There’s no better way to beat the summer heat than to stay inside with a good book—especially if that book will give you the cold sweats and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. When the worst of the worst happens, it’s all the more terrifying when teenagers are the only ones left to pick up the pieces. With zombies, ghosts, disease, and monsters both supernatural and all too human at their disposal, no one does “chilling” quite like YA authors. So if you’re in the mood to lose sleep for the next week, here are 20 perfectly creepy YAs to keep you up all night.
Alice in Zombieland (White Rabbit Chronicles Series #1), by Gena Showalter
Invisible zombies get a terrifying upgrade in this series starter, following Alice Bell as she begins to see the invisible demons her father always warned her about. After Alice loses loved ones to these terrifying creatures, she starts a new life as Ali, learning to kick butt and take names for a chance to avenge her family. Luckily, a super hot bad boy and his crew are around to help. But it’s not all fun and zombie games, as Ali must navigate the true nightmare—her high school social scene. Expect graphic zombie fights that rival The Walking Dead, and a swoony romance.
The Cellar, by Natasha Preston
In this horrifying story, Summer is captured by a man and locked in his cellar. She’s his perfect Lily, trapped with the rest of his perfect flowers—Rose, Poppy, and Violet. Rape and murder are a part of life in the cellar, one ruled by terror. As the four prisoners are subjected to the terrible treatment of their captor, you’ll find yourself vowing never to walk home alone again. Told in three different perspectives, the book also gives you a frightening glimpse into the mind of a kidnapper.
Awake, by Natasha Preston
From the author who brought us the horror of The Cellar, Awake follows Scarlett Garner as she struggles to remember bits and pieces of her life before age four. After a car accident causes strange dreams and memories to float to the surface, she’s left with even more questions about her past. When a cute new guy moves to town, Scarlett feels an instant spark—but all is not as it seems. Noah is part of a cult called Eternal Light, a cult that just might get Scarlett killed. Full of secrets and suspense, this book will have you trying to put together the puzzle long into the night.
Asylum (Asylum Series #1), by Madeleine Roux
This creep-tastic series starter incorporates hair-raising found photos from real-life asylums and simulated journal entries into its suspenseful story. Soon after Dan starts school at New Hampshire College Prep, he becomes fast friends with Abby and Jordan. But as they explore their summer housing—a former (crumbling) psychiatric hospital—they uncover the horrors of the defunct asylum’s past. And if the old and creepy secrets weren’t enough, Dan starts suffering from blackouts, and students are attacked in their dorms. It turns out some acts are just too horrifying to leave a place unscarred.
Sanctum (Asylum Series #2), by Madeleine Roux
In this follow-up to Roux’s chilling Asylum, we go back to where it all began, in search of answers to some of those unasked questions. After their stay at the asylum, Dan, Abby, and Jordan are traumatized, unable to escape their nightmares. And those mysterious and creepy pictures of an old carnival that keep mysteriously showing up aren’t helping matters. When Dan receives a list of coordinates pointing to abandoned houses, the teens decide to investigate, and they discover the creepy carnival has come back to town. With haunting and beautiful photos of old carnivals throughout, this exclusive edition also includes two removable color postcards.
Sweet, by Emmy Laybourne
We all want the perfect vacation, but sometimes we don’t get what we want. And sometimes, we really don’t get what we want. After Laurel accepts an invite onto a luxurious celebrity cruise for a trendy new diet sweetener, things go tragically awry when the passengers’ desire for the miraculous weight loss cure turns deadly. With the passengers fighting the most hardcore of addictions, Laurel must work with former child star (and cruise spokesperson) Tom to stay alive long enough to stop the sweetener’s global release. It’s a horror novel that starts as a romcom, then escalates frighteningly quickly, so whether you’re looking for a poignant romance or action-packed fights, it’s for you.
The Loners (Quarantine Series #1), by Lex Thomas
Full of death and despair, this series starter is violent, campy, and perfectly page-turning. After a virus escapes into the halls of McKinley High School, all the adults and post-pubescent students die, leaving only the younger teens alive. The school is placed under military quarantine, and a year later, the students have created a gang-based society. David and Will have somehow avoided the gang system thus far, but when David accidentally takes down one of the Varsity members, everything changes. Now the brothers are on the run, with pretty much nowhere to run to.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
This creepy series starter will haunt your dreams, as you discover just how peculiar the children from this peculiar home really are. When tragedy lands Jacob on a remote island, he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, then stumbles into a supernatural time loop. With plenty of danger and chills to go around, Jacob learns the secret of the children and their home, and the truth about himself. It’s a complex tale told with the help of unsettling sepia photos of bizarre children from the 19th century, and peopled with wonderfully odd characters.
Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Follow up with Jacob and his friends right where the first novel left off in this super-creepy sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob and the peculiar children must dodge monsters and travel to London, meeting even more fantastic creatures and characters than they did on their last outing. The London landscape combines with a new series of eerie photographs, which will stick with you long after the story ends.
The Treatment (Program Series #2), by Suzanne Young
This series has everything: suspense, thrills, romance, mystery. Set in a fascinating world where Big Business rules America and media hype is epidemic, this sequel to The Program follows star-crossed teens Sloane and James, on the run in search of a way to save their memories and lives. They’ve escaped The Program—a terrifying facility developed to erase teens’ memories in order to stop a suicide epidemic—and are ready to take it down. There’s only one problem: the key to unlocking their memories lies in a small pill, and they only have one dose. While this story might lack your traditional monsters, the heavy surveillance and insidious behavior modification paint a downright chilling picture.
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Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco
If you thought The Ring was the scariest movie ever, then this is the book for you. Inspired by the same Japanese legend, it follows Okiku, an ancient spirit who avenges children who have died violently. Her own violent death set her on a path to prey on the killers of children, usually by dispatching them with equally horrifying deaths. But when a human boy with strange tattoos and a demon living beneath his skin catches her attention, she develops an unexpected bond with him. As she journeys to Japan with him and his cousin, both are forced to confront their inner demons.
No Safety in Numbers (No Safety in Numbers Series #1), by Dayna Lorentz
When a biological bomb is discovered at a suburban mall, life turns super real super quick for the people trapped inside. The mall is locked down, people start getting sick, and everyone fights for their own survival. Told from the alternating perspectives of four teens, it shows how society can break down, Lord of the Flies-style, in times of panic. Each teen must navigate this new and desperate situation in their own way, all the while coming to terms with how they’ve changed since entering the mall. This book may just turn your local mall into your worst nightmare, if it isn’t already.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie
This is a classic ghost story, complete with evil spirits and bumps in the night, told fantastically. Sunshine is a normal happy teen from Austin, Texas, until suddenly…she’s not. When she moves with her adoptive mother to the wet and gloomy Pacific Northwest, into a super creepy house, Sunshine’s perspective starts to match her environment, as an eeriness settles inside her. When she starts to see things she can no longer deny, it becomes clear the house is more than creepy—it’s downright dangerous. Side note: this utterly terrifying story started as an equally terrifying YouTube series.
The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black
Hazel and Ben live in a town at the edge of a woods known for its Faerie population, which draws tourists every year. The most fascinating attraction is the beautiful horned boy who lies sleeping in a glass coffin. Hazel and Ben have long been drawn to him. When the horned boy does awaken, and the town comes under faerie attack, dark secrets are revealed and pasts debts are called in. The danger Hazel and her friends face feels real even in the face of the fantastical, and you can’t help but feel genuine chills as they fight their way through supernatural peril.
Survive the Night, by Danielle Vega
If someone invited you to an all-night underground rave called Survive the Night, you’d probably jump at the chance to go. But that’s only because you haven’t read this book yet. When fresh-out-of-rehab Casey is coaxed by a bad girl former friend to attend the rave, she doesn’t expect to have much fun. But she also doesn’t expect someone to end up dead, and she and her friends to be hunted like animals deep in the putrid subway tunnels of New York. Trapped underground, with no way out and an eerie echo following them, the teens face way more than they bargained for, with plenty of scares and gore and the possibility that something not-human might be after them.
The Creeping, by Alexandra Sirowy
Stella didn’t have your average childhood. Twelve years ago she disappeared with her friend Jeanie while the girls were picking strawberries. Stella was promptly returned, sans memories, but Jeanie never came back, and the mystery has confounded their hometown ever since. Now, a little girl who looks eerily similar to Jeanie has been murdered and left in the local graveyard, bringing to the surface flashes of Stella’s repressed memories about what really happened that day. As her flashbacks continue, she gets closer and closer to the truth. But the truth isn’t always safe, and creepy disappearances almost always lead to danger if you push hard enough.
Unwind (Unwind Dystology Series #1), by Neal Shusterman
Against the backdrop of a postwar United States, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life camps have come to a hard-fought agreement: the Bill of Life. It states that children are protected from the age of conception, but between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a child can be “unwound” at the request of their parents. That doesn’t sound so bad…until you learn unwinding involves dividing up the child’s organs, limbs, and brain tissue in order to donate them to other people. It’s a terrifying world in which kids are mined for their organs and their “unwinding” is considered honorable instead of murderous. The story follows three runaway would-be unwinds whose backgrounds intersect as they attempt to save their own lives, and explores thought-provoking questions about what it means to be alive and who should decide a life’s worth.
The Enemy (Enemy Series #1), by Charlie Higson
A devastating disease has either killed off or infected all adults, leaving them ravenous zombies. A group of teens are trying to survive in a barricaded supermarket, but as supplies dwindle, so do their options. When the group is offered refuge in Buckingham Palace, they have no choice but to accept. Unfortunately, the dangerous trek doesn’t end in safety. Characters die, gore abounds, and hope disappears. With all the horrifying zombie violence and detailed descriptions, The Enemy has enough action to satisfy the most die-hard horror fans. And great news: there will be seven books in the series, and the sixth one just came out.
The Merciless, by Danielle Vega
This book is like the love child of Mean Girls and The Exorcist. When Sofia moves to town, she finds herself caught up in the excitement of being noticed by the most popular girls in school. But before she can even consider her social options, an event puts into motion a homicidal string of occurrences, as the girls decide to save rebellious Brooklyn from the demon they fear is inside her. With graphic violence, gruesome actions, and very human viciousness, the book delves into what it means to be an evil person, and how far someone will go to ensure their own survival.
Diary of a Haunting, by M. Verano
After Paige’s parents get a high-profile divorce, she and her brother are forced to move to an old house in Idaho. She wasn’t expecting greatness from their drafty old mansion home, but she couldn’t foresee a string of frightening occurrences. Things start to get weird when unreadable words appear on the wall and her little brother takes to roaming around the house. Written as a realistic diary of the strange events, in the vein of Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project, it’s complete with disturbing letters and photographs that’ll ensure you never want to sleep alone again.