Let’s just get this out of the way: I am not a fan of scary things.
I love the fall season and I even enjoy Halloween, but let’s just say I’m more of a Hocus Pocus kind of gal than, like, IT or something absolutely horrfying like that. Give me even a hint of horror and I’m out of there…which is why, in my reading, I tend toward mysteries and thrillers that aren’t scary. I’m both very imaginative and an over-thinker (and I am a Gryffindor which means that fear is basically my mortal enemy) which is probably the most lethal combination out there when it comes to “person you don’t want to be after watching a scary movie at the sleepover.”
But even I have to admit that there are some seriously great creepy books out there for fans of the creepy, macabre and the decidedly supernatural. All of the books below are firmly rooted in the YA range, but they all explore different aspects of the supernatural; from ancient African magic to modern-day Latinx witches; 1920s supernatural detectives to 1800s demon hunters. And though they tackle different aspects of the weird and fantastical, they’ll all make perfect additions to your fall and Halloween TBR stack.
‘The Diviners’ by Libba Bray
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is ecstatic. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
‘Labyrinth Lost’ by Zoraida Cordova
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.
‘The Dark Days Club’ by Alison Goodman
London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?
‘Shadowshapers’ by Daniel Jose Older
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer. But then the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. and she knows this isn’t the usual New York mayhem is going on. Sierra soon discovers the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with Dr. Jonathan Wick; now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others. With the help of her friends, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.
‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden
Vasilisa spends the winter nights in Russia huddled around the embers of a fire, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. She loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the night to claim unwary souls. But Vasilisa’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa senses that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. Soon, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. As danger circles, Vasilisa must call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed to protect her family from a threat that has stepped from the most frightening tales.
‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Steifvater
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a student at the local private school. Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t explain. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, she’s not so sure anymore.
‘The Hearts We Sold’ by Emily Lloyd-Jones
When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger than anything she could have ever imagined. Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?
‘Akata Witch’ by Nnedi Okorafor
Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, Sunny is a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through a day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own?
‘How to Hang a Witch’ By Adriana Mather
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must find a way to work with The Descendants to stop the deadly cycle. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.
‘In the Shadow of Blackbirds’ by Cat Winters
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
‘Rebel Belle’ by Rachel Hawkins
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can’t get any more crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.