In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.
Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?
It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.
Well, what can I say? I enjoyed the hell out of this book.
I had no expectations when I picked up Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall. I had never read anything by Marshall before, YA horror was a genre I hadn’t read for years, and I had won this book in a contest before it was published, so- at the time, I didn’t even really know what it was about. I can now say that absolutely none of that mattered. I picked up Rules for Vanishing on a Tuesday night and finished it on a Wednesday afternoon. And not on purpose, mind you, but something about the eerie beginning of this story swept me up almost immediately.
Rules for Vanishing was everything I want around this time of year: eerie, mysterious, spooky, and full of questions.
There were so many things I liked about it that I’m just going to make a list:
One. The format of this book was so much fun to read. Rules for Vanishing is sometimes written like a traditional, first-person novel, but only in some chapters. Most chapters are something different: transcripts from videos found on various characters’ phones, interviews with police, school assignments. This changed the angle of perspective constantly throughout the book which only added a deliciously disorienting effect to an already mysterious story. If this was an homage to the trend of found footage in horror movies in the last few years, it was executed with a very thoughtful eye. It was compelling as hell.
Two. I liked all of the characters. Okay, some of them more than others, but- given they’re a group of teenagers, I feel like that’s only fair. I really felt for all of the main circle though and I feel like Marshall did a great job at giving each of them a unique and relatable vulnerability. They were teenagers, to put it quite simply. Some of them were vain or pretentious or dramatic, but they were also great friends. Their histories were varied and riddled with complications and old wounds and, because of this, their reunion through the story had a sentimental, electric effect. This book made me remember running around with a group of kids at that age, only never in such dire circumstances. I rooted for them.
Three. The main character, Sara, was particularly competent in a way that just makes me so happy. I love reading a character, especially when she’s a woman, that does the best they can and generally doesn’t do anything supremely stupid, barring normal human error anyway. People are flawed, and so is Sara, but it can also be refreshing to read about a character who is driven, prepared, and competent to do what they’re doing. Or- for the most part, at least. Especially in YA, I liked seeing her fortitude and drive being front and center.
Four. Damn, Kate Alice Marshall did a fantastic job of rendering The Road in all of its mysterious, terrifying, glory. The environments in this story are often shrouded in darkness or lost to the unknown, but the way that the author chooses to render them to the reader was done particularly well. Marshall’s descriptions were focused on all the right things to bring you right into the moment that these characters are living and forget about the world around you. I couldn’t put the book down, mostly because I just couldn’t stand not knowing what insane, spooky obstacle would come up next. The plot and the atmosphere are drenched in fog and confusion and malevolent spirits and I loved every twist.
Five. I love horror, scary movies, scary books, and all things Spooky Season so I’m not an easy scare. While I wouldn’t say this book “scared” me per se, it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, wanting more. Too often with YA horror/thriller it feels like something is being held back, either in the writing or in the topics, but I didn’t feel that here. Marshall took me to some dark places, both in the story and conceptually, and I genuinely enjoyed myself along the ride. I commend her for taking those risks because they paid off.
So- I guess I really recommend this book. Especially if YA is your thing and/or spooky books are your thing! This book had a little bit of all of that and then a little more, and a ghost story on top of the whole thing. Rules for Vanishing is on shelves now! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you so much to BookishFirst who provided me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good book that scares, thrills, excites, and riles me up! If I have to throw a book in the freezer when I’m done with it, I consider that a huge success. Needless to say, October and Halloween are my favorite time of the year.
I’ve read so many good books this year, SO many, and so many of them horror or thrillers. Below are only a few of my favorite creepy reads from the year. Hope you find something spooooooooky!
I recommend this book a lot. I didn’t read it for the first time this year, but I did reread it and it held up just the same. A Head Full of Ghosts follows a family in crisis, their story akin to the Exorcism only this time we are watching through a documentary crew who is there to film the entire thing. Questions are raised: how much of this is real? All the way up to a shocking end, this adult psychological horror novel consistently keeps my attention. The end of this book…I thought about it for weeks after I finished. This one is not for the faint of heart.
I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this YA horror novel from BookishFirst. I’d never read any other Marshall’s other work, but the premise caught me from chapter one. Rules for Vanishing is about Sara, who’s sister Becca disappeared one year ago following one of the town’s local legends: The Road. Once a year, a pathway opens to “The Road,” but once you step on you can’t step back off until you’ve completed the path. Sara and her friends find the road and embark on a dark and dangerous adventure, hoping to find Becca somewhere in the ambiguous mist on the other side. I was riveted by this adventure and wholly creeped out by some of its masterful twists and turns. Unlike some YA horror, Rules for Vanishing doesn’t shy away. Interspersed with interviews, video transcripts, and so much more, this book was modern, fresh, and thoroughly spooky.
How could I make a list of spooky books from 2019 without mentioning Ninth House? A brand-new release from much beloved YA author Leigh Bardugo, Ninth House is her first foray into Adult fiction and this one is a doozy. Following Alex Stern, a young woman looking for her next opportunity in life, suddenly she is given one: a full ride to one of the most prestigious universities in the country. But what’s the catch? Featuring dark topics that would make any seasoned horror-buff squirm, Ninth House is sure to make an impression on you.
The second YA entry on this list, City of Ghosts is a ghost adventure story with a hero twist. Cassidy, our main character, is very familiar with the world of the dead: her parents are “The Inspectors,” a two-person ghost-hunting team that travel the globe. When she and her parents relocate to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, life becomes rough for poor Cassidy. Not all the ghosts she sees are friendly, and there’s one here especially that does not belong in our world. As Cassidy comes to terms with her powers to see the dead and what she can do about it, she has to grapple with also trying to save our world in the meantime. This book is a fun, thoughtful little romp and I enjoyed it very much.
Even though this was published at the very tail end of 2018, I only read this recently and I was hooked from the first page. This book is intense and I loved it. I can’t say it enough. No Exit follows Darby, racing a blizzard home in her beat up car so she can say goodbye to her dying mother. When she’s forced to stop at a rest stop and wait out the storm, she finds something she never could have expected: there’s a little girl in a cage in one of the other cars in the rest stop’s parking lot. Stranded without police on the other side of the mountain, Darby has to figure out who the kidnapper is, why they took this little girl, and what to do next now that she’s seen her. The story that follows is gritty, fast, action-packed, and does not slow down for a second. This is the thriller you’ve been looking for.
There are all kinds of niches in horror, and this one falls firmly in the Survivalist Thriller category. When Ashley and her friends go out to the State Park to camp, she doesn’t expect a night of drunken fun to end up breaking her heart. After catching her boyfriend with another girl, Ashley takes off into the night– and falls, down, down, down into darkness. When she wakes up the next morning she is lost, injured, and alone, with no idea which way she ran from camp. The next eleven days are a test of Ashley’s strength, fortitude and will to survive as she encounters every set back one might have to face in the wild. I read this book in a day. I couldn’t put it down. Another win for YA horror this year. Or technically next year. Look for this one on shelves in March, 2020. (Looking for something similar in the meantime? Try I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall.)
If you like zombie books but are sick of the same old story, this is the book for you. I enjoy zombie stories, but sparingly. I’ve always been more interested in the human survival angle of apocalyptic stories than zombies as a supernatural creature, but sometimes they do go so well hand-in-hand. The Girl with All the Gifts is one of those instances. I’m not even sure how to describe this book without giving too much away, but this story follows a young girl named Melanie in a world that was once very much like our own. That was a long time ago, and now a pathogen has ravaged most of the planet into unsafe war zones or barricaded fortresses. Melanie lives in one of these fortresses, at least until its attacked and she and her teacher, Mrs. Caldwell, a doctor and two soldiers from the facility, are forced to flee. None of them are ready for what comes next, which ends up being a melancholy, poetic, almost beautiful examination of loss, change, and what it means for the human race to persevere. Don’t miss this one. (There’s a sequel now too!)
So full disclosure, I’m a big Riley Sager fan. (I’m already drooling to get my hands on the next one in 2020.) His other two books, pictured above, are also some of my favorite scary stories to pull out this time of year and- really any other time of year too. Lock Every Door is a classic locked room mystery with a haunting, gothic feel. The story follows Jules, recently single and absolutely broke, when she finds an add in the newspaper looking for an apartment sitter. When she inquires after the job, she gets it on the spot, along with a tremendously generous salary– that is if she promises to follow a set of very strict rules. Jules moves in and takes care to follow instructions, at least until some very strange things start to happen in the building. She starts to wonder, was this job too good to be true? Lock Every Door was one of the most fun books I’ve read this year, it is a blast to read, and so creepy. Please do yourself a favor and look this one up.
This might be one of my favorite stories, and its definitely one of Atwood’s most underrated novels by far. Alias Grace follows Grace, a convicted murderess, as she speaks in a series of interviews conducted by a doctor: a new kind of doctor for this point in time called a psychologist. Equal parts a crime mystery and period piece, Alias Grace is ultimately about deciding what you believe. Is Grace guilty? Is she innocent? Did something else sinister happen when no one was watching? The beauty of this story is how much the reader must involve themselves, mentally and emotionally, to get to whatever answer they find. And, as a side note, Netflix made an absolutely amazing mini-series based on the book. Do yourself a favor and check them both out.
The Ghost Bride is such an underrated little gem that never gets enough buzz. I read this a few years ago and only recently reread it and was reminded how much I enjoyed it. The Ghost Bride is a horror novel and a love story, all at once. Li Lan, the daughter of a poor family in a small town that still clings to old customs, has few marriage prospects. All of a sudden, she is given a proposal by one of the wealthiest families in China: to become Ghost Wife to their only son, who died mysteriously just a few months earlier. Night after night, the lines begin to blur between reality and the dark otherworld of the dead where her husband lies, but during the day she is falling for the families’ new heir. Uncovering darker and darker family secrets the longer she stays, she realizes that she must save herself before she is lost to the darkness forever. Ghost Bride is meditative and compassionate, while still sending shivers down your spine. If you haven’t read this one, and a lot of people haven’t, add it to your TBR ASAP.
I’ve talked about Baby Teeth so many times on this blog. I doubt I’ll stop any time soon. I even connected with the author, which floored and humbled me. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that constantly had be asking myself “what the hell am I reading and why can’t I stop?” Baby Teeth follows a normal family like any other, Suzette, Alex, and their 7-year-old daughter Hanna. Only things are not as “normal” at home as they seem from the outside. Told from alternating perspectives of mother and daughter, Baby Teeth blurs and examines the lines between real fears and imagined ones, between illness and intent, between love and hate. Baby Teeth is equal parts horrifying and empathetic and I had such a good time reading it. It is not a pretty story but I promise you it will keep you hooked until the very end.
I can’t believe I’m including this one, since I’ve only read three chapters as of right now, but I can’t help it. It’s ~the~ most talked about new release in Horror right now AND I am personally already fascinated. I never would have guessed that, in 2019, I’d be reading a horror novel by the same man who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a YA contemporary novel that I loved in middle school. It’s just wild. Needless to say, Chbosky’s been hiding this eerie talent of his for long enough and Imaginary Friend is looking to be one of the most notable books of the season. I’m sure enjoying it. At least when I read it with the lights on.
Little Darlings is every mother’s nightmare. When Lauren first gives birth to her twin boys she is ecstatic, but that first night in the hospital something happens: she sees someone- some thing- come into her room and try to take her babies and replace them with…something. Everyone thinks she’s imagining it. Months later when she and the boys take a trip to the park they momentarily disappear…and when they are found again, something about them is different. Lauren begins to wonder: are these even her children? Determined to bring them home, she will do anything. But worst of all- what if she’s wrong? Little Darlings is a journey through the psychological stress of being a new mother and the spectre of supernatural malice over your shoulder. If this one doesn’t leave you creeped out and wondering, nothing will.
I hope you find something spooooooky that’s right up your alley!
Happy Halloween, friends! What’s your favorite spooky read??