Atmospheric Settings – YA Book Reviews by Amy

YA Books: Atmospheric Settings

I love when I read a book, and the setting feels like it could be a character alongside the cast. The setting can move the plot, befriend or betray our main character, or set the tone by being moody or atmospheric.  The setting can be a vital piece of the story. I like it especially when it is eerie and makes the main character feel uneasy. I also really like reading about mysterious houses—whether it is haunted, has secret passages strewed about, or just feels that you are in the house.   Here are some of my favorite atmospheric settings that will leave you thinking.

Set during WWII, Aila and Miles’ mother dies and their father is sent to war. They must travel to their mother’s childhood town to live with a family friend. The siblings begin to notice strange occurrences in the town; things seem to be missing. They learn that every seven years something disappears from the town: smell, stars, and reflections. The townspeople believe that Aila’s mother had something to do with the disappearances as she is the only one not affected by these changes. Will Aila find a place where she belongs with a new family and friends? Will she find out what is going on and how her family is connected to these disappearances? 

A stunning read! This has such a 1940’s Pleasantville vibe that I read the story as if it was told in sepia. The lack of color and the strange differences about the two stood out as very creepy! This book has a little bit of everything: historical fiction, magical realism, a mystery, and a little romance. I hope to read more by Emily Bain Murphy. 

Available on Hoopla, and at the Library* for checkout. 

Briseis has the powers to make seeds spring to life and plants grow, something that she struggles to learn to control. When Briseis’s aunt dies, her home is left to Briseis and her family. They decide to spend a summer there, rebuilding the home and allowing Briseis to practice controlling her powers. However, the house has secrets including a walled in garden which has a dark past. 

Briseis inherits a mansion, and the atmosphere surrounding the house and the gardens is very spooky and dark yet full of magic and wonder. There is a good balance between the tight family unit between Briseis and her moms, juxtaposed to the isolation of the house and the small town feeling of “everyone is watching”. This is a book that is loosely based off of The Secret Garden, one of my favorite classics. 

Available as an eBook on Overdriveand at the Library* for checkout. 

Serilda has been given a gift, or a curse, to be able to weave fantastical true stories. When her tales gain a listening ear from the Erlking, he kidnaps her and asks her to spin gold out of straw. Serilda summons a boy with the ability to keep her alive but begins to have feelings for him. Will love make Serilda stronger, or will it cause her to fall apart? This is a fun and eerie reimaging of Rumpelstiltskin. 

The setting is the star of this novel! The magical language Meyer uses to describe the small towns and the Erlking’s castle paints a picture in my head. There is one scene that has been with me since reading it: the first time Serilda falls asleep in the castle and how different her surroundings are when she wakes up! A really fun reimagining, and the sequel is coming out soon! 

Available onOverdriveand at the Library* for checkout. 

When a group of teens are trapped on campus due to horrific weather, it is a chance for each one of their life-altering secrets to be exposed. Could a secret be the motive for murder? When the body of the headmaster is found in the conservatory, it is obvious that his death was not an accident. Will Beth “Peacock” Picaah, tennis star, let nothing stand in her way to keep her from winning? Orchid McKee? She is hiding from not only her past but from someone deadly. Vaughn Green – a charity student with the skills? Sam “Mustard” Maestor – the new kid with a violent past? Finn Plum or Scarlet Mistry best friends with a vendetta against the headmaster? 

Sound familiar? Based on the popular board game CLUE, readers must look at every character as a suspect. All had the means and motive to murder Headmaster Body. Who was in the hall with the knife? So atmospheric and so much fun! 

Rachel is trying to forget about her traumatic past after a home invasion. Moving to a new house and attending a new school may help, but she has not made many friends. Rachel also begins to have a slight obsession with horror movies to cope with her incident. When she finds a group of friends that are a part of the Mary Shelley Club, they become close while watching, writing, and performing everything horror. Could this club be doing more harm to Rachel than good? 

This was such a good book. It was super suspenseful and creepy. This is a mix of mystery, thriller, and horror. This book read like a slasher movie, and I would love to see it turn into a miniseries. I could not stop reading until it was too late and too creepy to read in the dark, and then when I picked the book up the next day, I couldn’t put it down. The best horror book that I have ever read! 

Available on Overdriveand at the Library* for checkout. 

Makani wants to forget about her past and live in the now in Nebraska with her grandmother. All of a sudden, classmates are being murdered one by one, and while Makani does not know what connects them, she does not want to be next on the list.  

This reads like a slasher film perfectly. It is quite violent and more graphic than many other YA thrillers, but it is the epitome of horror. There are creepy scenes in which you feel like you are in Makani’s shoes and are being watched, followed, and targeted. A quick read that you could finish in one sitting! 

Felicity has returned to Dalloway School after the death of her best friend and girlfriend, Alex. After a year of researching, Felicity wants to find out the truth of the Dalloway Five: five girls that were accused of being witches and murdered in seemingly impossible ways. Not sure what to believe other than thinking she is being haunted by Alex and the house she lives in seems alive, Felicity wants to move on after her senior year. Ellis, new girl and author, moves into her building and starts prompting Felicity to remember. What is real? And what is not? 

I’ve talked about this book so much, but that is the impression it left with me, especially the isolating setting that is inspired by other gothic and spooky stories, such as Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This remains to be absolutely original and fantastic. I was constantly interested in Felicity and her story along with learning the history of the school and the deaths of the witches. 

Available on Overdrive and at the Library* for checkout. 

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