The suspenseful follow-up to Final Girls tells the story of Emma, another survivor of trauma (Sager’s forte). 15 years after the disappearance of her Camp Nightingale cabin mates, Emma returns to the hoity-toity summer camp to learn what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison all those years ago. Perfect for fans of psychological thrillers, Sager’s latest novel will keep you guessing (and screaming) until the very last page. Adapt this for the big screen, please and thanks.
This debut collection from Claire C. Holland combines two of my favorite things: feminist poetry and fictional final girls. Written in response to the 2016 election and the #MeToo movement (among other unfathomable goings on in the world), Holland’s poems explore the perspective of 40 female horror film survivors throughout the decades. Deeply unapologetic, this debut collection is a fitting tribute to final girls and the society that shapes them.
You by Caroline Kepnes (★★★★★)
Kepnes’ debut thriller is an incredibly disturbing novel about obsession in the social media age, including the unhealthy fixation we have with curating our own online personas. Full disclosure, I should not have enjoyed this dark and deranged novel told in the second person as much as I did. And I especially should not have been rooting for the charming, literary loving stalker/kidnapper/murderer the entire time. But here we are. Insert Sorry Not Sorry joke here.
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The final (and weakest) novel in The Thousandth Floor trilogy isn’t nearly as exciting or as high stakes as the first two books, and it definitely doesn’t feature as much fun, futuristic technology. From an unnecessarily long plot, to a very predictable conclusion, this is one trilogy that should have been a duology … or maybe even a standalone. Despite my numerous complaints, this is not a terrible read, but I wanted so much more than unnecessary will-they-won’t-they romantic drama.
Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (★★★★☆)
Obsidio, the conclusion to The Illuminae Files, brings all your favorite characters — and let’s face it, some not so great new ones — together at last. While there are no horror elements like in the first two books, the plot more than makes up for it with some amazing AIDAN moments, the inclusion of comic book elements and illustrations, and a glorious and super experimental final battle. It’s certainly not the best book in the series, but it definitely goes out with a bang.
This collection of previously released Wattpad poetry has been re-edited to form a brand-new Amanda Lovelace duology titled Things That H(a)unt. While not as empowering as the rest of Lovelace’s collections, this one is still super raw and emotional, and features amazing opening and closing poems (the strongest of the bunch). Bonus: it’s her prettiest collection, and has beautiful illustrations throughout.
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Part memoir, part self-help(ish) book, part something else entirely, Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive seeks to remove the stigma society places on depression, by revealing the author’s own struggles with the disease, as well as peppering the book with facts and statistics on depression and suicide. Super personal and very raw, I see this as a sort of companion to Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is structured in a very similar manner. Warning: this one is not nearly as light-hearted, but equally helpful.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (★★★☆☆½)
Baby Teeth stars a pint-sized sociopath with designs to kill her mother, the mother herself, and the father who is completely oblivious to his wife and daughter’s true selves. You know, totally normal family dynamic type stuff. The story is made up of alternating chapters that switch between the crazed daughter who is too smart/demonic to be believable, and her mother, who is convinced she will never be a good enough wife and mother. While a super interesting premise — mostly because the kid is not alright — the plot definitely drags at times.
Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Florence “Sally” Horner, a crime that would go on to inspire the Vladimir Nabokov classic Lolita. Despite being pulled straight from history, Greenwood’s novel is less a true crime story and more historical fiction, exploring the horrors that Sally was most likely forced to endure during her 21-month ordeal, and the ramifications it had on the people in her life. This heartbreaking and beautifully written novel deserves every single star (and then some).
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On the outside, Scream All Night looks like a horror novel, but twist: it’s actually a coming of age story. The YA debut follows emancipated teen Dario, who is forced back into the family business (which just so happens to be his father’s B-horror movie film studio). Full of an eccentric cast of characters and some tough subject matter, Milman’s novel explores what happens when the monsters are found behind the camera. [Read our creator Q&A with author Derek Milman.]
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (★★★★★)
I loved this super fast-paced science fiction story more than I ever could have imagined. Full of complex characters and shocking twists and turns, Nyxia features a definitely evil corporation who are taking young people to another planet to mine a mysterious material know as Nyxia. What could go wrong? Since this is the first book in the series, it’s focused solely on the kid’s training before arriving on Eden, a second earth-like planet inhabited by humanoid creatures known as Adamites.
The Traitor’s Kiss started off super promising, but unfortunately, things got real dumb real fast, and the story completely lost me toward the end. Set during an indistinguishable time period where everyone has to be paired by a matchmaker, this book definitely should have been a standalone novel. While things start off great with the matchmaking stuff, this far superior/way more interesting section was mostly glossed over to make way for a time jump and some nonsensical plot about spies and secret princes for no reason.
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The Elizas by Sara Shepard (★★★☆☆½)
Sara Shepard’s latest adult novel is a thriller that features some of my favorite writing mechanisms, including an unreliable narrator and a story within a story. Unfortunately, like the majority of Shepard’s young adult novels, there is a heavy reliance on doubles (no more doppelgangers or twins ever again, please!), and the novel doesn’t get really interesting until about a third of the way through … before completely losing the plot again shortly thereafter.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows (★★★★☆½)
Historical fantasy meets alternate history in this much happier and way more fantastical re-imagining of the life of Lady Jane Grey (AKA the Nine-Day Queen). Told by the trio now known as the Lady Janies, My Lady Jane follows book-loving Jane Grey, who lives in a world where some people can turn into animals. Unbeknownst to Jane, she’s going to be named next in line to the throne by her dying cousin, and she’s about to be married off to a man who is sometimes a horse. Sure it’s super wacky, but it’s also really funny and charming.
Frostblood by Elly Blake (★★★☆☆½)
I had a lot of trouble with the first 75% of Frostblood. Despite being blessedly fast-paced (the only thing that kept me going), the beginning of Blake’s book has a predictable plot that I’ve already read a million times over. Spoilers: the magical girl who can control fire is going to be the chosen one who falls in love with the attractive yet damaged man who can control ice. Thankfully, all that turned around when I got to meet the real villain of the story. Thanks for saving this entire series evil frost king!
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Everyone’s favorite smutty couple is back in this lengthy novella that bridges the gap between ACOWAR and the next — as of yet untitled — book in the ACOTAR series. While it was great to hang out with all my friends again, I think Maas spent too much time setting tiny things into motion for her next trilogy (wasn’t there enough of that in ACOWAR?) when all I wanted was 200 pages of Feysand fan fiction.
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau (★★★☆☆½)
I had high hopes for Dividing Eden, a young adult novel whose premise promised to focus on an epic, backstabbing rivalry between two royal twins fighting over one throne. Unfortunately, the rivalry was far from believable thanks to a main character who suddenly becomes a murderous monster after one five-minute conversation at a party. It’s not really character development if it develops from nowhere.
Michelle McNamara is the queen of compulsively readable true crime. Sadly, she suddenly passed away before she could finish the first (of what should have been many) nonfiction books, leaving the novel to be finished by her two researchers. Despite this setback, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark still feels like a mostly complete look at the rapist and serial-killer McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer. And a unique glimpse at the true crime author who was obsessed with discovering his identity.
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Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (★★★★☆)
Super adorable and simultaneously super sad, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dickson, a self-professed “fat” southern girl dealing with the death of her Dolly Parton-loving aunt, her former beauty queen mom’s hard to live up to expectations, and a best friend who is pulling away from her. To make matters worse, she is falling for a boy at work … a boy she doesn’t think she deserves. Desperate to fulfill her deceased aunt’s dreams, Will — the definitely not beauty pageant type — enters the Miss Clover City pageant, changing her life forever.
Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch (★★★★☆)
Despite being incredibly dumb, Tarnished is the compulsively readable follow up to Perfected, which takes place in a world where young women are genetically engineered as pets for the wealthy. Tarnished takes an even darker turn than its predecessor, exploring the tragic fate of unwanted pets. Is it good? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Sort of. Will you keep reading regardless? Of course you will.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (★★★★☆½)
Described as The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation, Red Clocks follows four very different women (a wife and mother, a barren teacher, a pregnant teen, and a mysterious homeopath) who live in a not-so-distant future where abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is no more and single people are no longer allowed to adopt. Perfect for our current political climate, Zumas’ novel is a frightening and very feminist look at the dangers of life legally beginning at conception.
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