The best young adult books for spooks and thrills

Who am I?

I’ve loved stories with a horror/thriller focus ever since I can remember. Yes, I was that creepy kid who read all of Goosebumps, as well as checked out a copy of Dracula from the library at the tender age of eleven, much to the chagrin of the elderly librarian. My own books are multi-genre, but tend to include a thriller or horror element—it’s such fun to write a page-turner that ends with a bang. I truly hope you enjoy these picks as much as I did. They are some of my very favorites!

I wrote...


By Katie Jane Gallagher,

Book cover of Specter

What is my book about?

Horror aficionado Lanie Adams should be thrilled when two eighties-era ghosts materialize in her bedroom. Yet after a fainting incident unbecoming of a horror nerd, she would rather her haunting just go away—the ghosts’ distorted, waterlogged voices and ice-cold auras are more terrifying than any movie. Enlisting the help of Ryan, an entirely-too-cute stoner, she makes it her mission to put the spirits stalking her to rest.

Some sleuthing reveals that their sleepy Connecticut town is host to a shadowy, decades-old conspiracy. If Lanie wants to say a final goodbye to her ghosts, she’ll need to keep digging. But it’s important to tread carefully. The culprit is still in town—and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

The books I picked & why

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Here There Are Monsters

By Amelinda Bérubé,

Book cover of Here There Are Monsters

Why this book?

Here There Are Monsters is a hypnotizing read for anyone who’s a sucker for complicated sister relationships and horror that pushes the envelope. Monsters presents a main character, Skye, whose relationship with younger sister Deirdre is tense, to say the least. Deirdre is fascinated with the swampy woodland that lies behind their house, and one day she disappears into the ominous wilderness. From there, it’s up to Skye to decide exactly how far she’ll go to save her sister.

Fair warning: anyone seeking a tale of cozy sisterhood should look elsewhere. Monsters is a horror book through and through; heartwarming it is not. But for anyone wanting a horror story that will stick with you for a long time, definitely pick up this surreal and shocking book.

Swipe Right for Murder

By Derek Milman,

Book cover of Swipe Right for Murder

Why this book?

Swipe Right for Murder is a thriller with LGBT themes that will gobble up every moment you can spare for reading. Set in 2019, the book nonetheless has a raucous, cyberpunk feel. Main character Aidan, through the use of a Grindr-style hook-up app on his senior Spring Break, stumbles into an unfortunate series of events that lead him into close contact with a domestic terrorist organization bent on killing homophobes. Swipe Right for Murder is a page-turner if there ever was one, and it’s fucking funny. Seriously, there are some legit laugh-out-loud moments in this book—generally a tough order for a written medium. If you’re looking for a smart thriller that is turned up to eleven at all points, then this book is an absolute must-read.

Wilder Girls

By Rory Power,

Book cover of Wilder Girls

Why this book?

In Wilder Girls, a bizarre, unprecedented plague called the Tox has infested an island home to an all-girls boarding school. The Tox causes those it infects to mutate in gruesome ways—growing gills, claws, an extra spine, et cetera. The schoolgirls and remaining sparse crew of staff members have developed a system of survival, but when one girl goes missing and her friend determines to find her, everything is thrown into chaos.

This book will grip you hard from the first sentence, sink its teeth into you, shake you around, then have you gasping for air on the floor by the time you hit the last page. Seriously, this is an insane, intense ride, perfect for any fan of weird fiction and body horror. (That’s me.)

The Name of the Star

By Maureen Johnson,

Book cover of The Name of the Star

Why this book?

Many YA readers will be familiar with Maureen Johnson’s homerun success with the Truly, Devious series, but perhaps not have heard of her earlier Shades of London series. Anyone who loves ghostly tales and admires Johnson’s quirky, rock-solid prose should give The Name of the Star a read, stat.

This is the book equivalent of my spirit animal. I'm actually slightly alarmed at how closely Maureen Johnson's fantastic novel and my own interests align. Serial killers, ghosts, boarding schools--every element is wonderfully presented, and always with Johnson’s signature, humorous touch. Just perfect.

House of Hollow

By Krystal Sutherland,

Book cover of House of Hollow

Why this book?

This thrilling, lyrical YA horror ushers readers into a modern fairy tale. Iris and her two older sisters vanished right under their parents’ noses when they were young children, only to reappear a month later with identical scars across their throats. Now in the present day, one sister goes missing again, and it is up to the other two to save her, while delving into the horror-tinged mystery that stole them away as children in the first place. House of Hollow is a visceral, eerie read to remind us that fairy tales and dark horrors go hand-in-hand.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, murders, and secrets?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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