I have an inside joke with a friend of mine where if I could be any category of literature (I have dorky friends, OK?) I would be the YA category. I have an almost distasteful love of angst that only reading about teenagers can truly satisfy. It doesn't matter, I'll read them all, from love stories between the popular guy and the oh-so-shy bookish girl that is secretly hot if you take off her glasses, to spunky supernatural teens who team up together to stop the end of the world. It's all pretty great, and the wide range of subgenres only seems to make it better. I'll read YA during any time of the year, but when the winter is at its least jolly (basically January 2 until whenever the groundhog decides winter is over) I'm a big fan of reading YA horror.
Some people say that YA horror is currently having a "moment," while others would insist that it's definitely more than a mere trend. There's something about the bleakness of later winter that simply calls for a spooky read. Perhaps it calls back to the pioneer days, when the wind would howl outside and settlers would read by candlelight and hope that they wouldn't have to eat their neighbors. Who knows, but while Halloween is the obvious choice to get your scare on, I'll vote for creepy winter reads every time. To celebrate this, I've compiled a list of 13 YA horror novels that you absolutely should read. Pick up one of these scary stories, turn out the lights (but keep one lamp to read, of course) and try not to get too spooked!
When 17-year-old Itzy Nash learns she's going to spend her summer in the fancy and exclusive Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, she thinks she's going to spend all of her time with the rich and famous. Instead, she learns that the hotel is hosting far more, including fallen angels and terrible demons. When the Queen of the Damned checks in to the hotel, it's up to Itzy to save humanity, but there's only one problem: Itzy's possessed. Equal parts The Shining and Eloise, Divah is a tale of what happens when all Hell breaks loose... literally.
When they were little, identical twin sisters Lexi and Ava made up a third twin: Alicia. Whenever either of them did something bad, it was always Alicia's fault. Now that they are seniors in high school, Alica has been used for a different purpose: to date boys that might be hot, but would otherwise absolutely not be dating material. When one of the boys that Alicia went out with turns up dead, Lexi wants to stop the game, but Ava still insists on playing by the rules. As the body count grows, the evidence points to only one suspect: Alicia, and it's up to Lexi to figure out whether or not Ava is a killer or if Alicia is real.
If you love campy slasher movies, you'll love this book. High school junior Robin Brisset has no idea what she's in for when she's invited to one of the most exclusive parties at Callabrese High, involving an elaborate scavenger hunt in a deserted part of the town. When people begin to end up dead, it's up to a small group of party-goers to figure out who the killer is, especially because all evidence points to the fact that the killer is one of them.
Cas Lockwood is a ghost-hunter like his father was before him. Traveling the country with his kitchen-witch mother and spirit-detective cat, he locates murderous ghosts by listening to the local lore and disposing of them with his mysteriously magical dagger. Sure, he has no friends and no future, but Cas doesn't need to think about that when there are ghosts to take care of. When he's called upon to take care of a ghost named Anna Dressed in Blood, he meets a kind of spirit he has never seen before. Still wearing the blood-stained dressed she wore the day she died, Anna has killed every single person who has stepped into the house she once lived in, except for Cas. Now it's up to him to figure out why his life was spared, and how he could possibly bring her soul to rest.
In this novel inspired by the old Japanese legend Banchō Sarayashiki, we meet the mysterious and vengeful ghost Okiku as she wanders through life in a dreamlike state, hunting down the murderers of children, much like the man who threw her body down a well 300 years previously. In a world where the spirits of murdered victims are literally tired to their murderers, it's up to Okiku to set them free. Her un-life changes when she meets a mysterious tattooed boy who is carrying a secret inside of him, and Okiku takes it upon herself to protect him. Chock full of marvelously creepy scenes and beautiful writing, this book is definitely one you'll want to read with the lights on.
Delia has just moved into a large new house, and swiftly comes to learn that years ago it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females, an insane asylum nicknamed "Hysteria Hall." Most of the imprisoned girls were not actually insane, merely strong willed and independent, but the house still wants to keep these troubled girls locked away, and that includes Delia. Trapped inside the house, Delia comes to realize that the house is also haunted by the ghosts of girls trapped before, and she needs to figure out how to escape the clutches of the house because it takes over everything she loves.
Children of the Corn meets Romeo and Juliet in this horrific tale of forbidden romance. When Ash Larkin's mother returns to spiritual commune that escaped many years ago, Ash and her twin brother team up to go find her. This leads them to Quivira, Kansas, where Ash is tortured by the memories of her ancestor Katia which are full of alchemy, murder, and unrequited love. Through all of this she is drawn to Dane, a boy she is forbidden to love, and as the quaint but murderous town prepares for a centuries old ceremony, Ash needs to save her mother before the unthinkable happens.
In graphic novel form, Through the Woods tells five incredibly creepy stories that are more like spooky fairy tales than campfire tales. To describe the stories would be giving too much away, but trust me on this. Equal parts beautiful and unsettling, you'll want to frame some of the pages of this beautiful work... but might be a little too creeped out to hang them on your wall.
Shutter has the honor of having one of the creepiest covers I have ever seen in a YA novel. This spooky novel centers on Micheline Helsing, a girl who can see the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of Van Helsing, she has spent her entire life learning how to hunt monsters, either by bullet or camera lens. When a run-of-the-mill ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and her team are infected by a curse known as soulchain, and she quickly learns that she must solve the curse in seven days or else they will die. Unfortunately, exorcising the curse means that she's become a rogue agent, and that means that her monster-hunting father has been sent to track her down.
A modern slasher-movie version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Ten centers on an exclusive house party taking place over a three-day weekend on the remote Henry Island. Best friends Minnie and Meg are both headed there in the hopes of winning T.J., the most eligible bachelor in school, and everything looks like it's lined up for a three-day party of booze and fun. Things take a turn for the strange when a mysterious DVD is found with one message "Vengeance is mine." Suddenly there's a storm raging, and people are dying, and it's up to Meg to figure out who the murderer is before there's no one left alive.
Ivy Jensen is not a fan of horror movies, but she is a fan of facing her fears. When she is given the opportunity to participate in the next project of horror director Justin Blake, she jumps at it, becoming one of seven contestants invited to visit a replica of a horror movie house. In true slasher fashion, the teenagers are soon trapped in the deadly house, and must figure out a way to escape before they are all murdered one by one. It's campy fun with a few real scares.
When 17-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave a year after her death, she has absolutely no memory of her murderer or why she was killed. Now she's gifted with a strange new ability to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. Now she's set out to figure out the mystery of what has happened to her, as well as dodge a strange cult who is bent on finding people just like her. Perfect for those who like their zombies to be a little bit different.
You'll have to wait until February for this one, but it's worth it. When a paroled violent offender attacked Julia's best friend Liv in the woods, Julia fought to protect her and got caught herself. After a terrible 48 hours of captivity that she barely remembers, Julia escaped. A year later, it seems as though Liv is destroying herself with drugs, anorexia, and questionable decisions. However, when a girl shows up dead in the same woods where the attack happened, Julia's memories begin to resurface and she realizes that her attacker is still out there. For those of you who like your horror terrifyingly realistic, there are no ghosts or slasher killers here.