Too scary to read

I just read Maud Newton on Will Elliott’s The Pilo Family Circus . She makes it sound fabulous. I really want to read it.

Except for one thing. The cover is so terrifying I can’t even look at it, let alone pick it up. Until it’s repackaged into something that won’t give me nightmares (or I discover the Oz or UK edition has a non-scary cover) I’m not going near that book.

A friend of mine refuses to read Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth because the mere title of it terrifies her. Even though we keep telling her the book itself is not only excellent but not particularly scary.

Don’t get me wrong I love ghost stories. I enjoy reading scary books. I can’t deal with images of scary dolls or clowns but I can totally read about them no problem.

Are there books any of you won’t pick up because cover or title is too scary? But not because you’re afraid to read the actual book. Let’s stick to discussing packaging.


  1. Tim on #

    *Insert obligatory judging books by their cover joke here*

    Anyway, moving on:

    When I was young I used to find the Goosebumps books had really scary covers hat weirded me out. Obviously that was the intention, but even just the covers made me unable to read them.

  2. Maud on #

    The Australian cover doesn’t look so scary! Pick it up next time you’re back home, and let me know what you think.

  3. Jeanne on #

    I hated touching the cover of Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend because of the eyes of the evil doll on the cover.

  4. BrandiJGray on #

    Actually, I don’t find it that scary. Looking closer he looks kind of sweet, and maybe even handsome. I’ve never seen a really scary cover before. Laura Whitcomb’s A Certain Slant of Light cover is a little creepy but appealing as well.

  5. Sarah Rees Brennan on #

    Timely question Justine! The UK cover of The Devouring just scared the hell out of me in a bookshop on Saturday. I think I shall have nightmares. Yet the US version is all pretty and romantic-looking…

  6. Justine on #

    Maud: Are you nuts? If anything it’s even worse.

    BrandiJGray: Some of us have clown issues. Handsome clown simply does not compute.

  7. Cat Moleski on #

    I agree with your friend about Forest of Hands and Teeth. I had totally stricken it from my reading list based on the title. But I may consider it now, providing the cover isn’t too gruesome.

  8. Mike F on #

    Wow, those are both creepy covers. I don’t like clowns either, I think it has something to do with reading “It”. 🙂

    Can you have someone pick it up for you, wrap the cover in brown paper, and never take it off?

  9. Maud on #

    Justine: Hee! See if the publisher will sell you a galley. Mine was plain white & black — no clowns, no pictures at all.

  10. Sara on #

    It never even occurred to me that covers could be scary. Still images to me are always creepy and never scary (the distinction is like The Brother’s Quay animation vs. Hostel). Since I love creepy things, that cover made me want to read the book.

  11. Brooke Taylor on #

    OMG–those are some creepy covers and clowns freak me way out. The nice looking ones are the worst!

    I read at night and often have books on my bedside table–I could not have those covers next to me whilst in my vulnerable nocturnal state. Not even with a brown cover–I’d know what was underneath! No way!

    But gosh, it does sound like an interesting read. I can why you are conflicted. *shakes angry fist at Justine* Now, I’m conflicted too.

  12. Justine on #

    Brooke: It sounds great, doesn’t it? Fortunately for me I can remind myself that it’s not set in the 1930s therefore I am not allowed to read it till I’m done with my 1930s novel. Maybe by then it will have a much less scary paperback edition.

  13. rae on #

    haha. I was thinking, “That’s silly. Not wanting to read a book because of a scary cover.” Then I clicked the link and my stomach twisted with physical fear. Eep!

  14. Rebecca on #

    Honestly, packaging does not affect me that much. I am IMMUNE to advertising. (Mostly.) Although now that I’ve looked at that cover, I may have to eat my words. It literally sent a shiver through me.

  15. Leahr on #

    its creepy, yes, if you don’t like clowns, but according to the summary, the book is creepy too. I’d rather know in advance what I’m getting into.

    I think the worst covers are the ones that completely misrepresent what type of book it will be. If Cherie Priest’s book has spooky swirling ravens all over, I can decide if I’m in the mood to read a creepy book. I can’t think of a good example of a badly matched cover at the moment but I’ve seen many.

  16. Camille on #

    What the — The Forest of Hands and Teeth is terrifying!

    I mean, it was extremely good and at the last page I wanted to go directly back to the first and start over…but I was awake for two nights!

    It’s terrifying… in a very beautiful way?

  17. Justine on #

    Camille: Really? I did not find it terrifying. Have you read many zombie books before? Or horror? Just wondering. I thought it was tense and a fab book but terrifying? No, not so much.

  18. Mary on #

    Hmm… I think that if I really wanted to read it I would just get a paper bag or something and cover it. I did that once to read a copy of Eragon that had a movie cover (which I absolutely refused to look at). It worked well for me.

  19. Kiera on #

    There was one book I bought at a book fair a few years back. I forget the title now but it was a children’s or ya book in a series that had a golem looking figure on it holding something. An amulet maybe? It freaked me out so much I pasted a note card over the picture. I never got past the third chapter because I knew what was under the card.

  20. Amber on #

    I can’t think of a scary book cover that’s put me off the book…oh wait a minute. There was _Weasel_ by Maureen Johnson. Terrifying.

    I also found Forest of Hands and teeth more tense – relentlessly tense, heightened senses all through – than behind-the-sofa scary. (Although I definitely heard some zombies at the door the late night I read it). And the cover is stunning.

    If you take these people’s advice and wrap the scary clown in brown paper, you know the clown _will be there under the brown paper_. Waiting. Underneath.

  21. J on #

    lol, justine. i don’t remember a time that has happened to me… — wait! I got it! with scott-la’s PEEPS cover – the one with the green vamp, totally scary making. but, i love all scott la’s books, so that didn’t hold me back. although the actual text had me freaked. as soon as i read the line “so pretty i had to eat him” i freaked out, slammed the book shut, and refused to read more. what do you know, ten minutes later, i picked it up and started reading it again. so worth it.

  22. Camille on #

    I am easily terrified. Very. Especially by zombies. Oddly, I am not terrified by the descriptions of gleeful clowns ushering in hellfire and apocalypse. There’s something wrong with me.

    (FoHaT is terrifying in a GOOD way, though! Don’t forget, I said it was terrifying AND beautiful. But, you know, beauty festooned with… moaning dangerous infectious dead people.)

  23. PixelFish on #

    The only cover that did this to me was a Nation Geographic on sharks. When I was little, I used to hold the pages together of any section containing pictures of sharks.

  24. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    Scary covers and/or titles have the opposite effect on me; they make me want to read the book *more*. It’s preventative medicine. See, if I don’t read the book, the image will take on a life of its own and end up being scarier, whereas if I do read the book then the image is forever tied to the story, and thus tamed. Unless the story is scarier than the image, in which case, well, there’s no getting around that one.

    However, I should point out that movies are different. Scary imagery in movie advertising will cause me to avoid said movie at all costs. A book I can work through and be okay, a movie will give me nightmares. (To me, scary in relation to a movie means squicky—anything to do with people getting mutilated or stuff with gore just for the sake of the shock factor is off my list. Running-from-something scary, tense scary, end-of-the world scary, monster/invasion scary, those are all fine.)


  25. Jodotha on #

    OMG THAT IS A SCARY COVER. Now I shall have nightmares. Thanks a lot 😛

  26. Joey-la on #

    Wow, yeah, that cover is really scary!
    I can just imagine myself picking it up in the middle of the night becuase I couldn’t sleep, then being too scared to sleep!
    Well, not really the cover, but the picture in a kids picture book my Mum used to read to me. It was an Aborigional story about this big hairy guy with red eyes who used to go and hunt children and eat them!

  27. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Kiera, I bet that was the Amulet of Samarkand, in the Bartimaeus Trilogy. I found the cover freaky myself.

    I can also never look at the cover of my second novel without shuddering. It’s a headless girl in a tight crop top sticking her boobs at the camera. I had them photoshop out her visible bra straps and photoshop in a little bit more shirt, but STILL.

  28. Kiera on #

    Diana Peterfreund- That is the book! It still scares me after all this time. *shudder*

  29. Hannah on #

    Hmm…don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

  30. Heather S. Ingemar on #

    That is a creepy book cover. And the story itself even sounds kinda creepy!

  31. clowns1 on #

    I agree that this cover as kinda creepy.

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