Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Young Adult Fiction Horror

The Grimmer

by (author) Naben Ruthnum

ECW Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Horror, Paranormal, Occult & Supernatural, Supernatural
Recommended Age
13 to 17
Recommended Grade
8 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


The small-town mysteries of John Bellairs are made modern with a dash of Stranger Things in this spine-tingling supernatural horror-thriller

After his father returns from treatment for addiction, highschooler Vish — lover of metal music and literature — is uncertain what the future holds. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to know about the family’s troubles, and they stand out doubly as one of the only brown families in town. When Vish is mistaken for a relative of the weird local bookseller and attacked by an unsettling pale man who seems to be decaying, he is pulled into the world of the occult, where witches live in television sets, undead creatures can burn with a touch, and magic is mathematical. Vish must work with the bookstore owner and his mysterious teenage employee, Gisela, to stop an interdimensional invasion that would destroy their peaceful town.

Bringing together scares, suspense, and body horror, The Grimmer is award-winning author Naben Ruthnum’s first foray into the young adult genre. This gripping ride through the supernatural is loaded with vivid characters, frightening imagery, and astonishing twists, while tackling complex issues such as grief, racism, and addiction.

About the author

Naben Ruthnum won the Journey Prize for his short fiction, has been a National Post books columnist, and has written books and cultural criticism for the Globe and Mail, Hazlitt, and the Walrus. His crime fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Joyland, and his pseudonym Nathan Ripley's first novel will appear in 2018. Ruthnum lives in Toronto.

Naben Ruthnum's profile page

Excerpt: The Grimmer (by (author) Naben Ruthnum)

“Excuse me. Are you related to the owner of this shop?” Vish almost screamed when this question was whispered at the back of his neck, because he could feel the speaker’s breath, which smelled chemical, like bleach or chlorine. And because the voice wasn’t the girl’s, but an older man’s. He hadn’t heard the chime ring again, but there was someone else in the store.

Vish turned and saw another person he’d never seen before. Unlike the girl, this man looked like he was trying to blend in with the general Kelowna look, but had gotten it wrong. For one thing, he wasn’t just untanned, he was as pale as the inside of a tree root. The knees and calves between his slightly too-short cargo shorts and black dress socks (another mistake) were so white they almost gave off a light of their own in the little bookshop. The t-shirt, with a snowboard company logo on it, was almost right, but it was sky blue and too young for the man, who was at least fifty. His hair was dyed blacker than Vish’s, but there was a small thin mustache with a few white strands in it that glistened like mucous. He had the thinnest eyebrows Vish had ever seen on a man, which made his forehead look enormous, a big tank for a brain that Vish thought he would be able to see if the man stood with direct sunlight beaming onto that paper-pale skin. If Agastya had looked a bit sick, this man looked like he should be in bed for months.

“The owner will be right back. And no, we’re not related.”

“You work here.”


“You just assumed he was related to the owner? Why?” The Septum-Pierced Girl had come around from the rare books corner holding a small hardcover in her right hand. She spoke with an accent, maybe German. Vish was glad she wasn’t talking to him, because he wouldn’t have been able to answer right away. The Thin-Eyebrowed Man turned to look at her, then spoke.

“The owner of this establishment is a man of subcontinental extraction. The young man I’m speaking to is of that race, as well. Virtually no-one else on these streets is. Hence my question. Should I apologize?” He said this last part to Vish.

“It’s okay,” Vish said. He was still staring at the now-inert snowboard logo. When the conversation didn’t resume, and Vish looked up to see disappointment in the Septum-Pierced Girl’s eyes, Vish looked for something else to say, this time with a bit more of an edge in his tone.

“What do you want?” he said. “From the owner, I mean. What should I tell him?”

Instead of answering, the man kept on staring at the girl.

“Yes,” the girl said. “I know it’s you. You look worn out, Mr. Farris. And not really holding together. The meat’s starting to separate. Not long left at all for you, is there?”

Editorial Reviews

“This briskly paced horror novel offers cinematic imagery and suspenseful intrigue. The narrative grounds the rules of magic in the laws of science, and details about identity and marginalization are thoughtfully incorporated while providing deeper insight into Vish’s worldview. A satisfying supernatural tale centering a reluctant hero who discovers the universe’s time-bending secrets.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A harrowing — yet often hilarious — journey into chaos, The Grimmer is a gleefully bizarre nightmare unlike anything else in YA. In Vish, I found a fellow metalhead, a unique voice in horror, and a deeply felt story about realizing when you aren’t in control of your life anymore — and what one kid does to regain his agency. An unforgettable experience.” — Mark Oshiro, #1 NYT bestselling author of Into the Light and Each of Us a Desert

The Grimmer explores complex family and community dynamics in a spooky story with well-rounded characters, a unique magic system, and a villain most mysterious and terrifying.” — Ryan Douglass, New York Times bestselling author of The Taking of Jake Livingston

“Naben Ruthnum pivots effortlessly to YA with The Grimmer, a compelling and suspenseful horror novel set in the ’90s. The nostalgic backdrop works beautifully for the story, which manages to stay fresh and unique. Tense, creepy, and full of humour and heart, The Grimmer is a must-read for YA horror fans.” — Tom Ryan, International Thriller Award– and Lambda Award–winning author of Keep This to Yourself