Want to read more YA horror? Start here! 2022 edition

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

Last year I published the blog post ‘Want to read more middle grade horror? Start here! 2021 edition‘ full of recommended kids’ titles in the genre and suggestions for where to find more. But what about all those amazing YA titles? Well, here they are! So if you’re an author thinking about stepping into the YA horror space and you want to get a feel for the market, here are a few excellent novels that received lots of industry buzz in the last couple of years. Each one of these books can then lead you to other brilliant YA horror titles: just check out what else the author has written or who’s been quoted on the back cover for a start. Here’s a quick run down of the books featured in this post:

  • Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
  • The Companion by Katie Alender
  • Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • Blood Countess by Lana Popović
  • Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal
  • Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
  • Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
  • Horrid by Katrina Leno

All book blurbs have been taken from either the publisher’s website or the author’s website.

Every year for National Library Lover’s Day, the Horror Writers Association, United for Libraries, Book Rio and Booklist come together to select their Summer Scares Reading List. These are titles selected by a panel of librarians and authors to promote horror to all ages. Here are their 2022 picks:

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can. Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress.

It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.

The Companion by Katie Alender

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Agnes loves her home of Red Creek—its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet. Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?

As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?


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 pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden—but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.


The Ladies of Horror Fiction select a YA shortlist and winner each year and here are their six 2020 nominees:

Blood Countess by Lana Popović (winner)

Sixteen-year-old Anna Darvulia has just begun working as scullery maid for Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a woman as enigmatic as she is beautiful. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she is vaulted to chambermaid status and begins to reside in the Countess’s private suite, far from the filthy, drafty servants’ quarters below. For the ambitious Anna, it’s a dream. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the lonely, calculating Countess—whose cruel husband is often away at war—begins to groom Anna as a friend, confidante, and eventual lover.

No sooner does Elizabeth beguile Anna entirely than Elizabeth’s perfect façade begins to crack. And when others in her employ disappear, Anna begins to fear the person she’s begun to love has crossed over into madness. . .or worse. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Countess turns on her as well. After she tries to thwart the Countess’s atrocities, Anna realizes: She isn’t the Countess’s friend or lover—she’s her prisoner. And if she stays any longer, she may well become her perfect foil.

Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal

The tiny island of Vieques, located just off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, is trying to recover after hurricane Maria, but the already battered island is now half empty. To make matters worse, as on the main island, developers have come in to buy up the land at a fraction of its worth, taking advantage of the island when it is down.

Lupe, Javier, and Marisol are back to investigate a series of murders that follow in the wake of a hurricane and in the shadow of a new supernatural threat.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother. But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America. What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone. Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not. Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move. The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…

Horrid by Katrina Leno

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears…. Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?

Bookshops’ and publishers’ top picks

Take a look at the YA bestsellers at the big book stores in your country or children’s publishers online. You might not be able to filter by YA AND horror but you could pick one category and scroll through the results for titles and covers that shout ‘horror’ at you. Alternatively, you can Google ‘bestselling YA horror’ and you’ll find publishers’ top lists that way.

Where else can you look?


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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes