Every season is horror season, as far as I’m concerned, but we all can collectively agree that fall is especially ripe for enjoying all things creepy, twisted, and wicked. I’ve been a horror reader since the start, devouring the likes of Goosebumps and Stephen King since I could read, and I’m convinced part of my fascination comes from the time I watched my first horror film at a sleepover in elementary school. While the other girls covered their eyes and stayed up all night because of nightmares from the movie, I was pretty unimpressed with the entire thing and wondered why that was. Turns out, it wasn’t the horror for me, but it opened the door to seeking out more and more. It’s only natural this many decades on, I’m finding love for all things YA horror books and am so glad we’re getting such a wide range of them.
I’d intended to do a giant roundup of this year’s YA horror books earlier. But one of the perks of waiting to highlight the incredible wealth of horror titles is being able to preview some of what’s to come next year.
Horror isn’t a genre, but a mood, which means it applies across genre. Many paranormal romances could easily be seen as horror — you’ll see some below — while wholly realistic tales of darkness can fall right in line with what many consider more traditional horror topes, including ghosts, haunted houses, serial killers, and more. Among the new YA horror books here, there’s a little bit of everything, allowing for readers to choose what’s calling out to them genre-wise and understand the appeal of horror, too.
Note that this is a big list, and it’s certainly not as representative of the diversity of voices and stories YA has been growing and showcasing. There certainly are inclusive YA horror books here, but horror remains an area that deserves more of these stories. You can, however, sink your teeth into this array of diverse YA horror books to help supplement the lack in new titles and more, I suspect we’ll be seeing more emerge as the stories that we do have continue to sell well and appeal to readers.
New and Forthcoming YA Horror for Fans of All Things Creepy, Scary, and Fun
All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
It’s the summer of 1958 and a rash of murders across the midwest have people on edge as bodies are being drained of their blood. When the Carlson family is slaughtered in September, 15-year-old Marie is found at the scene, covered in blood that is not hers. Michael, son of a local sheriff, cannot wait to escape his small town and land a job as a journalist somewhere bigger — and the biggest investigation he could imagine is now right in front of him. But was Marie responsible for the murders? If not, who was?
Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis
Katrel is able to speak to the dead, and while it doesn’t make her a lot of money, it helps keep her and the family out of poverty. But when she’s warned by a ghost to stop her summoning, she refuses to listen — she needs the money! — and accidentally raises someone from the dead at her next summoning.
Now, Katrel has an even more lucrative business, raising bodies from the dead, but at what cost?
Burden Falls by Kat Ellis
Burden Falls is a town cloaked in superstition, including a waterfall that’s cursed and a specter named Dead-Eyed Sadie who haunts it. A horrific accident killed Ava’s parents a year ago and she’s not stopped having horrific nightmares since. So when Ava becomes suspect in the murder of someone close to her, she begins to think that it’s the town who is really out to get them.
The Buried by Melissa Grey
Something terrible happened in Indigo Falls a decade ago, sending residents to live underground. Dr. Imogen Moran is a charismatic leader inside the bunker, and he’s developed a series of rules for the people living with him to help keep them “safe.” But what will happen if they break the cardinal rule of never going outside?
This sounds like a disaster novel wrapped in a cult novel, a la the fabulous Agnes at the End of the World.
The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman
After her best friend Kitty dies, Molly is swept away from the orphanage where she lives to begin a new life with her “aunt.” Her life here is in complete contrast with her old one, especially as she’s been brought into the business of collecting fresh corpses to help medical students learn the practice. It’s a risky job, especially in 1850s Philadelphia, where more than one person is in the business, seeking to make a name for themselves.
But then, Molly discovers there may be far more to this trade — far more to her family legacy — than she could ever imagine and more, she may learn who it was that killed her best friend.
Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain
Can a small town in the Louisiana bayou be filled with psychics who have no idea what happened to a person gone missing?
Grey, who spends her summers in La Cachette, has a hard time believing no one knows what happened to her bestie Elora. Everyone seems to be hiding something from her and from each other. So when a stranger emerges from the bayou, Grey and the rest of the folks in town realize this is a far more dangerous place than they’d already presumed.
(The little alligator eye in the top right corner of the book cover is killing me in the best way).
Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller
If haunted murderous houses are your jam, this book will be right up your ally.
Bram’s itching to disappear from her life, and to get away from her past and the secrets which haunt it, she travels to the small town of Louth, where her uncle is rehabbing an old mansion. But her uncle’s heavy with secrets and sadness, too, after losing his wife in a fire that locals think his daughter set.
The manor her uncle is working on is capital-C creepy, and so are the townspeople of Louth, who are convincing Bram that the house where she’s living is haunted by the spirits of girls who died within it. Much as she wants to ignore those rumors, though, the more time she spends in the house, the more and more real they seem.
The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Even though she’s the host of the paranormal investigation podcast Attachments, Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts. Eager to get people to tune into her show, Dare takes up an investigation in Arrington Estate where, 30 years prior, a teen girl drowned in the estate’s lake and her spirit still wanders the grounds.
Dare might be here for the strange circumstances of the girl’s death and her conviction that there’s a living suspect responsible…but the estate, as well as the cute girl living there, might prove otherwise and cause Dare to rethink her stance on ghosts.
Hexed by Julia Tuffs
This is a book about a girl who gets witch-like powers on her period and she uses them to help take down a douchey dude who spouts toxic masculinity left and right, and frankly, that’s all I needed to be super sold on this book.
The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
The first in a duology that retells classic Poe, McGinnis’s novel follows Tress, who lost her entire family in a terrible accident seven years prior. Her family has been well-respected, but following the accident, she’s been living with her grandfather at a place locals call the “White Trash Zoo” (it is a loose, loose interpretation of a zoo).
Felicity, on the other hand, is at the top of the social ladder and has buried the truth of what happened the night Tress’s parents died. She was the other person in the car with them.
Tress wants the truth, though, and she has a plan: A Halloween party, where she can invite Felicity, prying the truth from her as she slowly encloses her in a coal chute.
…And there is a panther on the loose.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
Sapphic dark academia? Yes, please.
Felicity’s returning to finish high school at the ivy-covered campus where her girlfriend died last year. She’s been away from school for a year, but she’ll be back in the same dorm where she’d lived before: the Goodwin House, rumored to be the former home of the Dalloway five, girls many believed to be witches who all died one after another on the Goodwin grounds.
Ellis is a first year student, and though she’s amassed a loyal following — she’s a prodigy and has already written a novel — she seeks out Felicity to help her with her second novel. The topic? The Dalloway five.
History may be repeating itself now, especially as Ellis employs her style of “method writing,” to tell the story.
The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl
Welcome to the vampire revenge club.
Elton turned Holly into an eternal 16-year-old in 1987. She was promised love, but he left her, and now the only job she can work as a forever-16-year-old is at Taco Bell.
Then Holly meets Rose — turned forever 16 by Elton in 1954 — and Ida — turned forever 16 by Elton, ex-finance, in 1921.
Together, the girls will be ganging up to ensure Elton doesn’t take another victim. They’ll be the ones getting the last eternal laugh.
This one sounds like a fun read-alike to Lily Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang.
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
Rachel is the new kid at her school, and as a scholarship student, she’s already an outcast. When she’s caught in a prank gone bad, she fears it’s over for her socially.
But that prank catches the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a group of students who seek to come up with the best prank to truly scare fellow students. It’s a competition, and the consequences may be deadly, especially as the Club begins to turn on itself.
Mary, Will I Die? by Shawn Sarles
So what happens if the take of Bloody Mary is true? Sarles explores the myths behind the legend of Bloody Mary through a group of teens who, five years prior, play the game at a sleepover. Weird things happened, sure, but the weirdest happens when the friend group breaks up, and the girl whose house in which the game was played finds a creepy figure in the mirror who hadn’t been there before.
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
The pitch for this one is “Practical Magic meets Twister,” but really, it needs to also address this is a novel about a single witch who has the power to impact the spread of climate change and whether or not she’s up to the task when she finds herself falling in love.
The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore
It’s the1890s, and while Zuretta is content in her home in rural Utah, her sister yearns for more. Ruby’s traveled to Chicago, where the World’s Fair is happening, and now she’s disappeared. Zuretta wants to know what happened so travels there herself, taking a job at the last known place of employment Ruby had — a mysterious hotel called The Castle.
One by one, women are disappearing from this “hotel,” and Zuretta discovers she herself is now entangled in a serial murder plot. How can she save herself, the other people around her, and get to the bottom of what happened to Ruby?
Phantom Heart by Kelly Creagh
There’s always something about restoring those old houses, isn’t there? In this first book in a series, Stephanie’s dad is renovating a crumbling Victorian mansion and her younger sister, as well as classmates at school, are working to convince her it’s home to a monster. It might take two boys who have entered her life for Stephanie to understand what’s really going on in this little project of her father’s.
Creagh’s novel is inspired by, as you might have guessed, the classic Phantom of the Opera.
The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters
Natasha’s sister went missing and her car was found at the Bend, and she wants answers. Della and her family have conjured magic from the Bend, setting spells for those who are desperate. When Natasha arrives at Della’s door, itching to find out what happened to her sister, Della knows this is going to be a case requiring a lot more than a little magic.
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle
Becca’s just transferred to a new high school and is stoked when she quickly finds herself welcomed into one of the most popular groups.
Turns out, that group is a gang of female werewolves who love to take down slimy boys. It’s fun and necessary but when the cops begin looking for a serial killer after a boy gets killed, suddenly, things aren’t as fun or easy as they may seem.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Jake is one of the only Black kids at his private school and he’s definitely not as cool as his older brother. It doesn’t help that Jake sees the dead around him all the time. While most of the dead spirits he sees are harmless — they’re just stuck in a loop — when he meets Sawyer, Jake realizes not all spirits are harmless and everything he thought he knew about interacting with the dead has flown out the window. Now, he has to survive not only high school but a vengeful spirit.
To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames
A mine explosion years ago made Moon Basin uninhabitable and dangerous. The ex-mining town, now New Basin, isn’t any less dangerous but is able now to use its history as a means of drawing in tourists.
But the people of New Basin are starting to experience weird things. Clem and Nina, best friends, have brought two new people into their circle and decide they’re going to go into the mine and find out what’s really going on in town.
What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
Estranged from her family for years, Eleanor’s coming back to them after a horrifying incident at her boarding school. But can she fit in with these monsters again? And what does her family legacy say about her and her own powers?
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
Welcome to a magical, witchy world of New York City in 1911. Frances works as a seamstress, and when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet, she’s unable to explain exactly how her scissors ended up in his neck.
She’s immediately swept up and taken to Haxahaven Sanitarium, which isn’t what it seems. It’s instead a school for witches, and while she loves the magic she’s learning, she wants to play bigger, beyond the walls of Haxahaven. But now she’s caught the attention of a leader who wants magical control of the city and she must decide whether to use her powers to solve a personal crime, to take on huge power, or to pursue a boy with whom she’s falling in love (and/or some combination of them all).
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
First in a duology, this Jamaican-inspired novel follows two enemy witches who have to team up in order to combat a common enemy. For readers who love cat and mouse stories, this one’s especially for you.
This brand-new read has an eager, growing fandom already.
The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
Survival novels are my idea of true horror, and Perkins delivers with this story of best friends Neena and Josie, who are taking one last trip together before they attend college thousands of miles apart. Their destination is a three-day hike in a national forest. But when they go off-trail, they find themselves in a living, hellish nightmare.
Forthcoming 2022 YA Horror Books
Given what we’ve seen with release dates shifting around, thanks to printer consolidation, a slowdown in cargo shipments, and the pandemic, these books are tentative as of the writing of this post. Many do not yet have covers and information about these titles may be extremely limited.
Coven by Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton
This graphic novel, written by Dugan and illustrated by Seaton, follows a young witch whose coven members are murdered. She travels back to upstate New York from California in order to hone her craft and solve the murders before more of her family is killed.
Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil (March 29)
Are you ready for a YA retelling of Strangers on a Train by horror master McNeil? Because I sure know I am.
Extasia by Claire Legrand (February 22)
Haven is the only place where humanity survives after wicked women have destroyed the plant. It is, essentially, a cult, and Amity is becoming a saint — a vessel for people to take out the sins upon, as elected by village elders. A series of gruesome and unnatural deaths within Haven have Amity and fellow saints curious and now, she must decide whether to continue watching bodies pile up or try to save Haven.
Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren (January 4)
Think Blair Witch but with a group of YouTube teen stars, set in a haunted hotel.
I am deeply in love with this cover.
In Every Generation by Kendare Blake (July 25)
The first in a trilogy, this is a new series in the Buffyverse. It follows a teen girl at New Sunnydale High School who is the daughter of one of most infamous and powerful witch alumna…Willow Rosenberg.
It Will End Like This by Kyra Leigh (January 4)
If you love thrillers, this one has your name on it, ESPECIALLY if you’re game for a contemporary take on the Lizzy Borden murders.
Leigh’s book follows Charlotte, whose mother died six months ago under mysterious circumstances. She’s been told her mother’s heart stopped, but both she and her sister know that can’t be the case. And with their father and their mother’s personal assistant moving on from mother’s death, Charlotte and her sister are determined to know what really happened.
A Night to Die For by Lisa Schroeder (March 1)
Hello, contemporary take on Carrie! Long-time YA readers will recognize Schroeder’s name, as she’s written a number of backlist romantic reads, so seeing her pen a horror novel is absolutely thrilling.
Mario’s been a loner throughout high school and on prom night, he takes a girl with him as a favor to his mom. But the night goes weird, quick: he’s crowned Prom King, despite being unpopular, and then, when driving his date home, he finds the Prom Queen dead in a ditch. He’s being called the murderer, even though this night has been nothing but a wormy nightmare for him.
Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo
Boo’s graphic novel follows a teen witch at a magical academy who is determined to solve the mystery of a missing classmate. But…there might be way more secrets to be unraveled as the witch seeks out the answer to that disappearance.
The Undead Truth of Us by Britney S. Lewis
Zharie is a 16-year-old dancer who has started to see zombies everywhere. Now, in her quest to determine why she’s the only one who is able to see them, she has the potential to understand the truth of her mother’s death.
The Witchery by S. Isabelle
Mesmortes Coven Academy is a school in a Florida witchtown, where Logan will hone her skills as a baby witch. She’s quickly taken under the wings of three of the academy’s most infamous and powerful witches, and together with the townspeople — with whom there is an unsettling relationship — they must work to contain chaos about to reign during Haunting Season.