Best Horror of 2021

The term girl power gets new meaning, fairy tales are retold, and dark magic rules in the best horror novels of 2021.

Body Shocks. Tachyon. ed. by Ellen Datlow. ISBN 9781616963606.

These stories run the gamut from etherealcreepiness to haunt-your-dreams gross-outs. This authoritative collection is an ideal introduction to body and extreme horror for readers and librarians alike.

Castro, V. Goddess of Filth. Creature. ISBN 9781951971038.

This captivating, fast-paced novel lasteeped in Mexican mythology and bruja magic gives new meaning to the term girl power.

Hendrix, Grady. The Final Girl Support Group. Berkley. ISBN 9780593201237.

Hendrix presents a thought-provoking, fun, and chilling winner with perfect timing, as the slasher novel seems to be trending. The story is fast-paced, well plotted, and full of twists, and heroine Lynnette is the perfect imperfect final girl, a character readers want to root for despite her flaws.

Jones, Stephen Graham. My Heart Is a Chainsaw. Gallery/Saga: S.& S. ISBN 9781982137632.

Background tension in Jones’s latest thrums from the start—tension between Indigenous people and white colonizers, between longtime residents and incomers, between haves and have-nots—even before the meticulously crafted horror plot unfolds, hurtling readers toward the vivid, moving, gory end.

LaRocca, Eric. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. Weirdpunk. ISBN 9781951658120.

LaRocca’s combination of structure, adept pacing, and masterful language is more complex than meets the eye. The ending turns out to be nothing that anyone could have imagined—as horrific as it is impossible to look away from. A must-read for fans of body horror, epistolary novels, and depravity.

Mattson, JameHan. Reprieve. Morrow. ISBN 9780063079915.

Severely unsettling at every turn, the book alternates the unrelenting tension of the real world with in-your-face terror. It will be devoured by fans of pulp horror and those who like the juxtaposition of supernatural and real-world horrors.

Pelayo, Cynthia. Children of Chicago. Agora. ISBN 9781951709204.

This modern fairy tale is peppered with detail that informs the story without sacrificing pacing or atmosphere. Superior worldbuilding, a complex heroine, and a harrowing narrative that plays off current events as much as its well-developed monster all combine to create a stellar horror novel.

Piper, Hailey. Queen of Teeth. Strangehouse. ISB9781946335418.

Visceral, scary, and sensual, tackling issues of gender identity and marginalization head on, this fast- paced body horror creature-feature also follows romance genre rules, resulting in a tale that is both terrifying and sweet, even if the end of the world may be imminent.

Ward, Catriona. The Last House on Needless Street. Tor Nightfire. ISBN 9781250812629.

Ward’s layered plot and multiple points of view, featuring vivid characters with honest but clearly incomplete narration, create a stunning and immersive tale of psychological horror. It’s terrifyingly real and physically upsetting, yet, like the best of the genre, it leaves space for hope to ultimately shine through.

Wendig, Chuck. The Book of Accidents. Del Rey: Ballantine. ISBN 9780399182136.

A bold, impressive novel with fierce intelligence and a generous, thrumming heart. It’s intimate and panoramic. It’s humane and magical. It’s a world-hopping, time- jumping ride that packs a deep emotional punch. Wendig’s ambitious epic about a family and dark magic spans both a multitude of worlds and the interior expanse of the human heart.

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