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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Best Y.A. Horror Novel (or Series)—Nominations Needed

What is the best young adult horror novel (or series)?

It's just a few more days until the SPOOPY is upon us, and in honor of the season, I want to rerun a popular poll we did (back when these recommendation lists were polls). So today we're going to talk not about the fully adult horror novels, but the ones geared towards young adults. 

Maybe they're not QUITE as scary as The Haunting of Hill House or House of Leaves but they leave an indelible mark in our minds nonetheless, either because we read them when we were younger or we can relate to the way they play on younger fears.

Remember, instead of trying to figure out what more people think is the BEST (which usually turns into which book has the coolest movie adaptation anyway), we're just going to have a nice chat about good books and all come away with some suggestions for our To Be Read Pile™. We'll still have the system of seconds (and "thirds" and "fourths" and…well, you get the idea), but all that will really determine is which goes to the top of the list when I post the results. You can go HERE to see what the results will look like when all is said and done. And I'll link out the original nomination post for folks who want to go see what people are actually saying about the book. Eventually these posts listing the results will be compiled in a massive "book recommendation" post of basically any genre.

The Rules

  1. Make two recommendations. Obviously, I can't stop anyone from making fifteen, but nothing beyond the first two will make it onto the master list. I'm a despot that way.
  2. TELL US ALL A LITTLE ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK although obviously do so without spoilers! If you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, of course, but the whole point of this is to have a "conversation" and gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable and a little (spoiler-free) squee about why.
  3. For each recommendation, let us know if you're nominating it more as a BEST book in the genre or an UNDERSUNG HERO in the genre. Basically "undersung hero" is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, NEED to be read by everyone (like…yesterday), but are maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. They'll all end up in the list I compile, but I'll put them in different places.
  4. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Shadow and Bone as horror (even though it's probably better placed as fantasy), you should show your work if you desire those sweet, sweet seconds (or thirds....or fourths) and there might be a discussion thread after your comment with a lot of people writing out the "If I may…"
  5. Your book must should be aimed at young adults. Though there is no clear cut off for when a Y.A. novel becomes an adult novel and probably dozens of great titles that blur the line, if you're nominating It (Stephen King), I'm probably going to veto.
  6. You get to mention two (2) books. That's it. Two. You can do one BEST and one UNDERSUNG HERO. Or you can do two BESTS. Or you can do two UNDERSUNG HEROES. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more, I will, with unimaginable cruelty, simply ignore the third and any subsequent books. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but it's just lil ol' me compiling this list by myself and it's a pain when people drop a spinosaurus list of every single book they can remember in the entire genre. However, you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider everything. (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  7. Did I mention two?
  8. You may (and absolutely should) give a second shout out to AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. There is no more poll, so this will not be a cutthroat competition to see who makes it to the semifinals. It will simply dictate which titles I list first, and it may influence which books someone considers a good recommendation. ("This one got six seconds, and that one only got two, so I think I'll start with this one.")
  9. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that and what your nomination is, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  10. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their A/V portrayals. If you thought The Shining was the greatest Stanley Kubrick movie ever, but found the book a little disjointed and TOO character driven to have a satisfying climax, please nominate something else. (I love film, but it's a different medium.) 
  11. Have a conversation, but check the typical internet assholery at the door. If someone likes something you think is terrible, it's okay to let them enjoy it. And if someone has one tight and polite bit of criticism about your recommendation ("I was not a fan of the X plot arc or the way that author writes women."), it's okay that they didn't care for it and there's no need to defend it like they have impugned you honor for seven generations.  I **WILL** delete shitty comments, and I absolutely know that's highly subjective, so better to err on the side of nice. 
  12. TWO!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Coraline, the Other Mother/Beldam is the stuff of Freudian nightmares.

    And The Graveyard Book. What can I say? Gaiman is a master at his craft.

    1. I’ll third the graveyard book! Phenomenal writing, exciting story and good air of mystery.

  3. The Lovely Bones. Less horror and more psychological thriller as you watch events unfold. But left me feeling decidedly creeped out.

  4. Nightbooks and The Thickety series, both by J.A. White. Thoroughly gripping and twisty-turny-terrifying to the last page. The first Thickety book especially blindsided me with the end. Nightbooks came out as a Netflix film in September and it's a phenomenal adaptation!!

  5. The Wrong Train by Jeremy De Quidt
    The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

    1. Wrong Train since it works off our childhood love of Scary Tales to Tell in the Dark but makes the stories even more threatening…and also since open endings are true horror.

      The Nest since it somehow created a bodily psychological horror scenario that is appropriate for young teens playing off primal fears of both infant loss and wasps.

  6. Fugitives - Alexander Gordon Smith
    -really the whole series, but I think if I had to choose that would be the favorite. It's an engaging story with some good underlying messages paired with great action and horror.

    The Devouring - Simon Holt
    -just straight up a fun, spooky read

  7. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Spooky and fierce!

  8. The Hunt for the Seventh

    One of my personal favorites. It's a fairly short one but I found it very creepy and off-putting my first couple reads.

  9. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender. Not super creepy, but a fun read.

  10. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Killer demon horses, what’s not to like? This one terrified me and made me cry. It created a fantastic sense of doom and fear.

    The Dogs by Allan Stratton. A haunted house and a pack of spectral hounds. This one is a Canadian middle school author and my students LOVED it!

    Both are unsung.

  11. My vote is "The Thief of Always" by Clive Barker. Majorly underrated and should have definitely had a film adaptation by now, it's that visceral and vivid and good. Love it because it's creepy but without veering into the usual Barker territory (Hellraiser, I'm looking at you).

  12. Best two:

    1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

    This is an unsung gem of a story of magic and monsters, both human and other, as seen through the eyes of an 11 year old boy. It has fantasy elements interwoven with some dark imagery and some beautifully subtle dread. (Very narrowly beats out Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book)

    2. The Green Futures of Tycho - William Sleator

    A great sci-fi / time travel YA novel with a serious creep factor. Without giving too much away, there’s a refreshing take on “absolute power corrupts absolutely” that leads to a tense and dread-filled ending.

    Shout outs:

    * Courtney Crumrin series - Ted Naifeh *

    Beautifully drawn graphic novel series covering a teenage girl whose high school drama goes utterly sideways when she discovers not only that her uncle’s a sorcerer and she can become one too, but that the woods near her home are a gateway to a world of dark faeries and demons.

    * Hart’s Hope - Orson Scott Card (written before the author took an unpleasant turn to the extreme right) *

    A creepy tale of violence and victims and godly powers misused. Few books have haunted me the way this one ends.

    * The Darkangel - Meredith Ann Pierce *

    The first book of a fantasy trilogy about a young teen who witnesses her best friend being kidnapped by a vampire and, still grieving a month later, gets kidnapped herself. It’s got the tension of “good night, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning” vibe but with more tension and dread than humor.

    * The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman *

    An amazing tale of a baby who, when orphaned by a murderer who kills his entire family, is taken in by the ghosts and other denizens of a graveyard. The years they spend protecting him as he grows from a toddler to a young man are a wonderful tale of ghosts and monsters being better in many ways than the actual humans we live amongst.