Grab your candy bag and set the mood for All Hallow’s Eve with these seven spine-tingling stories that draw on myth and lore from the whole world over, from Mexico to Japan to, of course, the great beyond. These decidedly diverse YA horror novels will leave you haunted with their tales of murderous ghosts, hell-bent mean girls, and killer corn. You are forewarned: read after dark at your own risk.
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The Girl From the Well, by Rin Chupeco
If you loved The Ring, you’re gonna want to read this. Drawing from the same ancient Japanese legend, Well follows the melancholy Okiku, a restless spirit who roams the earth, hunting and murdering child abusers to free the lost souls of their victims. But then she meets Tark, 15 and haunted by a malevolent force unlike any Okiku’s ever encountered. She sees the goodness in Tark, despite the tattoos and sullen demeanor. But can she save him while killing the evil that lurks inside?
Possess, by Gretchen McNeil
Bridget Liu isn’t sure who to trust. Her psychologist dad was killed by a patient, and now her dolls are coming to life. Her boyfriend’s being a bit weird, and she’s hearing voices in her head. The worst part? They’re demons. And it’s her job to send them back to whatever hell they came from. McNeil’s deliciously creepy debut—followed by her hit Get Even series—follows everygirl Liu, who’s half-Chinese, half-Irish, and all-American, as she learns to use her demon-slaying powers and works to uncover who’s good, who’s evil, and who lurks in that murky middle. Dolls that come to life? I’ll be hiding in the closet. With the lights on. And a snack. And this book.
The Merciless, by Danielle Vega
We’ve all got our frenemies, but man, new girl Sofia Flores has no idea what level of hell she’s in for when she joins the cool clique in town. Because there’s a price to pay for popularity—and Riley, Alexis, and Grace are out for blood. In fact, if Sofia isn’t down for helping them “save” their pal Brooklyn, well, she’ll no doubt become their very next victim. Mean Girls meets The Exorcist in this gruesome, riveting read, with threads of Mexican lore woven through.
The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, by Holly Black
Holly Black and vampires? Yes please! Black’s dark, trippy Coldtown is populated by misfits of all sorts, from vampires to fangirls to humans who wish they were dead already. But unlike many books in the genre, Black lets her detailed, thorough world-building seep deep into the characterizations as well, creating a world peopled by diversity in all its forms, including characters that are bisexual and transgender.
Blood And Salt, by Kim Liggett
Right from the first few pages of Liggett’s debut, we know something’s not quite right in Ashlyn’s life. After all, she’s been seeing a dead girl—who shares her face—for as long as she can remember, and then she’s nearly pecked to death by a murder of crows. But that’s not the worst of it. When Ashlyn’s mom goes missing, leaving a note that she’s headed back to her hometown of Quivira, Ashlynn and twin bro Rhys head to the cornfields, too, and right into the heart of a cult. Seductive and sinister, Blood And Salt draws on Spanish and Native American lore, creating a rich, creepy story that’s only going to get darker with the sequel.
Rot And Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry
Maberry’s seminal zombie series stars reluctant hero Benny Imura, who has to get a gig as a closure specialist, slaying zombies when he turns 15 (or face his rations being slashed). Maberry’s fenced-in community of Mountainside, California, is organically and believably diverse—Benny and his “boring” Katana-toting older brother Tom are half-Japanese, and his best bud Chong is of Chinese descent. But it’s all the shades of grey—in humans and zombies alike—that really make this book fun.
Bleeding Violet, by Dia Reeves
Portero, Texas, is a really weird town. With portals into another world and monsters both real and imagined, it’s a creepy place, especially for a newbie like Hanna, beautiful, biracial, and bipolar, who arrives carrying fresh wounds of her own, seeking out the mother she’s never known. She finds a town full of scared civilians, monster hunters called the Mortmaine, and creepy creatures called Lures (along with a love interest named Wyatt). Sexy and gory, Violet—and the Portero-set follow-up, Slice of Cherry—is not for the faint of heart.