Cover image of Hometown Haunts #loveOZya horror anthology

Title: Hometown Haunts: #LoveOzYA Horror Tales
Edited by: Poppy Nwosu
Genre: Short story horror fiction
Publisher: Wakefield Press
Published: 2021

I initially picked up Hometown Haunts (HH) because of a morbid curiosity I have towards all things scary and gruesome – and I can tell you it did not disappoint. This anthology is made up largely of short stories, with a few illustrated graphic stories interspersed throughout. My favourite thing about it was the variety of cultures and types of horror the collection traverses.

I found myself taken by three stories in particular: “Heart-shaped Stone” by Vikki Wakefield; “Slaughterhouse Boys” by Emma Osborne; and “Euryhaline” by Margot McGovern. All of the pieces were engaging, but these three specifically drew me into their respective worlds in just a few lines.

In Wakefield’s piece I was fascinated and horrified by the protagonist carrying a “dead chicken around all day.” I couldn’t quite stop imagining it, and feeling her loss. I was equally engaged by the world Osbourne wrote, where being initiated into adulthood requires the slaughter of a cow. And I was haunted by McGovern’s story where she uses a ghostly presence to embody the feeling of imposter syndrome. Her description of a naiad “beckon[ing] from outside my room, her hair wet and hanging in her face so only one eye is visible” was so clear and creepily effective.

The stories in this anthology truly borrow from all other genres. From fantasy to dystopia to the horrific consequences of angering the ancestors. This variety is what propelled me through each story. I loved the diverse mix of protagonists. There were stories written from the perspective of small-town closeted teens, non-binary werewolves, a Chinese-Australian private-school student and an Italian florist’s delivery boy, to name a few. This made for a rich exploration of ghost stories and horror through a variety of lenses and cultures, which I really appreciated.

There are a real mix of ghosts, spirits, gore and uncomfortableness that characterise this horror collection. So though sometimes gruesome, I wouldn’t dissuade squeamish readers from this anthology. In fact I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the likes of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson and likes a bit of a scare, but down to read something with a young adult and largely Australian flavour.

Underground Team

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