Updated: Nov 29, 2022
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Longtime listeners know that these days, I'm not usually big on spooky reads or horror books. However, I do love atmospheric reads, and I (perhaps contradictorily!) am a big fan of seasonal reads for the fall. The books I included here, all of which are middle grade or YA lit, are perfect for readers who enjoy a great seasonal book but who aren't looking for the kind of story that gives you nightmares. If you're looking for more recommendations, don't miss our Spooky Reads episodes from the past few years (episode 198, episode 147, and way back to episode 97!) where we give lots of spooky book recs.
B. B. Alston's Amari and the Night Brothers (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - After the disappearance of her beloved older brother, Amari's life drastically changes. As a hidden world opens up to her, she finds herself becoming a magician in training at a secret elite training school, all in a desperate attempt to uncover what happened to her brother. Amari faces all kinds of challenges from snobby students who are used to their legacy status putting her down for her natural talent to coping with the absence of her brother in her life. She is courageous and resilient in the face of so many obstacles. (Check out my full review here.) I absolutely loved both book 1 and 2 of this brilliant middle grade series.
Darcy Little Badger's Elatsoe (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - In an American setting reimagined with supernatural components, Elatsoe has powers that allow her to see (and raise!) the ghosts of dead animals. Although her America has a lot in common with our world, it is also full of magical, mystical creatures. After the suspicious death of her uncle, Elatsoe must lean into her heritage and embrace the legacy of her Lipan Apache family and specifically her connection to her "Six-Great" grandmother to face everything coming her way and to solve the mystery at the center of the story. We read this one as an Unabridged Buddy Read and Book Club and had great discussions! (Check out our book club episode here!)
Shea Ernshaw's Winterwood (Bookshop.org) - I love Ernshaw's work, which is always atmospheric and full of fascinating characters. In Winterwood, Nora Walker is rumored to be a witch. She is a finder and can find things that are lost and missing. Coming from a long line of strong women, she is grieving her beloved grandmother and does not relate well to her rarely there mom. What Ernshaw does so well is create a rich winter tapestry framed within a spooky, slightly off kilter setting. I also love her commentary on witches, strong women, and the way boys in groups can behave. A tender budding romance, an unlikely friendship, and a mysterious event are all at the core of this haunting tale. A boy is missing and another boy is dead, and Nora Walker will find herself at the crux of this grisly mystery, doing her best to keep herself from unraveling. (I also loved The Wicked Deep but felt like Winterwood challenged some of the more mainstream witchy tropes in ways I appreciated.)
Sophie Escabasse's Witches of Brooklyn (Bookshop.org) - My daughters and I are in love with this graphic novel series. Book 3 just came out in September, and we already finished that one, too! (Bookshop.org does have a nice boxed set of all three, Thrice the Magic.) Effie is a witch in training, learning from her aunts and the larger international witch community that she learns about as her powers begin to present themselves. These witches are care takers who promote peace and harmony with nature. Effie's problems range from relatable struggles with friends and school to how to manage major disasters through using her powers. Love it!
Rachel Griffin's The Nature of Witches (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - In this fascinating witchy story, the young witches attend training schools to strengthen their natural abilities to support and control nature. Most witches are seasonal, meaning that their powers are strongest during a particular season of the year. Protagonist Clara discovers that she is an extremely rare Everwitch, who has optimal power during all four seasons of the year. This power has consequences, though, and she wants nothing to do with it because of the damage it can cause people she loves. However, as the natural environment grows more unstable, witches struggle to protect people and the planet, and Clara's unique powers become more important. This is a perfect read for the season!
Elizabeth Lim's Six Crimson Cranes (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This was one of my favorite reads of 2021, and I'm eager to read the sequel, which just came out in August. In this story, princess Shiori discovers a dragon hiding at the bottom of the lake in her palace home. As the forbidden magic latent within her begins to present itself, she soon after finds herself cast out of the palace -- penniless, nameless, and cursed with a bowl on her head and an inability to say anything about her situation. Check out my full review of this one here. (I didn't realize that the sequel was already out - I'll be reading that one very soon and will report back!)
Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This book is perfect for those looking for ghosts as major characters during their seasonal reading, but it's also just an all-around outstanding read! In this story, Yadriel finds himself determined to prove to his family, a long line of brujx, once and for all that he is a brujo (rather than the bruja they believe him to be). He decides to perform a traditional ceremony to raise the spirit of someone who recently passed to prove his gender to them. And it works! But suddenly he finds himself stuck with the ghost of Julian Diaz, a recently dead student from his school that people don't even realize has died, and Julian is not ready to come to terms with his death. Despite this heavy premise, this is a heartfelt story full of humor and passion, and it invites readers to think in new ways and to question the traditions we often passively accept. I loved this one! Check out our book club discussion of this one here.
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
Loving what you see here? Please comment below (scroll ALL the way down to comment), share this post using the social media buttons below (scroll down for those as well!), and find us on social media to share your thoughts! Want to support Unabridged?
Check out our Merch Store!
Become a patron on Patreon.
Follow us @unabridgedpod on Instagram.
Like and follow our Facebook Page.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Check out our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Follow us @unabridgedpod on Twitter.
Check us out on Podbean.
Please note that we a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We also are proud to partner with Bookshop.org and have a curated Unabridged store as well as affiliate links. Finally, we're also honored to be a partner with Libro.fm and proudly use affiliate links to support them and independent bookstores.