Ginger Nuts of Horror
My obsession with horror has lasted roughly four decades, beginning when I was a child, my rights of passages took me through Goosebumps, Point Horror and when I was 12 or 13 discovered Stephen King, James Herbert, Guy N Smith, John Saul and Shaun Hutson. When I was a teen in the 1980s I had no idea whether “teen” horror even existed, I didn’t need it, I had the big boys of King and Herbert to keep me company. These days the cool kids are those with the latest iphones or gadgets, for my generation of friends the top dogs (as we saw ourselves anyway) were those who had read “Rats” by Herbert, “Spawn” by Hudson or “Salem’s Lot” by The King. Flip forward thirty years and there is a whole new breed of Young Adult (commonly known as YA) literature and horror has expanded tremendously in recent years and may yet thrive. So the teens who don’t think they can cope with King or Herbert yet have a huge range of YA or younger horror titles to choose from, of which I am presenting fifty below. I doubt most adult horror readers pay much attention to YA horror, but as I have worked in education for over twenty years I have never stopped reading kids or YA horror, or enjoying it either. The list below are fifty of my favourites. It is simply a list of books I have really enjoyed for all sorts of personal reasons. It includes books mainly written in the last ten years and through the Ginger Nuts of Horror I will revisit YA horror with further selections later in the year, after all, fifty books merely scratches the surface of twenty years of reading teen and kids horror. Any juniors aged between 10-15 would manage many of the books here, but obviously some are more challenging than others. There are more children’s and YA books being published at any time in history and this small selection tick the horror box for me. I haven’t read some of these books for ages, so apologies to anyone if I have misremembered any plotlines. Try reading, or buy something from the list for a niece, nephew or yourself! Or try to get a kid who doesn’t read very much to try one of these great novels.
Lindsey Barraclough - Long Lankin & The Mark of Cain
Simply terrifying tale of a house cursed by an ancient evil. Two unlucky children who are sent to live with their great aunt are next on this bogey-man’s hit list. It’s roughly based around a real ghostly character from local English folk-lore and this horrible creation is as nasty as anything you’ll find in adult horror fiction. If Adam Nevill wrote a kids book it might be a bit like this. I’ve met Lindsay at kid’s book events in the past and it’s amazing such a charming lady can create such an evil creation!
Melvin Burgess - Bloodtide
Set after a future war in 2200 two gangs fight to control the ruins of London in this crossover fantasy/horror. This terrific novel was written years before the current teen fascination with dystopia and it is better than just about all of them, from an author better known for social realism. Bloody, brutal and brilliant with a cool sequel in “
Jonathan Maberry - Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura Series)
In a zombie infested world, two brothers hunt zombies, but not for the reasons you may think, as they’re a very different breed of zombie killers. I think this was Maberry’s ‘official’ teen/YA debut, certainly in the UK, and was based on his adult long short story “The Family Business” and is a hum-dinger of a rewrite. The story is a bit similar to Z M Zito’s “The Return Man” but I think Maberry got there first. Jonathan is simply a terrific author to gets teens reading, fast paced, intense, lots of gadgets and page after page of over the top action. His “Joe Ledger” series is also superb, more of an adult read, but great for teens too. He’s a major presence on social media and a great guy to know.
Alden Bell - Reapers are the Angels
This incredible zombie novel, was released as a YA novel in the USA, but an adult read in the UK. It can be read as either and is a truly lyrical and beautiful novel of a fifteen year old girl travelling across an empty America some years after a zombie holocaust. If Cormac McCarthy ever wrote a zombie novel he would be proud of this one. Definitely aimed at older teens and it’s so good the ending may leave you in tears. I’ve enjoyed the occasional chat with Alden Bell AKA Joshua Gaylord for a number of years on social media and his latest novel “When we were Animals” is great too. He teaches English. I bet he’s fantastic at it.
Scott Sigler - Alive (Generations Trilogy)
The uberfans of adult horror science fiction writer Scott Sigler are known as ‘Junkies’ of which I am proud to be one and a fan of the great man for many years. So I cannot create any kind of list without a Sigler inclusion in the top five. The author first wrote a terrific series about American Football in space, the Galactic Football League, which began with “The Rookie” which I loved which is also YA. However, his first foray into horror is “Alive” which expertly fuses science fiction with a group of kids waking up in coffins, not knowing who they are, or where they are. It’s a brilliant foray into YA, but us Junkies are waiting for the big dog to lay aside these childish things and return to the world of violent adult horror! If you’ve never tried him, read “Infected” Scott wrote the book on nasty body horror. “Feed the Sig” as the Junkies would say!
Dean Vincent Carter -The Hand of the Devil
This, published in 2006, grisly thriller will excite many readers with its edgy prose and great action sequences. A really great horror read, set in Southern Africa with a journalist sniffing around a science story which is going to lead him into a world of pain. His second novel “The Hunting Season”, a werewolf tale was really good too. He’s since completely disappeared from the scene, odd, as I thought he was going to be huge. Please don’t tell me he’s gone back to his old job of being a photocopy assistant! My spies tell me he may have entered the world of self-publishing…. YA needs you Dean!
Sarah Pinborough - The Death House
Not strictly a horror novel, but it’s so good I’m going to stick it on just about any list I can. Haunting mix of dystopia and teen novel which has been compared to classics such as Lord of the Flies. Children who are infected with a virus, which they have been told is deadly, are shipped to a remote orphanage on an island. What follows is a quite beautiful and haunting look at the teens who live there, waiting to die, whilst trying to live. YA writing has never been better as young love begins to blossom on the island. An absolute stunner and I loved it more than you can ever imagine.
Scott Westerfeld - The Midnighters Trilogy
Brilliantly scary novel about a town that freezes in time for one hour every day – but when the supernatural threat occurs, never fear, we are defended by ‘The Midnighters’. Highly recommended trilogy which really deserved to be a big hit from a prolific author who is equally good writing for teens and adults.
William Hussey - Jekyll's Mirror
Hussey is a significant figure in UK YA horror, from his entertaining and colourful visits to hundreds of schools to his impressive output of YA supernatural novels. This particular novel is an outstanding update of RL Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde story, written for the social media generation as users of an experimental website called ‘Project Hyde’ are sucked into something much nastier as their obsession grows. “Haunted” is also top notch and the author also writes for adults under the name of Bill. Bill is also a real dude on social media and his frequent Facebook posts often make me chuckle.
Cliff McNish - Savannah Grey: A Horror Story
Beautifully written urban fantasy novel which expertly fuses into a horror story with a dark centre and more than a twist of science fiction. As I have come to expect with this author, it’s completely original, genre bending and hard to pigeonhole. It’s a shame that this true master craftsman of the ghost story hasn’t written a kids horror story since 2011, we miss you Cliff! I’ve met Cliff a few times and I recall him explaining how difficult it was editing this book and finally getting it published. It was well worth it and a superb read.
Dan Wells - I Am not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver Series)
Gleefully nasty thriller trilogy about a trainee mortician, with serious, serious issues, who believes he may have serial killer tendencies. He’s the sort of kid who would write a school ‘heroes’ essay on serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Needless to say this gets him into a bit of trouble with his teachers…. The series ended in 2011 until the author revived it in 2015, his science fiction series “Partials” is also highly recommended.
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