New horror novels are welcome any time of the year. But fall is right around the corner, meaning Halloween is almost here too. And you know what that means? It means it’s time for new horror fiction to totally take over your TBR pile. Thankfully, 2021 has been a killer year (yes, I went there) for horror novels. Whether you prefer supernatural scares or thrilling slasher stories, there’s a 2021 novel that’s going to be the perfect creepy read for you.
So here they are, horror fans! In no particular order, these are 18 of the best chilling new horror novels to keep you scared for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Cuddle up with a black cat, some candy corn, and one of these books, and make it Halloween in your heart all year long.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a haunting and sometimes disorienting horror novel that’s best enjoyed if you know as little as possible going into it. But I will tell you this: there’s a creepy boarded up house, and in that house lives a man with many secrets and a black cat named Olivia. What happens in that house will surprise you and chill you to the bone. Bonus: sections of this book are narrated by the cat. If all of that sounds completely strange to you, it totally is! But it all works really well to create a satisfying and scary story.
The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
If you love horror fiction that cultivates a sense of dread from the very first page, you won’t want to miss out on The Book of Accidents. In this novel, Nathan and Maddie return to their hometown with their son, Oliver. Now the traumas that they thought they’d left behind in their pasts have returned to haunt them. And Oliver has made a new friend: a boy with his own dark past, and a penchant for performing dark magic.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
Here’s a queer gothic horror novel with ghosts. Are you in? This is the story of Andrew and Eddie, two friends who used to do everything together. But then Eddie goes off to graduate school at Vanderbilt, and then six months later, he dies by presumed suicide. But Andrew isn’t so sure, and as he searches for the truth behind his friend’s tragic death, Andrew will uncover secrets about Eddie he never would have suspected. And there’s something lurking in the shadows, a phantom that hungers for Andrew.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
An old haunted house in Japan seems like the perfect spot for a destination wedding, right? That’s what the group of friends in this novella thought anyway. The foundation of this Heian-era mansion is built upon the bones of a bride, and the walls are filled with the remains of all the bodies sacrificed to her. When a group of friends arrive at the mansion to celebrate a wedding, a night of fun, games, food, and drinks, quickly turns into their worst nightmare. If you think you’ve read every kind of haunted house story there is, think again. This one will surprise you.
My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My Heart is a Chainsaw elevates the slasher genre and makes it even more terrifying. Think Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th. Jade Daniels feels like an outsider in her small town. Her only way of coping with the horrors of her less than perfect life? You guessed it. Horror films. But even Jade’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things horror might not be enough to save her when a real-life masked killer strikes in her town. This novel is a thrilling page-turner and a thoughtful examination of gender roles, colonization, American politics, and more.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Dracula is a classic novel that has forever shaped the way we look at vampires, even in 2021. So taking on this iconic story and making it even more queer and even darker? Yes, S.T. Gibson dared to do that in A Dowry of Blood. This novel is told from the perspective of Constanta, one of Dracula’s brides. When Constanta is saved from death and transformed into an undead being, she is first enamored with her savior. But the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes her beloved is capable of doing horrible, unthinkable things.
Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman
For those fascinated by the Satanic Panic, you’ll appreciate that this new horror novel is based on a true crime story: the McMartin preschool trials. Whisper Down the Lane is set in part in the 1980s, during the height of the Satanic Panic. At the time, Sean was a 5-year-old boy who told a lie about a teacher that changed that teacher’s life forever. Thirty years later, Sean no longer exists, but Richard does. And he’s about to pay the price for Sean’s lies.
Goddess of Filth by V. Castro
This feminist horror novel champions female friendship while also being scary as heck. It all kicks off on one hot summer night when Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline decide to hold a séance. They all think it’s just a bit of fun until Fernanda starts acting strange, crawling on the floor and chanting in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors. Her strange behavior doesn’t end there. Over the next few weeks, Fernanda is like a completely different person. The local priest is certain Fernanda is possessed by a demon, but Lourdes thinks it might be something much more powerful. And more dangerous.
A Touch of Jen by Beth Morgan
If you like your horror with a huge helping of humor and satire, pick up A Touch of Jen. This is the story of Remy and Alicia, a couple that are bound together not so much because of their love for each other but because of their love for Jen. Jen used to be Remy’s coworker, but now she’s following her dreams, becoming an Instagram influencer and a jewelry designer. When Remy and Alicia run into Jen and she invites them on a surfing trip, they’re absolutely thrilled. But a trip that started as a journey to self-actualization turns into to outright horror — fast.
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
This book is what happens when Scream meets One of Us is Lying. The results? Creepy and incredibly difficult to put down. The Mary Shelley Club is a YA horror novel about a mysterious club of students at Manchester Prep School. The club has a secret goal: to come up with a truly terrifying prank to strike fear in their classmates. It’s all fun and games until the tables are turned and someone starts targeting the Mary Shelley Club itself.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
What happens to those horrified final girls in films like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street after the killing is over? Does the fear ever really go away? Are they ever truly able to live normal lives? Real-life final girl Lynnette Tarkington has never been able to move on, but at least she has her support group of final girls with whom she’s been meeting for over a decade. But when one of them misses a meeting, Lynette knows her worst fears have been realized. A killer has returned, and whoever it is is coming for all of them.
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
I love horror novels that leave you questioning what kind of monsters are worse: supernatural beings, or the monsters living within us? In Near the Bone, Mattie has lived on a mountain with William for as long as she can remember. She knows she can’t make him upset, and she knows they’re completely alone. Or at least she thought she knew that. When she finds a mutilated fox in the woods, Mattie begins to fear there’s something else out there in the woods.
Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejidé
Set in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, Creatures of Passage is a new horror novel with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Nephthys Kinwell is not your average taxi driver. Her 1967 Plymouth Belvedere has a ghost in the trunk, and when the car is summoned, Nephthys must use it to drive ill-fated passengers across the city. Aside from driving, she spends her days grieving the loss of her twin brother, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River. But when her nephew shows up on her doorstep with a cryptic note about the River Man, everything changes.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Rivers Solomon’s latest novel mixes sci-fi, fantasy, and gothic horror to create a story unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. Vern is seven months pregnant and is desperately trying to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised. So she flees to the forest, where she gives birth to her twins and plans to raise them far away from the outside world. But to truly escape, Vern will have to fight hard against the community that refuses to let her go, all while her body is going through inexplicable and horrifying changes.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
This is one of the most unsettling young adult horror novels I have ever read. Jake Livingston is a teen boy who is different from his classmates in many ways. For one, he’s one of the only Black students at at St. Clair Prep. And then there’s also the fact that he can see dead people everywhere. Most of them are harmless and just go about their own business. But then there’s Sawyer, a new ghost who was a troubled teen in life, and now he wants much more from Jake.
The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
Stephanie Perkins’s new horror novel is being called a companion story to her first foray into horror, There’s Someone Inside Your House. Which, by the way, is about to be a Netflix series! In The Woods Are Always Watching, we get the story of best friends Neena and Josie. They’ve been inseparable throughout high school, but with college on the horizon, they’re about to go their separate ways, and a three-day hike in the woods is their last chance to spend some quality time with one another before the big move. But they’re not the only ones out in the woods. Someone is hunting them.
Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap
This book isn’t technically a novel. In fact, it’s a collection of short stories, but the novella A Spell for Foolish Hearts is included in this collection, so we’re going to count it as a new horror novel, especially since it’s so good. In her short story collection Never Have I Ever, author Isabel Yap pulls from urban legends, mythology, immigrant stories, and more. These stories feel like dark, eery, super twisted fairy tales. At the same time, this collection feels deeply personal.
Revelator by Daryl Gregory
This dark horror novel is set in the 1930s and ’40s over dual timelines in the mountains of Tennessee. In 1933, 9-year-old Stella is staying with her grandmother when she wandering into a dark cavern and encounters an entity called Ghostdaddy. Years later, Stella returns for her grandmother’s funeral and to check on the strange little girl that her grandmother adopted under mysterious circumstances. The girl seems innocent enough, but she carries a power unlike anything Stella could imagine.
Want to look back at the best new horror novels from 2020? We’ve got them for you.
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