Spooky season is officially upon us with October just around the corner. Horror movies are all the rage around this time, but what if I told you that books can also give you nightmares?
Since there are millions of books in the world, it can be hard to know where to start, but I have two excellent recommendations that are perfect October reads.
“The Taking of Jake Livingston” by Ryan Douglass
This book follows the titular character, Jake Livingston, a 16-year-old who can see the dead. In this story, deceased people are stuck in a process called a “death loop,” which repeats their final moments. Jake is able to see these death loops whenever he passes the location where the deaths occurred.
Jake’s life is already abnormal, but it gets even more twisted when his neighbor is suddenly murdered by Sawyer Doon, a boy who carried out a school shooting before committing suicide. The police are unable to find evidence of the murder because Sawyer is a ghost, but Jake has a vision that reveals to him what actually happened.
Sawyer continues to murder his former classmates and only Jake is aware that it is him. Jake then becomes determined to figure out why Sawyer keeps targeting his victims, but Sawyer begins haunting him as a result. During his journey, Jake uncovers secrets about Sawyer Doon, the school shooting, his classmates and even himself.
“The Taking of Jake Livingston” is full of suspense, horror, mystery and even a little romance, all of which keep readers on the edge of their seats. It tackles relevant topics like homophobia, racism, school shootings, sexual abuse and mental health. In addition, it contains positive representation as Jake is a queer black man navigating life in high school.
“White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson
Another must-read for the Halloween season, this story follows a teenage girl named Marigold as she and her family move to Cedarville, a gloomy new city full of secrets.
Strange things begin happening around the family’s new house, including items going missing and doors opening on their own. While dealing with these unnatural occurrences, Marigold also has to bond with her new stepsister Piper, who constantly attempts to make her life miserable. Piper also seems to know more than she claims, which makes Marigold increasingly suspicious of her. The book follows Marigold as she tries to figure out what is going on at home and in her city while also addressing the ghosts of her past.
“White Smoke” contains themes of gentrification, substance abuse and the prison industrial complex. Each theme, although different, fits perfectly and works to create an excellent and spine-chilling story that just might make you keep all the lights on at night.
These two books provide horror along with commentary on social issues facing readers today.