The best spooky YA books - zombies, ghosts, and demons, oh my!

Who am I?

I am a writer and all-around nerd living in California. When I was a kid, I loved scaring myself silly with ghost stories. My school’s tiny library had a stock of Goosebumps books that I devoured like candy. Ever since, I’ve loved stories about the things we are afraid of—especially the ones that make us question where that fear comes from. The books on my list blend my love of horror and fantasy. They are stories to make you shiver, and stories to make you think. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.


I wrote...

Twice Dead

By Caitlin Seal,

Book cover of Twice Dead

What is my book about?

What makes a monster? Naya, the daughter of a merchant captain, nervously undertakes her first solo trading mission in the necromancer-friendly country bordering her homeland of Talmir. She never makes it to the meeting. She's struck down in the streets of Ceramor. Murdered.

But death is not the end. Naya awakens as a monstrous wraith—a ghostly creature bound by runes to the bones of her former corpse. She's been resurrected in secret to become a spy for her country. But she soon learns that neither her allies nor her enemies are who she thought they were. Grappling with her new identity, Naya must unbury the truth before those in power use her death to spark a war between Talmir and Ceramor. 

The books I picked & why

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White Smoke

By Tiffany D. Jackson,

Book cover of White Smoke

Why this book?

I love White Smoke because it takes all the best elements of a classic haunted house story and weaves them with the very real horrors of shady politicians, misinformation, racism, and bedbugs. Marigold is a fantastic main character who remains compassionate and fierce as she grapples with the mistakes of her past. I think what I loved most about this book is the way it plays with the idea of what it means for people and places to be haunted. White Smoke is also fantastically creepy, with sharp writing that kept me turning pages right up to the end.


The Bone Witch

By Rin Chupeco,

Book cover of The Bone Witch

Why this book?

Rin Chupeco is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her writing is lyrical without being overdone, and her worldbuilding is always top-notch. The world of The Bone Witch is soaked in magic both beautiful and terrible. Tea doesn’t mean to raise her brother from the dead, but once she does there is no going back. She is a bone witch, powerful and terrible, but also still very much a girl trying to remain herself as the world forces its expectations upon her. This book is great if you want something with spooky vibes that isn’t actively trying to scare you.


The Bone Houses

By Emily Lloyd-Jones,

Book cover of The Bone Houses

Why this book?

I love this book because it feels like stepping into a creepy fairytale. The restless dead wander the shadowy forest surrounding Ryn’s small village. Ryn is an apprentice gravedigger and normally the dead hold no fear for her. But their numbers are growing and now Ryn might be the only one who can save her people from being destroyed by an ancient curse. This book is still firmly in the category of fantasy rather than horror. I love that Ryn’s position as a gravedigger gives her a unique perspective on death that allows her to face problems others would rather ignore. This book is also the only one I’ve ever read that turns a slightly rotted goat into a loveable character.


Dread Nation

By Justina Ireland,

Book cover of Dread Nation

Why this book?

Dread Nation is an alternate history in which the dead rise from the battlefields of Gettysburg. As the states struggle to deal with the undead crisis, black and native children are forced into combat schools and trained to defend wealthy white patrons. If you’re itching for a classic zombie apocalypse story with a twist, this is your book. Ireland’s writing is sharp, tight, and unflinching. This book is a fast-paced adventure full of ravenous zombie hoards and bold heroines. One thing I especially love about Dread Nation is the fight scenes which are frequent, bloody, and a whole lot of fun.


The Good Demon

By Jimmy Cajoleas,

Book cover of The Good Demon

Why this book?

The Good Demon is unlike anything else I’ve read. It’s eerie, intimate, and spellbinding. Clare’s demon was her best friend, her Only, right up until her parents called a priest to cast the demon out. Now the only thing Clare wants is to get her demon back. It’s hard to say more about this book other than that it is very, very, good. The horror elements are scary in the way of abandoned houses and shadows seen from the corner of your eye. If you like your stories strange and moody and your characters flawed, you should definitely give this book a try.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, curses, and secrets?

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