Read Harder

7 Middle Grade Horror Novels to Read By Flashlight

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

You might not immediately associate the horror genre with children’s books, but in fact, there may be no fan of scary stories more passionate than a kid. From the gentle introduction to the genre that is Bunnicula (now also available as a graphic novel) to the spooky Goosebumps series (also available as graphic novels) to the truly haunting Stephen Gammell illustrations in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, middle grade horror is not new.

This genre has only exploded in popularity since I picked up those kid-friendly horror books in my childhood. Now, there’s horror for every age, from the lightly spooky to the truly terrifying, and with a lot more representation of different races, cultures, queer identities, and more.

That’s why in the 2024 Read Harder Challenge, task #3 is Read a middle grade horror novel. If you usually can’t handle horror, there are plenty of middle grade horror novels that offer a more gentle introduction to the genre. If you’re a horror fan who usually gravitates to the splatterpunk side of the spectrum, you might find new appreciation for the eerie, unsettling stories aimed at children.

Regardless of how often you usually read horror or children’s books, this is a great opportunity to channel your childhood reading self and read a ghost story by flashlight under the covers. Here are seven recommendations to start with, but there’s a whole wide world of middle grade horror out there!

Root Magic cover

Root Magic by Eden Royce

It’s 1963 in South Carolina, and Jezebel and her twin brother Jay are turning 11. This year brings a lot of changes, like starting at a new, integrated school. But the biggest thing happening is that they’re old enough to learn rootwork from their grandfather. Jezebel soon learns their family’s magic is stronger than they thought — just as their town has to face down evil in both supernatural and human form. This genre mash-up book is part fantasy, part historical fiction, part horror.

cover of Not Quite a Ghost by Anne Ursu; illustration of a young girl in a room with the outline of a ghost in the wallpaper

Not Quite a Ghost by Anne Ursu

In this retelling of The Yellow Wallpaper, Violet is struggling to adjust to her new life. Her mother has remarried and had a baby, which meant they had to move into a new house. Her friend group is growing apart in middle school. And when she moves into her new room, she’s disturbed by its creepy yellow wallpaper. When she gets sick, she’s forced to stay in that room for weeks, and no one can figure out what’s wrong. Soon, she begins to see a shadowy something — or someone — in the room with her…

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Check out all the previous 2024 Read Harder posts here!

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