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Sarah Allen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023

From Sarah Allen, the acclaimed author of What Stars Are Made Of and Breathing Underwater, comes a chilling middle-grade tale of fear, friendship, and finding courage even in the darkest of moments. In this monster story that’s also an allegory for relentless anxiety, see how far a penny’s worth of hope will take you when you enter The Nightmare House.

I saw a person with blank, colorless eyes . . . and this time, I wasn’t dreaming.

Penny Hope used to be brave, but that was before she met the Fear Maker. Years later, he still haunts her nightmares―a tall, thin man with red eyes, in a haunted house in the woods, who devours human souls and leaves their eyes hollow and empty. Penny’s beloved grandma tells her to write down these nightmares as poems in her notebook. But then Penny starts seeing blank-eyed people in the waking world, too. She’s the only one who notices.

As more people around her fall prey to the Fear Maker, Penny must gather her courage once and for all to save the souls of those she loves. With the help of a magic garden and a new friend, she ventures to the Fear Maker’s house. But the house is a labyrinth of shadows and tricks―and the Fear Maker’s fun is just beginning. Can a pocketful of sunflower seeds and a notebook filled with poems be enough to defeat a master of nightmares? And if Penny sets foot in the Fear Maker’s house, will she ever leave?

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US: Farrar, Straus & Giroux


“[Penny’s] poems weave their way through the narrative, fortifying Allen’s own lyrical writing and adding to the overall message that strength can be found in words and creativity . . . Fans of Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener (2014) will find the Fear Maker alluring but may suffer some nightmares of their own after following Penny to his door. Allen deals in both beauty and terror, rendering this a sophisticated choice for horror readers.” ―Booklist, starred review 

“11-year-old Penny Hope’s anxiety manifests as a real-life monster under her bed in this ethereal novel . . . Poetic prose and visceral emotion infuse realistic depth into this mood-driven, allegorical portrayal of mental illness. Stark b&w illustrations by Hewitt employ a photo negative effect to accentuate Penny’s brooding poems.” ―Publishers Weekly

“The first-person narration sparks sympathy―[Penny] is a girl tormented by fear who is, even with magic seeds and a notebook of poems, woefully unprepared to face a soul devourer on her own. Her eventual determined pursuit of the Fear Maker in his own domain is all the more powerful because readers will see how hard-won that determination is, and it may inspire them to peek beyond their own fears, seeing if those boundaries can be pushed just a bit as well.” ―The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books 

“Both a terrifying story for kids and a poetic fight song against the prison anxiety builds around the human heart, The Nightmare House is timeless, exciting, beautiful, creepy, and above all, full of the hope that lights even the darkest nights.” ―Delilah S. Dawson, New York Times–bestselling author of Mine 

“A gorgeous book with scares enough for the brave at heart and heart enough for everyone. I loved every page.” ―Lora Senf, author of The Clackity

“The Nightmare House is a haunting and hopeful testament of art’s ability to fill our broken spaces. As readers watch Penny embrace her innate bravery, they will be inspired to do the same.” ―Josh Allen, author of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe 

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