Top Ten All-Time Favourite Books in YA Horror

This is so hard. Why did I commit to doing this? Welcome to my inaugural Top Ten Tuesday post: there’s a first for everything, and it seems that if I can start with the one hardest theme of all, I’ve chosen it.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and Bookish, and today’s topic is “Top Ten All-Time Favourite Books” in the genre of your choosing. I’ve dithered between horror and young adult horror. While the assumption that YA horror is supposed to be age-appropriate, I think the interpretation is that it’s less graphic or less intense than adult horror. That’s not always the case. YA Horror tends to be shorter with respects to overall word count, and injects the reader into the action quicker, but often, YA horror  is as aggressive in content as horror novels meant for adult audiences.

I’m offering a mix of the ultra bleak, dark, and scary, alongside a couple of titles that I consider more creepy than outright frightening.

Horror comes in many shapes and sizes; what you get out of it is up to you as a reader. (If you need any of these books vetted because you don’t usually read horror novels, feel free to ask in the comments. Fear is a sliding scale that’s often subjective to the reader’s preference and triggers. For example: I’m terrified of butterflies — no joke — but I can sit through a screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and not flinch.)

Top Ten All-Time Favourite Books in YA Horror

Since we’re steadily creeping towards The Month of Halloween, I’m trying to sort of all my feels about books in the horror genre: the most influential, my favourites, the ones that broke me (in a good way.) Consider this my recommended reading list for YA Horror as it stands effective today: September 12th, 2016.

I’m a finicky creature and my tastes wave wildly. Ask me what my favourites are tomorrow, and my tastes will have expanded to include another ten books I forgot about.

On with it, then: into the darkness.


Top 10 Favoure YA Horror Books: Nevermore by Kelly CreaghNevermore by Kelly Creagh

Goth boy meets cheerleader girl: stuck together for a school english project, the pair venture deep into the world of dream and nightmare as Isobel discovers the manic notebook that Varen keeps about Edgar Allen Poe.


Top Ten YA Horror Books: The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

A school burned down. Recovered from the wreckage was a diary of a student who had a twin sister who only came out at night… except, there was no sister to speak of on record. Madness, arcane rituals, and an account of events documented through psychiatric evaluations, diary entries, and film footage. Chilling.


Top Ten YA Horror Books: The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Oh, Highgate Cemetery: let me count the ways in which I love thee. Vampires, ghosts, ghouls, and tombstones abound in this story about an orphaned boy who grows up raised by all manner of creepy things in a derelict cemetery in London.


Top Ten Favourite YA Horror: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

One could argue that Coldest Girl in Coldtown is more a dark fantasy than horror, but personally, it’s on the grim side for something absent unicorns. This is what would happen in a dystopian future where vampires were the norm. It’s pretty bleak.


Top Ten YA Horror Books: Scowler by Daniel KrausScowler by Daniel Kraus

Hallucinatory, dark, and teetering on the edge of pitch black as far as fiction goes: Scowler is a book that uses escapism and imaginary childhood friends to cope with child abuse. It’s got some triggers, and it is a difficult read that is gory at times. If it doesn’t turn your stomach, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.


Top Ten Favourite YA Horror Books: White Crow by Marcus SedgwickWhite Crow by Marcus Sedgwick

I discovered White Crow while hunting for Gothic Horror in YA. It’s a gnarly little ghost story that uses a crumbling seaside town, a twisted friendship, and the sense of not belonging to move along the characters. Lovely.


Top Ten Favourite YA Horror: The Replacement by Brenna YovanoffThe Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

A story about a teenage boy who grows up and comes to realize he is a changeling: a fairy child exchanged in secret for a human baby. Let me tell you what: the world of fairy in The Replacement is a dark place, full of dead things and shambling monsters. The Replacement is a grim, creepy little book about fitting in though you know you never will.

Top Ten YA Horror Reads: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

A ghost hunter falls in love with a ghost: the creepiest, nastiest, vengeful variety… who’s died as a young girl herself. Clever, dark, and utterly charming as a haunting. I wish there were more books in this series beyond it’s sequel, Girl of Nightmares.

Top Ten YA Horror Reads: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Daughters unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

A despairing look at life on the prairie, complete with isolation, a touch of insanity, and the ghosts of miscarried children. It also serves as a cautionary tale against teenage pregnancy.

Top Ten YA Horror Reads: Rotters by Daniel KrausRotters by Daniel Kraus

I may have mentioned Rotters several hundred times already in previous posts. It’s a grotesque story about inheritance and graverobbing, continuing the family legacy, and claiming your place as you grow into adulthood. It’s a coming of age story, but with dead bodies.

Have you read any of these YA Horror titles? Which were your faves?

Top Ten YA Horror Books: Find out which novel is number one at

Wait until you see what’s on my TBR. THAT list is a beast: there are SO many amazing upcoming YA Horror titles this autumn that I can’t even. Gibbering madness, I tell you: that’s all I am these days, the closer we get to Halloween.

If you’ve got any recommendations as to what I ought to be reading (and what I might’ve missed on this list), let me know in the comments.

Showing 15 comments
  • onlythefireborn

    Kira, thanks for the great list! Loved COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN. Adding several of these to my already-overloaded reading list. (So. Many. Books. So. Little. Time.) You know, Blake did write a sequel to ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD (loved that one, too) – titled GIRL OF NIGHTMARES.

    • Kira Butler

      Looks like your comment worked after all. 🙂 SO. What I was saying on Twitter, which I had trouble conveying in 140 characters and on my phone with my butter fingers:

      I have indeed read Anna Dressed in Blood’s sequel, and I did not enjoy it half as much as the first largely because as a series it strikes me as feeling unfinished. Girl of Nightmares ends with a neat little resolution that feels forced, as if the series was meant to span a trilogy but for whatever reason it got cut short. I messaged Kendare Blake about it at one point but she declined to comment, so, who knows. I wonder if her intentions for the books were different. (Gut check says there was lots of potential to be explored, you know?)

      As for Holly Black: *kotows* If Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside weren’t classified as Dark Fantasy, they’d be on this list too. Some of my faves.

  • Alice @ Alice's Book Vault

    With Halloween quickly approaching, I’ll need some creepy books to read! Thanks for a great list, I’ve only ever read Anna dressed in Blood! Can’t wait to read some more 🙂

    • Kira Butler

      Hi Alice! Be sure to check back next week: I’ve got a couple of other horror-themed lists for recent acquisitions and recent releases that are perfect for the season on the way.

      Thanks for commenting! 😀

  • Allyson Gilmore

    I have recently been buying a lot of YA horror, though I am mostly too chicken to actually pick any of them up! I will have to check some of these out and see if I can brave any of them :p

    My TTT.

    • Kira Butler

      Oh no! All the books must be read! 😛 The trick is to remember that you can always shut the book for a few minutes if you start wigging out (kinda like hiding behind a pillow during a scary movie.) I like to power through, myself — mostly because I forget that I can shut the book when I get too involved in a story. 😛

      What titles do you have on standby that you’ve bought recently?

      • Allyson Gilmore

        I bought Dead House, Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto, The Bargaining by Carly Anne West, Burning by Danielle Rollins, and Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender most recently. I am such a chicken, though, I can only do slightly scary things when the boyfriend is home, or during the day :p I am watching a Korean Drama right now that is all about ghosts, and it is scaring the crap out of me :p But I am making it through, so hopefully after I finish it, I can find some courage and start a book :p

        • Kira Butler

          Niiiiice! The Dead House I consider within the creepy to scary range, but its full of mystery and intrigue, and less the scary imagery that lingers with you afterwards, you know what I mean? I’ve read the Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall too, and I considered it tame. (Bad Girls Don’t Die, also by Katie Alender — THAT book freaked me out, and I read the trilogy in one sitting. Really great storytelling.)

          The others on your list I haven’t heard of (but I’m totally checking them out on Goodreads right now.)

          Let me know which one you start on, when you do. (I believe in you! You can do it!!) 😉

  • Ellis Ferrell

    I’m desperate to read both The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and Anna Dressed in Blood, but I hadn’t heard of the others. I’ll have to see if I’m brave enough to look them up 🙂
    My TTT

  • Sky @ BookishNight

    I almost never read any type of horror books but I really liked The Coldest Girl in Coldtown!

    My TTT ft. Aliens!

  • Lauren

    Excellent choices! I’ll have to read your number 1 choice especially since I enjoyed Scowler so much. 🙂

    Check out my TTT.

    • Kira Butler

      You’re the first person who’s ever told me they read Scowler. (And yes, please do! Rotters is less outright aggressive — I think — but brilliant in its own right.) Thanks for stopping by!

      • Lauren

        Really?! I actually listened to the audiobook which was marvelous and really creepy, by the way. It needs more love!

  • [email protected]

    Great list, I love horror! I have The Dead House waiting in my TBR pile so I’m pretty excited to read it. Also, if you liked that novel by Marcus Sedgwick, his other stuff is really good too, most notably The Book of Dead Days and My Swordhand Is Singing, that one is especially creepy. I’ll definitely be adding some of these to my wish list!

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Harvest by Kim LiggettSeptember 2016: Book Haul - YA Horror and Dark Fantasy
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