“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

—Douglas Adams (and, also, Kristin… though they do trigger her anxiety something FIERCE.)

Um. OK… I’m way behind. Like really, super behind. And I’m sorry, but also anxiety-ridden and not doing a good job of managing either of these things (neither the sorriness, which tends to spiral into more anxiety, nor the aforementioned original anxiety). It is not pleasant. Nor is much else about 2020, if I’m being honest. Thank goodness there are no murder hornets in Jackson County (yet), so at least there’s that. An aside: murder hornets do actually exist and are not a construct of my blog posts. Reports originally surfaced back in May (around when this blog was launching) of this new-to-North America species. Now a nest has been found in Washington state. Read more here and check out the awesome outfits that the folks dealing with said hornets had to wear to neutralize them. We are living in a dystopia for realsies now.

So, anyway, I thought we’d just do a horror blog post because: murder hornets and also 2020, and also, btw, HALLOWEEN. The world is, indeed, a very scary place. Terrifying really. As scary as a Stephen King novel, though? That remains to be seen (bring it, murder hornets and the last 2 months of 2020).

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. During this time, teen fiction didn’t really exist in the robust way it does now. Teens got through the literary gap between children’s fiction and adult fiction in a variety of ways. Mostly, we were encouraged to jump straight into adult when we were reading fluently and bored with what was on the children’s shelves. This laissez-faire attitude towards teen reading made me a prolific reader. I read whatever I could get my hands on – and I was an advanced reader. I knew that I was not super interested in reading the classics (except Pride and Prejudice, which I still remember reading in middle school and loving)… but man, I got assigned Oedipus Rex so darned many times… so many… seriously. So, I read what was in my house. My dad loved Stephen King and my parents (who were paying attention) maintained that I should read the ones with children as main characters. There are a lot of those. I’m pretty sure I started with Cujo and then Firestarter, and then Salem’s Lot and It and The Shining. He has a huge backlist of books with characters who were younger than I was when I read the books. Note to modern parents: none of these is a children’s book, not even close. I learned some things that I was not expecting to learn about adult behavior while reading these books… but mostly I just had a really good time. I read A LOT of King during the years when now teens consume a steady diet of books crafted with them in mind. I loved it. I still do. I do not like horror movies though, go figure.

So recently I tried a test. I decided I’d read a horror novel thinking that it might replace my real-world anxiety with fictional, artificial anxiety… and that maybe that would like, totally neutralize the real-world kind and I could coast through the rest of 2020 relatively anxiety-free. Spoiler alert: not my best plan. I sit here anxiety-addled and way past deadline… a non-optimal outcome to be sure. And, yeah, some of it is related to other 2020-related stuff, however I will contend that the horror reading plan factors in. I thought I’d read Bird Box by Josh Malerman, which was made into a Netflix movie a few years ago that I didn’t watch because I don’t like horror movies and then never circled back and read the book. Some of this is because a sequel novel came out this year and some because our Library Director, Kari May, reviewed Bird Box on Goodreads by saying: “Room” meets “The Passage.” I loved both of those books, so I was in. It’s a really apt description of the book, too. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Bird Box: Malorie spends her life indoors or blindfolded with two children she refers to simply as “boy” and “girl.” She wants to find other people, but she can’t open her eyes outside because people who do see the outside world and, more specifically, some sort of new creature/monster in it, immediately lose their minds and go on a homicidal rampage. You need to let that bit settle in and suspend your disbelief… once you’ve accepted the premise (and most horror does stem from a premise that requires this level of suspension of disbelief) all that’s left is to follow Malorie on her journey to find other people. Oh, wait, you also need the story of how she came to be alone in a house with two nameless blindfolded four-year-olds. So, you get both stories told in alternating chapters. Clearly, you are probably thinking, nothing about this story is soothing or relaxing… and even the “walk down memory lane” of returning to horror after not having read it for a while probably wouldn’t offset that fact. And you would be correct.

Here’s to a lower anxiety November… we can all dream, can’t we? Until then, enjoy one of the horror novels on this list.