I don’t know about YOU but I’m always looking for good reads the weeks leading up to Halloween. My reads are always so varied — sometimes I like truly scary & bone-chilling books, sometimes something more paranormal and strange, sometimes I want a really perfect Fall setting and sometimes I just want a slasher film in book form! Today I want to share my picks for best Halloween book for teens and young adult readers of all age for Fall 2021.
And, while lately things feel like real life is scarier than fiction, I hope this helps you find a great scary (or not so scary) YA read this Fall & Halloween season.
This post was originally written in 2012 but has been updated yearly to add new books.
Best Halloween Books For Teens (And Other Readers of YA Books)
New YA Books Out In 2021 To Make Great Fall/Halloween Reads
If you are looking to know which new YA releases will be perfect for Fall and Halloween reading, check out these new books out in 2021!
The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins
While Stephanie Perkins is my contemporary queen with Anna/Lola/Isla, she’s been really diving into the slasher/thriller genre with some quicker, creepy reads. This one is going to make you look over your shoulder while hiking or camping as two friends embark on a hiking trip together before college and are quickly in a fight for their survival as someone is hunting them. Out August 31.
P.S. Perkins’ first slasher book is an upcoming book to movie adaptation.
Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
I read the House of Salt and Sorrows back a couple Falls ago and it was the PERFECT October read and this one looks to be also. A Rumpelstiltskin retelling (meets The Village) = a spooky szn vibe for sure! It’s about a small isolated town who turns on one another when a failed supply run ignites fears of the monsters in the woods that have been lore for years and part of the town’s founding. Out July 27.
The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh
“The Conjuring meets Sadie when seventeen-year-old podcaster Dare takes an internship in a haunted house and finds herself in a life-or-death struggle against an evil spirit.” This sounds scary as crap. Out September 7.
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Listen Tiffany D. Jackson is always leaving me with my mouth agape and with chills and this time she’s doing it by way of a chilling psychological thriller. The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out! Don’t miss this one this year. Out September 14.
The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartt
Looking for a not-scary Halloween teen read? This revenge-y vampire novel might do the trick! It’s about a teen who turned into a vampire for her One True Love and then he dumps her years later only for her to find other girls he turned and left. The girls decided to get revenge on him and our main character ends up falling for his new target. Out September 14.
You May Also Like: Best Teen Vampire Books
Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone
Is a Gothic fantasy your perfect kind of read to curl up with around Halloween? Definitely check this one out full of monsters and atmospheric haunted estates with a good dose of dark magic, death gods and family curses! Out September 28.
The Violent Season by Sara Walters
Love a good twisted thriller for this time of year? Check out this one where every November there becomes a sometimes insatiable thirst for violence in one small town. Out October 5.
Teen Horror Novels
Some of these are some straight up scary books!! We’ve got some slasher stuff, some sci-fi horror, some ghost stories and just some full on horror novels that you will have to keep the lights on for.
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Ten teens on an isolated island getting picked off one by one — this one is a page-turner! It’s inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and definitely reminded me of how much I loved slasher type films a la Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and also books by Christopher Pike and RL Stine.
Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco:
If historical horror thrillers are your jam (they are so my jam), you gotta have this one on your list. How is a Jack the Ripper inspired book NOT perfect Halloween reading material?? It’s about a wealthy girl with a penchant for sneaking away into her uncle’s lab to study forensic medicine instead of having tea and socializing with other ladies. Her work with murdered corpses lands her straight into the middle of the hunt for a serial killer.
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich:
This was such a creepy read told by a mishmash of diary entries, police interview transcripts, video transcripts, notes and more! A case of a suspicious fire at a school 20 years ago is reopened when a diary is found — a diary written by the twin sister of the girl who disappeared that night. But there never was a twin sister. The diary tells the events leading up to the night when everything happened. Very sinister and a unique read!
Mary: The Summoning
HOLY SCARY AF. If you are looking for a truly terrifying YA horror book for Halloween/October reading, this is it! I’ve always been freaked out by the tale of Bloody Mary since I was a kid — would cry like a baby if someone would start to say bloody mary into the mirror. This book is about a group of friends who do just that…with terrifying consequences. An exhilarating and scary read!
The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan:
This feminist, revenge horror novel is a perfect book choice for teens this Halloween. After being assaulted and left for dead along with her friend, Bethan learns from her grandma (a healer) how to extract revenge and save her new friend Martyn’s life — the price being body parts from these boys. A gory and dark read but very smart and emotional, too. Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, graphic violence
Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender:
Fun but C-R-E-E-P-Y — creepy haunted dolls, a possession, ghosts wanting revenge…YIKES. The main character’s little sister has been possessed! She and her arch enemy team up to try and figure out how to stop it! Plus there’s a dash of romance. I feel like it reads a little on the younger side of the YA spectrum but a great read if you want something CREEPY.
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
The premise alone creeped me out with this one — haunted houses just scare me so badly. The main character moves into a new house — a new house that used to be an insane asylum for young girls. The house is full of evil and full of secrets and is trying to harm Delia and keep all the girl’s spirits locked away in it. She works to find the truth to set herself and the secrets free.
It’s a psychological horror/thriller/post-apocalyptic epidemic novel all in one. I don’t wanna say to much but a disease called the Tox has hit and a girls’ boarding school has been under quarantine for 18 months waiting for help. It’s been infecting people left and right but the girls have stayed put until one of them goes missing and they must face the horror beyond the wall of the school. A chilling and unique book – though mixed feelings on the end personally (I’m in the minority I think).
This book is based on a Japanese ghost story (the one that The Ring was based on) —the lore of Okiku. Okiku avenges the deaths of children murdered, as she herself was, and free the spirits of the children. Until one day she meets a boy with strange tattoos reeking of evil though the boy is not evil and she works to help free him from it without killing him.
If you love books set in space and horror is your jam, check this one out! It’s got killer alien zombie things, spaceships and is set in the future after Earth is abandoned from depleting of resources. The future of humanity is at risk and the key is aboard the ship that’s been in space for centuries (with its crew in stasis) and has been invaded by these monsters.
Zombie post-apocalyptic horror goodness! It’s the normal world until an EMP has gone off that kills billions and has made technology useless. And the survivors? Some of them have CHANGED. It’s a brutal and page-turning survival story!
This is a short little read but has this perfect level of creep factor to it without being terrifying….although the premise itself scares the bajeezus out of me. It’s about a girl whose shadow keeps trying to kill her (and has made some close calls….like picking up a nail gun and shooting herself in the head or drinking drain cleaner) so the girl and her best friend try to figure out why she is haunted by her shadow.
This blood-chilling YA gothic horror novel is about the real life Countess Dracula. SUPER DARK and violent/bloody considering ya know…serial killer.
YA Supernatural/Paranormal Books
Sometimes, for me, the perfect Halloween read is a good supernatural/paranormal/fantasy type book that isn’t scary but just feels perfect for the season. So if you are looking for non-scary books for Halloween that will STILL feel like perfect Halloween reads, check out these!
What an underrated gem of a read!!! It’s got magic (people whose blood allows them to create illusions through art) and a gritty setting (the underbelly of Boston in 1919 during the Prohibition era) which really makes a perfect atmospheric read for Halloween for teens. Strong female characters, cool magical abilities each of them has and some page-turning scenes when things really start to go bad for these characters, who are seen as outcasts by society, when their safe haven at the club they work at becomes not so safe anymore. Read my review of Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Love a good young adult supernatural mystery/thriller with a splash of romance? This series has to be on your reading list this Fall! It’s about a girl who can sense dead bodies (mostly those murdered) by hearing the “echos” they leave behind. She starts to use this gift to solve help solve a case involving a serial killer in her own town because with every echo there is an imprint she can detect that follows the killer. This is such a quick and fast paced series and the romance is cute, too!
Love urban fantasy? Well, even if you’ve never read it before…this gritty, dark and thought-provoking young adult novel needs to be on your Halloween reading list. This one is set in a world where violence creates actual deadly monsters and the land is run by two competing gangs (one in control of the monsters, one trying to save humanity from them) and the two young heirs of these opposing gangs who must choose where they fall in this unique spin on monsters. It’s a cruel and violent novel and very character-driven which I loved.
If you are looking for an atmospheric fantasy/paranormal series, this is IT. Perfect Fall and Halloween book series if you don’t like scary but enjoy all things supernatural with beautiful writing.
Now this one is a different one to put on your list! It’s an apocalyptic vampire story set in an Amish community which I bet you’ve never read before huh??
If you are looking for something super atmospheric and transports you to exactly what Fall feels like, it’s this book! It’s the most Fall read through and through. Plus KILLER HORSES. I don’t know how much more Halloween you can get with this setting plus the idea of blood-thirsty killer horses and PEOPLE RIDING THEM.
This series is part romance, part thriller and part supernatural — very dark and action-packed! Mara can’t remember what happened and why all her friends are killed in an accident. She struggles to parse reality from some of the things she sees — Is it PTSD making her see things? Is it something supernatural? As a reader, we are with Mara trying to figure out what is real or not. Perfectly addictive and creepy read for Halloween.
One of my all time favorite paranormal series!! Victorian era Philadelphia + the dead rising + a merry band of spirit hunters trying to protect the city and stop the necromancer making them rise = AN AMAZING CHOICE FOR OCTOBER!
Looking for a ghost story? This book is about who inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from their graves, a talent that also brings trouble and darkness, and she must use this ability to help clear the name of her brother who is being accused of murder. Check it out if you love Southern Gothic type books a la Beautiful Creatures.
You may also like: The Best New Paranormal YA Books To Read This Year
Teen Thrillers & Mysteries
If your idea of a perfect read for Halloween/Fall is a thriller or a mystery, I’ve got you covered with an array of thrillers of all kinds — contemporary, historical, supernatural! All the thrills, without the scares.
Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen McManus:
I could not put this one down!! If you liked how everyone had a secret in Pretty Little Liars, add this YA thriller to your list. It’s set in a small town with (murder-y) secrets which makes for a perfect book for Halloween that’s light on the scares but not on the thrills. The main character ends up moving to this town to live with her grandmother she really doesn’t know — the town where her aunt also went missing many years ago and 5 years ago a homecoming queen was murdered. Soon after she moves there, murder-y threats are made about homecoming and a girl goes missing!
Recommended Reading: Books For Fans of Pretty Little Liars
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
If a historical mystery and a cup of tea is your ideal Halloween reading situation, go grab your blanket and snuggle up with this one. This is definitely perfect if you want zero scares…. just a nice mystery that is gorgeous written and will plop you right into high society NYC in the 1890’s. It’s about a girl, with journalistic ambitions and not much desire to be married off, who suddenly finds herself in her first piece of serious journalistic investigation……finding the truth about her dad’s suspicious death (ruled an accident) after she hears something that confirms her hunch that it wasn’t really an accident.
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga:
Oh, y’all. This series is SOMETHING. Equal parts dark and humorous at times, this thriller/murder mystery follows a teenage boy who is the son of a famous serial killer desperately trying to prove he won’t turn out like his father by helping in the hunt for a new serial killer on the loose. If you like Dexter and CSI type shows, this is a must!
The Diviners by Libba Bray:
If you like your thrillers with a dash of supernatural and with a vibrant setting — you’ll love this series. Set in NYC in the 1920’s, the main character, Evie, has been exiled from her home to live in the city with her weird uncle who is super into the occult. She also has a secret supernatural power and, when a girl is murdered bearing signs it might be tied to the occult, Evie finds herself ready to use her ability to try and catch the killer. Dark and creepy for sure — probably the scariest of the thrillers listed here.
The Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson:
If you are looking for a good teen murder mystery, check this one out! A high school student decides to tackle her town’s notorious murder case for a school project and re-investigate the murder, one concluded that the boyfriend did it, but after digging in she’s just not sure.
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd:
This Gothic horror thriller is a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau. It’s dark and page-turning. Also, beware if you struggle with animal deaths/cruelty in what you read as lots of experimenting on animals. (My review of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd)
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis:
This is a perfect atmospheric read for those who DON’T like scary but want those Fall vibes. This historical mystery/thriller set in an insane asylum is a great choice — chilling but not scary as it deep dives into the dark crevices of the human mind. (My review of A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis)
Jackaby by William Ritter:
Sherlock but with a paranormal twist! This series is a great murder mystery series to devour in October!
Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz
If the tv show LOST is your thing, this YA suspense thriller (mashed with horror) might pique your interest. A girl ends up on a strange island that is dangerous and not at all what it seems to be after a diving trip gone wrong.
You may also like: Teen Mysteries For Every Wannabe Sleuth
Please please PLEASE share with me some good Halloween books for teens that I may have missed — I’m always looking for more!! The scarier the better…that’s what I’m in the mood for now! But I’ll take any recs especially if they are subtly chilling.
Save these Halloween books for teens (and other YA readers)
Looking for other great YA novels? Check out the most anticipated YA books for 2021!