The Fright Stuff

Adulting May Be Hard, But Growing Up Can Be a Nightmare

Hey‌ ‌there‌ horror fans, ‌I’m‌ ‌Jessica‌ ‌Avery‌ ‌and‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌be‌ ‌delivering‌ ‌your‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌brief‌ ‌of‌ ‌all‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌ghastly‌ ‌and‌ ‌grim‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌of‌ ‌Horror.‌ ‌Whether‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌looking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌backlist‌ ‌book‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌give‌‌ you‌ ‌the‌ ‌willies,‌ ‌a‌ ‌terrifying‌ ‌new‌ ‌release,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌in‌ ‌horror‌ ‌community‌ ‌news,‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌find‌ ‌it‌ ‌here‌ in‌ ‌The‌ ‌Fright‌ ‌Stuff.

This week we’re talking about coming-of-age stories! Obviously this is a narrative type that most most horror readers are familiar with, given its prevalence in the genre (I see you and your giant brick of a book, Stephen King. I see you). And it’s one that I’ve always really enjoyed, particularly in horror. Because I think there is something horrific about growing up, no matter how good your childhood is. Growing up can be the scariest thing we do as kids simply because the process of coming to understand the world around you is fraught with different kinds of peril. Any change, however small it may seem, can crack open your worldview and cause a paradigm shift that forces you to reevaluate everything you thought was true.

And horror has the ability to take this largely internal process and externalize it by dropping our protagonist into a harrowing situation where outside threats mirror the character’s struggle to balance their prior view of the world as (often) a safe place (or at least one that they could map the boundaries of) with the new and perilous world they find themselves inhabiting. A world that often challenges all their perceptions and assumptions about their lives, the place they live, and the people living there with them.

Before we jump in to this week’s coming-of-age horror picks, Book Riot has a new subscription service for you to check out! If you are looking for fascinating stories, informed takes, useful advice, and more from experts in the world of books and reading, Book Riot’s newest newsletter, The Deep Dive, is a way to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox. Subscribe and choose your membership level today at

Alright! Let’s get existential.

Bookish Goods

glow in the dark "finishing my tbr" vinyl ghost sticker by fantasyfawndesigns

“Finishing My TBR” Glow in the Dark Ghost Sticker by FantasyFawnDesigns

I don’t know about you, but “adorable ghost tackling its TBR” is the energy I want to channel going into 2023. If you’re also chasing the elusive goal of reducing your TBR this year, this little water-resistant vinyl ghost buddy is a good reminder to keep around! Stick it to your book cart, your TBR shelf, or decorate your e-reader case. Stick this little buddy wherever you need a reminder to read the books you own instead of buying new books…she said, guiltily.


New Releases

cover of feed them silence by lee mandelo

Feed Them Silence by Lee Mandelo

I just finished this book last week and Lee Mandelo has raised the bar for 2023 new releases. Though not the kind of frightening that will keep you checking the shadowy corners every time you enter a room, Mandelo’s dark, sci-fi novella Feed Them Silence nevertheless has an unsettling air of wrongness that pervades the story and leaves you wondering what choices you, the reader, would have made in Sean’s place, and if you would have acted any differently. Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be the human subject in an experiment that will fulfill a childhood dream. Thanks to an advanced new neurological interface, she will have the ability to join her mind with that of one of the last wild wolves, and observe first hand the behaviors and struggles of this dying species. But as Sean sinks deeper into the mind of her wolf, and her personal life unravels around her in the real world, the barrier between animal and human begins to blur to a frightening degree.

cover of midnight strikes by zeba shahnaz

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz

I’m fudging genre lines a bit to include Midnight Strikes as a new release for this week, but the premise was so delightfully dark and emotionally fraught that how could I not? So, friends, if you also love dark fiction and have a particular affinity for time loop stories, this recommendation is for you. Anaïs is trapped in a deadly time loop that only resets itself at the moment of her own death. What was supposed to be a simple, if unwanted, night at the kingdom’s anniversary ball, descends into fiery, bloody chaos when the clock tolls midnight there’s an explosion that kills everyone in the vicinity, Anaïs included. And then suddenly she’s awake, on her own bed in her own room, and none of it has even happened yet. Until it happens again. And again. And if Anaïs wants the dying to stop — hers and everyone else’s — she’ll have to submerge herself in the court’s rotten, discontented underbelly and discover all its treacherous secrets. All before the clock strikes midnight once again.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

cover of wasps in the ice cream by tim mcgregor

Wasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor

Tim McGregor’s Wasps in the Ice Cream is about as classic coming-of-age horror as you can get. It’s the summer of 1987, and Mark Prewit’s summer job at an ice cream stand may not be glamorous, but at least it keeps him out of the house and away from his dad’s new wife. But in a small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go, Mark and his friends find themselves bored, with too much time on their hands. Which is how Mark ends up pressured into participating in a malicious prank his friends play on the Farrow sisters. Guilty that he gave in to the immature impulses of friends he’s begun to outgrow, Mark tries to make it up to the sisters and ends up finding a new friend in middle sister George. Unfortunately, small town minds breed suspicion, and when Mark’s old friends find out that he’s been spending time with the witchy Farrows, they set out to punish the sisters for daring to try to rise above their outcast status..

Cover of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

One of my favorite kinds of coming-of-age stories is when the protagonist is raised in seclusion, where the outside world is concealed from them, if not outright lied about by the adults in their life. Finding out the truth is always inevitably painful, but there’s something so satisfying — as a reader — about watching a character finally realize what you’ve been cursed to know since page one: people are lying to them, and not for their own good. That’s definitely the case with Immanuelle and her childhood in Bethel. Among the pious, obedient people of the lands of Bethel, where the word of their Prophet is law, Immanuel is an outcast, viewed as an aberration despite her best attempts to submit and conform. When a mishap lands her in the terrifying Darkwood that surrounds Bethel — a place of witches, spirits, and evil — Immanuelle uncovers unexpected answers about her mother, and about the dark truth behind the Church of Bethel.

the dead and the dark book cover

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Growing up in a small town, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that it’s an idyllic sanctuary where nothing bad ever happens, mostly because the bad things that happen there never happen to you. Logan Ortiz-Woodley lets herself be dragged to the remote, small town of Snakebite, Oregon, by her fathers Brandon and Alejo, but only reluctantly because the last thing she wants is to get caught up in one of their ghost hunts. What she doesn’t realize until after they arrive is that both men are originally from Snakebite, and have nearly as many secrets as the town itself. Secrets that might have something to do with the teens that have started disappearing. Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to disappear, and as tensions in the town mount, igniting old prejudices, and suspicion begins to fall on Logan’s fathers, the two girls join forces to find answers.

the cover of Mongrels, featuring an illustration with a red-tinged silhouette of a wolf in the foreground and a standing person in front of power lines and a car against a yellow background

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels is a coming-of-age story told through the figure of the werewolf — or rather through the figure of a boy who does not yet know for sure that he will even become a werewolf, or what being one will mean about where he belongs. Being on the run, constantly dodging the law, living with nothing — that’s the only life the boy has ever known, following his Aunt and Uncle hither and yon across the South. But the older he gets, the more he begins to wonder if that’s the life he’s really meant to live, or if there’s a better future for him somewhere else. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age story that’s full of heart, and focused on the protagonist’s journey to answer the two biggest questions that face us as we grow “Who am I? And where do I belong?” look no further.

As always, you can catch me on twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.