Ten Different Types of Horror: Ranking the Books from Young Adult Horror Series ‘Red Eye’
I’m a firm believer that horror is a genre which is shamefully underrepresented in young adult fiction, which is why I was over the moon when I discovered Red Eye series about four years ago. Published by Stripes Publishing, the series so far consists of ten books of various horror sub-genres aimed at a young adult demographic.
The novels are stand-alones by different authors (except for one case which I will discuss below), and range from slasher gore to ghost stories to vampires. Just a week ago I finished the last instalment that was resting on my bookshelf, so I figured the appropriate thing is to review and rank them based on a scale of 1 to 10 from worth to best. I will also post the synopsis of each book from Goodreads to save a bit of word count considering we are discussing ten books and I’d rather talk about why something worked for me or didn’t instead of just rehashing the plot details.
Lastly, this is all just my subjective opinion, so there’s a big chance you will disagree, and that’s okay. Anyway, without further ado, let’s dive into the horror!
Bad Bones by Graham Marks – 2/10
Goodreads synopsis: Some things are best left buried. Gabe is feeling the pressure. His family has money troubles, he's hardly talking to his dad, plus lowlife Benny is on his case. Needing some space to think, he heads off into the hills surrounding LA. And he suddenly stumbles across a secret that will change everything. A shallow grave. Gabe doesn't think twice about taking the gold bracelet he finds buried there. Even from the clutches of skeletal hands. But he has no idea what he's awakening...A chilling new story in the Red Eye series.
My opinion: Alright, so this is the one book in this series that I haven’t read. I feel like I’m cheating a little bit by still giving it a rating, but I have a few reasons for this. Usually, I don’t judge a book from its reviews before buying it (I check others’ opinions after I’m done with my read) but with this one, I made an exception because of consistent two-star ratings and negative comments from people. All of them mostly said the same thing – bad writing, unlikeable characters, weird pacing, slow beginning... the list goes on. Everything pointed to the book I would not enjoy, not to mention that the storyline itself did not sound appealing to me at all. From the snippets of the plot I dipped into in spoiler containing reviews, I made a predictive rating of 2 points out of 10 mostly because I felt giving it a zero would be too harsh but I just knew I would like it the least of out the series regardless.
Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire – 4/10
Goodreads synopsis: I must record the facts that have led me to where I am now. So that, when someone reads this, they understand. Sam Hunter's neighbours are pillars of the community, the most influential people in town. But they're liars too. The Greenhills are hiding something and Sam's determined to find out what it is. As his investigation unfolds, he realizes the lies reach further than he ever imagined - is there anyone he can trust? Uncovering the horror is one thing ...escaping is another. A chilling new story in the Red Eye series.
My opinion: This one I almost regretted buying but then I thought it would look decent on my shelf. The thing is, reading the story as a recounting of what had already happened from the main character can be frustrating. Especially when they know it was their dumb decisions that led to the mess they're in and then reflect on it with phrases like ‘this is where I should’ve turned back. But I didn’t’ makes me want to shout – you don’t say, huh? Sam was also quite an unrelatable protagonist who was willing to put himself and his friends in danger for the sake of becoming a journalist (in fact, that’s what pisses me off the most – he doomed his friends by dragging them into the whole situation).
The dumb decisions I already mentioned throughout the book were just that – dumb, because you knew it wouldn’t end well. Once the big plot point is discovered by the characters, the story takes a turn into the Gory Lane. While the descriptions were done well, I was also glad I wasn’t eating as it reminded me of that Human CentipedefilmI got roped into watching by some friends at the time and that’s not something I like to remember. The motivation of the bad guys could be considered a bit far-fetched but in a way, it does make sense, it’s just not an outcome I personally enjoyed. Overall, it’s probably not the book from Red Eye that I would be rereading often, if at all, but I still gave it 4 points because it had an interesting premise that could’ve been executed better, so it must count for something.
The Haunting by Alex Bell – 5.5/10
Goodreads synopsis: Some curses grow stronger with time… People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember. Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever… A chilling new title in the Red Eye horror series from the author of Frozen Charlotte.
My opinion: I feel like I might be a little too harsh with my rating, but after reading another novel by this author first, which I will discuss later on, this one just didn’t hit the same cords for me. The atmosphere was amazing – the sea legends, the ancient inn, the damn birds – the world of this story was so well constructed, it felt like its own entity at times.
However, no matter how rich the worldbuilding was, the plot itself just didn’t suck me in at all. It’s not even the question of originality – a lot of the stories use the same tropes and there’s nothing quite like a good old ghost story – it's just that this one for me personally ended up being quite forgettable. Emma was also a protagonist I just couldn’t relate to; I couldn't even put my finger on why that was. I know that some ignorance is required to move the plot along in the horror genre, however, there is a fine line between innocent naivety and just plain stupidity, which definitely rears its head in this book when Emma outright refuses to accept what’s happening right in front of her. I have to add an extra half a point for Bailey, though – more books need dogs in the forefront.
At the end of the day, I did enjoy this book but the low rating comes solely from not being able to remember what happens in the end and not really wanting to reread it (although I’m buying it to have a whole collection of Red Eye books at some point). Oh well, we all have our own tastes, don’t we?
Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan – 6/10
Goodreads synopsis: ‘She sat us all down and told us a story. About things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night.’ For Charlie, a school ski trip is the perfect escape from his unhappy home life. Until a storm blows in and the resort town is cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped on the mountain, the students wait for the blizzards to pass, along with mysterious ski guide Hanna. But as night falls and the town’s long buried secrets begin to surface, the storm is the least of their problems…. A chilling RED EYE horror, perfect for fans of Dawn Kurtagich, Juno Dawson and Charlie Higson.
My opinion: Usually I’m crazy for any versions of vampires in fiction as I feel it’s important to have vampire representation since Twilight did a good job of ruining the creep factor of the mythical creatures (and I say that as someone who used to love the series as a teenager). The premise itself is definitely endearing, but it’s the little things in the book for me that bring it down to such a rating.
Firstly, in the book, there was quite a bit of telling instead of showing, as well as repetition. Once the story hit its first danger point, the characters have the same conversation about what the creatures are and how to face or not face them at least on ten different occasions with pretty much the exact same characters saying the exact same thing the entire time. It got to the point where it felt like the dialogue was put in solely to fill up the pages.
Next, I’m all up for some gruesome deaths (in reading, obviously), but the high body count not even a hundred pages into the book just didn’t have the impact considering we barely knew any of the characters that met their end. Speaking of the characters, having like four different points of view threw me off at first, especially since they sounded quite the same for the most part. Also, I wanted to strangle Tara for being an entitled spoiled selfish brat the whole time and wasn’t too pleased with her outcome, even if it did make sense story-wise. To sum up my verdict, it was a decent idea and a great setting with some endearing characters but had too many flaws for me personally to rate it any higher on the list.
Fir by Sharon Gosling – 7/10
Goodreads synopsis: We are the trees. We are the snow. We are the winter. We are the peace. We are the rage. Cut off from civilization by the harsh winter of northern Sweden, the Stromberg family shelter in their old plantation house. There are figures lurking in the ancient pine forests and they’re closing in. With nothing but four walls between the Strombergs and the evil that’s outside, they watch and wait for the snows to melt. But in the face of signs that there’s an even greater danger waiting to strike, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish reality from illusion. All they’ve got to do is stay sane and survive the winter…
My opinion: Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think of the story itself. It ticks all the standard horror tropes – useless parents, creepy housekeeper, little children, secluded mansion, bad weather... It’s the whole package. And yet, something for me was lacking to rate the book higher than that. The amount of spiteful ignorance the protagonist’s parents display throughout the book is appalling, especially the father, who is willing to put everything and everyone at risk to prove a point.
Which leads me to the next irk – the characters had plenty of chances to leave even before the snowstorm hit, but it felt like the only reason they were insistent to stay in the mansion was because the plot required so. Despite that, I did enjoy the messages of environmentalism and consumerism, not to mention the well though-out and researched mythology.
My favourite bit was the atmosphere and tone of the novel – the Scandinavian winter setting was so soothing to my heart, especially as I was reading it during a hot Greece getaway (oh, the irony). All in all, I think I would definitely enjoy rereading it at some point.
Savage Island by Bryony Pearce – 7.5/10
Goodreads synopsis: When reclusive millionaire Marcus Gold announces that he’s going to be staging an “Iron Teen” competition on his private island in the Outer Hebrides, teenagers Ben, Lizzie, Will, Grady and Carmen sign up – the prize is £1 million pounds … each. But when the competition begins, the group begin to regret their decision. Other teams are hunting their competitors and attacking them for body parts. Can the friends stick together under such extreme pressure to survive? When lives are at stake, you find out who you can really trust… A Red Eye horror novel for teens, this gripping YA thriller story is full of fast-paced action.
My opinion: Honestly, I loved this book. I am a sucker for some slasher-like stories in which teenagers/young adults make some stupid decisions and pay the consequences. The island setting was also really engaging and while the characters were kind of standard stock traits that are usually used in these sorts of stories, they come into their own throughout the book. Will’s and Ben’s background was also an interesting touch.
While a lot of other reviews said the book was very gory, I didn’t find it that much? I might be desensitised to the genre considering how obsessed I am with it, but apart from some obvious nauseating bits here and there, I feel like it wasn’t overdone. Pretty much the only reason why I gave it this rating is the ending and how far-fetched the whole concept of the bad guy is.
Personally, I still enjoyed the idea even with its flaws but at the end of the day, the suspension of disbelief just doesn’t cut it, especially compared to other higher-rated books on this list. Despite that, I still absolutely recommend it!
Dark Room by Tom Becker – 8/10
Goodreads synopsis: When Darla and her feckless dad, Hopper, move to Saffron Hills, Darla hopes it'll be a new start for the both of them. But she stands no chance of fitting in with the image-obsessed in-crowd at her new school. Then one of her classmates is brutally killed when taking a photo of herself. A murder Darla herself predicted in a bloody vision. When more teens die in a similar fashion it appears that a serial killer is on the loose - the 'Selfie Slayer'. Darla alone is convinced that the murderer might not be flesh and blood...
My opinion: I remember being completely lost in this book four years ago when I read it, in the best way. I was so aggravated by the characters’ obsession with beauty and how Darla was scrutinised for not being strikingly gorgeous, especially since she was written in a way for the reader to be able to insert themselves into her shoes, so it hit close to home. Some reviews said that because of this technique, her character came across as quite passive and dull at times, and that might be true in parts of the book, however, I personally found her quite complex and endearing, especially during her interactions with other characters, as the relationships between them are quite well built.
The story is more of a thriller than horror, but it definitely has plenty of its creepy moments. The writing was very visual, it often felt like I was watching a movie. The twist also caught me off guard so I count that as a win for this book, although some people might find it a bit problematic in today’s day and age because it does give into some unfortunate stereotypes.
Despite its flaws, I still enjoy this book and the only reason why I can’t say more is because it’s been so long since I read it, but I’m definitely thinking about giving it a proper review once I do reread it!
Charlotte Says by Alex Bell – 8.5/10
Goodreads synopsis: The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016. Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night. Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.
My opinion: Usually, I’m not crazy about prequels as they turn out to be a cash grab, but this one did me proud. The secluded setting, creepy children and even creepier dolls – it ticks all the right boxes for an effective supernatural horror story. I absolutely hated the headmistress of the school and hoped she would meet a bitter end. Jemima's character was also sympathetic for the most part, although towards the end implications of her inner darkness made me raise an eyebrow. The romance part felt a bit stilted throughout the book and could’ve not been there all together without making too much of a difference, but it also didn’t hurt it, either.
The girls turned out to be quite sympathetic characters, especially Stella (that poor child). They also turned out to be a useful narrative technique as the scares wouldn’t have been twice as effective if they weren’t in the picture. Without spoiling the story too much, there is one ‘prank’ that the dolls pulled which made me want to hide under the covers and never open my eyes again.
The biggest thing about this book, without a doubt, is the backstory for the frozen charlottes. I do think it was well constructed and certainly freaky, however, as some people pointed out, it partially takes away the scare factor of the first book, which is why I’d recommend reading it in the order it’s released, but that’s just my personal opinion. All in all, it was definitely a prequel good in its own right.
Sleepless by Lou Morgan – 9/10
Goodreads synopsis: Young, rich and good-looking, Izzy and her friends lead seemingly perfect lives. But exams are looming and at a school like Clerkenwell, failure is not an option. Luckily, Tigs has a solution. A small pill that will make revision a breeze and help them get the results they need. Desperate to succeed, the group begin taking the study drug. It doesn't take long before they realize there are far worse things than failing a few exams.
My opinion: So, as I said above with Savage Island, I love books where some teenagers make incredibly stupid decisions that are necessary to get the plot rolling and once it does, all you have to do is watch them get what’s coming to them. Sure, how they handle the situation, aka not going to anyone for help is purely done so the story keeps going. Sure, it’s annoying, but at the same time entertaining – the way I see it, not every story has to be intelligent and ‘deep’ to be enjoyable, as long as it keeps you turning the pages.
While some books do cross the line after which the contrived plot devices are no longer fun to read (like Flesh and Blood), for the most part, Sleepless manages to balance on it quite gracefully. Quite frankly, some of the characters deserved the ending they got, and the ways in which they met it was nothing if not creative.
The writing style can be a bit simplistic and it takes a while for the book to kick off the action as the writer takes a lot of time to create the setting so for some there might be too much description. One detail towards the ending for Izzy kind of comes out of nowhere as well, which is why it’s in the second place but overall, it’s definitely one of my favourites in the series.
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell – 10/10
Goodreads synopsis: We're waiting for you to come and play. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind...Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there's her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn't be there. The girl that died.
My opinion: Honestly, I understand why the following books in the Red Eye series seemed to lack something for a lot of readers – Frozen Charlotte is absolute perfection. Everything about the book, from the setting to the characters to the scares is amazingly well done. I’m not too crazy about stories centred around scary dolls but this one was a delightful exception.
I am delighted to buy this one for a reread as I can’t remember many details about the plot, I just know that when I reached the plot twist, I actually gasped because it caught me completely off guard. The story really made me think about the fundamentals of humanity and the choices we make, what makes us good and evil, and whether with some of us there’s already inherent darkness which only needs to be brought out. I never expected a YA horror novel to provoke such questions in me, which was a pleasant surprise. If none of the other books in this series interested you, I absolutely recommend this one!