Thrillers aren’t just for Halloween. Despite all the hype every October, thrillers, mystery, and horror are around the other 11 months of the year, too. And as I’ve gotten more into the genre in recent years, I’ve realized just how many incredible young adult thrillers there are out there. It’s not just one-size-fits-all either. There’s a book for everyone, whether you’re a bit squeamish and want something on the mild side, something that will keep you guessing until the very end, or something that will give you all the chills. From body horror and existential dread to full-on haunted houses, these YA thrillers aren’t just for Halloween—they’re for any time of year.
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
A strange family legacy in a small, farming town. A house full of secrets. Three generations of women unable to escape the past. It’s always been just Margot and her mother, ever since she was little. But when Margot—who has always longed for family—learns her grandmother is alive, she runs away to the small town where her mother grew up, only to discover her grandmother is hiding secrets of her own. But now that Margot’s here, she’s not leaving without answers. Why did her mother leave? And even more important, why was she so determined to keep Margot away?
Horrid by Katrina Leno
Following her father’s death, Jane and her mother move back to New England, her mother’s childhood home. The decaying old manor house and the strange rumors swirling around it and her family lead Jane to question their estrangement from her mother’s family all these years. Are the strange noises filling the house really just the old structure settling as her mother insists? And are the locked rooms really nothing more than empty bedrooms? The longer they stay, the more certain Jane becomes that her mother is hiding something from her. And these terrible secrets, whatever they are, can be found in the locked rooms of North Manor, if only Jane is willing to look.
A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo
Meet your unreliable narrator, Jess Wong. She’s had a longstanding crush on her best friend, Angie. But when Angie meets Margot, the two friends are pulled into her world of boarding school cliques and secrets. Jess may be stuck on the sidelines, losing Angie to someone else, but when everything comes to light at the end of the day, Jess is absolutely certain of one thing: Angie will need her best friend more than ever.
This one is more of a light, twisty thriller for those who don’t want anything too dark.
Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand
Girls have been disappearing for decades on Sawkill Rock, but something’s about to change. The new girl, the outcast, and the queen bee become wrapped up in the strange and terrible events taking place on the island, even as their motivations—and their secrets—push and pull against each other. But there are whispers of a monster on Sawkill, and one way or another Marion, Zoey, and Val are going to be there for the end of it, going up against the supernatural and sexist secret societies and all.
The Silence of Bones by June Hur
Seol is a 16-year-old orphan indentured to the police bureau in 1800, Joseon Korean dynastic kingdom. Now, tasked with assisting a young inspector in the murder of a noblewoman, Seol is part of one of the most important and politically charged cases of her life. But when Inspector Han becomes the prime suspect, her loyalties are put to the test. Because Han has become more than just a coworker…he’s a friend. But does that really mean he’s innocent? In a society where silence and obedience are valued above all, questions and curiosity could be her undoing.
Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos
Caroline is just trying to keep her head down until the sweet escape of graduation, when she can get away from her homophobic parents and the prep school they’ve sent her to. Then her best friend goes missing. Caroline is keeping some secrets about what happened in the hours before Madison went missing, but it turns out the secrets Madison was keeping went much deeper. Even more disturbing: Madison isn’t the first girl to go missing; she’s just the first anyone seems to care about. As Caroline digs deeper into the disappearances, she realizes that there may be one common denominator between all the girls who’ve disappeared: Caroline herself.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Another book by Rory Power because her YA thrillers are just that good. The girls at Raxter School have been under lockdown for 18 months. Ever since the Tox hit, the students and teachers on the isolated island are kept under strict quarantine, forced to fend for themselves even as their bodies change and mutate right before their eyes. For Hetty, Byatt, and Reese, survival means doing anything to protect each other—even if it means going up against the very people claiming to keep them safe.
Body horror never looked so good. But seriously, this book features some full on body horror, so not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett
In this chilling psychological thriller, freshman year isn’t what Emily was expecting. Instead of having the best time of her life, she finds herself wandering the campus alone and friendless. Until the Kingdom finds her. The group offers everything she could have wanted: an exclusive group of friends, a summer mission trip to Italy, and maybe even the chance at a boyfriend. But the Kingdom isn’t what it seems. When the students arrive in Italy, they’re stripped of their money and passports. And before long, the Kingdom’s manipulative practices have Emily questioning just what she’s joined up with. Especially when someone ends up dead.
I’m so here for a thriller exploring life in a cult. Bring it on!
Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks
After being framed for the murder of her best friend, 17-year-old Signal Deere is recruited for a secret assassin-training program for teens in order to escape life in prison. But even among other delinquents, Signal doesn’t fit in. Probably because she’s never actually killed anyone. She only agreed to come here to avoid prison and track down the real murderer. But even as her optimistic attitude starts turning this ragtag band of criminals into a team, a real killer stalks the woods around camp, determined to pick them off one by one.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
The history of the Brookhants School for Girls is shrouded in tragedy. Now a movie is being made of the novel wunderkind writer Merritt Emmons published about the school, and the two young actresses playing the pivotal roles—as well as Merritt—return to Brookhants. But are the ghosts of the past really buried there? As the three young women become entwined with each other and the tragic history of the school, it becomes less clear what is real…and what is movie magic.
This is more new adult than YA, but we all know there’s a lot of overlap there.
The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan
TW for suicide.
Another new adult thriller with great YA appeal. Building on the world she crafted in Rainbirds, Goenawan tells the story of a university sophomore who recently died by suicide, the classmate who was unrequitedly in love with her, and his older sister who fears Miwako’s death might destroy her brother’s life. Painful secrets are slowly and painstakingly uncovered, revealing the façade of a struggling young woman and three people trying to come to terms with her death in this psychological thriller.
The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett
After the shocking murder of high school senior Emma Baines, three of her classmates are at the top of the suspect list: the cheerleader, the partier, and the would-be valedictorian. Emma had a label, too: she was the good girl. But people aren’t always quite what they seem. Long-buried secrets are uncovered as the truth about Emma’s murder is sought out. Time is of the essence, though, because if Emma’s killer isn’t discovered soon, another good girl might be next.
If you just can’t get enough of young adult thrillers and horror, check out these other great lists featuring own voices YA horror books, the best YA horror, YA thrillers, and some of the scariest horror YA books.