The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews
I’ve always been a fan of Lovecraftian-esque mythos, stories of something lurking deep in the sea, ancient and terrible gods beyond natural reason.
I started the Leviathan expecting a spooky story about a big old sea snake. Instead, Rosie Andrews places us explicitly “far from the sea” to introduce Thomas Treadwater, a farmer’s son from 17th century Norfolk, in a mystery concerning a murdered flock of sheep, accusations of witchcraft, and Thomas’ own ailing father.
I’m glad the story wasn’t what I expected because, having become so enthralled in the sleuthing, the first mention of a serpent around halfway through the novel made my stomach drop. Rosie Andrews commands a horror so slow-burning that sometimes simply turning the page feels like removing a layer of a safety net, falling deeper into something unrelentingly malevolent. The Leviathan is the first book to give me nightmares since reading the Half Blood Prince when I was 7.
A Gift For A Ghost by Borja Gonzalez
This book made me question everything I do as an artist. The lines are all immaculate, drawn with purpose and care, and, despite the characters not actually having faces, Borja Gonzalez’s use of scale, shadows and selective silence provides all the mood and expression you could need.
The entire book uses no more than maybe a dozen colours – varying tones of red, yellow and blue – allowing the images to stay clear and distinct. Every page is gorgeous to look at.
The story, while arguably quite modest, compliments the art wonderfully. It’s delightfully whimsical but, like the artwork, Gonzalez knows when less is more. There is no written joke that could improve the image of a teenage girl dressed as a dinosaur sitting on a moonlit beach.
It wasn’t until the end that the mystery clicked into place, and I instantly reread the book in the same sitting with a new perspective of the story. The more you read it, the more it clicks.
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
The first summer after leaving school is the unspoken period in which, retrospectively, our lives definitively change. Having so far spent the summer of 1997 aimlessly cycling around town, awaiting the dreaded results of his final exams, Charlie Lewis bumps into Fran Fisher in a meadow and is immediately smitten.
David Nicholls shows complete understanding of both the ecstasy and utter panic of a teenage boy falling in love; from Charlie replaying his conversations with Fran in his head on his cycle home, to going hugely out of his way just to see her again. Backdropped by the characters’ involvement in an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet, David Nicholls brings a nuanced self-awareness to his love story in multiple ways that I wouldn’t dare call anything other than sheer genius.
The story itself is told by Charlie, now in his mid-30s – a looming bittersweet notion that things might not last – which caused me to savour every moment I had with these characters. After closing the back cover, I felt like I had just lost a handful of friends, and I had to lie down for an hour.
Thornhill by Pam Smy
Overgrown fences, creepy puppets, the diary of a lonely girl, and strange lights coming from the top window of the abandoned orphanage at night. Believe me when I tell you, this book has STYLE; even if for simply the glossy black edges to the pages, like you’re reading from a block of obsidian.
Pam Smy’s artwork hits the perfect balance between beauty and eeriness, with subtle shadowy details that will keep you flicking back to previous pages.
The story is split between two different decades, told through different mediums: the aforementioned lonely orphan girl in the 1980s, told via her diary entries; and the modern day in which a girl moves next door to the now ruined building, told via silent black and white illustrations.
Tension slowly builds simultaneously across both stories as they begin to intertwine, reeling you in to inevitably read the entire book in a single afternoon.