Madness, Tortured Romance, and a Heck of a Lot of Castles: Megan Shepherd's Love Affair with Gothic LiteratureOr, Megan Shepherd's Eight Favorite Gothics.
Thus far, Megan Shepard's The Madman's Daughter hits the most Gothic-y Gothic heights I've seen in a YA novel yet: it's a reimagining of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau from the perspective of his abandoned daughter Juliet, and it's darkly romantic and scary and lush and grotesque and JUST WONDERFUL.
But if you wanted to hear me gush on and on about it, you'd already have clicked through to my review. So without further ado, here's Megan!
Compiling a list of my favorite Gothic literature requires a certain ambiance: a steaming cup of tea, a cat in lap, preferably lightning crashing beyond the window. I’ve liked Gothic literature since before I even knew what it was, when I used to daydream about sword fights and desolate moors and tragic lovers going mad. (Yes, I was a strange kid. I think that surprises no one.) I’m delighted that many Young Adult authors are beginning to write more in this genre, though of course Gothic sentiments have been present in YA literature for decades (VC Andrews’ infamous Flowers in the Attic comes to mind, perhaps also elements of Robert Cormier’s brilliant The Chocolate War). Below are some of my favorite Gothic classics, Gothic fiction for adults, and more recent YA Gothic fiction.
The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson
This chilling YA mystery deals with a ghostly Jack the Ripper stalking the modern-day streets of London. When American Rory Deveaux moves there to attend boarding school, the last thing she expects is to be swept up in “Rippermania” and worse, to become the killer’s target. This supernatural thriller has plenty of humor, romance, and shocking twists to satisfy the most devout Gothic devotee.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
What could be more Gothic than an orphaned governess falling in love with the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester? Oh yeah, lots of secrets in the attic and gasp-worthy twists. Originally published in 1847, Bronte’s classic is one of the defining novels of the Gothic genre and a must-read by anyone who enjoys a desolate atmosphere, haunting mood, and an ill-fated romance.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by April Tucholke
The atmosphere is languid, dark, and mysterious in this forthcoming YA novel about teenaged Violet White’s eccentric New England family. When a handsome and devilish stranger rents her family’s guest house, Violet is in for a romantic—and dangerous—summer. River West is all charm and secrets, but when odd and deadly occurrences start appearing at the same time he does, Violet wonders if River is the boy of her dreams or a devil in disguise. A chilling and beautifully written romantic thriller.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters
With a main character named Mary Shelley Black, I knew I’d love this historical YA filled with ghosts, war, and an unusual romance. Set against the backdrop of WWI and the Spanish influenza—an epidemic that feels like a sinister, lurking character—the séances and spiritualism of the book will satisfy the reader in all of us who craves a good Gothic tale. An atmospheric and creepy novel steeped in both historical realism and a dose of the supernatural.
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
Family secrets and obsessions run wild in this Gothic tale about a biographer who received a mysterious letter in the mail from a famous author wanting to tell her life story. The creepy elements leap off the page: ghosts, sprawling estates, moors, and tea. Aren’t you just dying to know what the thirteenth tale is? A Gothic story for true bibliophiles.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
The Bronte sisters really nailed the Gothic genre, didn’t they? Also published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is another deliciously romantic Gothic classic spanning generations of tortured souls on the windswept English moors. The passionate love affair between Catherine and Heathcliff is bursting with revenge, forbidden love, and a legacy of unrequited love.
Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake
Though more straight-up horror than Gothic, this YA ghost story still has plenty of creepy Gothic elements: a cursed girl, a loner boy, legends and lore. Following in his father’s footsteps, Cas Lowood is a hunter of murderous ghosts. When he tracks down the legendary Anna Dressed in Blood, however, he discovers a tragic and lovely soul behind the ghost. How can he kill the girl he’s starting to fall in love with?
Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Luis Zafron
I’ve been a fan of Spanish literature since spending a year studying at the University of Seville; Carlos Luis Zafron is one of the best modern Spanish writers. This book, set after the Spanish Civil War, follows Daniel, son of an antiquarian book seller, as he tracks down the fate of a mysterious author and finds creepy similarities to his own life. With section headings like “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” and “Remembrance of the Lost,” this book takes readers on a wild tale of madness, love, and mystery.