I came across Stephen King’s 1979 book The Dead Zone by happy accident when I had nothing to read. Though I have read many King novels, I somehow hadn’t heard of this one before, and the story piqued my interest: young Johnny Smith awakens from a five year long coma to find the world a changed place. His beloved fiancée has moved on to another man and now has two children; his ultra-religious mother has lost her mind; and his body needs extensive surgical repair if he ever wants to walk again. Johnny’s once promising teaching career is in question, and on top of all of this, he seems to have developed a supernatural power of precognition in connection with his brain injury. This ability is a blessing and a curse to Johnny: he is able to help loved ones avoid misfortune, but he also sees terrifying flashes into the depraved mind of an active serial killer who has been terrifying the New England area for years. Johnny’s unwanted new ability does not go unnoticed: it attracts the vulture-like attention of reporters and scammers looking to make a quick buck. While he mourns the loss of his old life and longs for solitude in rural Maine, the growing number of women falling victim to the serial killer and the strengthening connection force Johnny to use his new power for good. Johnny has another connection to a force even more sinister than the killer: a local politician with the darkest of intentions. I couldn’t put this book down. Though I had never heard of it before, it will remain one of my favorite Stephen King books from here on out. It was thrilling as well as deeply moving. I’d definitely recommend this on a chilly fall weekend! (Submitted by Mandi)
I love preteen novels with elements of the supernatural and this book doesn’t disappoint. Amanda and Leo are old friends, born on the same day and always happy to celebrate their birthdays together. Until this one. Something happened to their friendship that left them estranged. Turning eleven can be hard but in this instance it gets harder as the day repeats on Amanda. She can’t escape all the bad feelings and her miserable Hollywood theme party creating a fun ride as she attempts to face it differently each time. Age appropriate relationships and the unexpected ways the day plays out will keep a young reader engaged in this enjoyable work. (Submitted by Pippa)
As a fan of both historical fiction and supernatural horror, when I heard there was a new novel out about the Donner Party, I knew I had to read it. Enter Alma Katsu’s new novel, The Hunger. Set in 1846, this novel is based on the true story of the Donner Party, a doomed group of 100 people heading to California’s fertile valley farmland by way of wagon train. As tragedy after tragedy laid waste to the group, only a handful ever made it.
The Donner wagon train contains two large wealthy families, a beautiful woman rumored to be a witch, a large Mormon family without a patriarch, and some single men, who are all leaving their family farms in Illinois hoping for a better life. As Katsu weaves her story around their lives and voices, the reader gets a good sense of just how hard it was for people on the trail to make it: they must give birth on the trail, tend to the sick, hunt their food, gather their medicine from plants, and deal with the physical act of walking nearly 12 hours per day. Though many of the group start off as strangers to one another, the reader comes to find their lives and sins are intimately connected, revealed through haunting glimpses into all of their shady pasts. As the group members begin to become aware of these connections, their camaraderie is quickly worn away. These divisions spell their doom as their environment grows more barren and a supernatural evil begins to prey on them. (No spoilers!)
This book is not for the faint of heart. It showcases the best, as well as the worst, parts of human nature when faced with a raw survival situation. Despite the difficult subject matter, I found this to be an extremely captivating read, and eager to read more about the Donner party (perhaps my next read will be a non-fiction account of this tragedy, The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party, by Daniel James Brown). Katsu changed a lot of the real story, but she used many real life events that happened to these real people and seamlessly added a supernatural evil. The result is totally thrilling and cinematic. I eagerly await a film adaptation! (Submitted by Mandi)