A creepy monster face with a sharp smile.

Cover Story: Hungry Like The Wolf
The Best: “Stitches” by A.G. Howard, “In the Forest Dark and Deep” by Carrie Ryan
The Worst Not Quite As Spooky: “Emmeline” by Cat Winters
The Weird: “Verse Chorus Verse” by Leigh Bardugo
Bonus Factors: Gore, Appalachia
Anti-Bonus Factor: Trigger Warning?
Break Glass In Case Of: Your Dreams Have Been Too Peaceful

Cover Story: Hungry Like The Wolf

Who did the cover art for this? The blood-smear-wolf, the grinning, crooked teeth, the empty eyes – holy crap, that’s going to haunt my nightmares. It reminds me a bit of Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods. Major props here. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Do make sure you check out the gifs that Kevin Weir created to go along with the book – they’re creepy enough on their own, but after reading it, you realize they’re absolute perfection.

The Deal:

There are only 71 days until Halloween, the best holiday of the year, but why wait for October in order to freak yourself out? This horror anthology, which includes work from Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Kendare Blake, Cat Winters, and Carrie Ryan, will put you in a spooky state of mind long before the leaves start falling. Some are eerie, some will make you gag, some are incredibly sad, but they all bring something unique to the horror party.

Also, there were several contenders for “The Best” – at least five – but I narrowed it down to the two that had the most striking visuals.

The Best: “Stitches” by A.G. Howard

A.G. Howard, you are one twisted sister, and I love it. To say much about this story would give away the surprise and joy of reading it, but let’s just say that when you combine drunk fathers, backwoods settings, doctors, and gingerbread men, you get quite the unforgettable story.

The Best: “In the Forest Dark and Deep” by Carrie Ryan

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is already rife with characters, symbolism, and spookiness, but when you add a clearing in a forest, a sinister man-rabbit, and a lot of blood, well…you won’t look at tea parties quite the same way ever again.

The Worst Not Quite As Spooky: “Emmeline” by Cat Winters

This was haunting, but perhaps the most predictable of all of the stories involved. Set in 1918 France during World War I, Emmeline’s home has been partially destroyed by the Germans. One night, rifle fire still echoing in the air, her family agrees to take in some soldiers.

The Weird: “Verse Chorus Verse” by Leigh Bardugo

Jaycee, a pop singer starlet, has been sent to rehab for a little too much fun with weed and pills. But something strange is going on at the rehab facility, and there’s a reason that all the “clients” run scared when Nurse Allen comes around.

When I list this under weird, I don’t mean weird in the sense that it’s bad or so out there you won’t enjoy it. Bardugo does a great job of weaving some familiar celebrity faces (gently disguised, of course) in with some creepy paranormal activity. It’s just far more open to interpretation, and you might scratch your head at the end, while deciding what exactly just happened.

Bonus Factor: Gore

A human skull sits on a shiny table in a dark room

Being a YA book, you might think that the stories within would hold back on some of the descriptive gore. Not so! I was delightfully grossed out multiple times, and appreciated all the authors who really committed.

Bonus Factor: Appalachia

A moose walks through a lake in front of a forest and mountain

Are setting stories in Appalachia (or similar-sounding areas) a thing now? There are two in this anthology, and Megan Shepherd’s “Hide and Seek” used Appalachian folklore (although a Google search hasn’t been clear on whether the folklore was invented or retold). Anyone who’s ever been to the Appalachians knows this is a perfect setting for all things uncanny.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Trigger Warning?

A bunch of white question marks on top of each other

There’s a question mark on this trigger warning, because I’m guessing that when you pick up a horror anthology, you’re pretty much asking to be, well, horrified. There are stomach-churning things in here, and I’m not just talking about severed limbs and murder. Definitely expect several older men trying to take advantage of young women, which, unfortunately, you don’t really need a paranormal setting to make scary.

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Plenty of things can lurk in the dark, but human nature – and our own vulnerability – is often the most frightening thing any of us can imagine.

Break Glass In Case Of: Your Dreams Have Been Too Peaceful

I’m not someone who has nightmares after reading books, with the notable exception of House of Leaves. Two stories into this volume, however, and I knew my fifteen (!) year streak was coming to a close. Sure enough, my dreams were more graphic and creepy than usual, and I know I have these authors to thank. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys was a satisfying jaunt through the darkest corners of the mind, suitable for a young adult audience, but sophisticated enough for anyone simultaneously scared and intrigued by what might be standing right behind you.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received an ARC from Dial Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys is available now.