I have the interesting conundrum of loving scary things and being absolutely terrified by them. The first time my dad read me “The Tell-Tale Heart” (As a bedtime story! Thanks, Dad!) I couldn’t sleep until I took my ticking clock off the wall and buried it under towels in the hall closet. Yet on our next trip to the bookstore, I begged for my parents to buy me the complete works of Poe, ready to be scared again.
That’s because, despite my inherent wimpiness, I love nothing more than a good spooky story…
Which is, of course, why I picked these five books about dead people that don’t stay dead. While all of these caused me to sleep with the lights on, they were so good that I ended up reading them at least twice. I also chose them because they showcase different types of the undead. Ghosts, Vampires, flesh-eating undead and just plain old undead with superhuman strength.
The Name of the Star (The Shades of London Book 1) by Maureen Johnson
A Jack the Ripper mimic is killing on the streets of London, right around the corner from where American expat Rory now attends boarding school. As if attending school in a foreign country isn’t hard enough for a teenage girl, Rory begins to realize that she can see ghosts! In a city like London, full of graves, this can’t possibly be a good thing. And remember that Jack the Ripper killer? He’s realized that Rory can see the dead as well.
Throw in a ghost-hunting secret sect of the government, the normal parts of being a teen like school dances, having to do sport for gym, and getting cozy in the library with a cute boy from class, and Rory ends up with a pretty loaded schedule at school.
Expiration Date by Tim Powers
This is the second in a series, which I didn’t know until I finished the book, so obviously it works well as a standalone novel. There are ghosts everywhere, and people consume them. Snort them, mix them with cigar smoke and inhale them, any way they can get them. Ghosts are dealt like drugs in LA, considered a high class way of getting high.
When a boy named Kootie (poor kid) unknowingly steals the ghost of Thomas Edison while running away from home, ghost dealers notice and give chase. Kootie accidently inhales Edison himself, but, since he hasn’t hit puberty he can’t properly digest the ghost, and now he has Edison in his head giving him advice and occasionally taking control.
It could have been worse, he could have inhaled Tesla.
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
The Graveminder in Claysville has a job. Work with the Undertaker to keep the dead, dead. This is part of the agreement the town has shared with the Underworld since the town was formed, and part of the reason their small town stays so safe, with healthy kids and little outside interference. Rebekkah didn’t know that she was slated to be the next Graveminder, and she didn’t know why her town was so strange. Not until her Grandmother, the previous Graveminder, was killed by a dead girl.
With the dead going around town killing people, Rebekkah and the Undertaker, her friend/sometimes more than a friend Byron, have to get the hungry dead to stay dead, like they belong.
The Crow by James O’Barr
I think the 90s would have kicked me out if I hadn’t spent my teens with a battered copy of The Crow and at least one tube of black lipstick. Eric Draven and his fiancée Shelly are killed, but Eric is brought back to take vengeance on the men that killed them. Which he does. In creatively violent ways most of the time. Which, after you’re shown how Eric and Shelly died, you’ll find yourself thinking that Eric went a little too easy on them.
Interspersed with poetry and song lyrics, The Crow manages to be dark and brooding without ever being cheesy. This was one of the first graphic novels that showed me that comics weren’t just glorified cartoons, they contained every bit of story that novels had. And if you’ve only ever seen the movie, take a few hours to read the book.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Bearing very little resemblance to the Will Smith movie adaptation, I Am Legend tells the story of the last human man left alive after a virus swept across the world. The remaining people are infected with a bacteria, giving them the characteristics of vampires. Vulnerable to sunlight, religious icons (depending on the religion of the person who became infected) and garlic. The main character, Robert, is determined to figure out the scientific cause for the disease, and wipe out the infected. The undead aren’t the spookiest part of this story, though. Instead, the spooky factor comes from spending time with Robert as he comes to grips with being the last human being on earth.
Joan of Dark is occasionally called Toni Carr, but not by anyone who knows her well. She writes geek themed knitting books, most recently, Geek Knits, where she convinced celebrity geeks to wear muggle sweaters, pose with stuffed direwolves and wear silly hats.