Few things compare to the adrenaline rush that comes with reading a horror novel. As a queer reader, I was a latecomer to the horror genre. For a while, I had a misconception that queer characters were delegated to side character or, worse, victim in most horror books. While this is unfortunately often the case, I was delighted to discover that there are plenty of wonderfully written horror novels by and about queer people.
These horror novels are all written by LGBTQ authors and are perfect for when you’re craving a frightening read. To help you find what you’re looking for, I’ve split the list into adult and YA fiction.
For a more in-depth discussion on queer characters in horror, check out this essay written by Rioter S.F. Whitaker. The essay discusses how straight, cisgender characters have traditionally dominated the horror genre while queer characters are often sidelined. Additionally, they discuss the queer horror authors who paved the way for more LGBTQ representation in horror (including Oscar Wilde, Clive Barker, and Billy Martin).
Or, if you’d prefer specifically queer haunted horror novels, this round-up can help you find more spooky and atmospheric reads — with picks by Sarah Waters, Lee Mandelo, Rivers Solomon, and many others.
The Best LGBTQ Adult Horror Books
The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate
This historical horror novel reimagines Dracula’s passage by ship from Transylvania to England. Like any good vampire novel, it’s charged with a mix of terror and sexual desire.
When the captain of The Demeter begins to experience troubled dreams, he knows they’re different. He’s used to dreams about lovers who society would never let him have because he is a man. Yet these ones are full of bad omens, and he knows they’re rooted in reality — and in the ship itself.
White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
When Lily Silver passes away, the family left behind are haunted by their loss. Her daughter Miranda is convinced that she can sense spirits and she, too, leaves their company for the world beyond. As she spirals and eventually follows the same fate as her mother, her father and brother struggle to let her go in this gothic horror novel.
Dead Space by Kali Wallace
When Hester Marley takes a low-level security job for an asteroid mining company, she settles into something like a routine. Most of her investigative calls are for petty crimes, ones easily solved. But after her close friend is murdered on a remote asteroid mine shortly after he calls her with news about a shared tragedy from their past, she’s forced to take a job that’s too close to her past for comfort.
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht
Ravaged by plague, the city of Elendhaven is a dismal and grim place that most would give anything to avoid. Yet something perhaps worse than plague lurks in the shadows: a monster created by magic and controlled by a cruel sorcerer who bond with each other in unusual ways under the prospect of revenge.
The Best LGBTQ YA Horror Books
The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Logan Ortiz-Woodley moves to Snakebite with her fathers as he supposedly researches for his ghost hunting series ParaSpectors. Teenagers keep disappearing from the small Oregon town, with the few that are discovered dead, and the cause points to the paranormal. When Logan meets Ashley Barton, the girlfriend of a missing teen, they team up to find the reason no teen is safe in Snakebite.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Black and gay, Jake Livingston feels alienated at his predominantly white and straight private school. Jake can see the dead, a power that usually doesn’t put him in harm’s way. Most ghosts don’t seem interested in him so much as ruminating on the way that they died. But when the vengeful ghost of a school shooter threatens to possess Jake, escaping its grasp becomes a matter of life and death.
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
After emigrating to Chicago at the turn of the century, Romanian teen Rosen grows close to his friend Yakov — though he’s unable to put his exact feelings into words. But when a murderer targeting Jewish boys kills Yakov, Alter is determined to catch the killer in this supernatural mystery-thriller inspired by Jewish folklore.
Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve
Following a car crash that killed his family, genderqueer teen Z is surprised to wake up alive — though the proper term would be undead. Z is now a zombie and the only person who seems to understand them is their werewolf classmate Aysel. But when a local psychiatrist is murdered and all signs point to the supernatural, Z and Aysel must stick together against the hostile and superstitious townsfolk of Salem, Oregon.
Want to learn about the first queer vampire novel? Check out this deep dive on lesbian representation in the classic horror novel Carmilla.