The best ghost books for teen readers

Dawn Kurtagich Author Of And the Trees Crept In
By Dawn Kurtagich

Who am I?

I often refer to myself as a haunted body. Death is something that has fascinated and alarmed me since I can remember. I’ve even had a spooky experience or five that I can’t explain. But to write a ghost story is akin to making someone fall in love with you, or lean in close to hear a secret. I love the intrigue and power of that kind of tale. Our oldest stories are ghost stories and the biggest and most enduring mystery for the entirety of humanity is: Is there life after death? 

I wrote...

And the Trees Crept In

By Dawn Kurtagich,

Book cover of And the Trees Crept In

What is my book about?

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

The books I picked & why

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Burden Falls

By Kat Ellis,

Book cover of Burden Falls

Why this book?

I love a vengeful ghost. And Dead-Eyed Sadie, who haunts the little town of Burden Falls, is like an eyeless grudge’s Kayako Saeki. I almost expected to hear that horrible death rattle while flipping the pages. After a series of nightmares and a vision of Sadie, and the appearance of a dead body, teen sleuth, Ava Thorne is determined to solve the town’s murder problem before she becomes the main suspect. With a cursed waterfall and a vengeful ghost to contend with, it should be simple… right? Not when the murderer seems to have a vendetta against the Thornes and there’s a ghost on the loose.

A Certain Slant of Light

By Laura Whitcomb,

Book cover of A Certain Slant of Light

Why this book?

Helen has been haunting the English classroom for 130 years and has never, not once, been seen. And then she feels his eyes on her. Seeing her, really seeing her like she hasn’t been seen in decades. Without wanting to be, Helen is drawn to him. That he has a body and she doesn’t is nothing in the face of their growing love, and the two form a bond that defies death. Let me tell you this book had me in tears. I read it years ago and still think of it with deep affection. I even wrote a song about it when I was far younger and far less self-conscious than I am now!

Anna Dressed in Blood

By Kendare Blake,

Book cover of Anna Dressed in Blood

Why this book?

Cas Lowood kills the dead. It’s a family business. With his father’s athame, a chip on his shoulder large enough to rival Everest, and a ghost-sniffing cat, Cas thinks he’s an old pro. But when he goes searching for the local ghost named Anna Dressed in Blood, named for the bloody dress she was murdered in and still wears, he gets more than he bargained for. Anna has killed every person who dared step foot inside the Victorian house she haunts—everyone except Cas. This novel has some stunning imagery and is compulsively readable. 

The Girl from the Well

By Rin Chupeco,

Book cover of The Girl from the Well

Why this book?

Based on the chilling Japanese legend of Okiku, TGFTW is told from the perspective of a vengeful ghost who kills those who have hurt or killed children—like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years before. And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood and she is unable to protect him, she begins to wonder if she is losing her touch. And then something else moves into town. Something darker. This book had a dose of everything I like: eerie doll rituals, vengeful females, Shinto exorcisms, and travel to Aomori, Japan. 

House of Leaves

By Mark Z. Danielewski,

Book cover of House of Leaves

Why this book?

While shelved as an adult book, I read this novel in my late teens and loved it—so for that reason, it sits here. I also might have cheekily shelved this book in my “best YA novels with unusual formats,” but I felt the ghostly element was too irresistible to ignore for this list. House of Leaves has a simple enough premise: A couple buys a house and discovers a secret room. When they measure it, they discover that the inside of the house is larger than the outside. By a mile. By more than that, actually. And that the darkness inside the secret, stygian room houses… something supernatural. This book is so weird and, if you’re a discerning and precocious reader and can stick it out, life-changing. You won’t be the same on the other side. At least, I wasn’t—by evidence that it has (and still does) inspire my writing today.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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