The best coming-of-age horror novels

Why am I passionate about this?

I think all horror authors have at least one coming-of-age novel inside them. I suppose I have some expertise on the topic because I recently finished my first coming-of-age novel, The Dancing Plague. I’ve written stories from the perspectives of children before. One of the challenges I found is getting the voice right. Kids think and talk differently than adults, so it can be a bit tricky finding the right balance between credibility and readability. Nobody wants to read an adult novel that sounds as though it was written by a kid. Conversely, nobody wants to read a novel that’s narrated by a twelve-year-old that sounds as though it was written by an adult.


I wrote...

The Sleep Experiment

By Jeremy Bates,

Book cover of The Sleep Experiment

What is my book about?

In 1954, at the start of the Cold War, the Soviet military offered four political prisoners their freedom if they participated in an experiment requiring them to remain awake for fourteen days while under the influence of a powerful stimulant gas. The prisoners ultimately reverted to murder, self-mutilation, and madness. None survived.

In 2018, Dr. Roy Wallis, an esteemed psychology professor at UC Berkeley, is attempting to recreate the same experiment during the summer break in a soon-to-be-demolished building on campus. He and two student assistants share an eight-hour rotational schedule to observe their young Australian test subjects around the clock. What begins innocently enough, however, morphs into a nightmare beyond description that no one could have imagined—with, perhaps, the exception of Dr. Roy Wallis himself.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Body

Jeremy Bates Why did I love 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.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King’s timeless novella “The Body”—originally published in his 1982 short story collection Different Seasons, and adapted into the 1986 film classic Stand by Me—is now available as a stand-alone publication.

It’s 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Ray Brower, a boy from a nearby town, has disappeared, and twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance and his three friends set out on a quest to find his body along the railroad tracks. During the course of their journey, Gordie, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern…


Book cover of The Traveling Vampire Show

Jeremy Bates Why did I love 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.

By Richard Laymon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Traveling Vampire Show as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a hot August morning in 1963, the rural town of Grandville is covered with fliers announcing the coming of something extraordinary - a one-night-only performance of The Travelling Vampire Show, featuring Valeria, the only known vampire in captivity. For three local teenagers, it's a show they don't want to miss. The trouble is, the show starts at midnight and they're supposed to be home by then. And in any case, Janks Field, where the show will take place, has been declared off-limits because of its own sinister history. But they can't just sit at home and let Valeria do…


Book cover of Boy's Life

Jeremy Bates Why did I love 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.

By Robert McCammon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boy's Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert McCammon delivers “a tour de force of storytelling” (BookPage) in this award-winning masterpiece, a novel of Southern boyhood, growing up in the 1960s, that reaches far beyond that evocative landscape to touch readers universally.

Boy’s Life is a richly imagined, spellbinding portrait of the magical worldview of the young—and of innocence lost.

Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson—a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake—and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a…


Book cover of The Girl Next Door

Jeremy Bates Why did I love 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.

By Jack Ketchum,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Girl Next Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.

This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels.


Book cover of Suffer the Children

Jeremy Bates Why did I love 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.

By John Saul,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Suffer the Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Innocence dies so easily. Evil lives again . . . and again . . . and again.

One hundred years ago in Port Arbello a pretty little girl began to scream. And struggle. And die. No one heard. No one saw. Just one man whose guilty heart burst in pain as he dashed himself to death in the sea.

Now something peculiar is happening in Port Arbello. The children are disappearing, one by one. An evil history is repeating itself. And one strange, terrified child has ended her silence with a scream that began a hundred years ago.


You might also like...

Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

Book cover of Medical Hostages

Shawn Jennings Author Of Locked In Locked Out: Surviving a Brainstem Stroke

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

The five recommended nonfiction books on my list profoundly affected my life in my time of need. I struggled when a minor accident led to a brainstem stroke and being locked in at 45. How would I find happiness now? How can I go on? These five books gave me the strength to work hard, accept what couldn’t be improved, and be grateful for each day of good health. I hope the recommended books will help you prepare for the day your life will change...and it will.

Shawn's book list on accepting and moving on from a tragedy

What is my book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage. Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.
The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit, and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident, in this tense hostage stand-off.

Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths? In times of stress, people often discover new directions and strengths.

Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

What is this book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage.


Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.


The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit; and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident; in this tense hostage stand-off.


Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths?


In times of stress, people…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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