Sinister Summer

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Sinister Summer

Beach Books with a Terrifying Twist

Do you like your frolicking to be a little frightful? Your picnics with a dose of panic? Your travels to have a touch of terror? Then fear no more, because here is a list of books for the reader who likes their summer scary—on the page, at least. Whether it’s something from the Master of Horror or an '80s exorcism throwback or a true crime account whose culprit just made headlines, each of these titles is sure to give you a chill on all those hot, muggy days we have ahead of us; happy Summer Challenge!
 
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Made famous by the Steven Spielberg thriller that originated the term “blockbuster” and left millions of beachgoers afraid to go in the water, Jaws is a relentless terror ride (not to be confused with the now defunct terror-less JAWS ride at Universal Studios) about the small, homey town of Amity Island, whose survival depends primarily on their summer tourism. When a series of grisly shark attacks begin plaguing both the islanders and their guests, resulting in serious injury and death, Sheriff Brody takes it upon himself to join a ragtag team whose mission is to find and kill the great white shark responsible for the attacks. While the novel, and more so the film adaptation that followed, hasn’t done anything to help clear up misunderstandings about sharks and shark attacks, it does make for a fun, campy, pulse-pounding summer read. Just, you know, maybe by the pool instead of near open water.
 
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act...different. She's moody. She's irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she's nearby. Abby's investigation leads her to some startling discoveriesand by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The ExorcistMy Best Friend's Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors and a mix of '80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller perfect for long summer days reminiscent of the heydays of youth.
 
Joyland by Stephen King
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Stephen King does nostalgia like no other. It’s part of the appeal of some of his best-known works, like IT and The Body (better known by its film version, Stand By Me) primarily because his nostalgia is not for a specific time or place—not really—but for being young and idealistic and resilient while also being innocent, fragile and cynical at the same time. This, combined with King’s knack for fully realized characterization, makes Joyland one of his best underrated gems. It’s part coming-of-age tale, part murder-mystery noir and part summer romance. A novel that reminds us that King’s unique, down-to-earth style of storytelling works just as well outside of horror as it does when King is typing to terrify.
 
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Over more than 10 years, a mysterious and violent predator committed 50 sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area. Three decades later, Michelle McNamara was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was. In April 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for the crimes, after having eluded capture for over thirty years. McNamara’s account, which she was writing at the time of her sudden death, offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth and is perfect for fans of true crime looking for an page-turner you can't put down this summer. Get on the hold list now.
 
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie-scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn and now Quincy. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started 10 years ago is finished. Like a Friday the 13th movie come to life, Final Girls is a wild ride with well-drawn characters, plenty of twists and turns and interesting insight into our culture’s obsession with true crime and survivor stories that will remind you of cozy summer nights spent recounting ghost stories and urban legends around a campfire.