Short stories are a staple in the adult world of horror. There are loads of great anthologies, as well as journals and magazines, dedicated to the horror short story. But this isn’t so much the case in YA, which seems to be lacking in as much breadth and depth in the YA horror short stories department.
But, they’re not absent all together. Finding anthologies with YA horror short stories just takes a little bit of work.
Part of the challenge is, perhaps, that there’s a bit of misunderstanding around what horror is. Rather than a genre in and of itself, horror is a mood. This means that horror transcends genre and can be part of any genre. There are romance horror stories—paranormal romance, for example—as much as there are realistic horror stories, science fiction horror stories, and horror thriller stories. When we remember how broad the definition and application of a label like horror is, we’re better able to see just how many great YA horror short stories there really are out there in collections meant for teen readers.
This summer launched the first annual Summer Scares program, which is a joint venture between the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Library Journal, and United for Libraries. The goal is to help get great horror reads into the minds of librarians, in hopes of recommending more great horror for their patrons. Readers of all ages, but especially young people, love horror, as it not only goes above and beyond genre, but also because horror has such range. There are definitely scary stories, definitely gory stories, and there are definitely stories far more about psychological confusion than about bodies and blood.
That’s part of what makes horror so appealing in and of itself.
One of the titles selected for this year’s Summer Scares program for the YA category is a collection of short stories—Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke—and it led me down a path of curiosity for what else was out there for teen readers who love the format. Find these excellent YA horror short stories below in a variety of anthologies.
Worth noting: the editorships of these collections are pretty white, but the collections themselves offer a nice range of inclusive voices.
Anthologies of YA Horror Short Stories
Defy The Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell
What happens in the dark? This is the central question in the first anthology edited by Mitchell, who asks several well-known and emerging YA authors to write stories that take place at night or in the dark. Not all of the short stories here are horror, but many are, making it an excellent choice for readers wanting a little bit of horror but maybe not an entire collection.
Grim edited by Christine Johnson
I find dark fairy tales to be extremely satisfying for my horror reading needs, and Johnson’s collection pulls together a wide array of YA voices to take riffs on the fairy tales we all know and love…but with a dark twist. Malinda Lo, Sarah Rees Brennan, Shaun David Hutchinson, and other beloved YA authors have contributions.
His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler
Coming in September is this incredible-sounding collection of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories, retold through the voices of YA authors. Not only do we get to have riffs on the tales, but the stories those retellings are based on will be included. Poe is a horror staple, and this collection promises to be one that will introduce and/or deepen readers knowledge of his work.
Kisses and Curses edited by Lauren Burniac
For readers who want to see what horror looks like when applied to romance or fantasy, look no further than this collection. Monstrous love stories and Russian dark folklore are just some of the stories included in this anthology that features kisses, curses, and authors like Leigh Bardugo, Lish McBride, and more.
Monstrous Affections edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
Sometimes horror can even be funny, as evidenced by more than one story in this collection curated by Link and Grant. This one bills itself as being at the intersection of fear and love, and it involves stories about demons, monsters, and more—the perfect sort of YA horror short stories. Authors include Nalo Hopkinson, Patrick Ness, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, and more.
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
You will no doubt notice that Holly Black is a frequent contributor to—not to mention editor of—some of the horror short story collections for teens here. And for good reason: she knows how to weave chills with her stories of fantasy, as seen in this collection. Black offers up faeries, vampires, demons, werewolves, and more in this anthology of stories she’s written.
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke
Selected as a title for the first annual Summer Scares program, Tucholke’s YA horror short stories anthology is a goldmine of gems, including the kinds of horror that include a body count, the kind that include dead bodies coming back to life, and stories that are far less bloody and gruesome and more along the lines of a solid psychological thriller. The entire collection is filled with beloved writers at the top of their games.
Toil and Trouble: 15 Stories of Women and Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood
Women + witchcraft = an incredible anthology that’s one part horror and one part feminist anthem. The voices in this collection are solid, and it’s the sort of short story collection that features no weak links. Contributors include Tehlor Kay Mejia, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Cordova, Shveta Thakrar, and more.
Under My Hat: Tales From The Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan
One collection of YA horror short stories featuring witches not enough for you? Then Strahan’s anthology will be one for your TBR as well. These 18 stories include entries from Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee and more, and all of them delve into the magical world of witches and witchcraft.
Vampires Never Get Old edited by Natalie C. Parker
Coming in 2020, Parker is curating and editing a collection of vampire tales. Given Parker’s penchant for diving into topics that many see as tried and tired—see her anthology Three Sides of a Heart about love triangles—chances are this one is going to really help bolster more enthusiasm for the emerging vampire trend over the next year or two.
Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Which team are you on: zombies or unicorns? Some of your favorite YA authors take sides.
YA Horror Short Stories Online
Of course, YA horror short stories aren’t limited to anthologies, though that’s where they are most abundant. There are also great horror short stories found through a number of online forums that solicit and publish YA. Take a peek through the following online journals, magazines, and anthology collections to find some additional great horror reads:
- Foreshadow YA: Published monthly throughout 2019, this short story anthology spearheaded by YA authors Emily XR Pan and Nova Ren Suma features a number of chilling, eerie, and delightful horror short stories.
- Young Adult Review Network (YARN): Not only can you read fiction and poetry here, you might even find an essay or two that takes on horror in some capacity…particularly of the realistic kind.
- Cricket Magazine: This one is a subscription print magazine, but if you find a story or two that sound intriguing when you peruse the table of contents for YA short stories, you might be able to pull this one up through your local library’s online databases or in hard copy on shelf.
If you want to know more about the Summer Scares program, including resources and tools for talking about and discovering horror, dig in here.