Growing up, you couldn’t give me enough scary material to read. If I wasn’t nose-deep in the latest issue of Fangoria, I was tearing through the latest Goosebumps novel. I had just started dipping my toes into the world of King, Rice and Poe but I was always looking for more.
When you think of young adult horror novels, it’s only natural that you think of the R.L. Stine empire. Perhaps you’re more of a Lois Duncan fan? Maybe you’re super hardcore and preferred Bone Chillers. Then again, you may just be one of the coolest kids ever who read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark so many times, the spine on your copy was withered away to nothing and you still keep the tattered pages on a bookshelf in your office.
Whatever floated your boat, there’s a good chance a few novels passed you by while trying to juggle your pre-teen angst and deciding between Dunkaroos or Koala Yummies as an after-school snack. That’s a reference for the older crowd.
Today, let’s dig into the Mangled Library and check out ten young adult horror books that you may have missed – with some being older and some being fairly new.
The Woman in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics (2016) is the type of novel just begging for a mini-series adaptation on the CW. This one follows a teen named Lucy who lost her mother at the age of three. Soon, Lucy will also lose her aunt in a mysterious way. Lucy and her cousin, Margaret (her aunt Penelope’s daughter), lose themselves in a chilling mystery that unravels quite nicely for a suspenseful climax. Definitely worth a read.
Diary of a Haunting, by M. Verano (2015) is American Horror Story Lite. The novel follows a family who move into a home that is quite occupied by things not of this realm. While considered hokie I’m sure, it’s a fun read for the younger crowd – complete with photos to accompany the journal entries of our main character, Paige. Spoiler alert – here there be ghosts.
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey (2009) won the 2010 Michael L. Printz Honor Award for excellence in young adult literature, and for good reason. The novel is the first in a series and follows an orphan named Will Henry who finds an odd mentor, of sorts, in Dr. Warthrop. The doctor just so happens to be a monstrumologist – a doctor who specializes in the study of monsters. It takes itself seriously enough but also is a fun read.
Spooksville, by Christopher Pike (1995-1998) was a 24-book series that was basically the Shelbyville to R.L. Stine’s Springfield if you want to use a Simpsons reference, in that they ran almost perpendicular to Goosebumps in tone and general structure of the series. Make no mistake, though – this Goosebumps neighbor had its own merit and delivered some excellent entries. There was a little more violence in these books and I remember some of these books being more scrutinized by teachers and parents than Stine’s novels. If you can only pick one book from this collection, it’s gotta be the sixteenth book in the series, Time Terror.
Bruce Coville’s Book of Monsters: Tales To Give You the Creeps (1995) not only features one of the coolest scary kids’ book covers ever, but I’ve also still got my copy. This collection even has a story from Joe Lansdale in it! The stories are relatively harmless but made for great reading some twenty years ago and I find myself loving them just as much to this day.
The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff (2010) is one of my favorite weird novels. Period. It’s considered a young adult read but it packs enough of a creepy punch to be enjoyed by anyone. Mackie Doyle is said Replacement. He was left in a human baby’s crib sixteen years ago and has never known his own kind’s way of life. Things get dark when it comes time for Mackie to decide if he’s to stay in our world of the one he was born out of.
The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd (2013) is an unofficial sequel to H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. We follow Juliet, Dr. Moreau’s daughter, who refuses to believe that her father is the monster the world perceives him to be. The teen travels to her father’s infamous island with a motley crew of help and soon learns the depraved truth of her father’s legacy – the bloodline she shares.
Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry (2010) is another one that certainly doesn’t dumb itself down to appeal to the younger crowd. Rather, it challenges the middle school reading range to put themselves in the shoes of a boy named Benny who must find a job in order to keep his family afloat in a post-apocalyptic America overrun by zombies. Maberry never pulls punches and the fact that he completed a four-novel series aimed at the younger audience is a testament to his work.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (1962) is a must-read in every way possible. It’s also almost a cheat to put it on this list because 1) Jackson is so well-known and 2) this novel is recommended by just about any gothic-loving bibliophile on the planet. But it can’t be said enough – this book is downright masterful. The Blackwood sisters live in your not-so-average home, which hides a not-so-average family secret.
And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich (2016) is the closest to an adult horror novel as I’d say is on this list. Two children pay a visit to their aunt’s home and immediately realize something is wrong. The home itself is creaky and the woods surrounding the home is awfully creepy. Then there’s that kid wandering around in the woods. Are the trees growing closer to the home?
There you have it. Did your favorite YA horror novel make the list? Let me know below in the comment section!