There would be no Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Darren Shan without gothic storytelling, without Mary Shelley writing about mad scientists, or Bram Stoker writing about blood-sucking aristocrats, or Ann Radcliffe writing about haunted castles. Gothic storytelling was big in the Nineteenth Century and it was all about ghosts, crumbling mansions, madness and death. There’s usually a secret at the heart of a gothic story, a secret so dangerous that it brings doom to whoever discovers it.
The most recognisable gothic story is Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, the story of a scientist who tries making a man and instead makes a monster. Shelley wrote it in 1816 while on holiday in Switzerland, a holiday so wet and awful she was cooped up indoors all summer. To pass the time, Shelley and her friends decided to freak each other out by writing the scariest story they could imagine. Shelley won, writing not only a bed-wetting, shriek-like-a-helium-balloon tale of terror, but also the first science fiction novel. Her friend John Polidori came a close second, writing ‘The Vampyre’, the first proper vampire novel, a novel that freaked Bram Stoker out so much that in 1897, he took time out from wetting the bed and shrieking like a helium balloon to write ‘Dracula’.
A lot’s changed since then, but there are still holidays so wet and awful, a new generation of writers have locked themselves indoors and are freaking each other out. Below are five of our favourite gothic novels written by authors living today. Each one is soaked in paranoia, mystery and romance, the three essential ingredients needed to create teenage life (that and electricity.) Have you read any of these? Love them? Hate them? Think you’ve read better? Prove it. Leave a comment, or send us an email.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by KAMI GARCIA and MARGARET STOHL
In the swamps and tombstones of the forgotten South, Ethan Wate has just met the girl of his dreams… literally. Lena Duchannes is young, beautiful and she’s been haunting his sleep for weeks. Who is she? What’s her secret? And why is his town doing everything in its power to keep the two of them apart?
BLOODLINE by KATE CARY
There’s something wrong with Quincy Harker. As cannons boom and bodies burn on the battlefields of World War 1, 19-year-old John Shaw is less concerned with German forces, and more concerned with the nocturnal affairs of his commander, the charming, yet brutal son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray…
TENDER MORSELS by MARGO LANAGAN
Two worlds: one brutal, one beautiful. Liga lives in a hut with her tyrant father, enduring unspeakable horror and abuse. One day she finds a path into a better world and a better life for her and her daughters, away from the clutches of her father. But nothing lasts forever, and the beauty of their new world will soon give way to the darkness and cruelty of the old.
PRETTY MONSTERS by KELLY LINK
A dazzling collection of stories that will fill your head with honey and your heart with ice. Read about undead ex-girlfriends, faery handbags, secret libraries, lovers, monsters and magic! This book will blast your eyeballs into paste.
THE POISON GARDEN by SARAH SINGLETON
It’s 1850 and Thomas has inherited a box, a box with four corners, four sides and the secret to his grandmother’s death. His grandmother was poisoned, the victim of an occult power-struggle. As more people die, it’s up to Thomas to uncover the mystery of the Gardens and the identity of his grandmother’s killer.