What makes a story a slasher? While there’s not one all-encompassing definition, there are a few characteristics you’ll likely see if you were to put one on TV or pick up one of the best slasher books. Slashers tend to have a masked or hidden killer with a high body count. There are usually bloody kills with weapons that require close-ish combat between the victim and the killer. Think Michael Myers’s kitchen knife or Freddy Krueger’s glove. Often, you’ll see a revenge plot line of some point, the villain wronged (whether justifiable or perceived) that motivates their killings.
Fairly often, there’s a group of friends that are picked off one by one. Oh, and sex kills. Especially in the films from the ’80s, characters having sex pretty much guaranteed their death. The final girl trope is a staple of the genre too. The last one standing, often bloodied and injured, but alive. Laurie Strode from Halloween is one, Sydney Prescott another.
Basically, when you think of a slasher, think blood and murder and an almost-inhumanely-unstoppable villain with a mask and their weapon of choice. Lucky for us who like to read ourselves scared, there are books that fit the genre too! So, here are the best slasher books, both adult and YA, to get you started.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Final girls aren’t as alone as they seem in Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group. Six final girls and their therapist have a support group to work through the trauma of surviving. But when the girls start disappearing one by one, it’s clear their time in the sights of a killer isn’t over just yet. With clear love for the slasher films of the past, this book has all of the gore and blood and iconic villainy you’re sure to love.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korede’s sister, Ayoola, is perfect. She’s beautiful, the favorite child, and everyone loves her. There is one slight flaw, though. She might be killing her boyfriends. Korede is sick of getting calls to clean up the messes her sister leaves behind. When Ayoola sets her sights on a man Korede likes, she’s caught between sisterly devotion and protecting people from her sister’s murderous actions.
My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Seventeen-year-old Jade Daniels is an outcast. Tossed aside by her parents and working as a janitor after graduating from high school, she becomes obsessed with slasher movies. Then, she starts seeing signs of a real-life slasher story unfurling in her little town. But she’s not afraid of what comes next. In fact, she’s determined to seek it out. A love letter to slashers, this one is must-read.
Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez
Camp Slaughter is a legend in town when a group of friends rent out the cabin to investigate. At the same time, two paranormal investigators go to the cabin to film a documentary. Unbeknownst to them, the rumors prove to be based a little more in reality and a cannibalistic serial killer lurks in the surrounding woods. Body horror and blood soak these pages. Don’t read with a weak stomach!
Young Adult Slashers
Final Girls by Riley Sager
It has been a decade since Quincy was the only survivor of a massacre, turning her into a Final Girl in the eyes of the media. Lumped together with two other survivors of their own massacres, Quincy is determined to get her life as normal as she can get it with an apartment, a boyfriend, and an anchoring friendship with the police officer who saved her life. But when one of the other Final Girls turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, she’s thrust back into survival mode.
The Fear by Natasha Preston
After a meme on social media goes viral, seemingly everyone has posted their worst fears on the internet. Not Izzy, of course, but most of the kids in her classes join in. When Izzy’s classmates start to get killed in the exact ways they were most scared of, she knows the meme is not as harmless as everyone thought. As the murders get closer and closer to her, she chases her suspicious everywhere she can think of to stay alive. Even the people closest to her could be the villain.
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
After the death of her mother, Quinn and her dad move to Kettle Springs, a small rural town where she can coast through a peaceful life and get to graduation. The community, obsessed with wanting to make “Kettle Springs great again,” has more sinister secrets lurking under the surface. When the mascot of a shut-down corn syrup factory, Frendo, becomes the face of this group wanting to go back to how things used to be, blood starts to spill. The blood of Quinn’s new classmates. Bonus: there’s a sequel (Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives) that’s just as fun and bloody that’s out August 23rd!
There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
After Makani moves to Nebraska, she starts getting her life back together. She makes friends and starts dating a sweet outcast named Ollie. But when the students around her start to get murdered with all of their secrets exposed, Makani is worried her past is coming back. For those who love romance and blood at the same time, this one is a great choice! There’s also a movie adaptation to check out after you finish reading.
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