t come back. The book then follows Drew and Gabie as they wonder what happened to Kayla (contrary to the back cover, they don’t really do a whole lot detecting – for the first 3/4 of the book not much really happens; Drew and Gabbie mostly just talk about whether or not they think Kayla’s dead) and Kayla herself, trapped in her kidnapper’s basement. The point of view changes with each chapter, and occasionally, we even get glimpses of the killer’s thoughts.

To be perfectly honest, I did not particularly like this book. The lead characters are boring and flat. We’re told things about them: “Gabie is smart;” “Kayla is fun;” “Drew is poor.” But none of them really act in a way that shows us any more of their personality. The worst developed is Gabie, which is unforgivable as the book sets her up as the main character. Gabie tends to just behave in whatever manner is helpful to the book at any given moment. She never really develops a believable personality; her behavior is erratic, her thoughts all over the place. There is supposed to be a romance blossoming between Drew and Gabie, but it never comes across as real. The two characters have zero chemistry; I still have no idea what they supposedly saw in each other.

I will take this time to also note that Disappeared, published in 2012, contains the line, “That’s just whack,” a sentence I don’t believe I’ve heard since 1995. I have no idea why Henry thought a teen in 2012 would use this sentence in a serious conversation.

The police also behave bizarrely. Even though Drew tells them that the caller requested Gabie, they don’t even bother to begin to look into the possibility of her being the intended target. They then focus on one suspect based on the sketchiest of circumstantial evidence (on the night she went missing, his truck was seen near where her car was found) , and when (SPOILER ALERT) he kills himself, despite the fact that they still haven’t found anything concrete to tie him to Kayla’s disappearance, everyone just assumes Case Closed and immediately holds a funeral for Kayla, assuming she is dead too. She’s only been missing for a little over a week at this point. You can’t actually declare someone legally dead this early on, even if it is, sadly, a long time for a kidnapping victim to survive. I doubt any family would be okay with letting go that quickly, and I know the cops wouldn’t be allowed to close a case with such little evidence.

And to top it all off there is an out-of-left-field paranormal element that eventually pops up as well, where Gabie is suddenly telepathically connected to Kayla, or something. There’s also a subplot which never pans out about Kayla leaving her high school boyfriend for an older guy. They never even properly set the new guy up as a red herring. This book is just a mess.

April Henry is apparently a New York Times Bestselling Author, and her work has been praised by other writers I admire, so I’ll likely give another one of her books (possibly the interesting looking The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die) a read at some point, but I was not impressed by this effort and am baffled why so many people seem to enjoy it.

Favorites: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer wakes up after an accident mysteriously kills her friends. She has no idea how she survived. In the wake of the accident, Mara’s family moves to a new town. As more strange things happen around Mara, she begins to realize she has powers that she never knew. When she meets Noah, a swoon worthy boy with powers of his own, she begins to piece together the puzzle of what happened the night of the accident and discovers she’s not out of danger yet.

Going in to Mara Dyer, I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up blown away. I’m always a little wary of books where romance plays a huge element in the plot, but, not only was I not bothered by it, I actually found myself deeply invested in the relationship between Mara and Noah.

Mara Dyer is the first book in a trilogy, and there’s now a second trilogy from Noah’s point of view, although I haven’t checked those out yet, and I’ve heard mixed reviews. Still, I love love love this book. Super duper recommended.

Favorites: The Fury

The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith is an epic British horror novel, involving a group of teens who everyone wants to kill. And I mean everyone. One day, they suddenly find themselves inspiring intense, murderous rage in friends and strangers alike, a rage that disappears when they get far enough away. Their would-be murderers then forget everything that just happened. The only people the teens are safe with is each other. They soon realize something much bigger is at stake than their lives, and they may be the only ones who can save everything.

While The Fury is long, it is a quick read and one I recommend to every horror fan, regardless of age.

Favorites: The Blood Confession

I read The Blood Confession by Alisa M. Libby years ago, so I don’t remember too much about it. Honestly, it might be time for a reread. I did love it though, which is why I’m including it in this month’s series of brief reviews of my favorite ya horror.

The Blood Confession is a novel about Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory (using the Anglicized version of her name here), possibly the world’s worst female serial killer (there is some question of the veracity of the accusations against her). This book tells her life story, and there is a supernatural element to it. Bathory receives many visits over the years from a supernatural figure who eventually leads her to her crimes and subsequent doom. It’s heartbreaking to trace her path from spoiled, lonely child to hardened killer, but Libby’s writing makes this transformation believable.

The book can be a little bit slow going, especially at first, but I urge readers to stick with it. You’ll be rewarded for your patience with this beautiful, disturbing novel.

Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles Book 2)

I’m rereading this series right now. I know I said I probably wouldn’t post full reviews this month, but after reading it, I decided “why not?” This review is posted on Goodreads as well.

Another excellent entry in The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. In this one, Tom and the Spook go to Priestown (it’s what it sounds like) to face the Bane, one of the most evil creatures the Spook has ever encountered. While there, they run afoul of the corrupt Quisitor (think Matthew Hopkins), who habitually burns innocent “witches” at the stake in order to profit from their deaths. Not only is he after the Spook, but he has Alice.

Alice is still my favorite character. The Spook himself is still frustrating at times, and my only complaint is how quick he is to anger in this one. He doesn’t always seem to tell Tom everything he needs to know. And while I understand why he doesn’t trust Alice, his treatment of her (and some of his comments about women in general) can be irritating. Still, that’s a fairly small complaint.

Although longer than its predecessor, Curse of the Bane is just as quick of a read, and it’s hard to put down. If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll like this too. But if you’re new to the series, start with the first one. These books are best read in order.

Favorites: Blackfin Sky

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis is an excellent supernatural horror novel set in the small town of Blackfin where strange things regularly happen. Despite the town’s general oddness, no one is prepared when Sky shows up to school one day…three months after her body was found, drowned and definitely dead. Sky soon discovers she has supernatural powers and that her history is tied to that of a burnt out circus in the woods near her town.

I discovered this book when I was still working at the library and decided to read it based on the cover and back cover blurb alone. I was blown away, even more so when I investigated the author afterwards and discovered this was her debut novel. I recommend Blackfin Sky to anyone who likes their supernatural with a good dose of mystery, and I am eager to check out Ellis’s subsequent work (her fourth novel is due out in 2020).

Favorites: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

My first pick is an obvious one. I’m sure most YA fans have at least heard of, if not already read, Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (or seen its unfortunately lackluster movie adaptation).

I first read this novel during my final semester at university, and I was late to (0r flat out missed) several classes, because I could never put it down once I’d picked it up.

The original trilogy (including sequels: Hollow City and Library of Souls) is excellent, although this first one remains far and away my favorite. Riggs is also about to release the second book in the follow up trilogy, although I haven’t delved into that one yet.

Note: Definitely read these in order. They will make little sense if you start in the middle.

Favorite YA Horror Novels

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while, and with the holidays here, it looks like I’m going to be super busy over the next month. So I’ve decided to do something a little different. Over the next few weeks I’m going to spotlight different favorite YA horror novels that I’ve already read. The posts won’t be long or incredibly detailed (as in some cases I haven’t read the books since I was a teenager myself), but will just show you some of the best (in my opinion anyway) that the genre has to offer. Happy Holidays everyone!

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit

Want some good seasonal reading to get into the Halloween mood? Here are some of my top YA picks for October.

The Wardstone Chronicles series by Joseph Delaney

These books tend to fall under both the Middle Grade and Young Adult categories, depending on where you are in the series. They’re fun, quick reads, and their universe feels eternally autumnal. Start with Revenge of the Witch. I dare you to be able to stop after just that one. I couldn’t.

Another middle grade title to check out is Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. You can read my recent review here.

Vivian Vande Velde is a reliable if not always phenomenal writer of children’s and YA fantasy, and her YA halloween collection, All Hallow’s Eve is a fun and quick read perfect for the season. Favorite entries include ghostly serial killer tale, “Morgan Roehmars’ Boys” and “My Real Mother” about an ungrateful adopted girl searching for her birth family.

Finally, I haven’t read Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt (not to be confused with the similarly titled and covered Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman) yet, but it’s supposedly a fun YA novel, and it’s set during the Halloween season. I plan on getting my hands on a copy and reading it soon and didn’t want to leave it off the list just because I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Also Ray Bradbury books are good for all ages. Some of his seasonally appropriate titles include The October Country, The Halloween Tree, From the Dust Returned, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

For some adult Halloween reading, check out my Final Women blog, here.

Small Spaces

Small Spaces is a Middle Grade offering by Katherine Arden (author of the YA fantasy, The Bear and the Nightingale). It is also the perfect read for the Halloween season.

Set during October in small town Vermont, Small Spaces introduces readers to Ollie, a sixth grader still mourning the loss of her mother a few month before. She copes with the pain by immersing herself in reading fiction and alienating herself from her classmates.

One day, Ollie finds a woman about to toss a book into the river. Ollie saves the book and begins reading it. The story in the book within our book tells of a deal with a devil at a small turn of the century farm. Events in the book begin to mirror real life when Ollie and her sixth grade class visit a local farm the next day, a farm that Ollie begins to suspect is the same one she’s been reading about. Soon, Ollie and two of her friends find themselves trapped in an alternate universe, hunted by creepy animated scarecrows.

With Small Spaces, Arden has written a legitimately spooky tale that should entertain readers of all ages. The October atmosphere is palpable; while reading I could almost smell the autumn air and feel the chilly breezes. I encourage readers to snatch this book up quickly. There’s no better time than the Halloween season to enjoy it!