The best YA books set in the cold and that leave you with the chills

Keely Parrack Author Of Don't Let In the Cold
By Keely Parrack

Who am I?

There is something about books set in the cold, you know immediately bad things are going to happen! It may be my early childhood in Scotland, or my English upbringing, but I have always been drawn to the dark side of stories, the things under the bed, the monsters in the closet. I still love to be scared by the twists and chills but also am a sucker for a happy ending. In my novels, I always strive to entertain, to scare, and surprise, but ultimately there needs to be an emotional truth beneath everything. And this is true of the books I read as well. 


I wrote...

Don't Let In the Cold

By Keely Parrack,

Book cover of Don't Let In the Cold

What is my book about?

It was supposed to be one night in the cabin, a chance for Lottie and her new stepsister, Jade, to try to get along. But after a solar flare causes a massive blackout―no power or cell signal―Alex shows up, claiming to be lost and seeking shelter from the storm. When Lottie spies him in the driveway talking to two men in a pickup truck, she’s sure Alex is lying about why he's there.

Before she can find out more, a fire forces Lottie, Jade, and Alex into the blizzard, where they must rely on one another to get to safety. In the remote, Tahoe wilderness, it’s clear that Alex's accomplices are hunting them all down, in a scheme that's taken a chilling, deadly turn.

The books I picked & why

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Winterwood

By Shea Ernshaw,

Book cover of Winterwood

Why this book?

I loved Shea’s previous book and knew I would fall head over heels for this one. The worldbuilding is so incredibly rich and her writing so lyrical, effortlessly taking you to those dark places and always with unexpected twists. I love thrillers and mysteries with heart and supernatural elements, and this book has it all. 

Nora is used to the forest, it is her home, and she knows its magic well, but when a boy is reported missing from the camp for Wayward Boys, and the oncoming storm prevents the boy from being found, Nora knows that only she can persuade the forest to reveal the truth. But others who wish to hide the truth will do anything to prevent Nora from finding it, including the missing boy himself. This is a deliciously chilling read, perfect for reading by the fire, and bound to haunt you long afterward.


Luck of the Titanic

By Stacey Lee,

Book cover of Luck of the Titanic

Why this book?

Sometimes you think you know all about a famous incident, I mean the Titanic has been overdone in films and books, right? Well, Stacey Lee gives it a totally fresh approach from the point of view of a young Chinese-English teen, Valora Luck. And while this is a fictional take on what might have happened, the fact that there were Chinese people onboard The Titanic, who at that time would not have been allowed into the USA makes for a gripping and thought-provoking read. And then of course there’s Stacey Lee’s wonderful storytelling!

Valora Luck has a dream that one day she and her brother will be famous acrobats, touring America. But once she’s on board The Titanic, she soon discovers she must hide her identity, both as a girl and as a servant, and use her talents to save her brother and his motley band of friends. But like the ship, her dreams are soon on a collision course with reality. This is a fresh take, giving a poignant perspective that shines a light on the lesser-known stories of the diverse passengers that were lost in this tragic event.


Five Total Strangers

By Natalie D. Richards,

Book cover of Five Total Strangers

Why this book?

Five total strangers trapped in a car together, during a blizzard trying to get home against mounting impossible odds – what’s not to like? I love believable situations which you know as a reader have so much potential to take a deadly turn! 

When a storm strands Mira at the airport with no way to get home, she welcomes the kind offer of sharing a rental car with a woman from her flight. But when this also involves another three people, who all seem to have their own personal baggage and agendas, you know this is not going to be a smooth ride. As if driving in a storm isn’t enough of a problem, personal items keep going missing, and it soon becomes obvious that one of the five is trying to make sure they don’t all make it back alive! This is a fast-paced fun, twisty read, a perfect chilly thriller!


What Beauty There Is

By Cory Anderson,

Book cover of What Beauty There Is

Why this book?

There is something very powerful about finding beauty in a dark and gritty situation, as Cory Anderson does in this novel. Told in a multi-person viewpoint, the language is powerful yet also poetic and shines a light into the dark, uncomfortable spaces of poverty and crime, and limited options, but still comes back to the hope, love, and friendship that can exist in-between those places.

There is cold, and then there is the unforgiving cold of an Idaho winter. The setting echoes the biting poverty that Jack and his younger brother are forced into by events out of their control. The crimes of his father drag Jack and his brother further into a desperate situation with no safe way out, even with the help of Ava, who has demons of her own. The despair of poverty, the desperation of trying to do the right thing and being forced not to, and the hopelessness of being in love in a dire situation make for a compelling and original story. Chilly yes, but with a lot of heart!


Between Shades of Gray

By Ruta Sepetys,

Book cover of Between Shades of Gray

Why this book?

This is Ruta Sepety’s debut novel and is so powerful, I can still remember the chills it gave me on my first read. While it came out in 2011 its message today seems ever more poignant. History is the story of individuals. Lina’s story of survival in Lithuania during World War Two, against impossible odds, gives voice to the countless thousands who never had a chance to have their stories told. And hopefully ensures that it never happens again.

Caught up in the events of World War Two, Lina and her mother and brother are arrested one night and forced into a harrowing journey from Lithuania to Siberia. Barely fifteen, Lina discovers bravery and courage, as well as the hope and resistance that she’ll need to keep herself and her brother alive. The cold, both in the harsh weather, life, and situation is stark, yet Ruth Sepetys’ writing brings such life and love to her characters, their story will stay in your heart for a long, long time.


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