The best horror novels that focus on character development rather than clichéd scares

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I’m not embarrassed to admit the horror genre was too scary for me. I don’t remember when it was but at some point that changed and it’s become my favourite. It started with horror movies but as I became a writer, that love transferred to horror books. My favourite type of horror focuses more on the character than the scares. I don’t see why I should be worried about a character’s fate if they’re one-dimensional. I’d trade in great character development for clichéd scares in horror any day.


I wrote...

Karma

By Oliver Douglas,

Book cover of Karma

What is my book about?

"Life turns on a dime, circumstances will never stay in your favour for long." Alicia Ridley was a normal girl with hopes, dreams, fears, and the want of a better future for all. However, one fateful night would put that future to the test. 

One year later, her best friend Stan Collins is joined by Emily, Fran, Tom, and their Pupil Support Teacher Ms. Smith as they remember their part in the tragedy. Unfortunately for them, there is another who remembers and in their want for vengeance, Carburn High School becomes a breeding ground for terror, fear, death... and Karma. However, something worse awaits in the shadows that will change not only their lives but the lives of everyone, forever. Karma... is coming.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Carrie

Oliver Douglas Why did I love this book?

Carrie was Stephen King’s first published novel yet it’s still seen as one of his best. It was an experimental book as it didn’t follow a normal structure, electing to create the story out of snippets from fictional magazines, newspapers, and articles. It’s one of the best revenge stories and focuses on the characters more than the eventual scares. By delving into Carrie’s psyche, as well as the feelings of the bullies around her, Stephen King creates sympathetic characters even when some of them shouldn’t be. Furthermore, Carrie is a parable for the question: what does it cost to be nice? 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Carrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates, is a Classic. CARRIE is the novel which set him on the road to the Number One bestselling author King is today.

Carrie White is no ordinary girl.

Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis.

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first
step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues.

But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she
is forced to exercise her…


Book cover of Anna and the Apocalypse

Oliver Douglas Why did I love this book?

This book is based on one of my favourite movies. However, it takes its time to expand on the characters (delving into their feelings and motivations more). It’s a zombie story set at Christmas about a young girl who wants to break away from her life in Scotland. The zombies are second to the characters. Time is taken to explore Anna, her friends, and the eventual villain through flashbacks and their relationships.  As a Scotsman it’s nice to see a horror story set in Scotland, which is something I try to do with most of my horror books.

By Katharine Turner, Barry Waldo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anna and the Apocalypse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

School’s out for the end of the world.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a horror comedy about a teenager who faces down a zombie apocalypse with a little help from her friends.

Anna Shepherd is a straight-A student with a lot going on under the surface: she’s struggling with her mom’s death, total friend drama, and the fallout from wasting her time on a very attractive boy. She’s looking forward to skipping town after graduation—but then a zombie apocalypse majorly disrupts the holidays season. It’s going to be very hard to graduate high school without a brain.

To save the…


Book cover of The Woman in Black

Oliver Douglas Why did I love this book?

This, in my opinion, is the scariest ghost story I’ve read. On the surface it seems like a normal ghost story, but there’s also a tale of revenge and family double cross. It’s a mystery wrapped in a frightening story. Arthur Kipps has to settle the estate of a recently deceased woman in the countryside. His life is quickly changed when he arrives at the estate and nothing will be the same for him ever again. While it is scary, the character work on Arthur and his discoveries eclipse the horror. It’s how well-written he is that makes the reader fear for his life, even though the book starts with him alive in the future.

By Susan Hill,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Woman in Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The classic ghost story from the author of The Mist in the Mirror: a chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.
 
Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip…


Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Oliver Douglas Why did I love this book?

The Haunting of Hill House is yet another cautionary tale. Billed as a ghost story, you never truly know what it actually is. Eleanor Vance is sick of caring for her disabled mother and wants a change in her life. She takes part in the study at an apparent haunted house. The haunting is made scary through Eleanor’s eyes (and decreasing sanity). Through her writing, Shirley Jackson creates a story that’s timeless and will never wilt. It’s like a ghost itself in that way. 

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

32 authors picked The Haunting of Hill House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by Academy Award-winning director of The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro

Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro's favorites, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Ray Russell's short story "Sardonicus," considered by Stephen King to be "perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written," to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and stories…


Book cover of The Final Girl Support Group

Oliver Douglas Why did I love this book?

First of all, if you go into this book expecting a slasher story, you’ll be disappointed. While its characters are rooted in the horror genre, the story focuses more on thriller until its final act. However, the best thing about the book is its character development with its main character and the other Final Girls. While the plot collapses in on itself every so often, the character work keeps it afloat and provides the suspense to make the reader scared.

By Grady Hendrix,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Final Girl Support Group as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

VOTED GOODREADS CHOICE AWARD BEST HORROR NOVEL OF 2021

A Good Morning America Buzz Pick

“The horror master…puts his unique spin on slasher movie tropes.”-USA Today

A can't-miss summer read, selected by The New York Times, Oprah Daily, Time, USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer,CNN, LitHub, BookRiot,Bustle, Popsugar and the New York Public Library

In horror movies, the final girls are the ones left standing when the credits roll. They made it through the worst night of their lives…but what happens after?

Like his bestselling novel The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady…


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Authentically Dead

By Julie Kusma,

Book cover of Authentically Dead

Julie Kusma Author Of The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy and Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by the mind-body-spirit’s impact on our human experience. Especially the aspect of mind, because deep within us resides the shadow-self described by Carl Jung. Most of us spend our lives hiding this part, but it’s there, waiting to pounce. These are the stories I tell, and with my background in Health and Wellness and in Creative Writing, I write paranormal, supernatural, and horror stories containing the simple truths about our human experience. All are designed to bring out the shadow lurking within and expose it to the light. As a counterpoint to these dark tales, I write evocative poetry, uplifting children’s stories, and some educational books with my writing partner, Derek R. King.  

Julie's book list on with plot twists

What is my book about?

A hair-raising, side-splitting supernatural adventure!

In the idyllic town of Pine Port, Kelsey was on the cusp of realizing her dreams. In weeks, she'd clasp her high school diploma and beauty license. Or so she thought, until her life took a supernatural detour, far removed from the ordinary path she'd envisioned before she stumbled upon her extraordinary ability—she could hear and see the deceased as if they were still living.

This wasn’t what she had hoped for and certainly not the kind of beauty treatment she had in mind. Juggling the intricacies of the living was already a challenge, and…

Authentically Dead

By Julie Kusma,

What is this book about?

A hair-raising, side-splitting supernatural adventure!In the idyllic town of Pine Port, Kelsey was on the cusp of realizing her dreams. In weeks, she'd clasp her high school diploma and beauty license. Or so she thought, until her life took a supernatural detour, far removed from the ordinary path she'd envisioned before she stumbled upon her extraordinary ability—she could hear and see the deceased as if they were still living.

This wasn’t what she had hoped for and certainly not the kind of beauty treatment she had in mind. Juggling the intricacies of the living was already a challenge, and now…


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