Lakewood by Megan GiddingsThe premise: To help support her family, Lena accepts a lucrative position as a research subject for the mysterious Lakewood Project.
What happens next: Subjected to reality-bending experiments, Lena and her fellow participants -- all people of color -- grapple with the physical and psychological ramifications of a dehumanizing system.
Why you might like it: With ties to real-life medical horrors like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, this chilling own voices debut offers a thought-provoking exploration of structural racism in healthcare.
The Return by Rachel HarrisonTwo years ago: Elise's best friend, Julie, disappeared without a trace.
Now: An emaciated Julie returns with no memory of where she's been. Eager for a reunion, Elise and her two other best friends plan a girls' weekend at a remote Catskills hotel.
What could possibly go wrong? Julie's amnesia is the least of the group's problems, as they soon discover their kitschy hideaway is harboring malevolent forces that seem eerily connected to Julie's horrifying (and rapidly deteriorating) physical state.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady HendrixStarring: bored housewife Patricia Campbell, whose sole respite from her stifling life in 1990s suburban Charleston is her true crime book club.
The monster next door: When sunlight-averse James Harris moves into the neighborhood, Patricia's suspicions are dismissed as flights of fancy. But when children start disappearing, it's up to Patricia to convince her book club to help her stop James before it's too late.
Media buzz: At turns horrifying and heartwarming, this gruesome New York Times bestseller is set for a TV adaptation at Amazon Studios.
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Colleen DoranWhat it is: a creepy graphic novel reimagining of "Snow White" told from the queen's point of view.
Read it for: the clever role reversal -- Snow White is a villainous vampire; the queen, her terrified would-be slayer.
Art alert: Colleen Doran's elegant art nouveau-inspired illustrations offer a lush homage to early 20th-century stained glass artist Harry Clarke.
Winner, Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel
Inspection by Josh MalermanThe experiment: What if separating the sexes made kids smarter? The pseudonymous M.O.M. and D.A.D. aim to accomplish just that in the sex-segregated schools they rule with rigidity and violence.
Is it for you? Though Inspection doesn't mine larger questions regarding gender and sexuality, it's a thought-provoking horror-thriller where every character is an unreliable narrator, whether by necessity or ignorance.
For fans of: Lord of the Flies and other works of psychological fiction.
Nominee, Superior Achievement in a Novel
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin StarlingWhat it's about: Having lied about her credentials to secure a coveted spot on a cavern-mapping expedition, Gyre Price discovers that her employers haven't been entirely honest with her, either.
Nevertheless... Gyre's survival depends on her "topside" handler, Em, who reveals little about herself beyond her ability to control every aspect of Gyre's life-sustaining high-tech caving suit.
Why you might like it: Part psychological thriller, part horror-tinged SF, this debut introduces a pair of flawed protagonists whose complicated relationship develops against a claustrophobic subterranean backdrop.
Nominee, Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul TremblayWhat it is: a disturbing collection of 19 short stories written by three-time Bram Stoker Award winner Paul Tremblay.
Read it for: Tremblay's penchant for turning the ordinary into the uncanny; the surprising connections to some of his other works (and the connections between some of the stories in this one).
Don't miss: the choose-your-own-adventure tale "A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken."
Winner, Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
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