Friday, February 18, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month: YA & Middle Grade Recommendations Spotlight

Many of us horror fans have something in common when it comes to our starts in the genre: we were little horror lovers first, our fear of the dark juxtaposed with both our love and curiosity of it as small children hiding under the covers, flipping through our pages.

In honor of the current generation of young readers interested in creepy things, we’ve rounded up a few team favorites in YA and middle grade horror written by Black women. Honestly, these aren’t only great reads if you’re young—our team is full of grown-ups, and we couldn’t get enough!

Share this list with a young reader in your life today, and let’s help keep the love of the genre alive for its smallest fans!


Photos by Emily

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

A spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore that will have readers holding their breath as they fly through its pages.

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

Alex says: “It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of MG horror—and this is exceptionally different as it is telling a story that is so new to me and so fascinating! I was pulled into the forest and could smell and see all the oranges in this story. I felt the claustrophobia of the jumbie weeds taking over. And I could sense the presence of the yellow glowing eyes watching me from afar.”

Emily says: “I think The Jumbies is pretty spooky for a middle-grade book. It’s not too spooky, but I think it’s a great selection for a kid who likes stuff on the darker side. There are great creatures, magic, bravery, and more. It’s a lot of fun.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

Photos by Jen

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world.

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?

Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend. Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee’s welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.

One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.

Alex says: “I knew when I saw this cover and read the synopsis that I had to read this book! And I am pleased to say that this book does not disappoint in the slightest! It’s full of coming-of-age, friendships, mystery/suspense, nightmares, and more. This book is a cautionary tale for abiding by the rules of any game played. Breaking the rules can have serious consequences. And in this case, the game they are playing is Hide and Seek. I can’t even count how many hours and hours I spent playing this game with my friends and family as a child. . . . But now I will never look at it the same again!”

Jen says: “Books like Hide and Seeker are exactly why I read—and will continue to read—middle grade. I haven’t found an adult book with this kind of heart in a long time.”

Tracy says: “Older readers should not sleep on middle grade horror. Horror marketed for younger audiences can still be scary, still provide entertainment, and the very best ones hit close to the heart. Daka Hermon’s novel, Hide and Seeker, is one book that does all three. Mysterious, heart-wrenching, and yeah, scary; this novel is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers.”

Goodreads | Bookshop

Photos by Jen

Root Magic by Eden Royce

A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic.

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork.

Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.

Jen says: “My ultimate hope for this book is that teachers and librarians who are looking for books for their spooky-loving readers will add this book to their shelves.”

Alex says: “What a wonderful book! I loved it. LOVED IT!!”

Goodreads | Bookshop


Photo by Cassie

Dread Nation and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

(Only including the synopsis for Dread Nation because the second might be spoiler-y!)

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Jen says: Dread Nation was very successful at building the story over the course of the entire novel. I love when a book gets better and better and then thoroughly hooks me by the end.”

Emily says: “The story and characters are memorable, and it was amusing and heartbreaking at the same time. I bought the second book last week, and I’m looking forward to reading it!”

Audra says: “The main character Jane is everything you’d want in a great heroine and more. There are excellent scenes of zombie action, plenty of mysteries afoot, and budding romances to delight in.”

Dread Nation: Goodreads | Bookshop

Deathless Divide: Goodreads | Bookshop

Photos by Alex and Cassie

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.

Alex says: “The way Jackson made ALL of this work together so effortlessly is such a feat! I was scared and I was on the edge of my seat at times. I felt for our MC and her phobia and anxiety while being judged and shunned by everyone around her. I cannot wait to read more from Jackson as this is my first—I am running to add more of her books to my TBR.”

Cassie says: “There’s a lot of talk about mental health and anxiety specifically that’s important for people to read – a line between main character Mari and her love interest about anxiety not needing a reason to exist was a big highlight in my copy of the book, and I love the author’s approach to a lot of these real-life topics.”

Heather says: “I really enjoyed this one! It has so many different topics grief, addiction, blended families, a spooky house. The characters are so well written you want to root for them and maybe put one in time out.”

Goodreads | Bookshop


Cassie is one of our core team members, and maintains our site interviews with authors and creating monthly themed content.

Find her online at her blog, Twitter as @ctrlaltcassie, or over at her Etsy store, where she sells clothing, coloring & activity books, bookmarks, art prints, DIY craft kits, & more!

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