Hallowe’en is my favourite time of year: the sun sets early and the shadows grow long, and there’s nothing better than curling up with a mug of tea and a creepy book. Here are a few of my favourite young adult fantasy books with a spooky vibe for the spooky season.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrande
Vibe: Folk horror
Sawkill Girls is a standalone that mixes feminist horror and modern-day fantasy. Marion has just moved to Sawkill Rock, an island with rocky cliffs, cold waters, and a legacy of disappearing teenaged girls.
When her sister vanishes, taken by a creature from myth, Marion turns to two Sawkill girls for answers: Zoey (daughter of the police chief), and Val (a wealthy, perfect girl with a very dark secret). Sawkill Girls is dark, beautifully written, and terrifying.
You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
Vibe: Otherwordly teen vengeance
Magpie’s life is hell: she’s a social exile at her high school, her father cheated, and her mother is coping by drinking herself to death. Magpie copes by writing about a fantasy world she calls Near…which becomes real.
Magpie considers hiding in her perfect fantasy world, but soon realizes she can use Near as the perfect revenge on those who have wronged her. You Must Not Miss is creepy and dark, reminding me of Stephen King’s Carrie in the best way.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Vibe: 19th Century zombie slaying
Jane McKeene is born two days after the Battle of Gettysburg, In an alternate United States when the dead begin to rise. She’s conscripted into Miss Preston’s School of Combat, learning to fight the dead and protect the white and wealthy.
Dread Nation is a kick-butt, girl power zombie adventure that digs into meaty issues around racism and classism. It’s also one of my favourite audiobooks, with a funny, relatable performance by Bahni Turpin. The sequel, Deathless Divide, is equally great.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Vibe: Dark academia
The Gemma Doyle trilogy is a must for fans of boarding school stories and historical fantasy, with a creepy gothic vibe and strong female friendships. In 1895, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is sent to an English boarding school after the death of her mother.
Gemma is an outcast at the Spence Academy for Young Ladies until she makes friends with three other girls. Together, they find a doorway to another world–a world that’s darker than it first seems. Did I mention the secret society, ghosts, and visions of the future? A Great and Terrible Beauty is luscious and addictive.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Vibe: Dystopian grim reapers
What’s creepier than the grim reaper him (or her) self? In the Arc of a Scythe Trilogy humanity has conquered death: there is no war, disease, or death.
Humanity has created living grim reapers to control population sizes: people commanded by the government to kill. Teenagers Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to one of these Scythes and must learn to be death incarnate. Scythe is fast-paced, philosophical and dark.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Vibe: Pitch black fairy tale
Alice has spent her life alone with her mother, travelling from one place to the next. She has never met her grandmother,’ a reclusive author of cult-classic fairy tales. Her world changes when her grandmother dies and her mother is kidnapped. Alice goes searching for her mother in the Hinterland, a world where stories are deadly.
I loved The Hazel Wood‘s gorgeous prose and Alice’s snarky, relatable voice. I loved reading Melissa Albert’s own fairy tales interspersed through the book. They feel authentically weird, like they might have come from a feminist version of the Brothers Grimm.