Still looking for that perfect bookish Halloween date?
I’ll admit, I’m a wimp when it comes to scary stories. Let’s blame my over-active imagination. Otherwise, I’ll have to add yet another woefully untrained muscle group to the list, the scary-story muscle. And while straight-up horror is to me like sunlight is to old-school vampires — reactive, but not in a pleasantly ticklish way — there’s nothing quite like the lure of a well-told eerie tale. Especially, during the spooky season.
Whether you’re like me (overactive on the imagination side, let’s call it) or not like me at all (a total horror buff), here are 13 spooky reads to satisfy any taste, from lightly eerie and hauntingly beautiful to the spine-chilling stuff of nightmares.
Scroll down and have a look!
1. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White 🌶
It’s a Frankenstein retelling, so, of course, it’s got to be on the list. Don’t be fooled by its pale-pink cover, though, that’s as far as the fluffiness extends here. Inside you’ll find the kind of darkness in which monsters are born.
Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.
Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.
But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
2. Contagion by Erin Bowman 🌶🌶
Sci-fi adventure with a generous serving of zombie horror. Imagine yourself stranded in space. Oxygen running low. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s just you and your breath fogging up your space visor. Until there’s a faint metal clanging sound against that air duct you are hiding inside… and you know you’re not alone.
It got in us
After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
Most are dead.
But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.
Don’t set foot here again.
As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.
3. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin 🌶
I still remember reading this one for the first time during a power outage, with one of those camping flashlight headbands (trés chic, I know) and nearly crapping myself when it took a darker, supernatural turn.
Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
4. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black 🌶
Dark urban fantasy. Holly Black has written many incredible books, most of which I own, but this baby right here is my love! Yes, I have a total thing for vampires (both the sparkly and non-sparkly kind), and, yes, this is a vampire story. The brutal kind, ye have been warned. But it’s more than just that, blood lust and extra-sharp incisors. There is something deliciously addictive about the character Holly Black has created here. The scary factor is one chili. But the storyline is dark and, yes, at times, gory.
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
5. Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre 🌶🌶
What, you’ve never heard of this one? Get outta here. JK. I don’t blame you. Mortal Danger (book one in the Immortal Games trilogy) is one of the most underrated series out there. It’s a dark urban fantasy with bone-chilling scares. It’s also one you’ll totally be missing out on if you love just about every scary story. Think, the guy (undead) who lugs the heads of his victims around in a bag. Think, the monster you invoke by chanting “bloody Mary” into a mirror. And you’re on the right track. Still not convinced? Download the ebook teaser and see if you can put it down. It’s so addictive, it’s downright creepy.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn’t imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She’s not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he’s impossible to forget.
In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly… bad things are happening. It’s a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil’s bargains, she isn’t sure who—or what—she can trust. Not even her own mind…
6. The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle 🌶
The Accident Season is the one book I reread every October. The genre is magical realism, which I find is one that perfectly lends itself to the spookier side of things, blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural, without venturing too deep into horror for frights. This story falls on October 31st, so if you’re like me, a sucker for matching your reads to a certain holiday, here you go.
It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?
7. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert 🌶
A dark Alice in Wonderland retelling that manages to be deliciously creepy without getting too scary as the scares are kept strictly in the realm of the fantastical. Our heroine here is refreshingly relatable with anger-management issues that lend her actions an unpredictable edge that wonderfully fits the story.
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 🌶
Utterly atmospheric. Read with devices switched off (yes, all of them — phones, laptops, unless you’re reading an Ebook ) cause, if you allow it to, this story has the power to transport you back in time.
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
9. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Let’s be honest, most of us who read Twilight back in the Twilight craze days loved the book and/or the movies. Admitting to loving the books nowadays has fallen a bit (a lot) out of vogue (thanks, angry Twitter storms), but I don’t like to be told how to feel about books. Yeah, I’m strange like that. And no spooky reading-rec list would feel right without the one vampire you could actually bring home to meet the parents. Without the aforementioned becoming a snack, that is, I’m not talking about Edward’s merits as a boyfriend here.
Bella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife, between desire and danger.
10. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave 🌶
Dark fantasy/gothic fairytale. A prequel of sorts to Dracula as this is the tale of two of his brides. The story focuses on the origin story of his brides as they approach their fate… the dragon (Dracula).
They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.
On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveler community.
Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.
They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…
11. All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle 🌶
A second Fowley-Doyle on the list. Seriously, you can never go wrong with a Fowley-Doyle. Especially during October. All the Bad Apples is her newest offering, and it’s got eerie vibes in spades! Plus, a strong message and a profoundly emotional core.
Seventeen-year-old Deena (bullied at school for her sexual orientation) sets off on a journey across the Irish countryside to find her oldest sister, Mandy, whom all but Deena believes to have committed suicide. But Deena knows her sister would never leave her, not when she’s the only one who understands what it’s like to be one of the Rys family’s cursed “bad apples.”
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
12. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Okay, admittedly, this one is not a scary read, but — hold on before you skip away to the next read — it’s almost better than a purely scary story because just like The Raven Boys (and Blue) wake the Ley line, this story awakens your imagination. The way Stiefvater elevates the (supernatural) setting into a character role is intense — and I love it! Also, there is no time more perfectly suited to starting this series, than October. Because while The Raven Boys may not haunt your dreams, this story is hauntingly beautiful. Limned in eeriness as the pages turn and the lines between reality and the supernatural fade. And if Gansey’s not your forever book-boyfriend once you’ve read this series, we can’t be friends. JK. Or am I?
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
13. Wilder Girls by Rory Power 🌶🌶
This is the most horror I’ve ventured into this year, and I did not regret going there. Edge-of-your seat reading. No one is safe, and everything has it out for these girls, from their own Tox infected bodies to the island, and its monstrously mutated animals. And it’s looking more and more like those put in charge, meant to protect the students, may be doing just the opposite.
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
There you go, 13 YA reads to see you through the spooky season.
Happy spooktactular reading!
What did I miss?
Drop me your spooky reading recs in the comments below.