Secrets, secrets are no fun, except when they’re consuming a small town you yourself are nowhere near. Spooky stories take place anywhere and everywhere, but they’re almost never better than when set amid the everybody-thinks-they-know-everybody atmosphere of some tiny speck on a map, whether it’s haunted by terrors of this world or the next. Eight days before the release of the haunting, haunted fantasy debut The Wicked Deep, here are seven little town–set YAs that give us the creeps—and we love them for it.
The Wicked Deep, by Shea Ernshaw
Pitched as Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic, this visit to the cursed Oregon town of Sparrow has just about everything you could possibly ever want. Centuries ago, the Swan sisters were drowned after being accused and convicted of witchcraft. Neither gone nor forgotten, they return each summer and possess the bodies of three local girls, using them to take their revenge, over and over again, by luring boys to their own watery graves. This knowledge complicates the burgeoning romance between Sparrow native Penny and Bo, new in town and new to the legend.
Beware the Wild, by Natalie C. Parker
Southern Gothic centered on a haunted swamp. What more do you need to know? The residents of Sticks, Louisiana, know to fear the swamp that squats on the outskirts of town—and for good reason, it seems. After an argument, Sterling’s brother, Phin, runs off to that accursed place and disappears into its murky mystery. Instead of Phin, a girl named Lenora May emerges—and only Sterling seems to remember she had a brother, not a sister. Bonus: companion novel Behold the Bones digs even deeper into the supernatural story of the swamp, through the eyes of Candy Pickens, whose family is intimately tied to the local folklore.
Bleeding Violet, by Dia Reeves
There’s really no other word for Portero, Texas, than “weird.” Feeling ever the outcast herself, biracial and bipolar Hanna discovers it’s not the warm and welcoming kind of weird, either. Hanna’s on the hunt for her estranged mother, but what she finds are the many, many monsters Portero has to offer. Hanna has been plagued by hallucinations, so she’s used to her fair share of ghoulish terror, but nothing quite prepares her for the portals she’s about to stumble into, the kind that spit out monsters.
There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins
There’s nothing supernatural at play in the corn-fed Nebraska town Makani Young has been packed off to, but there’s definitely something or someone terrifying on the loose. High school students start turning up murdered, in increasingly grisly and seemingly meaningful ways, and the killing spree sparks frenzy, fear, and heaping amounts of suspicion. But while Makani—along with her friends and flirty fellow outcast Ollie—tries to connect the dots, she finds herself on the wrong end of the hunt.
The Grave Keepers, by Elizabeth Byrne
Death isn’t a far away eventuality in Laurel and Athena’s upstate New York hometown, and graves aren’t just a place you go when you die: they’re a profoundly meaningful personal space, tended meticulously by the people who will one day inhabit them. While the premise alone is enough to give you goosebumps, it’s the outside world that intrudes upon the quiet life of the sisters, raised in relative seclusion by their cemetery owner parents. Well, and the scheming ghost. The scheming ghost is pretty intrusive, too.
Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
Reality and fantasy blur in Bone Gap, Illinois, which might just have one of the most evocatively accurate names around. People slip away and disappear all the time in this teeny rural town, as solid as a sieve. But when Roza goes missing, local oddball Finn isn’t content with the usual answers. He knows she was abducted; in fact, he was the crime’s only witness. Roza may not be in this world anymore, but Finn won’t stop till he gets her back. Mythology mixes with quirky beekeepers in this very odd, definitely eerie place.
Blood and Salt, by Kim Liggett
When Ash’s mom goes missing, the only conclusion is that she has been sucked back to Quivira, Kansas, to the commune where she was raised. If there’s a theme among small-town spookfests, it’s creepy cornstalks, and Blood and Salt has those in spades. Here, they hide a town plagued by prophecy and the all-consuming cult and black magic that come with it. Bonus: sequel Heart of Ash is hot off the presses, promising even more darkness and danger.