Find it at your library!

It’s October—time to scare the pants off ourselves!

I have been planning my creepy fall reading list for several weeks now. As soon as the daytime temperatures start flirting with the 60s (even if they boing back up like they’re attached to a bungee cord a few days later), it’s like an alarm goes off in my head. For some people, that alarm signals pumpkin spice time, but for me it means I start inhaling all the scary shit I can get my hands on.

First up: The Devil in Silver. I have wanted to read Victor LaValle for a long time now, but as someone who is A) squeamish about gore and violence, and B) liable to spiral into depression if the subject matter gets TOO dark, I couldn’t quite get up the nerve to dip my toe in the water. His most recent novel, The Changeling, made a huge splash when it came out in June, but after reading the synopsis and trigger warning-laden reviews, I knew I couldn’t hang. But I refused to be denied entry into the Victor LaValle fan club, so I delved into his back catalog to see if there was something for a reader like me. As soon as I saw the comparisons to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I knew The Devil in Silver was the one.

The comparisons make sense, even though LaValle’s characters themselves talk about the Kesey novel and disdain it (I’ll let you read the book to find out why). LaValle’s novel takes place in a psychiatric wing of a hospital and centers around a new admit who doesn’t fit in and stirs things up among the other patients. Pepper, in many ways the quintessential blue-collar man’s man, is brought to the hospital by cops who know he isn’t in need of mental health services, but due to some bureaucratic nonsense, it’s easier for them to drop him off there and end their long shifts rather than take him to booking. The assumption is that Pepper will be evaluated, found to be cognitively normal, and released after 72 hours, but LaValle shows that being on the ward is enough to make even a sane person crazy, whether he started that way or not.

It doesn’t bode well for Pepper’s odds of getting released that a monster stalks the ward at night. He’s seen it, and even though he doesn’t want to get too close to anyone inside—after all, he’s not one of them—he’s pretty sure some of the other patients know what the thing is. The staff, when questioned, pretend they don’t know what he’s talking about, and an entire hallway with a reinforced door at the end is off-limits to patients. Whatever’s down that hall, it isn’t friendly.

This story starts out pretty creepy with all the talk of monsters and the not-knowing what’s on the loose at night, but midway it takes a turn and becomes scary in an entirely different, more existential way. Turns out, exhausted and disillusioned medical professionals are actually a whole lot scarier than things that go bump in the night.

I’m glad I can now legitimately count myself one of LaValle’s fans. If you too are in the market for reads befitting this spooky season, I’ll be posting my creepy fall reads all month long! See the CreepyFallReads tag, or you can see my favorite creepy books from the past under the DeliciouslyCreepy tag.

Find it at your library!

I’d been familiar with the concept forever, but I didn’t have a name for it until an early episode of New Girl when Schmidt decided to dump CeCe for her own good by being mean to her until she gave up on him. Fortunately for their relationship (for a while, anyway), CeCe knew Schmidt was a fan of Jack London’s novel White Fang and immediately caught on to what he was doing. 

“Are you White Fanging me?” she asked. Schmidt tried to play innocent, but everyone knew White Fang was the only book on his Kindle (though he points out that he has “many PDFs”).

Not a fan of half-hour Fox sitcoms or wolf books? That’s okay, you’ve still seen this shtick enough times to be bored by it. People get together, but one of them decides the other is too perfect for them and proceeds to sabotage the relationship for the other’s perceived benefit. Because love may be grand, but nothing feels as good as being a martyr.

Now, I normally don’t have much patience for plots that hinge on White Fanging. I also am not typically enthused to read about vampires (none of us are really over Twilight yet, are we? Will the specter of Twilight ever clear, so that we can enjoy vampire-y stuff without immediately imagining Kristen Stewart’s pasty face and heavy mouth-breathing?). But I am willing to make allllll the exceptions for Certain Dark Things.

These are vampires like you haven’t seen before. Moreno-Garcia has created different races (breeds?) of vampires, originating from all over the world and in varying degrees of creepiness. Atl is a Tlahuihpochtli from the North hiding out in Mexico City after several of her family members were wiped out by rival vampires. On the train, she meets Domingo, a garbage collector and streetwise kid who is drawn to the mysterious woman and her big bioengineered dog. Maybe because she’s feeling vulnerable, Atl asks Domingo back to her place, and so begins one of the strangest yet sweetest partnerships I’ve ever seen in fiction.

Of course, because Atl is a vampire and Domingo is just a kid with a heart of gold, there’s all kinds of ambivalence and tooth-gnashing about whether or not they should be friends, let alone anything more. But Domingo has all these good qualities—he’s protective, strong, smart, resourceful—and he keeps coming in super-handy, because Atl is being hunted by the same vampires who took out her family.

Don’t let the White Fanging or the vampires scare you away—Certain Dark Things is a dark, fun ride.