Young Adult paranormal and horror books received a lot of flack in years past. Some of it is justified—lovesick vampires do feel a bit defanged after a while. Yet if you go beyond the blockbuster novels and Hollywood fare, you'll find some truly scary YA offerings. These picks range from funny with light thrills to truly terrifying.
The Diviners is the first entry in a four-part series, but reads like a standalone novel. Evie O’Neill is an irresponsible young flapper with a secret: She can see the history of an object just by touching it. When she gets sent to New York City after scandalizing her small town a bit too thoroughly, she gets caught up in the hunt for a serial killer. Don’t finish this one at night if you plan on getting any sleep.
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The Girl From the Well
Based on the same Japanese legend as The Ring, this creepy tale will frighten even the staunchest horror fans. Okiku stalks the streets, killing other murders. It’s personal—after all, she was murdered too. When a boy with strange tattoos moves to her neighborhood, Okiku’s mission changes. Creepy dolls, rituals and exorcisms fill the pages of this terrifying ghost story.
The Graveyard Book
Coraline may be Gaiman’s best-known young adult offering, but The Graveyard Book is just as creepy. Born when Gaiman wondered what would happen if The Jungle Book took place in a graveyard, the novel follows Nobody “Bod” Owens. When Bod’s family is murdered, the ghosts in a nearby graveyard take it upon themselves to take care of him. As Bod grows, it becomes clear that the man who killed his family is after him too. Note: If you’re a fan of audiobooks, this is a great one.
Blue is for Nightmares
Stacey Brown is a young Wiccan who has prophetic nightmares about people in her life. The last time she ignored one of her dark visions, the girl she babysat was murdered. Now that she’s at a new boarding school, the nightmares have started again. This time, they’re about her best friend, Drea. When another girl at their school is murdered, Stacey needs to act fast. Can she prevent the next tragedy?
The Name of the Star
Louisiana native Rory Deveaux is doing her senior year at a prestigious London boarding school, Wexford. Upon arriving in London, Rory learns that a killer is stalking the city. He's a Jack the Ripper copycat—and Rory seems to be the only one who can actually see him. Now Rory and her friends must stop the killer before he gets to her. This funny, fast-paced paranormal thriller is packed with gory details and eerie visions of ghosts and killers.
Cora and her four-year-old sister are sent to stay with their Aunt Ida is a remote village of England, but it rapidly becomes clear that Ida really, really does not want them there. Cora decides to find out why … but her actions soon put sister Mimi in mortal danger. Can she save Mimi and end the terror?
Anna Dressed in Blood
Cas Lowood has inherited his calling from his father. His job is a bit unusual; he kills ghosts to prevent them from killing the living. The next ghost on his list is Anna, the spirit of a girl murdered in 1958. She’s been killing people left and right, but when Cas finds her, something feels different—and it’s not just that the demon that killed his father is after him too.
The Shadowland Mediator
Yup, the author of the The Princess Diaries also writes about ghosts. When Suze’s mom gets married, they move from Brooklyn to California. Suze is upset—and the ghost haunting her new bedroom doesn’t help. Yet there's another presence causing trouble for Suze. The spot in her new school opened up because of the tragic death of a former student. And this restless spirit thinks Suze should be dead instead of her. This series is light, scary, and whip-smart, although it may lean a little heavily on the romance for some readers.
This body-horror dystopia will weigh heavily on the minds of all readers. After the Second Civil War in the United States, all forms of birth control are outlawed and life between conception and 13 years of age is sacrosanct. Between 13 and 18 years, children become eligible for “unwinding”. Their bodies are taken apart and organs given to others. When Connor’s parents offer him up to be unwound, he decides to try to run away. But there’s no escaping the nightmare of this reality.