Witches and ghosts and demons, oh my! Whether you like your Halloween read with demons and spirits or simply playing psychological warfare, this list has got you covered. We’ve got necromancers, monsters, murderers, and spirits to the tone of everything from Gothic contemporary to sci-fi with body horror you’ll need to read with the lights all the way on. (And if that’s not enough, you can find even more in this post of Great YAs for fans of Edgar Allan Poe!)
The Tenth Girl, by Sara Faring
This Gothic psychological thriller is based in Patagonian mythology and set at a finishing school set at the very tip of South America that juuuust might be cursed. That’s what they say, anyway—settle there and be cursed by the land. But it can’t be any worse than the life Mavi’s leaving behind in 1978 Buenos Aires, and the military regime that killed her mother. She’s happy to find somewhere to escape and teach young girls instead, no matter how many warnings come with it. But then one of her ten students disappears, and a sort of possessions seems to take over the school, and soon no warnings—or spirits—can be ignored, especially when one of them holds a secret that will change Mavi’s life forever.
Out of Salem, by Hal Schrieve
What says Halloween like a book helmed by a zombie and a werewolf?? Longlisted for a National Book Award, this debut has got it all: murder, mystery, friendship, and more murder! When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z is the only survivor of a car accident that kills their family, they find that the powers they’ve always possessed are dwindling and they’re now “living” as the undead…and it doesn’t smell all that great. More all alone in the world than ever, they find solace with their mother’s friend, who becomes their guardian, and Aysel, a new friend who happens to be a lesbian werewolf.
Rules for Vanishing, by Kate Alice Marshall
Ghosts have returned to haunt YA, as in this debut, told in the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project. This creeptastic tale follows a girl named Sara who must face down a ghost in order to find her missing sister. It’s been a year since Becca vanished while searching for the ghost of Lucy Gallows, in an ill-advised game the bravest locals dare to play on the lone day a year a certain road appears in the forest. It’s supposed to be nothing more than a story, but Sara knows it’s real, and knows she has no choice but to follow the path to search for Becca. With her friends joining her, Sara begins the journey, but it’s far more terrifying and treacherous than any of them expected, and even if Sara does find Becca, there’s no guarantee that she herself will ever be able to return.
Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
If you like your Halloween reads with straight-up body horror, this debut is the book of your nightmares. Power nails the horror of her survival story debut about a school of girls who’ve been quarantined after contracting a disease that presents in all different gory, debilitating, and generally fatal ways. Hetty is one of those girls, surviving on airdropped deliveries to the school and the two best friends who keep her sane. Then one goes missing, and Hetty is determined to find her, no matter how much danger she may face. But the secrets of their quarantine are so dark, and the more Hetty learns, the more she wishes she hadn’t. On the bright side, there is absolutely kissing.
Five Midnights, by Ann Dávila Cardinal
It’s important to read this one quickly, because that cover is clearly about to murder us all in our sleep. Before it does, get to know the team of Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre, who are solving mysteries against the backdrop of modern day Puerto Rico. Or at least they’re trying to, but what do a pair of amateur detectives do when all clues point to creatures that don’t exist? That can’t exist? That…might exist? All they know is that the killer (or killers?) are targeting way too close to home for their comfort, and that no matter how terrifying the world of gang-related drug crimes, they must venture forth if they’re going to keep those they love alive.
The Bone Houses, by Emily Lloyd-Jones
This historical horror stars a girl named Ryn who works with her fellow orphaned siblings as gravediggers in a remote village. It’s a pretty big job, and it isn’t so cut-and-dried, either, considering Colbren has a tendency to see their dead reappear. When they do, those risen corpses are called “bone houses,” and they seem to be extra drawn to Ellis, a new visitor to Colbren who works as an apprentice mapmaker. To uncover the fae curse behind the bone houses and stop it for good, Ryn and Ellis will have to team up to journey deep into the mountains, even if it means facing some uncomfortable truths.
The Lost Coast, by Amy Rose Capetta
Love your witches with a heavy dose of dreamy natural atmosphere, ironclad friendship, and sweet romance? The ever-reliable Capetta has got you covered in this story about a girl named Danny who gets in a little over her head at home. To give her a fresh start, her single mom moves the two of them to Tempest, California, right in the heart of the Lost Coast. It’s there that Danny meets fellow new kid Sebastian…and soon after finds him dead. But she also meets the Grays, a circle of witch best friends, all as queer as she is and all missing Imogen, a fellow Gray more powerful than the rest of them who has disappeared. The Grays become convinced Danny possesses the magic they need to find Imogen, but as she begins to fall for Imogen’s ex, she has to wonder not only whether she’s capable of doing what they ask, but whether she really wants to. (For even more queer witches, get yourself a copy of These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling!)
Missing, Presumed Dead, by Emma Berquist
Lexi can tell how and when someone will die just by touching them, and it’s ruining her life. How can she possibly be with anyone when a mere touch foretells the thing she least wants to know about them? But when she meets Jane, who’s already dead, that becomes a nonissue. The only problem is that Jane’s only around to find out who killed her, and once she solves that mystery, she’ll be off to the afterlife. How can Lexi help the girl of her dreams when success means losing her forever?
Minor Prophets, by Jimmy Cajoleas
This creepy mystery stars Lee, a teen boy who’s always seen visions, and whose mother and sister are forever tasked with keeping him grounded in reality. Then Lee’s mother dies, leaving him and his sister, Murphy, alone with the stepfather they hate. Refusing to allow him to adopt them, the siblings flee to their grandmother’s ranch, despite never having been there before. They quickly realize there might be a reason they’ve never been there before, a reason that also explains Lee’s horrific visions. (Want even more Cajoleas? His The Good Demon definitely also works as Halloween fare!)
Here There Are Monsters, by Amelinda Bérubé
We all know Bérubé’s no stranger to the spooky stuff, thanks to her chilling debut, The Dark Beneath the Ice, and now she’s back with another read-with-the-lights-on title, about a pair of sisters whose cross-country move turns out to be waaaay harder on them than they could’ve imagined. Skye and Deirdre are both in that adjustment period, but Skye welcomes the chance to live her own life apart from Deirdre’s. Then again, she doesn’t expect there to be so much distance that Deirdre literally disappears. When a scratching at her window comes with a message that Skye is the only one who can save her sister, she’s determined to bring Deirdre home, even if it means facing swamps, monsters, and whatever may lay beyond.
Teeth in the Mist, by Dawn Kurtagich
Kurtagich has been holding it down in YA horror for years now, and her newest is a multigenerational horror-fantasy hybrid inspired by Faust’s bargain. In it, two different storylines unite girls nearly two centuries apart as it explores the unholy source of the magic surrounding Mill House, borne of a decision made centuries before either of them were even born: a decision made by a man who may still have his eyes on them.
Mooncakes, by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Nova Huang spends a lot of time around spell books while working at her grandmothers’ New England bookshop, but a white wolf in the woods yields some next-level magic…on Nova’s heart. It turns out that wolf is none other Tam Lang, Nova’s childhood crush who it turns out is now Nova’s teen crush. With a demon on the loose in the woods, Tam needs help, and Nova is only too happy to help them and save the day, no matter what dangers and betrayals it means facing. This delightful graphic novel had me feeling a lot of feelings, and if you need to balance your scary with a heavy dose of sweetness, this is absolutely the perfect pick.
Bid My Soul Farewell, by Beth Revis
The closer to the dark and deathly duology that began with Give the Dark My Love has Nedra in a considerably more dangerous place, embracing her necromantic powers even thought Emperor Auguste is determined to eradicate them from Lunar Island. Caught in between is Grey, who loves Nedra but knows her dark magic and army of revenants, who are currently at the quarantine hospital, are a danger to his people. Meanwhile, Nedra hopes to find a way to free the dead and their souls, as long as it won’t mean losing her sister. But what happens when her mission takes her too far, and how long can Grey stand by her side? (Want even more Necromantic fantasy? Get yourself A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig!)