31 Days of Spooky Reads: Horrid

Horrid tells the story of Jane, whose father died 5 weeks ago, and whose mother is lying to her.


  • Want a foreboding atmosphere
  • Like ghost stories
  • Want a book where people have secrets
  • Want a YA paranormal thriller

TitleHorrid | Author: Katrina Leno   Rating: 3/5

Horrid tells the story of Jane, whose father died 5 weeks ago, and whose mother is lying to her. Coming off the heels of grief and finding out her family has nothing in the bank, Jane and her mother Ruth leave their LA home and life and drive cross-country to cold New England. There, the family’s rundown old manor is waiting for them, with all its buried secrets and locked doors.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

I read Horrid in one sitting. It wasn’t the best of all thrillers I’ve read, but the paranormal was spooky enough that it gripped me. Likely because I was recently in New England, having driven there, I felt what Jane was experiencing with the gloomy, chillier air, old town mysteries, and the sense that the dead aren’t quite dead.

The writing was tight, and the setting was perfect:

Old family manor. Check.
Spooky ghosts haunting said manor. Check.
Family secrets. Check.
Old town gossip. Check.

I did think parts of the book were cliched, but in a YA, high school setting way. There’s the new girl in town, where everyone gossips about her family and their secrets. There’s the mean girl in school who targets the new girl. She’s a bookworm who lands the first job she applies for: at the local bookstore. The bookstore owner’s son is cute, and a little love story strikes up.

It’s what I would expect, though, from a YA book, and because I’m much older than YA typical audiences, I felt disconnected from the everyday realities of a high schooler. Still, the emotions are there, with the grief of Jane’s father’s death, and the sense that her mother isn’t quite telling her the whole truth about something.

I did think the reveal was both expected and unexpected. I anticipated the reveal, though not fully in the way it unfurled. It did remind me a bit of Gilmore Girls, in a Lorelai comes from a rich family but feels suffocated way. So it did feel a bit cliched, and some of the indignation the characters felt seemed forced. Still, the backstory was good enough and helped move the overall plot along.

Overall, a decent YA paranormal thriller, with a bite that keeps the story moving.

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