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Books To Give You Christmas Fear

After writing about the Christmas-themed entries in the Fear Street franchise, and the Christmas-themed anthology in the Goosebumps franchise, I thought it was time to bring the spotlight to some other noteworthy young adult novels about the horrors of the holiday season. Unfortunately, some of these books may be hard to find for a fair price. But if you have the time, energy, and spending money, maybe grab one or two to read this holiday season. 

Bone Chillers: Here Comes Sandy Claws

Duncan and Tricia can’t believe they’re stuck with their grandparents in Florida while their parents go on a cruise. Sure there’s the sun and the beach, but who wants to spend all their time surrounded by old people? At least a local Christmas boat parade seems like fun. That was before the chemical spill. And before a mutated lobster was hot on their tail, hoping to have them for Christmas dinner.

This is the infamous Bone Chillers book only released in France. It was almost rereleased as Revenge of the Claw for Fright Club. The identity of this book’s author still remains a mystery. The publishing info put Gene Hult as the ghost writer, yet Hult himself confirmed he wasn’t responsible.

Here Comes Sandy Claws starts off slow but then really kicks into high gear when Duncan and Tricia are confronted by the mutated lobster Barnabe. Originally kept in a tank in a seafood restaurant (imagine the horror), Barnabe was thrown into toxic waters when a boat crashed into the restaurant and his tank landed in the sea. The kids try to empathize with the poor lobster, but his rage makes him target Duncan and Tricia believing they’re responsible for his transformation.

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Interestingly, Duncan and Tricia have enough foresight to recognize they need to lead Barnabe away without getting caught. As long as he’s chasing them, he won’t go after their grandparents or anyone else in the vicinity. It’s a game of cat and mouse, or rather, lobster and child, that takes Duncan and Tricia out into the ocean and a final battle aboard the very cruise their parents are on. 

Graveyard School: The Fright Before Christmas by Nola Thacker as Tom B. Stone

Christopher Hampton hates Christmas. He calls it a Howliday. He’s got no interest in his class’s reading of A Christmas Carol, and thinks the other kids are stupid for wasting their money on Secret Santa (Or Holiday Elves). When Christopher’s little sisters accidentally brutalize a mall Santa, the kids at Graveyard School think he set it up. Christopher soon discovers he’s got more to worry about then his siblings running amuck, because he’s about to experience A Christmas Carol done Graveyard School style.

This is a rather atypical spin on the usual rehashing of A Christmas Carol, as the original work is actively discussed and analyzed while the book’s happening. Kid financial wiz Christopher Hampton makes for a different kind of Scrooge, as his eventual meeting with the ghosts doesn’t happen until the book’s nearly over. His classmates are shown to dislike him, not because he hates Christmas, but because he’s got a bad attitude and feels like shitting on everyone else’s good time. 

There are some interesting discussion about consumerism and commercialism, as the kids of Graveyard School tend to be a bit more world weary, thanks to the horrors constantly thrown at them. Park Addams recalls how, when you’re younger, you get assaulted by commercials and advertising getting you to want bigger and flashier toys every Christmas only for them to break the moment you play with them. 

Christopher’s parents also show a bit more self awareness than most parents in a young adult horror novel. They’re aware of his hatred of Christmas, and even agree with him about the commercialism, but recognize his dislike is stemming from some deeper issue and struggle to figure out why their child is so unhappy.

Graveyard School: Here Comes Santa Claws by Nola Thacker as Tom B. Stone

Kyle Chilton thinks this is the pits. It’s three days until Christmas, and his parents have left him in the care of his weirdo great Aunt Mab and her nasty cat Natasha. Well, Kyle’s not going to let his aunt or her cat get away with ruining his Christmas. But Kyle should know better than to misbehave with Christmas on the way. Because when you go to Graveyard School, you may not have to worry about Santa Claus. But you should definitely worry about Santa Claws.

This is the penultimate book in the Graveyard School series and a highly entertaining one. Aunt Mab (as in ‘fab’ like ‘fabulous’) is a glorious troll of an antagonist, starting from her arrival leaving Kyle and his mother shocked by her appearance. 

“The woman who faced them looked like a picture from a fairy tale, not someone’s great-great-aunt or mother or anything else. Soft gold hair fell in waves over the shoulders of her loose lavender dress. Her eyes were the color of a summer sky. Her skin was as pale as milk and when she smiled, her mouth quirked upward at one corner in a dimple.”

“Aunt Mab,” said Mrs. Chilton. “You’re so…”

“That’s me,” said Aunt Mab, her voice cool.

Thacker leaves some ambiguity as to who or what is stalking Kyle throughout the book. While he encounters something at his front door, the narrative only gives us Kyle’s frantic description of “a psycho in a Santa suit” with clawed hands and a buzz cut.

While engaging in war against his aunt and her cat, Kyle ends up dragging Graveyard School mainstay Park Addams into the battle. Now you would assume what happens is Kyle’s karma for being a little shit towards his aunt. Yet considering Kyle was suspicious of Mab even before she arrived, by the end of the book you’ll realize he was right to be suspicious of her.

It all culminates in an epic battle against giant rats in Santa hats as Kyle loses whatever patience he had and is willing to set his own Christmas tree on fire just to stop the thing coming down his chimney.

Nightmare Hall: The Voice In The Mirror by Diane Hoh

In this, the final Nightmare Hall story, Annie’s giving it 110% organizing Salem University’s holiday pageant. She’s pulling out all the stops and won’t settle for anything but the best. Annie’s going to make this a Christmas that Salem University remembers. That’s when the grisly “accidents” start happening around Annie’s friends. See, someone’s got a nasty little secret. To get into Salem University, someone committed murder. And now they’re worried the murder victim didn’t stay dead.

This book follows the typical Nightmare Hall trend, featuring regular perspective shift towards our killer every other chapter. Our “voice in the mirror” is a split personality the killer manifests, reminding him of how he murdered a rich girl named Elyse Weldon to get a scholarship to Salem University. The killer’s now hallucinating that the women around him are really Elyse, having faked her death and intent on getting revenge. Interestingly, while our killer is determined to put Elyse back in the ground, he adamantly refuses to hurt anyone else.

We’re treated to one of the most brutal sequences I’ve encountered in the Nightmare Hall series, when Annie’s friend Helen is thrown from a ladder onto a box of glass tree ornaments. And then gets crushed by a falling tree. And somehow survives. The last we hear of poor Helen is her being flown to a hospital in Texas to get reconstructive surgery.

Along the way, we amusingly see the killer’s attempt at intimidating “Elyse” working for the wrong reason. When Annie’s friend Lisbet discovers a message left for her saying E.W. U ARE DEAD, Lisbet realizes Annie’s suspicions about Helen’s “accident” are correct. The thing is, the message works because Lisbet’s full name is “Elisabeth Wicker,” so while she knows she’s being targeted it’s not for the reason she thinks.

Spinetinglers: Snow Day by Robert Hawkes as M.T. Coffin

Debi Greer was hoping for a snow day and a chance for Christmas break to start early. The odds seem to be in Debi’s favor, when halfway to school the radio announces that classes are officially cancelled. Too bad for Debi the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Debi, her friends, and their bus driver “Mad” Milo are forced to trek through the blizzard and take shelter in the mysterious “Muhlzae Maze Manor.” No sooner does everyone get inside do they realize the Maze Manor is abandoned. That’s when the kids discover what’s being kept in the freezer…

This book surprised me as one of the darkest young adult horror novels I’ve ever read. It lulls you into believing it’s about kids being trapped in a haunted house during a blizzard, but becomes something else entirely. 

From there, the book is interspersed with chapters about Debi’s friends in dreamworlds of their own. Cynthia’s the captain of a submarine straight out of a WWII paperback she’s reading, loudmouth Larry is inside a video game world, and nerdy Thomas gets to save animals from poachers. And every time, Debi comes in to spoil it all by telling the kids if they don’t wake up they’ll be left at the mercy of Them. The Them who want to make sure the kids never wake up.

Snow Day (Spinetinglers): Coffin, M. T.: 9780380781577: Amazon.com: Books

Spinetinglers: We Wish You A Scary Christmas by George Edward Stanley as M.T. Coffin

Shad and his best friend Virgil are worried about Emery Slagel. The poor kid’s a nervous wreck, and he’s constantly being hounded by his creepy older brother. When Shad and Virgil finally get the chance to talk to Emery, he tells them something bad is going to happen. See, the Slagels have a house guest staying in their basement. Only he’s not so much a “guest” as he is a prisoner. According to Emery, the man his parents have in their basement is Santa Claus! Shad and Virgil don’t initially believe Emery, until they discover there really is someone being kept in Emery’s basement. If Shad and Virgil don’t act fast, there’s no a good chance no one’s going to have a merry Christmas. Ever.

Unlike Snow Day, the Christmas holiday is central to the plot. What really stood out for me upon reading this was the effort Shad and Virgil made to consider how to handle Emery Slagel’s situation. From their perspective, Emery’s parents do have someone trapped in their basement. And Emery’s older brother might be helping them. Suppose Shad and Virgil help said prisoner escape, what would that mean for Emery? His parents would most likely be arrested. But if they’re the kind of people who would kidnap someone, then maybe Emery deserves a better family. It’s the kind of real world consequences you wouldn’t expect to find in a book like this.

We Wish You a Scary Christmas by M.T. Coffin

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Written by Jude Deluca
Jude Deluca is a Capricorn who identifies somewhere under the ‘asexual' banner. Their gender identity is up in the air at the moment. As a horror lover, Jude's specialty is the discussion of young adult horror fiction like Goosebumps and Fear Street. Jude proudly owns the complete Graveyard School series by Nola Thacker. Jude's favorite horror sequel is A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Their favorite final girl is Alice Johnson. As a child, Jude was the only nine-year-old at their school who knew everything about 1959's The Bat. Jude's dislikes include remakes that take themselves too seriously and torture porn.
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