8 of the Most Polarizing Horror Novels Ever Written

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Addison Rizer


Addison Rizer is a writer and reader of anything that can be described as weird, sad, or scary. She has an MA in Professional Writing and a BA in English. She writes for Book Riot and Publishers Weekly and is always looking for more ways to gush about the books she loves. Find her published work or contact her on her website or at addisonrizer at gmaildotcom.

When it comes to strong opinions, readers hold some of the strongest. A book that one reader might declare their favorite book in the entire world is what another would label their arch enemy and the worst book they’ve ever read. One book may be a TikTok darling for some, while others rail against it in their own corner of the app. It’s natural when everyone has such different and specific tastes that we’d have different interpretations of the same exact thing.

And horror is no different! In fact, I’d argue horror is more polarizing than any other genre because what scares us is so personal. A friend might think clowns are terrifying after a bad experience at the circus, whereas another could think clowns are the least intimidating people they’ve ever met. Some get their thrills from creature features, some from psychological horror, some from something else entirely! There is no one experience! And that’s great! But every once in a while, a horror book comes around that brings out the full force of reader’s opinions with passionate comments and reviews unleashed on both sides. 

Let’s take a look at eight of the most polarizing horror books ever written (so far!).

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica book cover

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

This story of a human meat processing factory in a world where animal meat is no longer viable pushes the limits of some readers’ stomachs with its level of brutality and violence.

While some find the story beautiful, nausea and all, others find it too disgusting to tolerate.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw book cover

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A group of twentysomethings spend the night in a reportedly haunted mansion for a wedding with a thrill when things quickly go downhill. Some readers liked the concept and the lyrical prose, but others couldn’t get past the petty arguing and personality clashes of the main characters as they navigated their horrifying experience.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang book cover

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

After nightmares spur Yeong-hye to become a vegetarian, she clashes with her family and society around her. The readers who like this one praise its prose and the odd tragedy that makes you think. The ones on the other side, though, find it too strange and too open-ended, with too many questions left at the end of the book to make it a satisfying read.

cover of flowers in the attic

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

To secure a financial windfall, Corrine locks her four children away in an attic until she can get it sorted. The temporary stay, though, soon turns into years of the four kids, growing older, still trapped. It’s no secret that this book depicts incest and child abuse, and many readers are disturbed by the way the topics are handled in the book. Others, though, feel a sense of nostalgia for the book after they or their parents read it as teenagers themselves.

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones book cover

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

After escaping a masked serial killer, she knows the fight isn’t over. Homecoming court must be refilled, the show must go on. With this one, the structure of the novel is what has readers up in arms. Some like the way it’s written like a movie script, while others find it too jarring and difficult to get into.

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk book cover

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

A group of 23 people answer an ad that ends with them trapped in an old theater, separated from the rest of society with a diminishing supply to keep them alive. Palahniuk often gets a polarized reaction, and this one is no different. In one camp, readers say it’s too gross and vile to stomach. In the other, readers revel in the blood and guts. Either way, both sides are quick to repeat the stories of readers fainting at readings of the novel’s first story.

cover image of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Evil kids can be extremely polarizing. This story follows Hanna, a little girl so obsessed with her father that she’ll do anything to get her own mother out of the picture. It’s absolutely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. The love-it side finds the book’s darkness and shock value engaging and delightful, while the hate-it side finds Hanna too creepy and the story too one-note.

Cover of the Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Horror comes to the suburbs in this story of two girls held captive in the basement of a picture-perfect house. Many readers dub this extreme horror for its depiction of abuse and the ugly side of humanity. Both the ones who love it and hate it say it’ll turn your stomach and leave you infuriated. Which side you fall on lies in whether you like that kind of thing.

If you’re interested in more polarizing novels, check out 10 of the most polarizing books or 8 of the most polarizing romance novels!