If you've had to read "The Lottery" for school, you're already familiar with Shirley Jackson's creepy, surreal style. One of my favorites of hers is We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I have a thing for books about youth left to their own devices by adults who are neglectful, absent, or, in this case, suspiciously murdered. Read on for more about this book, and some other titles in the same disturbing vein!
Meet Constance and Merricat Blackwood. They live all on their own, unless you count their frail, wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian. Their parents, siblings, and other relatives are out of the picture, and you gradually find out why: they were poisoned at a family dinner, and the community has always suspected Constance of the crime. Although she was acquitted, she and her remaining family are isolated and alone. Learn what really happened in this book that's full of sweet and sinister moments alike. And if you share my taste for creepy books about how the mice play while the cat's away, check out a few more titles:
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a classic: think of the TV show Lost, with a plane full of kids, and then what might happen if bullies can do whatever they want, on an island without consequences.
- How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff starts out as a cozy book about an American girl sent to live with her quaint British family, but becomes a lot darker as the family is left without adult supervision when a war breaks out.
- Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen is a fantasy novel with a unique premise: girls are able to call up "shadow sisters" from another world. Meet a few of those girls and their shadow sisters on their solo coming-of-age journey.
- The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan is classified as adult literary fiction, not a teen novel, but it's about teen characters, and its slender length and fast-moving plot make it a good, albeit disturbing, pick for older teens and adult readers of YA lit.
- Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin is a sweeter, more positive book about teens on their own, who find creativity and personal responsibility in their secret escape.