Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Image: Tor Nightfire.

6 Seasonal, Spooky Novels to Read This Latin American Heritage Month

As the twerking skeletons on your timeline and mice-making soup illustrations suggest, it is officially Fall. This also marks the beginning celebration of my favorite holiday—Halloween. Because Latin American Heritage Month is the last half of September and the first half of October, I wanted to celebrate by sharing some of my favorite horror and horror-adjacent novels by those of Latinx heritage—plus some high up on my TBR pile.

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In this selection, I’ve included a wide breadth of Latin American writers, including those from non-Spanish speaking countries and those across the larger diaspora. Despite the lack of representation in visual American media outside of Guillermo Del Toro projects, the original Addams’ Family, HBO Max’s Los Espookys, and the stereotype of VooDoo priestess, horror is very big in most Latin American cultures. From folkloric monsters to redefining genres like magical realism, there is so much underappreciated talent and perspective regarding the creepy and unsettling across the region.

If you didn’t already know, I’m actually a big scary cat, so while I love elements of horror, these books probably won’t have you jumping when you see your shadow. In fact, the order of these books is generally the least scary or disturbing to most, but this is up to your interpretation.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (new cover). Image: Razorbill.
(Razorbill)

On title and cover (both cute versions), this is obviously a rather upbeat book despite its dark themes and being set in high school—it’s own set of horrors involved with that.

In an effort to find out who murdered her close friend (because she’s not buying the official cause of death), Riley, Mila messes with some serious magic. Instead of just bringing back her BFF, Riley, Mila also accidentally brings back several recently deceased victims. With their bodies decaying and the person who put them on the ground still on the loose, Mila must uncover the truth before the murder strikes again. Further complicating this mess, Riley and the recently reanimated girls, are more interested in continuing their lives as if they never died.

Five Midnights (Five Midnights vol 1) by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Five Midnights (Five Midnights vol 1) by Ann Dávila Cardinal. Image: Tor Teen.
(Tor Teen)

This is the one book I haven’t taken a crack at on this list, but seeing as every time I come across another book in this series (Category Five), I needed to include it. This series mixes myth/legend and places it in the center of a fully realized, contemporary Puerto Rico. While this is a horror list, like the previous entry, this is heavy on the mystery side, and the horror comes in elements of the story rather than genre.

In the first YA novel, Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre team up once again after finding out two of their former friends back in their more reckless, younger days have been murdered. Something about the murder, however, seems like more than meets the eye and bears resemblance to one of the darkest creatures on the island. Based on a review by Norwegian BookTuber Sandra, I’m refraining from explaining much more and even going into less detail about online storefronts. Many reviewers’ biggest issues were the spoilers in the description, taking away the thrill of the story.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Image: Tor Nightfire.
(Tor Nightfire)

I’m not sure if you’re even allowed to make a Latinx horror or even fantasy list without mentioning a single book by Moreno-Garcia, but I’m not complaining at all. A master at her craft, this novel mixes so many elements together in an action packeted supernatural horror novel. Despite no vampires allowed in the city limits of a near-futuristic Mexico City, the city is swarming with them. The story begins when a garbage-collecting boy, Domingo, meets a mesmerizing descendant of the Aztecs, Atl, as stacking threats circle her. I’m about 40% into this book because all the vampires in media again have definitely put me in a mood. This will scratch that itch if you have it, too.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica — translated by Sarah Moses. Image: Scribner Book Company.
(Scribner Book Company)

Translated by Sarah Moses, Tender is the Flesh was recently published in English back in 2020. Originally published in 2016, the story follows Marcos in his day-to-day routine operating a meat processing plant in a world where a plague made animals a threat to humans and most countries have resorted to cannibalism. A weird client complicates his already stressed personal life when he gifts Marcos high-quality live stock. The twist had me running to Reddit to make sure I read it right. This is a great book for those that love world-building over plot.

Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories by Yamile Saied Méndez , Amparo Ortiz, & illustrated by Ricardo López Ortiz

Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories by Yamile Saied Méndez , Amparo Ortiz, & illustrated by Ricardo López Ortiz. Image: Algonquin Young Readers.
(Algonquin Young Readers)

Because it’s an anthology, the tone and styles are so different that is hard to factor in fear. I haven’t read all of these stories yet, but I’ve read enough from these authors to be excited to get my hands on this recent release and also see the stunning illustration by artist Ricardo López Ortiz. The stories jump in the genre, but the anthology promises a monster for every kind of reader. The authors include: Chantel Acevedo, Courtney Alameda, Julia Alvarez, Ann Dávila Cardinal, M. García Peña, Racquel Marie, Gabriela Martins, Yamile Saied Méndez, Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, Claribel A. Ortega, Amparo Ortiz, Lilliam Rivera, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Ari Tison, and Alexandra Villasante.

(featured image: Tor Nightfire)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.