The best YA books to give you chills

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a small town full of ghosts. They broke plates in a doctor’s office-turned-restaurant, feuded in a house built by twins, emerged from cornfields to stand in our headlights, and turned headstones blue in a cemetery where tombstones protruded from the ground like jagged teeth. The stories that surrounded me while I was a teen still bleed into my writing. And as reader, I gravitate toward books that are atmospheric, rich in moments of magic or the unreal, and riddled with stories of the past and long-forgotten.


I wrote...

The Wolves Are Watching

By Natalie Lund,

Book cover of The Wolves Are Watching

What is my book about?

The night little Madison disappears from her crib, Luce sees a pair of eyes deep in the forest behind her house and feels certain they belong to a wolf. She tracks the wolf into the woods and uncovers a dark secret about her town: magical animal women who have taken children for centuries and have no intention of giving her cousin back. The Wolves Are Watching is a chilling mystery about one teen's bravery as she confronts her town's past to save the future.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Taking of Jake Livingston

Natalie Lund Why did I love this book?

I love books where the dead are part of the storyline—where they reveal something about or to the living. In The Taking of Jake Livingston, Jake is a medium who witnesses ghosts caught in death loops, all while navigating life as one of the few Black kids at his private school. One particular ghost—a boy who shot and killed kids at his high school before taking his own life—starts to haunt Jake and try to take over his body. Buckle up for hair-crawling scenes as Jake comes to better understand himself and his power.

By Ryan Douglass,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Taking of Jake Livingston 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?

An Instant New York Times Bestseller!

Get Out meets Holly Jackson in this YA social thriller where survival is not a guarantee.

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can't decide what's worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for…


Book cover of House of Hollow

Natalie Lund Why did I love this book?

As one of four sisters, I appreciate a good sister story because there’s always something going on under the surface. House of Hollow is no different. There’s the complicated dynamic of the three sisters—the model and fashion designer, the grunge musician, and the loner high school student—revealed when the eldest goes missing and the two younger sisters search for her. And then there’s the twist of something otherworldly—the fact that the girls disappeared for a month as children, reappearing with black eyes, white hair, mysterious scars, and the ability to entrance others with their scent and touch. I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

By Krystal Sutherland,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked House of Hollow 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?

'A gorgeous, grisly modern fairy tale.'
- THE GUARDIAN

'Dark and delicious. House of Hollow hums with malice and mystery. I devoured it whole.'
- KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

** SHORTLISTED FOR THE YA BOOK PRIZE 2022 **

The Hollow sisters - Vivi, Grey and Iris - are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious. They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. The Hollow sisters don't have friends - they don't need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.

And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters…


Book cover of The Marrow Thieves

Natalie Lund Why did I love this book?

I get chills from some dystopian novels as easily as I do from books about the dead. In The Marrow Thieves, Native people are hunted by the Canadian government for their marrow, which contains the ability to dream—an ability that has faded as the human population has died off and the land has become uninhabitable in a not-too-distant future. The protagonist, Frenchie survives in the woods with a group of Indigenous people, learning some of his history and language from its members. Here, the at-the-edge-of-my-seat fear comes from the Recruiters—always just steps behind Frenchie, lurking in the trees or disguised as friends. 

By Cherie Dimaline,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Marrow Thieves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden-but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

"Miigwans is a true hero; in…


Book cover of Plain Bad Heroines

Natalie Lund Why did I love this book?

I’m cheating a tad here because this novel is not labeled YA, but it features teenagers and young adults, significant queer representation, and a plot that teen-me would have devoured as quickly as adult-me did. In the past timeline, two students at the Brookhants School for Girls fall in love, create a secret club based on Mary MacLane’s memoir, and are stung to death by yellow jackets. The present timeline follows actresses, Harper Harper and Audrey Wells, as they film a movie based on the story of the girls—as well as the deaths that came after—at the site of the abandoned and supposedly cursed school. I was haunted by the hum of yellow jackets even after I closed the book.

By Emily M. Danforth, Sara Lautman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Plain Bad Heroines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Brimming from start to finish with sly humour and gothic mischief' SARAH WATERS

'Beguilingly clever, very sexy and seriously frightening' GUARDIAN

'Atmospheric, sexy, creepy...totally addictive' KATE DAVIES, author of In At The Deep End

'A gloriously over-the-top queer romp' I PAPER

_________________________________________________________________

'It's a terrible story and one way to tell it is this: two girls in love and a fog of wasps cursed the place forever after...'

BROOKHANTS SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: Infamous site of a series of tragic deaths over a hundred years ago. Soon to be the subject of a controversial horror movie about the rumoured 'Brookhants curse':…


Book cover of A Deadly Education

Natalie Lund Why did I love this book?

I love a twist on the magical school story, and A Deadly Education delivers just that. The Scholomance in A Deadly Education is infested by grotesque monsters called mals that aim to kill the young wizards and witches within its walls and eat their magic. To graduate, the students have to hone their skills and alliances—without the aid of kindly professors—and survive. Completing the anti-Hogwarts premise, the protagonist is a prickly loner named El, whose great-great-grandmother prophesized would become an evil sorceress. She’s saved from mals by the hero of the school, Orion Lake, who she loathes. If that set-up is as delicious to you as it is to me, then you’re in for a ride. 

By Naomi Novik,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Deadly Education as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you're inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school's many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions - never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying…


You might also like...

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

Book cover of Kanazawa

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

What is my book about?

Emmitt’s plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of purchasing their dream home. Disappointed, he’s surprised to discover her subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo.

In his search for a meaningful life in Japan, and after quitting his job, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa’s most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English. He becomes drawn into the mysterious death of a friend of Mirai’s parents, leading him and his father-in-law to climb the mountain where the man died. There, he learns the somber truth and discovers what the future holds for him and his wife.

Packed with subtle literary allusion and closely observed nuance, Kanazawa reflects the mood of Japanese fiction in a fresh, modern incarnation.

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

What is this book about?

In Kanazawa, the first literary novel in English to be set in this storied Japanese city, Emmitt's future plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of negotiations to purchase their dream home. Disappointed, he's surprised to discover Mirai's subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo, a city he dislikes.

Harmony is further disrupted when Emmitt's search for a more meaningful life in Japan leads him to quit an unsatisfying job at a local university. In the fallout, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa's most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English.

While continually resisting Mirai's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in curses, monsters, and the paranormal?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about curses, monsters, and the paranormal.

Curses Explore 76 books about curses
Monsters Explore 156 books about monsters
The Paranormal Explore 229 books about the paranormal