The Stuff of Nightmares: Modern Teen Horror

Emily Meehan, Young Adult Librarian, Palms - Rancho Park Branch Library,
three young adult authors
Authors Amy Lukavics, Courtney Alameda, and Madeleine Roux

Thanks to recent critically-acclaimed movies like Get OutHereditary, A Quiet Place, and It Comes at Night, many seem to think we are experiencing a “modern horror renaissance”, and I would agree. This term can accurately be applied to current Young Adult literature as well—and we're not talking about Twilight inspired vampire novels or lighter horror, such as Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. We're talking about the dark, deadly, and deeply disturbing fare.

Until the last decade, writers of horror specifically for the young adult audience were few and far between—R.L. Stine and Lois Duncan notwithstanding. Many teens who wanted a good horror story turned to novels written for adults, such as works by Stephen King or Dean Koontz. While King and Koontz remain popular today, authors of YA horror have become more numerous and mainstream as both general YA fiction and horror movies experience their “renaissances.”

If you are craving a read that gives you a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach and situations that may haunt your dreams for days after, look for authors like Amy Lukavics, Madeleine Roux, Rin Chupeco, Gretchen McNeil, Carrie Ryan, and Courtney your own risk!

Young Adult Books to Haunt Your Dreams

Book cover for Daughters Unto Devils
Daughters Unto Devils
Lukavics, Amy,

Amanda Verner’s family decides to escape an oncoming harsh winter and go west to settle in the prairie. Amanda thinks this will be a fresh start for her to forget a strange vision she had in the woods last winter, and forget the boy whose baby she secretly carries. However, when her family arrives at their new house, they find the inside covered in blood and neighbors are acting strangely. Is there something disturbing happening with the land, or within Amanda’s soul? This book has been described as “Stephen King meets Little House on the Prairie.”   

Book cover for Slasher Girls and Monster Boys
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

This is anthology of short horror stories is a great introduction to modern YA horror authors, but also features well-known names like Leigh Bardugo, Danielle Paige, Nova Ren Suma, and Marie Lu. Read if you want to explore new authors, and also to see how your favorites take on the genre! These dark and twisty tales are not to be read right before bed, unless you want to be kept up at night.

Book cover for #MurderTrending
McNeil, Gretchen,

McNeil has written other survival-type horror, but this is her latest and goriest. In a not-so-far-away future, criminal justice is carried out via social media on The Postman app. Convicted felons are sent to Alcatraz 2.0, where they await their fate at the hands of professional killers that mete out “justice” in the most gruesome ways for likes. But when Dee Guerrera finds herself on the island wrongly convicted of her sister’s murder, she attempts to survive whatever the island has to throw at her while trying to find out who really killed her sister. For Hunger Games fans who crave a little more jump scares in their reading.

Book cover for Contagion
Bowman, Erin.

A skeleton crew is sent to a work detail on a nearby planet that has sent out an SOS signal. When they arrive, they find the place littered with dead bodies. As the crew explores what could have happened, they uncover something that should not have been disturbed. Think the movie Alien, but in YA novel form.

Book cover for Through the Woods
Through the Woods
Carroll, Emily.

This graphic novel is a collection of short horror stories, all written and drawn by the author. For anyone who wants to amp up their horror reading with very disturbing images. Emily Carroll is a master of horror comics and this compilation of hers is truly terrifying (in a good way).

Book cover for The Girl From the Well
The Girl From the Well
Chupeco, Rin.

Inspired by “The Grudge” and other Japanese ghost stories, the novel is narrated by a dead girl who kills child-murderers, similar to the one who killed her over 300 years ago. When a strange new boy moves into the neighborhood she haunts, even darker events take place and lead the two towards creepy rituals and Shinto exorcisms. Chupeco has recently become more popular thanks to her Bone Witch series, but this is her debut novel.