You crumble on the sofa after 2 hours of intense trick-or-treating. The whole pumpkin of candies scatter the desk with their rainbow colors. There’s no way you’re going to bed now with the excitement.
It would be a waste of the night. Plus you have a whole lot of candies at your disposal and you’re not about to leave them for your little brother to steal tomorrow. Hence the optimal option right now would be a little bit of Halloween reading. Snuggle up in bed, turn on a nightlight, and prepare to spook yourself out!
Before you start reading, I have to ask you not to treat this as a typical list-style article. I personally had a great time sorting out this list, picking through the works I read and loved. I promise you it not only encapsulates the general synopsis of the work, but also my interpretation and thoughts about it. I hope those who read these books will find my interpretations interesting and those who haven’t read it yet would consider getting them for October 31st.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
This is an all-time classic that probably comes up on your school’s summer reading list. The story is essentially about an orphan Heathcliff being adopted by a rich family but is bullied by other children. He falls in love with a girl named Cathy.
When he couldn’t stand the taunting and bullying anymore, he leaves for years and came back a bitter and evil soul. His spite and anguish destroys both Cathy and her husband’s families.
As a classic, I have to admit Wuthering Heights shocked me with its brutality and cruelty. This is unseen in most Victorian novels. Books like Jane Eyre also portray tragedy, but time-outs in a dark room can hardly compare with what Heathcliff does to Edgar Linton, an almost murder-like cruelty.
The eccentric evil in Heathcliff seeps through the pages, when he declares his hate to Isabella but still seducing her, when he forces Cathy’s daughter to marry his own son. These events send chills down my spine even in imagination. Emily Bronte’s own sister Charlotte Bronte comments on this work harshly:
"Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know: I scarcely think it is."
Of course, this makes it more of a Halloween read as it gets more scary, but it also indicates a brave innovation of novel writing, exploring into the treacherous depth of human nature.
Adding up to its idiosyncratic content is its narrative style. The interchangeable narrater identities switches between multiple perspectives of the same story. This makes the reading experience much like peeling an onion, slowly getting to its center of the tragical love story.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
Of all the books I will recommend in this list, this book is probably the least scary. It’s written in an interesting, satirical way. The backdrop of the story is a girl named Catherine being engaged with a boy named Tilney, as well as the friendship and quarrels between her and multiple families. But the climax of the book (and the most Gothic part) is when she is invited to stay a few weeks at the Tilney’s home Northanger Abbey.
Cathrine is by heart a Gothic fan and is full of curiosity at anything she finds scary and thrilling. When she got to Northanger Abbey she keeps trying to convince herself that she was in a haunted mansion and is in a scary chase. Throughout the story, Austen is actively making fun of Catherine by exaggerating her fears and revelations.
Many say it’s a mock to the contemporary writers at that time who incorporate Gothic elements into everything. Anyhow, the work is a comical work of Gothic that would make a great read.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.
Two years ago, I read the first book of the series on a summer afternoon on our porch. As someone who doesn’t exactly have a lot of experience with murder mystery novels, I never imagined it could be designed so delicately and in such a mind-blowing way. As I was doing research for this list, I discovered there were three books to the whole trilogy series.
You can imagine how excited I was to know that my favorite mystery novel of all time has two surprise twin sisters! I read the remaining to books in two days.
The series basically tells the story of a high school girl named Pip who solves a six-year murder case in her hometown (and two consecutive cases later). The most important aspect of a murder mystery is its unexpected plot, which A Good Girl's Guide to Murder nailed with its tensions and anti-climaxes. The reader stays closely with the detective throughout the each plot twist.
Our view is Pip’s view, and Pip’s encounters are our encounters. We are presented with a list of suspects, each with a motive and lacking alibis. Just when it seems certain we have our killer, twists in evidence emerge and takes us back to square one, more curious than ever.
Another groundbreaking thing that differentiates this series from other mystery works is Pip’s growth as a separate character, not just as an observer. Although an irreplaceable classic, Sherlock Holmes never changes, he observes, deduces, and concludes, we never see his individual change after each case. As a teenage girl, Pip shifts her knowledge, skills, and beliefs, fueled by everything that meets her eye. We see her change from the girl who believes in seeking truths in the first book to someone who completely lost trust in the justice system in the last.
All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers.
Both murder mystery novels, and both a young girl as a detective in the contemporary aged backdrop, it seems only natural to draw comparisons and contrasts between All Good People Here and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.
In All Good People Here, the reader is omniscient. The shifting narraters takes us to the victim and the murderer’s perspectives of the story as well as the detectives. We know what really happened to the victim when Margot didn’t even know the whole story.
We know Krissy was murdered on her way to see her girlfriend when none of the other characters did. In AGGGTM, we find out everything along with Pip. When we already understand the truth before our heroine detective Margot, there’s a sense of observing quality when we watch Margot’s detective process unravel. However, it’s worth noting that sometimes, the omniscience we have is a feigned one. In one part of the story, we were led to believe Krissy truly killed January when Billy questioned her about the spray paint on her sleeves. In the other, we thought Jace was the killer when Krissy was sure about protecting him. It is this experience of chasing the truth and realizing it slipped through our fingers that brings out the thrilling nature of mystery novels.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
It’s safe to say that, with the movie and everything, Coraline has already become a paradigm of contemporary Gothic novels. It is about an 11-year-old girl that finds an alternate world that is a more perfect version of her real frustrating home. Yet something about that world is creepy and uncanny and perfect in an unrealistic way.
Neil himself discussed the exploration of fear in the novel:
“Bravery isn’t being fearless, it’s being extremely scared, but still having the courage to march ahead.”
This can be stretched to become the inner moral of Halloween, even. Similar to the Mexican festival Day of the Dead, Halloween lets us give ourselves in to the seemingly scary world of ghosts to get over the trauma of losing our loved ones. It gives us the courage to move on.
One Halloween night is certainly not enough to read all these books, but it is enough for you to get lost in one so much that you'd want to read the others. It is amazing to feel all the delightful traits of Halloween condensed into these works, highlighting not fear, but courage; not spite, but love. Jumping out of the Halloween box, these are also literary works that's worth mulling over a dozen times.