It’s almost Halloween, so it’s the perfect time to read something spooky! Whether you prefer slashers, sci-fi, or the supernatural, you’ll find something on this list to terrify and delight. Check one (or several) out, curl up with something pumpkin-flavored, and don’t forget to turn on a light!
1. You're Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron
Charity plays The Final Girl at a horror-simulation camp, but it quickly turns into a real game of ominous warnings, chases through the woods, and missing campers. This book feels like a love letter to slasher movies. Bayron is clearly not only well versed in the horror genre, but also respects it — it takes real talent to also include sweet and funny moments in a scary story without it feeling forced or corny.
2. She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
In order to earn enough money for college, Jade agrees to spend 5 weeks working for her estranged father in Vietnam. But the former French colonial house she’s helping him renovate isn’t what it seems, from the dead insects in unusual spots to odd noises and creepy messages. If she can’t convince her family that something is wrong, it might be too late. This novel is truly spooky and I’m excited to read more from this author!
3. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This fantasy/horror hybrid has smaller doses of scary. Yadriel comes from a family of brujos, but no one is willing to truly accept his trans identity. When he performs a ritual to communicate with his murdered cousin in order to prove himself, he accidentally summons Julian, the ghost of a recently-killed bad boy, instead. As the two team up — Julian to resolve his unfinished business, Yadriel to figure out what happened to his cousin — they discover something sinister tying the crimes together. Despite some heavy themes and plot lines, this book also has a surprising amount of joy.
4. Harvest House by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Hughie, a Muskogee-Cherokee teen who loves theatre, is excited to act at a haunted house thrill attraction…until he learns about all the Indigenous stereotypes included in it. He decides to try and make changes from the inside, but the longer Hughie keeps working at Harvest House, the more he suspects that something truly frightening is occurring right under their noses. A combination of horror and mystery, Harvest House also touches on the very real issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Read this if you love eerie rural settings, lovable casts, and supernatural elements!
5. Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
The older residents of Kettle Springs want a return to tradition, but the younger folks would rather act like teenagers. Frendo, the clown mascot of the town’s former factory, decides that the only way to end the generational battle is by getting rid of students permanently. This was much creepier than I anticipated! Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, Adam Cesare managed to surprise me with plot twists.
6. All That Consumes Us by Erica Waters
This wonderful book just published last week! When a student unexpectedly dies, freshman English major Tara is offered her place in a prestigious academic society — one that's rumored to be a cult. But when she starts receiving disturbing phone calls, dreaming of being buried alive, and writing dark tales in her sleep, Tara starts thinking there may be something even more frightening at work. I genuinely couldn't put this down!
7. Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers
A variety of monsters have plagued one Cherokee family since the 1830s. This is a collection of stories about everything they face, from werewolves and vampires to zombies and sea creatures. The Cherokee words interspersed make this as educational as it is spooky.
8. White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Marigold never wanted to move to the Midwest from California, but her new home’s run-down state makes it even worse. As items vanish, doors open on their own, and voices echo when no one else is home, Mari starts wondering if something’s wrong with the house or if it’s all in her head. I don’t scare easily, and this is the one of the only books that has ever given me goosebumps. It’s got all the hallmarks of a good old-fashioned haunted house combined with the eerie “something isn’t right but I can’t put my finger on it” vibes of The Twilight Zone or Jordan Peele’s movies.
9. The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Based on a real Japanese ghost story (the one that inspired The Ring), Okiku is the spirit of a murdered girl who’s spent centuries hunting killers of children. When she notices a teen boy named Tark with mysterious tattoos and a malevolent presence surrounding him, she decides to get involved with human affairs for the first time in her afterlife. This was just as creepy as I hoped it would be, but falling in love with Tark and his family was an unexpected delight.
10. Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams
Please check the trigger warnings, as this book involves quite a bit of racially-motivated violence. In the Jim Crow south, twins Charlie and Magnolia were separated shortly after birth — dark-skinned Charlie moving north with their Black grandmother and light-skinned Magnolia moving in with their white grandmother. When both grandparents die the same week, the sisters learn the truth of their birth, reconnect with their roots, and discover that there’s much more to their hometown than they could’ve imagined. This is a gorgeously-written book that has stuck with me long after finishing it.
11. Burn Down, Rise up by Vincent Tirado
Raquel wants to ignore all the disappearances around the Bronx, but it hits close to home when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing the same night her mom comes down with a mysterious illness. It all seems to be linked to the Echo Game, which is rumored to trap people in an alternate dimension. If Charlize, Raquel, and her best friend Aaron want to save their home, they’ll have to play the game themselves. If you like Stranger Things, you’ll love this book. It’s a perfect combination of sci-fi and horror, with lesser-known historical facts mixed in.
12. This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham
Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine all became ghouls during the Hollowing, a pandemic in which a pathogen caused those infected to crave human flesh. Three years later, the creation of synthetic human meat caused life to return to normal, and the four friends head to a music festival to celebrate. But on the first night, Val unexpectedly goes feral. Someone is drugging ghouls, and the group needs to figure out who before a larger tragedy unfolds. I’ve never been a big fan of zombie or post-pandemic stories, but this dark comedy is the exception.
13. Night of the Living Queers by Vanessa Montalban, Kalynn Bayron, Sara Farizan, Kim Wells, Kosoko Jackson, Alex Brown, Trang Thanh Tran, Maya Gittleman, Em X. Liu, Shelly Page, Tara Sim, Ayida Shonibar, Ryan Douglass
Thirteen queer authors of color contribute spooky short stories centering queer BIPOC teens on a blue moon falling on Halloween. Specific types of hauntings include vampires, ghosts, corrupt technology, demons, goddesses, and killer clowns. Whatever your favorite horror trope is, you’ll find something in here for you.