Book Club Nominees

6 Millennial-Penned Horrors

by @ArthurBea, curator of HOWLS Book Club Nominees for September’s “🔥 YAAAAS, Millennial Horror Is Lit!” category

Perennial Gen Xer Bret Easton Ellis said of Millennials: “There’s no writing. They don’t care about literature. None of them read books.” FOH, because I can’t even. Sure, a lot of this generation’s horror comes from the horror of adulting, because being left unprepared for the world is scary. The horror also comes from a shift in traditional views of femininity, the broader meaning of “acceptance,” and a sense of responsibility for the damage left behind by generations past. The generation that grew up in the new millenium are woke, fierce, and the horror they write can be scary AF.

Cover of The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter. cover shows the image of a woman in profile. She is shown from her ribcage up, though her face is obscured above the nose, a funnel of color, tinged with the many colors of the sunset, opens from her face and fills the top of the image.

The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter

The Book of X tells the tale of Cassie, a girl born with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot. From childhood with her parents on the family meat farm, to a desk job in the city, to finally experiencing love, she grapples with her body, men, and society, all the while imagining a softer world than the one she is in. (Goodreads)

There is something allegorically topical and innately horrific about a person born twisted in a knot and into a good old-fashioned meat-mining family. Winner of the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award, this book is about body horror, but not a cruel or vicious change that makes us question reality; it’s about being born that way, and striving to live a normal life, a full life, in a world that won’t accept you, but can’t look away.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.Cover shows the face, jaws, and mane of a stylized lion in yellow, orange, and blue tones. There is a spider in the bottom right corner of a cover.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Imagine that it were possible to take one step out of reality, into a brighter, crueler dimension, a place where our evils were not changed but clarified. Friday Black takes place in that dimension. (NPR) 

Horror has always been a lens through which we view race in America. This is an exciting compilation of stories isn’t about being woke, it’s about the frank conversations we are more willing to have in this day and age. This book is “fiercely, spikily funny” (NPR) and pulls no punches. Unapologetic. The way horror should be.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick. Cover is plain grey, and shows shards of a broken mirror in the bottom right corner. A face is reflected in the mirror shards.

The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

At first, life in this old, creaky house feels cozy. Nick and Hannah explore the deserted museum at night, wandering the twisting halls and sneakily trying out the former owners’ original master bed. But as summer turns to fall, Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping; reluctantly, she tells Nick she’s hearing whispers in the night. Then one morning, Nick wakes up to find Hannah gone. In his frantic search for her, Nick will discover the hidden legacy of Wright House: a man driven wild with grief, and a spirit aching for home. (Goodreads)

Job security, skyrocketing rent, long-term relationships going nowhere, untreated mental health, and parents who refuse to see their adult children as anything more than immature kids. Sound familiar? At all? Luckily for the couple in this book, they just might be able to solve it all by moving into a haunted house! Let’s see how that works out for them.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. Cover shows a scribbled drawing of a house in black ink. The title, the author name, and the subtitle (a novel) all appear in the same scribbled script.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

A good haunted house story is a rare thing—they come along once every 20 years or so—and this one grabbed me, not only because it was scary as all get-out but also because it was such an incisive and unwavering portrait of young marriage. I love Jemc’s depiction of millennial romance, her smart and funny dialogue even as readers’ unease keeps growing, and I love the way she plays with unreliability. This is a worthy successor to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. (Publishers Weekly)

The horror of home ownership is its own genre. In this book, the horror becomes palpable, deep and contextualized in a past that cannot be ignored, an updated haunted house story for this generation. The prose is fantastic and well paced. This book was recognized by bougie places, like the Chicago Review of Books, Publishers Weekly and Goodreads.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Severance by Ling Ma. Cover is plain pink, with the title and author appearing inside a white square. The pink cover has a single black smudge on top.

Severance by Ling Ma

Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance. (Macmillan Publishers)

meirl. Who among us hasn’t secretly fantasized about being in an apocalypse? In this book, the struggle. is. real. FOMO becomes JOMO becomes plain old missing out when a pandemic originating in China THAT TOTALLY ISN’T COVID, THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED IN 2018 eradicates the population. I mean, what would you do? Would you Google Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Because they do in this book. But what happens when Google stops working?

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Wilder Girls by Rory Power. Cover shows a teenage girl against a green painted wall. The girl's image is unspooling like a ribbon.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Rory Power’s debut novel Wilder Girls combines grotesque physical metamorphosis with the intense bonds of love between teenage girls to create a unique variety of feelings-heightened body horror. If you took the creeping biological corruption that one expects from Jeff VanderMeer and the angry, intense teen girl relationships centered by Nova Ren Suma and mashed them together, they would mutate into this — something fresh and horrible and beautiful. (NPR)

This YA novel about girls is not like the other YA novels about girls. There may be drama, rivalry and even a love triangle in this all-girls school that has been locked down because everybody in it has been exposed to a disease that transforms them. They are not transformed metaphorically, but literally into plant-animal-human hybrids. This is not Sweet Valley High. This is not Hogwarts. This is brutal.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. Join HOWL Society on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021 to begin discussion!

ArthurBea writes nice things and terrible things. A proudly Filipino-American writer, he lives in Los Angeles with a husky rescue that likes the weather just fine.

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