top of page

Jason Vorhees Would Enjoy This, a YA Horror Review

young black woman with long brown twists, red wisps of smoke in the shape off faces float up around her and from her eyes.
Cover of Dead Girls Walkking

From NetGalley

Sami Ellis’s Dead Girls Walking is a shocking, spine-chilling YA horror slasher about a girl searching for her dead mother’s body at the summer camp that was once her serial killer father’s home—perfect for fans of Friday the 13th and White Smoke.
Temple Baker knows that evil runs in her blood. Her father is the North Point Killer, an infamous serial killer known for how he marked each of his victims with a brand. He was convicted for murdering 20 people and was the talk of countless true crime blogs for years. Some say he was possessed by a demon. Some say that they never found all his victims. Some say that even though he’s now behind bars, people are still dying in the woods. Despite everything though, Temple never believed that her dad killed her mom. But when he confesses to that crime while on death row, she has no choice but to return to his old hunting grounds to try see if she can find a body and prove it.  
Turns out, the farm that was once her father’s hunting grounds and her home has been turned into an overnight camp for queer, horror-obsessed girls. So Temple poses as a camp counselor to go digging in the woods. While she’s not used to hanging out with girls her own age and feels ambivalent at best about these true crime enthusiasts, she tries her best to fit in and keep her true identity hidden.
But when a girl turns up dead in the woods, she fears that one of her father’s “fans” might be mimicking his crimes. As Temple tries to uncover the truth and keep the campers safe, she comes to realize that there may be something stranger and more sinister at work—and that her father may not have been the only monster in these woods.

I can't tell you how happy reading this book made me! Sami Ellis has taken the queer black girl experience and thrown it onto a blood-splattered and ice-edged canvas. With tons of gore, witty quips, and a raw examination of dealing with trauma, Dead Girls Walking kills.

Our protagonist is an unapologetically angry, snappy, bitter, queer teen. Temple starts off hating everything about her situation. Playing Camp Counselor is not her idea of a fun time and she's not the horror enthusiast that the other attendees of the "North Park Farms Scholarship Weekend of Horrors". She wears her disdain like a neon sign.

And her inner monologue is so entertaining.

Elli's characterization of queer black feminine rage is tasty, digestible, and relatable. Temple's journey through understanding her family's secrets helps her see herself and the world differently. At the beginning of the book, she feels extremely isolated, like she isn't likable, and like she's as evil as her serial killer father.

By the end of the book, she can see the truths and the lies, clearly. Temple breaks down the reality that perception can be flawed. Selfish desires can warp love into something twisted and cruel, as they did for Temple's family.

My biggest thematic takeaway is generational trauma. Ellis has handled the topic of trauma beautifully. It's there in the way Temple interacts with the other campers, defensively and at arm's length. It's there in the way she inevitably defends them when the evil that lurks in the woods creeps its way onto the campgrounds. It's a blanket wrapped around the premise of the story, and it's a fragrant poison seeped purposefully throughout the plot.

But the way it is portrayed, with the landscape of horror and the campy humor in Ellis's writing style keeps this story lighter and enjoyable. She doesn't mock any part of the trauma, she illustrates the way it can affect queer young black people--and people in general--and how a change in perspective can help someone work through it. The character development was that much more endearing to read.

As for the horror...delicious. And by delicious I mean, disgusting. There's gore and guts and body pieces, and, and, and. And I LOVED IT. I am a horror stan. It's my favorite genre to watch and is rapidly becoming a favorite to read and write. Dead Girls Walking is a hodgepodge, gumbo of horror tropes that I just so happen to enjoy. Monsters. Summer Camp setting. Serial Killers. Haunted House. Hallucinations that make you question your sanity. These and more are written with an all black, all queer cast and commentary. Chef's kiss, for me!

All-in-all, this book is an enjoyable, spunky, twisty, spooky, dark, and engaging tale that discusses the horrors of trauma alongside the processing of personal truths, and whether you should love and forgive someone at the expense of yourself.

I think this book is a poignant yet playful read and a tremendous add the young adult horror genre!

I hope to see many more books from Sami Ellis.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves the Friday the 13th franchise, The Fear Street books and movies, and other classically campy horrors.


bottom of page