Welcome to the suburbs! Check out the rows of identical houses with picture-perfect lawns and little white picket fences. Stop by the block party on Halloween and the Fourth of July and a random Saturday in the summer. Cannonball into swimming pools in every backyard (if you’re lucky, one might even have a diving board!). Watch the 9-5ers get in their cars, coffee mug steaming in their hands, every morning at the same time, dress shoes shining in the light of the sunrise. Oh, and don’t forget about the homeowner’s association, lurking in the shadows, desperate to write a violation for a too-tall shed or a car parked one minute too long on the curb.
For a lot of people, some less idealized version of this is their reality. Suburb life. But sometimes, it’s not always what it seems. Family secrets, haunted houses, monsters with pointed teeth. These things don’t go “Never mind!” at the sight of a self-built dog house and some manicured shrubbery. No, the suburbs are not immune to the monsters of elsewhere. Thus, the suburban horror subgenre was born.
Whether you’re from the suburbs and want a little reminder of the horrors you could find lurking next door, or you get a little satisfaction at stories that prove the suburbs aren’t so great, here are eight suburban horror novels to dig into!
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Illustrated by Lisa Sterle
The suburbs have monsters, too, in this YA graphic novel. Becca is new to a San Francisco suburb everyone knows is full of the rich and the popular. When she’s accepted into the popular girls’ group at school, Becca is surprised. She’s even more surprised when she learns they’re werewolves who prey on predatory boys. Becca wants to be one of them. But as the complexities of violence, growing up, and first loves surface, the right decisions seem more and more uncertain.
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
When photographer Joanna and her family move to Stepford, Connecticut, the community seems perfect. Every neighbor she meets is gorgeous, successful. She decides it’s a great place to raise her children, to retire eventually. But as they settle in, her husband spends more and more time at the mens’ club and the other wives seem to clean so much they don’t have time for anything else. The longer they stay, the more unsettling the separate lives of the men and women in the community become. Stepford, Connecticut isn’t what it seems.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
Nothing bad happens on Maple Street. The kids grow up to go to Ivy League schools, the bills are always paid on time. When the Wilde family moves in amongst them, Gertie and Arlo and their two kids don’t quite belong. Their car isn’t shiny, their clothes definitely last season. When one of the other mothers, Rhea, befriends Gertie in one breath and then vows to destroy her in the next, the divide between the community and the Wildes grows. Then, an actual sinkhole opens up and takes one of Rhea’s daughters. This one proves the monsters lurking behind white picket fences are sometimes just regular people, but the destruction is just as gruesome.
The Association by Bentley Little
Putting up with a Homeowners Association is worth living behind the pearly gates of the Bonita Vista community. At least, that’s what Barry and Maureen thought when they made their move. Soon, though, violations start to flood their mailbox for every little infraction, every breaking of the incredibly long list of rules The Association keeps. Barry vows to take The Association down, finding in their perfect community something horrible lurking under the surface.
Real World by Natsuo Kirino, Translated by Philip Gabriel
For Toshi, Terauchi, Yuzan, and Kirarin, cram school and heat plague their summer days. When a murder happens next door to Toshi, the girls have a theory. One of the neighbor’s boys has always struck them as odd. When that very boy steals Toshi’s bike and cell phone and runs, the girls are caught up in the aftermath. Their suburb looks a lot scarier in the light of a gruesome murder that happened right next door.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Patricia’s life is fine. Her teenage kids are going through a distant phase, but that’s normal, isn’t it? So is her husband’s tendency to miss dinners or get distracted, right? That’s what her book club is for. The other women she meets with are all going through similar things, so getting to meet up and talk is exactly what Patricia needs. When a stranger moves to their suburb and kids start to disappear, the book club chats turn into an investigation with Patricia at the forefront.
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons
Colquitt and Walter Kennedy are exactly what you’d expect from a couple living in the suburbs. Barbeques on the weekends, the slog of a nine to five through the week, and picturesque evenings on the porch of their beautiful house. Their entire neighborhood lives the same way. When constuction starts on the lot next door, it all seems normal. Just another gorgeous house in a long line of them. But, inside the beautiful walls lurks something that seems to turn the people who live there to desperation. They’re driven to commit horrible acts to themselves and to others inside those perfect, perfect walls.
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
A suburban horror list would be missing without a haunted house novel. When Marigold’s family moves from a beach town in California to suburban Cedarville in the Midwest, she’s looking forward to the new start. Their new home is perfect from the outside, but inside is another story. The doors open at their own will, items going missing when Marigold is sure they were there only moments ago. Her stepsister, Piper, starts saying strange things about a new friend who doesn’t like Marigold. And there’s the smell. Something’s rotting in the walls of their perfect, perfect house.