Hometown Haunts

Scary Stories to Read At Night

It is finally that month again for horror fans across the world. To celebrate it, I began reading the 2021 short story collection Hometown Haunts, subtitled #LoveOzYA Horror Tales. Much like any anthology of short tales, this book is one filled to the brim with many great tales from a diverse voice of authors. This is one collection that grabs you by the hair and doesn’t let you go the whole journey while reading it.

Spooky Tales Down Under

Edited by Poppy Nwosu, Hometown Haunts is an Australian centric collection of horror tales. All the stories within this collection have been written by Australian based young adult (YA) authors. Some of the authors include: Margot McGovern, Jared Thomas, Vikki Wakefield and Holden Sheppard. Alongside this is the setting within Australian environments, with regional Australia being featured heavily.

Hometown Haunts was a find at the 2022 Adelaide Writer’s Week. Being a long-time horror fiction fan, it was a book I knew I had to read one day. I found it by chance at my local library sitting in the unlikeliest of spots: the graphic novel section. Seeing it there, I just couldn’t resist it and decided to grab it. And what a pickup it was. Of the short story anthologies I’ve read recently, this one would be by far one of the best for the sole reason below.

The Front Cover of Honetown Haunts

Diverse Stories From Diverse Authors

The diversity in Hometown Haunts is one of its biggest strengths. The stories are set across a multitude of areas of Australia, from a highway stop in rural New South Wales to the streets of Melbourne. As with the settings comes the diversity of themes that are within the stories. There are core focuses on First Nation Australians, gender, sexuality and adolescent struggles all throughout the stories, some of them even forming the basis of that story. The authors are what make this diversity possible, which they too are from various backgrounds. It’s having this mix which allows the book to have such a wide appeal.

Continuing with diversity is how a couple of these stories are told. Most of the stories within this collection are told in writing, but there are two told by graphic novel form too. The way they are told is so well done that they convey many pages worth of information into so few pages.

Spooky Tales That Linger

Now, as with anything that is horror themed or related: is it spooky? Hell yeah Hometown Haunts is spooky! What we get amongst these pages are tales of the uncanny, gore and downright haunting. Examples of these include a story based around eating meat for a birthday. This story was heavy on the whole killing cows for meat theme, which was actually very intense, considering it’s place in Australian cuisine. Another tale follows a young high school student who has a friend who eats something from a Taoist shrine. What follows is a thrilling story steeped in Chinese mythology that is mixed with modern storytelling. Another involves a teenager going through a metamorphosis. This one was out there, with parts of it reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly.

As with any short story collection too, there are always a couple of dud stories in the mix. Yet, to call some of these stories duds is really difficult. One of these still had compelling narratives and characters, yet, I personally just didn’t connect with them. One of these involved someone who had moved to the city from the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, to advance their swimming career. While the premise was good and the story well told, I just didn’t connect to it as much as other stories within the collection.

Summary

Hometown Haunts is a fascinating collection of spooky tales from a diverse crowd of Australian YA authors. The stories are scary, well told and relatable and are fantastic ways to open up to a whole new story or way of storytelling.

This is one short story collection I recommend you don’t miss out on this October! It’s a great introduction to some very well-known Australian YA authors, be you Australian or not. And this is one book for horror fiction fans too, if you’re in the mood for something different this Halloween.

Hometown Haunts is available where all good books are found, be it in a bookstore or online. Some copies too are available within the library system, which I also recommend you check out as well if you can.

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