I cannot let October go by without mentioning my favorite horror novels. While I love scary books and read quite a few, I realized I did not love all of them. I plan on remedying that in the coming year.
In the meantime, here are my current favorite horror novels.
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
The Dead House is told in diary entries, film transcripts, and police interviews, following a mysterious fire at a boarding school that killed three students. One student, Carly Johnson, has disappeared. In the ashes of the school’s attic, a diary is found belonging to a girl named Kaitlyn. However, there isn’t a student at the school with that name. What most people do not know is that Kaitlyn is the alternate personality of Carly.
The Dead House does a good job blurring the lines between psychology and fantasy. Kaitlyn’s sole motivation is to protect Carly, but she might have a reason to be paranoid as her diary entries indicate a downward spiral. There are also other strange happenings at the school involving other students and Carly herself is not above suspicion. I ended this book wondering if something magical did happen or everyone was simply losing it.
The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
Lucy is an heiress living in her family’s ancestral home with her father, her aunt Penelope, and her cousin Margaret. Her mother, Penelope’s sister, died when she was three, and then, when Lucy is seventeen, Penelope disappears in the woods surrounding the house. After that, Margaret claims to hear her mother’s voice inside the walls of the house. Fearing her own sanity is at risk, Lucy decides to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The Women in the Walls has a way of being disturbing without being gory. In fact, there isn’t any actual gore until the last fifty or so pages. As you learn more about the family, you learn how dysfunctional they really are. Plus, Lucy is a great protagonist: she knows there is a problem and she takes it on rather than ignore it.
My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews
One of the biggest mindf*k I have ever read in my life, My Sweet Audrina centers on a young girl that is haunted by the memory of her dead older sister, also named Audrina, whose death her family can’t seem to move past. Told through an unreliable narrator who is convinced time has stopped altogether, the story is all about dark secrets and dysfunctional families.
My Sweet Audrina would likely be classified more as a Gothic horror, as the story takes place primarily in the family’s Victorian mansion. The house, coupled with the entire family’s mental state, creates an unsettling atmosphere. While a strong character at her core, Audrina is an unreliable narrator. And the scenes her father makes her sit in her dead sister’s rocking chair to absorb her memories are plain creepy…even creepier when you find out why.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
The book that made V.C. Andrews’s brand, Flowers in the Attic follows the four beautiful Dollenganger children—Chris, Cathy, Carrie, and Cory—who are locked in the attic of a mansion by their selfish mother in the promise of an inheritance from their dying grandfather. The children are left at the mercy of their cruel grandmother, who sees them as products of sin as their mother was their father’s niece. And then Cathy and Chris have their own incest….
The years the Dollenganger children live in the attic are horrible. They are not allowed outside. There are times their grandmother will ignore them for days and not feed them. The grandmother mentally and physically tortures them. You need to have a strong stomach when you read Flowers in the Attic.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
A terribly underrated book in the young adult literature community, Anna Dressed in Blood follows ghost hunter Cas, as he travels across the country with his witch mother and their cat killing troublesome ghosts. They wind up in Canada, tracking Anna Dressed in Blood, who rips her victims, literally, to shreds. No one that walks into her Victorian mansion leaves alive…. until Cas.
The mythology behind the story is amazing. Cas and his friends Thomas and Carmel are a great trio, easily comparable to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The romance between Cas and Anna will pull at your heartstring; not to mention a bittersweet ending that most YA authors these days aren’t brave enough to write.
And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
In case you couldn’t already tell, Dawn Kurtagich is my current favorite horror author. This one follows two sisters, Silla and Nori, who flee their abusive home to live with their aunt, Cathy, in her country manor. At first, life is good and Cathy welcomes her nieces into her home, only the girls are not allowed in the woods. Then, Cathy’s mental state suddenly unravels, leaving Silla and Nori to fend for themselves. Little Nori starts talking to a strange man only she can see in the basement and Silla believes the trees are getting closer to the house….
And the Trees Crept In had an unsettling, claustrophobic feel to it. The girls are completed isolated where they are, as going into the woods proves to be too frightening. Like in The Dead House, Dawn Kurtagich does a good job of making you wonder if all of this is in Silla’s head.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
A retelling of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth featuring a romance between two girls, this one took me by surprise in I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Maria and Lily are roommates secretly dating in a Southern boarding school who are in a fierce competition with a classmate, Delilah, the school’s golden child. Desperate to be roommates again at Stanford, Maria and Lily cast a spell hoping to increase Maria’s chances of winning the Kingsley Prize scholarship. However, it comes with more consequences than the girls anticipated.
I would highly recommend you not make the same mistake I did last year by reading As I Descended in the middle of the night. While I would not call it terrifying like American Horror Story, it does have its disturbing moments that made my skin crawl. The main girls, Lily and Maria, freaked me out sometimes, too, in the choices they made throughout the story—real horror movie stuff.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Probably a staple on a lot of people’s scary books list, This Savage Song is the first and only book I have read by Victoria Schwab thus far, but it was one of the best books I read last year. It is set in a world divided by humans and monsters, following a human girl that wants to be a vicious killer and a monster boy that wants to be human. Monsters are born from the violent acts of humans and the city is filled with fear. The world of This Savage Song is terrifying and fascinating at the same time.
Horns & Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Even though I have only read two books by Joe Hill, Horns and Heart-Shaped Box are equally two of my favorite horror novels. Horns is about a young man named Ig who, after getting drunk on the one-year anniversary of his girlfriend’s murder and peeing on a statue of the Virgin Mary, wakes up with horns on his head that makes everyone in town reveal to him their most disturbing secrets. Heart-Shaped Box follows a retired rock star named Jude that receives a package containing the vengeful spirit of a man out for revenge and, with his stripper companion, must take a cross-country road trip to find out why this ghost wants him dead.
Both of these books are creepy in their own way. The kind you read when you really want to be scared or grossed out.
Bliss by Lauren Myracle
An all-time favorite of mine in high school that I still sometimes think about to this day, Bliss is set at an Atlanta prep school in 1969, where main character Bliss is the new girl and befriends a classmate named Sandy. At first, Sandy is funny, sharp-tongued, and embraces everything different while the rest of the student body favors conformity. However, she is a little too fascinated with the occult, especially the Manson Family Murders. Bliss has no idea how deep the obsession goes until it is too late….
I haven’t read Bliss in years, so I might not find it as scary as I did back in high school. But that one particular scene, the one during the sleepover, would probably still gross me out. If you have read this book, you might know what I’m talking about.
What are your favorite horror novels?