Joey from Friends has a thing about scary books: whenever they get too scary, he puts them in the freezer. You know, as you do.
And honestly? We can relate. When it comes to psychological thrillers and blood-curdling ghost stories, we all have different ways of dealing. Some of us can only read those kinds of books with the lights on, and never right before bed. Others fear neither pain nor death and will simply crack open a horror novel, heedless of the hour, and flip through its ominous pages with unflinching resolve.
But wherever you fall on the spectrum, these 6 YA novels are sure to leave you feeling creeped out in the best possible way.
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Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake
Like most people, whenever I hear a bump in the night I immediately assume death is coming. That’s why this novel scared the pants off me. Kendare Blake’s deliciously spooky novel features Theseus Cassio Lowood, a teenage ghost hunter. He travels from town to town ridding them of their phantoms. He’s good at what he does, and he does it all in the hopes of one day coming face-to-face with the ghost that killed his father. So when he hears about a city being haunted by a girl who kills everyone that dares approach her, he’s more than up for the challenge. But as he investigates the mysterious 1958 death of this girl who the locals call “Anna Dressed in Blood,” he begins to truly understand why some people don’t cross over to the other side—and that sometimes, the living are worse than the dead.
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey
I know what you’re thinking: I wish there were more books about man-eating monsters running amok in the Victorian Era. Well, then you’re in luck, because Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist is all of that and more. Will Henry, a young orphan, is the assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe. Warthorpe is a genius monstrumologist, which means he studies monsters. And let me tell you, when it comes to horror and all things creepy, this book doesn’t let up for even a second. Yet somehow, the prose maintains a certain eerie elegance, balancing blood and gore with deep questions about the human condition. (You’ll get major Mary Shelley vibes.) When a grave robber brings Will and Warthorpe something unprecedented, it’s up to this rather unusual duo to figure out what happened—and stop it from happening again.
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The Girl from the Well, by Rin Chupeco
If you’ve ever seen The Ring, then you know the only thing scarier than a well is a girl who died in one and is on a quest for vengeance. Having been murdered in a well hundreds of years before, Okiku must now wander the world in a dreamless state. She’s a non-entity—she considers herself “an unavenged spirit, a nothing-more.” She only murders men who have murdered children. Doing so releases the young victims from an eternity of being bound to their killers. But then she notices a boy named Tark and the darkness that surrounds him, and she makes it her mission to protect him from it—that is, if she can. In this haunting, lyrical novel, Rin Chupeco draws from the same lore as The Ring (a Japanese folktale called Banchō Sarayashiki) and then throws in a few scary dolls and exorcisms just to make sure you’re sufficiently creeped out.
The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd
Whenever I put down this book, I had to watch one or two episodes of something light-hearted and funny before I could relax enough to go sleep that night. If you’ve ever read The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells, you know what you’re in for. And if you haven’t? Well, even better. Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau is a London maid still reeling from the scandal of her long-lost father’s twisted experiments. But when a childhood friend appears and tells Juliet that her father is actually still alive, they set out to find him. What they end up finding is a mad scientist completely consumed by his obsession on an island populated exclusively by his own creations—human-like animal hybrids. For Juliet, what began as a quest to finally get some answers becomes a life-or-death struggle to escape the island, stop her father, and come to terms with the madness that lies within her, too.
The Diviners, by Libba Bray
Don’t read this at night when everyone else is asleep, because that’s what I did, and I didn’t sleep for days. It’s 1926. Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill’s personality has always been just a bit too much for her stuffy hometown in Ohio, but it’s her special gift—her ability to determine a person’s deepest, darkest secrets just by holding an object that belongs to them—that gets her into trouble. As a result, she’s shipped off to New York City to live with her Uncle Will, a curator at an occult museum. There she discovers there’s a serial killer on the loose. The problem? This killer might not be entirely human, and her special gift could be the key to bringing him in. Libba Bray’s atmospheric thriller brings the Jazz Age (with its speakeasies, flappers, and Ziegfeld girls) to life, and with it a sinister underbelly of murder, intrigue, and the supernatural.
Shallow Graves, by Kali Wallace
There’s almost no chance that you’ve ever woken up in a shallow grave. Neither had seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin, until, of course, it happened. Even more disturbing: there’s a dead body nearby, one belonging to the man who was attempting to dig up her corpse. It’s been a year since she was murdered (an event she has no memory of, by the way), and suddenly she’s alive, or undead, or whatever she is. Not only that, but she now has the ability to sense murderers—and give them a taste of their own medicine. On a quest to find answers, Breezy encounters a world of monsters, creepy cults, and revenge in a darkly suspenseful urban fantasy that’s sure to reel you in with the very first line and give you goosebumps long after you’ve turned the final page.