As summer turns to fall, we’ve rounded up a list of eerie novels for young readers that feature menacing mists, fatal fogs, and other worrisome weather phenomena. Read on for a tempestuous YA fantasy debut, a smog-filled middle grade adventure set in an alternate London, a nebulous coming-of-age comic, and more. And see our selection of Halloween-themed books for kids and teens here!
Sunya Mara. Clarion, $18.99 July ISBN 978-0-358-56198-9
When Vesper Vale’s revolutionary parents failed to overthrow their city’s corrupt ruler, her mother was captured and forced to enter the unending Storm that surrounds their city and is said to curse anyone it touches. Twelve years later, Vesper, now 17, and her father, Pa, live on the run, evading the city’s guardians, called Wardana. Eventually, however, their luck runs out and Pa is captured by the ruler’s heir and Vesper embarks on a treacherous rescue mission. High-stakes action and an enemies-to-lovers romance propel Mara’s duology-opening debut to its climactic end.
Catherine Yu. Page Street Kids, $18.99 Sept. 20 ISBN 978-1-64567-612-6
In Yu’s chilling horror debut, set in the late 1990s, 16-year-old Chinese American Aja’s older sister Fiona goes missing just after Fiona’s 17th birthday. Soon, three more teenagers vanish from their Michigan neighborhood. Aja connects the disappearances to two events: the sudden and inexplicable emergence of white caterpillars with sharp teeth burrowing into and infecting the neighborhood’s trees, and strangely inclement weather patterns, which include blood rain and an impenetrable fog. Aja’s gradual realization that Fiona’s life isn’t as perfect as she’d assumed and a riveting paranormal romance make for an eerie tale that contemplates fitting in amid societal pressures.
Michael Mann. Peachtree, $17.99 Sept. 27 ISBN 978-1-68263-518-6
Scores of kidnapped children shovel coal into Battersea Power Station’s underground furnaces, powering all of smog-ridden London, in debut author Mann’s splendid escapist adventure. Two years after 12-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma, who’s of Indian descent, arrives at the station, he tries to keep new girl Jess from slowing the shoveling line and jeopardizing his chance at a freedom-granting amber ticket. But an ensuing incident results in foul punishment for both: cleaning the sewers. It’s during this task that Luke rescues a ghostcloud, or water-bonded spirit, called Alma, who recognizes Luke for the half-ghost he is, and reveals his ability to both perceive the uncanny and fly over an alternate London, which is overseen by evil magnate Tabatha Margate. The book received a starred review from PW.
Juliana Brandt. Sourcebooks, $16.99 May ISBN 978-1-72-824544-7
Thirteen-year-old Glennon McCue, his older sister Lee, and their mother are staying with their uncle Job, a lighthouse keeper, while their father attends a teaching fellowship overseas. When an accident leaves Job’s previous post on Lake Superior’s coast inhospitable, he is reassigned to the lighthouse on Isle Philippeaux, which is not accounted for on any maps. Over the course of their stay, Glennon and Lee encounter eerie rats, extreme and unprecedented weather, and terrifying ghosts, lending credence to their belief that the island’s inhabitants are hiding something frightening. Brandt’s writing is lyrical—the gale force wind almost feels like its own character—and the narrative atmosphere proves harrowing.
Rochelle Hassan. HarperCollins, $16.99 May ISBN 978-0-06-305460-8
Twelve-year-old Roda lives with her mother and Aunt Dora in an Aerland city bordered by a paralyzing mist. Everyone knows that, while the mist is dangerous, it’s meant to keep them safe; it petrifies anything that touches it, preventing the terrifying monsters of the wild from entering their town. After Roda rescues a small crow that seemingly tumbled through the mist, the bird turns out to be a shape-shifter named Ignis, a boy around her age who has no memory of what he was doing before he fell. Gathering up a series of letters, which Roda has been receiving from an anonymous source, the pair follow the notes and their ostensibly prophetic instructions beyond the mist and into the outside world, called Nowhere. This keenly plotted fantasy debut blends a tranquil contemporary world with an epically time-rending adventure.
Marlyn Spaaij. Flying Eye, $15.99 paper July ISBN 978-1-838740740
Otherworldly creatures, including the literalized specter of puberty, prowl this mercurial comic. As sisters Margot, Kyra, and Janna arrive for a two-week visit to their grandmother’s farmhouse near “old and ancient” Frygea Forest, middle sister Kyra excitedly anticipates snaggle-toothed Trolls, a slavering Hellhound, and wraithlike Fog Furies—“mist creatures who lure young girls into the fog.” But the perils prove child’s play until 12-year-old Margot encounters the Fog Furies and begins keeping apart from the others. In swirling, bold-hued panels, animator Spaaij conjures a liminal space as Margot hovers on the brink of a mystical womanhood in this alluringly high-pitched drama.
Landra Jennings. Clarion, $16.99 Aug. ISBN 978-0-3586-7455-9
In an atmospheric mystery incorporating mystical elements, a take on “Snow-White and Rose-Red” by the Brothers Grimm, debut author Jennings tells the tale of middle schooler siblings Neve and Rose, who move to Etters, S.C., with their mother following their parents’ separation. After being as “close as the sisters in the fairy tale,” the girls—only 11 months apart—begin forming their own identities in their new town. They soon learn about local girls’ unexplained disappearances, which some townsfolk have inexplicably forgotten, and frightening rumors about the swamp not too far from their house. When a mysterious fog rolls in and swallows Rose up, Neve—joined by an ethereal boy, a hound, and a worn book of fairy tales—searches for her missing sister.
Margi Preus, illus. by Armando Veve. Amulet, $17.99 Sept. ISBN 978-1-4197-5824-9
Thirteen-year-old Hyacinth, called “Tagalong,” has lived her entire life indoors, safe from the treacherous wind that snatched under-15-year-old “youngers” and whisked them away to places unknown. Seven years after her own three sisters were windswept in a sudden snow squall, a map to a secret gathering is slipped through a knothole in the door that Tag peers out of daily. Tag and a motley group of new friends set off on a quest to find their missing siblings, encountering witches, trolls, and enchanting magic along the way. Newbery Honoree Preus borrows from Norwegian fairy tales to investigate ethics around avarice, exploitation, and communal priority in this intriguing fantasy. See our q&a with Preus.