20 Scary Stories for Teens

YA scary storiesFor some people, autumn means cozy sweaters, gourd-flavored lattes, and Sexy Trump costumes. For others, it means restless spirits, bloody knives, and bedtime reading so freaky you can’t even get out of bed to go to the bathroom. If you’re in the latter camp, these books are for you, ranging from the delightfully eerie (Cuckoo Song) to the “seriously, lock the damn doors” (The Name of the Star). Here are 20 ways to guarantee you won’t be sleeping much this fall.

These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly
Jo Montfort is a beautiful finishing-school girl in Gilded Age New York, looking down the barrel of life as a society wife despite dreams of being a newspaper reporter. But everything changes when her father, a newspaper and shipping tycoon, is found dead of an apparent accident. When she teams up with a handsome young reporter to investigate what really happened, Jo knows she’s risking her reputation—but soon realizes, as they dig into some very dark dealings, that she’s also risking her life.

The House, by Christina Lauren
Gavin and Delilah are falling for each other, despite their very different backgrounds. Delilah was raised by indifferent parents, who packed her off to boarding school for six years of her life. Gavin, on the other hand, was raised by House, a sentient, caring structure that tends to his every need. House provides him with food and shelter, music lessons and warmth—and House doesn’t want its attentions to be displaced. As Gavin and Delilah become closer, House gets angrier, until they realize they need to plot their escape. But getting away is going to be harder than they, or the reader, can imagine, in an imaginative horror story that keeps tightening the screws.

The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
Dubbed “Orange Is the New Black Swan,” Suma’s latest is the first place you should turn to when you’ve exhausted season three. Two girls speak in this twisting, dreamlike novel, but three girls’ stories are told. There’s Violet, a high-strung, high-achieving ballerina whose triumph has a bitter edge, and Amber, an incarcerated juvenile delinquent whose life line is the prison library—and who the other inmates consider the only innocent in lockup. They’re linked by their relationship with Oriana, Violet’s former best friend and Amber’s juvie roommate. What Oriana did, what Violet’s hiding, and what Amber knows weave together in a time-hopping, supernatural narrative that gets under your skin and settles there. Suma times her tale’s reveals in a series of growing detonations, leading to a genuinely haunting conclusion.

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen, by Katherine Howe
While filming a seance on New York’s Lower East Side for a student film, aspiring filmmaker Wes sees a captivating girl through his lens: a beauty with hipster hair who he can’t get off his mind. Despite his obsession, he finds himself growing increasingly fascinated with Maddie, a free-spirited squatter who knows more about the mystery that dogs him than she’s letting on. Woven into his tale is the surreal journey of Annie, a 19th-century New Yorker who meets misfortune while trying to untangle her father’s dark business dealings.

Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
Hardinge’s dark fairy tale opens on Triss, the privileged daughter of a famous architect, waking up from a mysterious illness, and feeling increasingly out of step with the world. Every thread in this densely woven, darkly atmospheric book—the horrific hunger that overtakes her, the terrifying behavior of her dolls, her little sister’s intense hatred, and the unending strangeness infecting even the world beyond her overprotective family’s front door—comes together in an airtight, deeply satisfying supernatural mystery. While searching out the horrifying truth behind what has been done to her, Triss goes on the run with unlikely allies, traveling into a whole other world in search of what’s been lost.

The Creeping, by Alexandra Sirowy
When Stella was five, she and her friend Jeanie disappeared while picking strawberries. She came back, her memory wiped, but Jeanie was lost for good. The incident cast a long shadow over Stella’s life, and that of her small town. And 12 years later, strange things start happening—starting with the appearance of a little girl’s corpse in the local graveyard, bearing an eerie resemblance to redheaded Jeanie—all of which seem to trace back to the day Stella’s friend dropped off the face of the earth.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke
In this horror anthology edited by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea author Tucholke, 14 beloved YA authors run amok with horror tropes and creative retellings, each followed by a note on what the author was inspired by (e.g., “Inspired by the 1976 film The Omen and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein“). Nova Ren Suma imagines a terrifying end for a neighborhood perv, Jay Kristoff tells a story of an internet seduction in which neither party is who they say they are, Marie Lu adds a ghostly twist to a grim topical tale, and Leigh Bardugo explores the horrifying costs of a stage mom’s forcing her pop star daughter to grow up too soon. You’ll need to hide this book in the freezer just so you can get to sleep.

Nightfall, by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
Halpern and Kujawinski’s fourth co-penned novel imagines a world in which the sun rises just a few times in a lifetime, staying up for 14 years…then leaving the world in blackness for the 14 years that follow. On the eve of a deadly Night on their island home of Bliss, twins Marin and Kana are ready to depart with their families to the sunnier Desert Lands, until their best friend, Line, goes missing. While searching for him, they’re left behind, to discover the supernatural horrors Night can hold.

Diary of a Haunting, by M. Verano
This creepy, vérité-style story takes the form of the online diary of displaced California girl Paige, recently transplanted from Los Angeles to icy Idaho. There, she lives with her brother and recently divorced hippie mom in a tumbledown mansion. The cell reception is bad, the corners are cobwebby…and there are dark forces afoot, so frightening the family brings in first a shaman and then M. Verano, an expert in the cult that used to keep the house as its headquarters. Brace yourself for dark twists and a seriously scary ending.

Survive the Night, by Danielle Vega
Vega’s gory horror story is set deep below the streets of New York City. Fresh out of rehab, Casey follows the sociopathic bad girl who first led her astray to a hellish underground rave called Survive the Night. There, far greater horrors than ex-boyfriends and police raids await them—including a fresh corpse in a subway tunnel, and the thing that killed it.

The Dead House, by Dawn Kurtagich
Through “found” documents including a singed and sinister diary emerges the story of a boarding school fire in which three students died, and Carly Johnson disappeared. The main suspect in her disappearance? Kaitlin Johnson. But this is where things get tricky: Carly and Kaitlin share a body, either as two distinct entities or as two sides of one girl’s personality. Since their parents’ death, the girls have spent equal time under a mental health microscope and living a relatively contented life at boarding school—until a dark force awakens that puts both them and their classmates in terrible danger.

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson
The first installment in Johnson’s Shades of London series introduces American teen Rory, just starting her exciting new life at a London boarding school. But after a refreshingly ridiculous near-death experience leaves her with the ability to see things others don’t, she quickly finds herself in the middle of a horrific mystery: a seemingly invisible serial killer is following in the footsteps of history’s most infamous murderer, Jack the Ripper. Rory is inducted into London’s eerie underbelly, in a story that’s an irresistible blend of humor (the actually funny kind), occult thrills, and genuine terror.

Fear Street Super Thriller: Party Games and Don’t Stay Up Late, by R.L. Stine
Everyone’s favorite purveyor of bloody prom queens, chapter-end twists, and shocking high-school horror is back, with the first two installments in the Fear Street relaunch. Party Games finds a girl following her crush to his doomed birthday party on Fear Island (girl, what are you thinking?), while in Don’t Stay Up Late a girl who lost her father and weeks of her life to a terrible accident finds all her darkest nightmares coming true after she takes a babysitting job she probably should’ve said no to (I’ll give you one guess as to what street her new babysitting charge lives on). Stine proves his brand of squicky-fun, fast-paced horror never gets old.

Nearly Gone, by Elle Cosimano
Numbers whiz Nearly Boswell wants to use her smarts to win the scholarship that will allow her to escape her deadend life. But after a classmate is attacked, and Nearly discovers a cryptic clue about the attempted killing embedded in a newspaper personals ad, she finds herself using her abilities to stay one step ahead of a murderer whose actions she can trace through repeated hidden clues. The story is touched by the supernatural—Nearly has the ability to feel people’s emotions through their skin—but primarily it’s a page-turning, puzzle-filled mystery, with a romantic subplot between Nearly and the bad boy she knows she shouldn’t trust, but can’t quite stay away from.

Suffering, by Rin Chupeco
Loner Japanese teen Tark lives side by side with Okiku, the bloodthirsty spirit companion who uses him to sate her frightening thirst for vengeance. She’s got the rage, he’s got the ability to channel it into punishing those who truly deserve it. But when this strange duo travels to Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous “suicide forest,” in search of Tark’s missing friend, its poisonous atmosphere infects Okiku, until Tark fears he won’t be able to pull her back from the edge.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, by Katie Alender
Sometimes places maintain the energy of the dark things that happened there—and in the case of Hysteria Hall, a former asylum for wayward women that has just become teenaged Delia’s temporary family home, the house maintains its dark desire to trap defiant women. This suspenseful haunted house tale goes deep, into grim family secrets, past horrors, and the very real danger that may keep Delia imprisoned forever in its walls.

Blood and Salt, by Kim Liggett
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You’ll be all in—blood and salt.” Ashlyn’s mother says these words to her just before disappearing. Ash has long suffered the terrifying vision of a hanging dead girl who shares her face, which her mother wards her against with invisible tattoos. But the day her mother leaves town, the vision changes: Ash meets and speaks with Katia, a powerful sorceress with a strange agenda. With twin brother Rhys, she travels to the cultish community where their mother grew up, deep within an uncanny cornfield. There Ash learns the twisted secrets behind her mom’s escape, and the truth of her own dark destiny. And she falls in love, with consequences as far-reaching as the prediction promised.

Alive, by Chandler Baker
It seems like a miracle when Stella receives a life-changing heart transplant just before her time runs out, and she’s determined to live her life to the fullest. But she’s dogged by strange post-op side effects, including hallucinations and a bout of terrible pain that hits her at the same time every day. She dives into an addictive relationship with intense new boy Lev, whose presence seems to provide relief from her symptoms—until the symptoms grow even stranger, and the story takes a blood-soaked turn.

We’ll Never Be Apart, by Emiko Jean
The complicated relationship between twins Cellie and Alice Monroe is at the heart of this psychological thriller, which opens with both girls locked up in a mental hospital. But narrator Alice moves freely through the ward, while Cellie languishes in the D ward. Orphans and former foster kids, the girls were institutionalized following a fatal fire Cellie started, and both girls were blamed for. In a story that weaves together past and present, Alice knows she can’t trust her sister, and might be willing to go to desperate lengths to ensure she won’t hurt anyone again.

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3), by Ransom Riggs
This is the third and final installment in Riggs’ best-selling trilogy, centering on a time-hopping band of “peculiar” children and Jacob, a modern-day hero sucked into the past via the mysterious time loop caretaker Miss Peregrine used to save her unusual charges. Library of Souls finds Jacob, lovely Emma, and their allies moving through a war-torn Europe in search of a kidnapped friend. As the end approaches, questions loom for the superpowered gang: what will be the children’s final fate? Will Jacob return to his own world and a life of normalcy, or find a way to be with Emma at last? Fans can finally find out, in a book filled with more of the eerie black-and-white photography readers loved in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City.


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