Booklist Reviewers Turn a Phrase
"Word of mouth could turn this from an under-the-radar
debut novel into a genre-busting cult classic."
From the Editor
Horror in Real Life
Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial, which I review in the August 1 issue of Booklist, offers stunning scenes of New Orleans in the flood that followed Katrina: the surreal moment when the waters receded only to rise again; a hospital became an island, a sanctuary turned into a trap; refugees swimming through the drowned streets for help, only to be turned away and told, "The hospital is closed!"
As I read the book, my mind summoned images from dystopian novels I've read, from TV shows and movies I've seen, even though it struck me as strange to use fiction as an analogue for fact (I guess I have more experience with the former). And I wondered, not for the first time:
"Why do we have such an insatiable appetite for manufactured horror when life offers plenty of the real thing?"
Whole books have attempted to answer this question, of course. Some would posit that it's our craving for positive outcomes—but, these days, dystopian storytelling doesn't even guarantee a happy ending. I do think there's something to the argument that we want to process these dark thoughts from a place of safety. And, maybe, it's too hard to look directly at real-life horrors when we recognize ourselves in the faces of the damned.
Whatever the case, in this year's Spotlight on Horror, we celebrate scary stuff that's only make-believe—although, naturally, Daniel Kraus, our resident Doctor of Discomfort, doesn't want you to feel too comfortable knowing it's all fake. With his usual aplomb for the awful, he offers us "Great Reads: Novels That Make You Feel Gross." And guess what? They do.
Booklist is looking for reviewers interested in reviewing middle-grade and young-adult fiction. Please send a resume and writing samples, preferably book reviews, to Ilene Cooper, Booklist Books for Youth Senior Editor (email@example.com). Candidates must be willing to review a minimum of 5-6 books per month.
Spotlight on Horror
Odd Men Out
By Matt Betts
Not to be confused—really, really not—with John Sayles' classic 1988 baseball movie Eight Men Out, this is a thrilling debut novel, set during the American Civil War and featuring airships, flying bicycle-like contraptions, massive vehicles that walk on stilt-like legs, a flamboyant circus impresario, a fiendishly clever (and distinctly megalomaniacal) villain, some plucky heroes, and a supersecret scientific outpost with some very unusual inhabitants. Oh, and zombies.
Top 10 Horror Fiction: 2013
By Brad Hooper
We're all little afraid of the dark, aren't we? Even those of us who are long, long past childhood?
By Stephen King
King, not one given to sequels, throws fans a big, bloody bone with this long-drooled-for follow-up to The Shining (1977).
Horror and Comedy
By David Pitt
When you think of horror comedies, do you default to movies?
By Graham Masterton
Veteran horror novelist Masterton turns in another top-notch performance with this unusual ghost story.
Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth: 2013
By Gillian Engberg
Only two zombie books? Oh, the times, they are a-changing.
The Final Descent
By Rick Yancey
It can now be said with assurance that The Monstrumologist series is a landmark of modern YA fiction.
Talking With: Rick Yancey
By Daniel Kraus
Rick Yancey's celebrated Monstrumologist series wraps up with next month's The Final Descent (see review above).
The Waking Dark
By Robin Wasserman
It's Lord of the Flies on steroids! One strange day 12 people are murdered, all by relatives, friends, or neighbors—the most unlikely of suspects.
The Childhood of Jesus
By J. M. Coetzee
With this powerful and puzzling novel, Nobel laureate Coetzee pivots away from the overtly autobiographical (or quasi-autobiographical, or anti-autobiographical) themes with which he experiments in Summertime (2009) and other recent works, and returns to the allegorical focus that defined Waiting for the Barbarians (1982) and other early works.
By Andre Dubus III
As usual, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is juggling several cases, including some mummified dog remains that could lead to a human-trafficking ring and a murdered teenage girl who was, mysteriously, carrying the ID of a prominent businessman who died five months earlier.
By George Pelecanos
Pelecanos fans who found in The Cut (2011) a return to the classic crime-fiction style of the author's terrific Nick Stefanos novels will be doubly pleased with The Double: not only does it deliver another straight-ahead, head-banging, yet still character-focused crime story, but it also heralds the return of Spero Lucas, the Travis McGee–like knight errant who helps out clients who have lost something and keeps 40 percent of the take (McGee kept half).
One Summer: America, 1927
By Bill Bryson
On May 21, 1927, when Charles Lindbergh set off alone to be the first man to cross the Atlantic in an airplane, he profoundly changed the culture and commerce of America and its image abroad.
The Pure Gold Baby
By Margaret Drabble
Jess is a passionate British anthropologist eager to learn more about the children she encountered in Africa who were living with a rare genetic syndrome.
By Jayne Anne Phillips
Phillips, the much-awarded and deeply admired writer of such fiction as Black Tickets (1979) and Machine Dreams (1984), now presents an astonishingly effective novel based on a true crime that took place in her native West Virginia in the early 1930s, material that has been brewing in her consciousness for years.
The Signature of All Things
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert, the author of the phenomenally successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love (2006), returns to fiction with her first novel in 13 years, and what a novel it is!
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
National Book Award winner Shacochis (Easy in the Islands, 1985) delivers a beautifully written, Norman Mailer–like (see Harlot's Ghost) treatise on international politics, secret wars, espionage, and terrorism.
Books for Youth
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
By Holly Black
What happens in Coldtown stays in Coldtown, because once anyone enters this Vegas-like prison for vampires and their infected human pets, there's little chance of leaving it.
[Click here for an interview with Holly Black and Booklist Books for Youth Editor Gillian Engberg]
Curtsies & Conspiracies
By Gail Carriger
Six months ago, Sophronia was a covert recruit in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy (Etiquette & Espionage, 2013). Now she's earning top marks in such areas as "tea and delusions" and "portion allotment, puddings, and preemptive poisonings."
More Than This
By Patrick Ness
"He dies." So ends the first chapter of Ness' latest meld of genre fiction and soul-searching prose, wherein 16-year-old Seth violently drowns in the ocean.
By Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
In a classic two-voice YA novel, authors Zarr and Altebrando expose the excitement, uncertainties, and sheer terror high-school graduates experience as they face leaving home.
The Tortoise & the Hare
By Jerry Pinkney
After his Caldecott triumph with The Lion & the Mouse (2009), Pinkney returns to Aesop for inspiration, this time setting the familiar story in the American Southwest.
When Lions Roar
By Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Chris Raschka
Harris and Raschka elegantly tackle a common childhood emotion in this pitch-perfect book for the youngest child. "When lions roar! / When monkeys screech! / When lightning cracks! / When thunder booms!" it's scary, and the sources of the fear can feel very close and very threatening.
By Simone Elkeles
Everything is sliding into place for kicker Ashtyn Parker. She was just voted captain of her high-school football team, which ups her chances at a scholarship to a Big Ten college, and she's dating Landon, the quarterback.