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Find more Scaring Up YA
Our recent partnership with the Summer Scares reading program has made us more excited than ever to help librarians make full use of their horror collections. With that in mind, I decided to sneak over to the adult section and (with some guidance from Susan Maguire) find a selection of recent horror novels that teen readers will die for the chance to read.
Angel of the Underground. By David Andreas. 2018. Akashic, $17.95 (9781617756351).
When a series of grisly murders occurs at the Hartman Catholic Group Home, 15-year-old Robin is rehoused with the decidedly off-kilter Grantham family. Hand to older teens with a penchant for character-driven horror and dysfunctional families.
Bite. By K. S. Merbeth. 2016. Orbit, $9.99 (9780316308700).
In a postnuclear, apocalyptic world, Kid, a teenage girl, falls in with a gang and embarks on a Mad Max–style adventure through a hostile landscape in which cannibalism is a real survival option. Filled with dark humor and wit, this story puts the idea of “good guys” to the test.
Blood Sugar. By Daniel Kraus. 2019. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 (9781789091939).
Couched within this twisted Halloween revenge tale is a downright tender alternative-family story of three young misfits and the pathetic adult sicko they rally behind—think Weetzie Bat gone seriously noir. Coming-of-age themes tiptoe through the cutting-edge horror and stylistic innovation.
Children of the Dark. By Jonathan Janz. 2016. Sinister Grin, $16 (9781944044145).
A teen baseball star in small-town Indiana leads his community into a battle against a recently awoken ancient evil and a terrifying serial killer. Old-school horror sensibilities satisfyingly bring to mind Stand by Me by way of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Hand to the Stephen King crowd.
The Children of Red Peak. By Craig DiLouie. 2020. Redhook, $16.99 (9780316428132).
Teens will be fascinated by this story of a religious cult and an incident of mass suicide, as told through the recollections of its few surviving members, all of whom were tweens and teens at the time.
The Dead Girls Club. By Damien Angelica Walters. 2019. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (9781643851631).
As children, Heather and her friend Becca would get together with other kids and talk about serial killers and other morbid things, but when Becca suddenly dies, the Dead Girls Club loses its appeal. Memories of this and the mysterious “Red Lady” begin plaguing the now-adult Heather, unraveling her sanity and bringing serious Fear Street vibes.
The Deep. By Alma Katsu. 2020. Putnam, $27 (9780525537908).
Katsu puts a supernatural spin on the sinking of sister ships Titanic (1912) and Britannic (1916), tying them together through a shared (and very unlucky) passenger: young Irish maid Annie Hebbley.
Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories. Ed. by Ellen Datlow. 2019. Saga, $32.99 (9781534413467).
These twenty-first-century ghost stories, as complicated and varied as our times, are a great choice for YA readers, since many of the stories feature teens or adults reflecting on their adolescence.
The Ghost Tree. By Christina Henry. 2020. Berkley, $16 (9780451492302).
The peace and prosperity of Smiths Hollow are kept by the yearly sacrifice of a town daughter—but something has changed. A mesmerizing curse, racial bigotry, and coming-of-age angst make for a bizarre tale of horror.
A House at the Bottom of a Lake. By Josh Malerman. 2020. Del Rey, $16 (9780593237779).
Amelia and James, 17, spend a summer exploring a creepy house—fully submerged in a secret lake—that they discovered on their first date. Obsessive curiosity, deep anxiety, and some very real dangers add depth to this eerie love story.
Mexican Gothic. By Silvia Moreno-Garcia. 2020. Del Rey, $27 (9780525620785).
Moreno-Garcia takes on gothic suspense in this shiver-inducing tale of Noemí Taboada, a high-spirited young woman who visits her recently married cousin at her new family’s mold-infested manor.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism. By Grady Hendrix. 2016. Quirk, $19.99 (9781594748622).
Abby and Gretchen are high-school juniors living a typical 1980s adolescence in South Carolina—until the night they experiment with LSD and Gretchen gets possessed by a demon. Hendrix’s humorous horror tale goes a shade darker than Heathers and brims with ’80s pop-culture references.
My Heart Is a Chainsaw. By Stephen Graham Jones. 2021. Saga, $26.99 (9781982137632).
Issues of class and privilege collide with the threat of a Fourth of July massacre in Jones’ latest, where slasher-film-obsessed Jade uses her knowledge of the genre to survive demons, a lake witch, and high school.
Providence. By Caroline Kepnes. 2018. Random/Lenny, $27 (9780399591433).
Chloe’s friend Jon disappears in middle school only to mysteriously reappear four years later with the ability to give people in his presence heart attacks. A strange blend of Lovecraftian horror, a love story, and a detective novel.
The Return. By Rachel Harrison. 2020. Berkley, $26 (9780593098660).
In this creepy debut, four college friends reunite when one of their own, Julie, disappears, only to reappear unsettlingly altered with no memory of what happened. An intense read that combines psychological suspense, supernatural horror, and a thoughtful new-adult story centered around female friendship.
The Rust Maidens. By Gwendolyn Kiste. 2018. JournalStone, $17.95 (9781947654440).
Phoebe, a new high-school graduate, recounts the strange summer of 1980, when young girls of her neighborhood—many of them her friends—begin turning into grotesquely beautiful beasts.
The Second Bell. By Gabriela Houston. 2021. Angry Robot, $14.99 (9780857668905).
Houston’s debut draws on old mythology and modern attitudes as it relays Salka’s coming-of-age tale of defiance to root out society’s evil. Fans of fairy-tale retellings will appreciate this.
Shiver. By Junji Ito. Illus. by the author. 2017. VIZ Media, $22.99 (9781421596938).
Horror-manga master Ito nearly always features teens or young people in the visual nightmares that are his story collections, and this one is no different. Not for the faint of heart.
Sleeping Beauties, v.1. By Stephen King and others. Illus. by Alison Sampson and Triona Farrell. 2021. IDW, $19.99 (9781684057603).
A mysterious disease called Aurora causes a cocoon of webbing to encase any woman who falls asleep, and the world promptly descends into chaos. Yet, Evie Black is somehow immune to Aurora, her fate seemingly entwined with that of the disease.
Widow’s Point. By Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar. 2018. Cemetery Dance, $25 (9781587676475).
Writing with his college-age son, Richard Chizmar delivers an intense, viscerally terrifying novella, complete with found footage, about a writer spending three days locked in a supposedly haunted lighthouse.
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