I love horror movies. You know I do. But if you read this blog, you may have no clue that I also love reading – do it pretty much every day, in fact. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the books I read are horror, young adult horror to be exact. Why YA? Honestly, I’m not sure why, but for some reason adult horror novels don’t typically do it for me. I don’t know if my lizard brain is stuck in adolescence or what, but YA horror just seems to hit a sweet spot that can really scare the shit out of me.
To be fair, it’s easier to scare me with a book than a movie, for whatever reason. When I’m sitting alone in bed, with the silence pressing in all around me and a story blowing up to monstrous proportions in my imagination… well, what merely seems unsettling in the daylight can become truly terrifying at night. I think maybe it’s the aspect of being totally alone, without even characters on a screen (even ones in peril) for company.
Anyway, I thought I’d drum up some book recommendations for those of you who love horror movies! And in no particular order, here they are.
For fans of The Witch: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Daughters Unto Devils, about a family living on the desolate prairie in the 1800s, delves into a lot of the same themes as this year’s The Witch: the shame and fear surrounding sexuality, the double-edged sword of religious devotion, and the insanity that can be brought on by isolation. Both also feature a healthy dose of the supernatural. This is one book that really, truly kept me up at night.
For fans of urban legends: Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke
Laura Kasischke’s writing is simply unmatched in terms of creating an evocative setting. In Boy Heaven, she tells the story of three girls at cheerleading camp who smile at the wrong boys at the wrong time. It’s literally framed as a campfire urban legend, and it works perfectly as such. You can practically feel the muggy summer air and hear the cicadas chirping in the cabins. The ending packs a punch, too. If you like Boy Heaven, I also recommend checking out Feathered by the same author, which is about a spring vacation in Cancun and brings to mind The Ruins and And Soon the Darkness.
For fans of slashers: Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Ten is a classic slasher in novel form: ten teens away for the weekend at a house party on Henry Island start to get picked off by an unseen killer, one by one. It features a lot of the slasher tropes we all know and love from horror film (which I appreciated), and it’s good, creepy fun.
For fans of ghost stories & psychological horror: Frost by Marianna Baer
Another book with all the hallmarks of a horror movie: boarding school, old Victorian houses, and possible ghosts that may possibly be making things happen – scary and dangerous things. On the other hand, Leena, the main character, could just slowly be going insane… and therein lies the delicious, suspenseful mystery.
For fans of American Mary, complicated women, and/or heavy metal: Boring Girls by Sara Taylor
This is an all-time favorite read of mine. I’d actually say it’s more of an adult novel, but it features teens and I’ve seen it described as YA. It’s about two girls, Rachel and Fern, who get deeply involved in the metal music scene, even forming their own band. It’s a tough scene for women, though, and the book really explores what it’s like to be a girl in a man’s world, and the things that can happen when people are stripped of agency over their own bodies. It’s not really scary, but it’s a tough, powerful read that brings to mind American Mary and other horror movies with complex female characters.
For fans of It Follows and/or the realistic supernatural: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
This is another of my all-time favorite spine-chilling reads, and should appeal to anyone who loves a story with a creeping sense of dread. Though I’m struggling to express exactly how it reminds me of It Follows, it simply does. The story of Chloe, her sister Ruby, and a mysterious reservoir features the same sort of subtle, skin-crawling horror, and it’s the kind that really stays with you.
That's all for now, though there surely further installments knocking around in my brain. What horror novels do you love? Let me know in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter!