The unmissable YA gothic horror of 2021, Mina and the Undead is an electrifying debut that will hypnotise you from the very first page.
Twilight has nothing on this. No, this is dark, dramatic and disturbingly addictive - True Blood meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer style.
Its delicious nineties nostalgia, paired with the atmospheric New Orleans setting makes for an exciting twist on the adored Vampire tales. Sure there’s the odd splash of romance but boldly overpowering that is the mysterious, gory killings inspired by legendary (and deadly) New Orleans myths, and a heartwarming sisterhood that fiercely drove the narrative.
It’s thrillingly gruesome and bravely distinct and I bloody hope there will be a sequel.
WHAT TO READ NEXT
My Favourite Point Horror by Amy McCaw
I read a lot of Point Horror in the 90s, revelling in the scares, gore and outlandish outfits. I raced through The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High books, and this series was a step in a darker, more exciting direction. These are the books that kick-started my love of horror, and one series was always my favourite: The Forbidden Game trilogy by L. J. Smith.
Sometimes, my favourite childhood books haven’t lived up to my memory of them, but this one does it every time. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and there are probably parts that wouldn’t hold up to modern scrutiny, but The Forbidden Game still has a timeless blend of scares and romance. L. J. Smith is also the author that gave us The Vampire Diaries, so we have a lot to thank her for!
The plot falls somewhere in the creepy territory between Labyrinth and the original Jumanji movie. If you didn’t know that Mina and the Undead is set in the 90s, you can probably tell from how recent my pop cultural references are.
Jenny visits a shop full of strange games she’s never heard of, from a boy who’s just as gorgeous as he is unnerving. She should probably have taken all of that as a great big red flag, but of course she buys a game and goes on her way. She and her friends later sit down to play the game when, in true 90s style, they’re sucked into it. They have to complete the game in order to escape, but it’s not quite so straightforward. They’ll have to face up to their greatest fears and keep one step ahead of the mysterious boy who sold Jenny the game, and isn’t quite what he seems.
Just writing that makes me want to read it all over again! The Forbidden Game books did moreish forbidden romance over a decade before Twilight, and they did it really well. Julian is one of those antagonists that is enigmatic, alluring and very, very bad. If you want some gripping escapism, you really can’t go wrong with these books.
The mythology in The Forbidden Game trilogy is also really fascinating. It was my first taste of the Erlking myth, the story of an elf who lurks in the woods and can kill children with one touch. Versions of this story have popped up in all sorts of places, and I’ve been obsessed since my Point Horror introduction to it.
Stephen King says there are three levels of horror (I’m paraphrasing here): the gross-out, the horror (the unnatural) and the terror (the unknown). L. J. Smith takes readers through all levels, from the gory and disturbing to the breathlessly terrifying. There are scenes that gave me nightmares as a teen and I still think about now, which is always a good sign. The Forbidden Game also has that wonderful Game of Thrones quality of never knowing who will make it out alive…
I’ve definitely seen a renewed interest in Point Horror on social media recently. It could just be nostalgia, but some like The Forbidden Game have truly stood the test of time.
There are lots of recent books that you can check out if you want Point Horror vibes: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky (called The Mary Shelley Club in the US), Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis, Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy, anything by Dawn Kurtagich, Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield and Mina and the Undead by me.
Amy McCaw's Point Horror Booklist
Amy McCaw is a YA writer and blogger. She’s the author of Mina and the Undead, a YA murder mystery set in 1995 New Orleans.
Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.