The best coming-of-age horror novels

Jeremy Bates Author Of The Sleep Experiment
By Jeremy Bates

The Books I Picked & Why

The Body

By Stephen King

Book cover of The Body

Why this book?

I watched the faithful movie adaptation, Stand by Me, before I read this novella. The movie was amazing, and I didn’t see how the short novel could compete. However, this is one of those cases where the book is better than the movie…and an even rarer case where the book is better than a really good movie, as Stand by Me is an excellent film. If you’ve seen the flick and enjoyed it, definitely check out the novella. I think the four kids that King writes about are some of his best-developed characters, and that’s saying a lot as the novella is much shorter than most of his other work.

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The Traveling Vampire Show

By Richard Laymon

Book cover of The Traveling Vampire Show

Why this book?

Even though this book has some major plot issues, when I read it a decade or more ago it instantly became one of my favorites. I don’t think Laymon writes about kids much, but he did a good job with the three friends in The Traveling Vampire Show. The budding, awkward romance between the two of them was realistic, and the comic relief that the third provided was great. The story gets a bit wild at the end with the excessive violence and nudity, but that’s what Laymon got off writing about (sadly he passed away a number of years ago), and if you’re okay with those types of things, you’ll certainly enjoy the ride.

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Boy's Life

By Robert McCammon

Book cover of Boy's Life

Why this book?

While The Body is poignant and nostalgic, and The Traveling Vampire Show is goofy fun, A Boy’s Life is simply a very solid, weighty, well-written tale. McCammon nails the mindset of his young protagonist so much so it’s hard for the reader not to feel like a twelve-year-old kid again, viewing the world through impressionable and innocent eyes. It’s a book that will evoke memories of your own childhood, and it is one you will remember long after you have stopped reading.

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The Girl Next Door

By Jack Ketchum

Book cover of The Girl Next Door

Why this book?

The themes of this book are the loss of innocence and the savagery of human nature. It’s fiction but it’s based on true events. The story can be very disturbing and brutal in parts as it deals with mental and physical abuse (to a child, no less), but it is also touching and an emotional roller-coaster. Some of you might not finish this book. Some of you might but never recommend it to anyone else. But all of you (if you’re a fan of unapologetic horror) should read it.

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Suffer the Children

By John Saul

Book cover of Suffer the Children

Why this book?

Unlike the other authors on this list who mostly write about adult characters, John Saul writes almost exclusively about children (at least he has in all the books I’ve read by him). I chose Suffer The Children for this list because it was the first book he wrote back in 1977, I believe. There are some disturbing moments in it, as there are in most horror novels, so be aware of that. However, Saul is a talented author who can effortlessly get into the heads of the kids he writes about. He’s also a master of the slow-burn, building suspense page by page until the big pay-off, so if you don’t need action every other sentence, he might be right up your alley.

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