It’s that time of year: days perfect for indulging in homemade apple pie, steaming pumpkin-flavored coffee, and amber-scented candles — and perhaps nights spent hearing a ghostly whisper through the trees, the crunch of dried leaves on an empty sidewalk, a creak on the stairs when no one is there. That’s right, it’s officially Spooky Season. Here are 11 new YA books about all things haunting, thrilling, and magical that we think are worth curling up with.
Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain (Razorbill)
In this debut from Ginny Myers Sain, supernatural thrills and a murder mystery meld together in a story set in La Cachette, La., which in the novel bills itself as the “Psychic Capital of the World” — a moniker inspired by Cassadaga, Fla., which makes the same claim in real life. The story’s setting is a town full of psychics, mystics, and secrets, all balanced precariously on stilts above the Mississippi River, creating a riveting Louisiana bayou tale to lose yourself in.
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
This historical fantasy debut follows the adventures of 17-year-old seamstress Frances in 1911 New York City. She’s wrongly accused of a murder, yet instead of being convicted Frances finds herself suddenly whisked away and enrolled in a secret school for witches cleverly disguised as a sanitarium. Magic lessons, mayhem, a Manhattan power struggle, and a high-risk love story ensue.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
In this spine-chilling YA horror novel from Atlanta-based author Ryan Douglass, teenager Jake Livingston has a lot to deal with: He’s one of the only Black, gay students at his majority white prep school, and he sees ghosts — constantly. As a budding medium, Jake has figured out how to deal with most of the ghouls, while a romance on the horizon with new classmate Allister has things looking up at school, too. But when Jake begins being haunted by the malevolent spirit of a deceased school shooter named Sawyer, he realizes he’s in way over his head — and needs to find answers before it’s too late.
The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
A historical thriller set in Philadelphia, this tale follows orphaned 17-year-old Molly Green, who is surprised to be taken in by an estranged aunt. Her relative, she learns, is extravagantly wealthy, with her riches gained from robbing graves and selling corpses to medical professors to teach students anatomy and surgical procedures. But with a murderer on the loose, Molly must balance her increasing interest in learning medicine with her fear for her life.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride (Feiwel & Friends)
A lyrical ghost story, love story, and coming-of-age story, this debut novel-in-verse from Amber McBride, a University of Virginia professor who holds an MFA in poetry from Emerson College, is ideal to fall into on a cold night. The book was recently announced as a finalist for a National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Teenager Moth, a dancer, loses her family in a traumatic car accident and struggles in the aftermath to grapple with both her grief and her knowledge of who she is. She and a new friend Sani, struggling with depression, take off on a road trip to try to understand their roots and face their ghosts.
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson (Katherine Tegen Books)
A family moving from a cool California beach town to a tiny Midwestern city with a promise to “start fresh” is the stuff classic horror is made of. And Jackson’s eerie haunted house thriller doesn’t disappoint. While you stay on Maple Street, expect things that go bump in the night: shadowy figures, errant doors, lights flickering, voices, and perhaps even ghosts with deeper secrets to reveal about past and present injustices.
Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (Delacorte Press)
This tense tale focuses on five friends with a dangerous secret: They accidentally sparked a massive and deadly wildfire in their rural California town. Now, the consequences of their lies about their crime — and the ever-rising effort it takes to conceal them — are catching up with them as the fire rages toward Yosemite National Park. Chiefly with 18-year-old Hannah Warner, a rule-abiding sheriff’s daughter who dreams of being an FBI agent.
A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell (HMH Books for Young Readers)
In this debut fantasy, Derry and her eight siblings each have magic powers, and live, sequestered, in a remote house by a lake. Their caretaker, Frank, taught them to fear the outside world — particularly the dark and dangerous forest. But when Derry’s siblings start to go missing, and she begins to question Frank’s motives, Derry must undertake a terrifying and otherworldly journey into the bleakness of the forest — and the darkness in herself — to save her family.
The Hawthorne Legacy, from the Inheritance Games series, Vol. 2 by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown)
Perfect for fans of sipping hot cider while reading cozy mysteries (or if you love books like Ellen Raskin’s “The Westing Game” and movies like “Knives Out”), this thriller sequel to 2020′s “The Inheritance Games” offers readers a clue-filled mystery following the death of a family’s patriarch, from Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who studied for her PhD at Yale. Expect a love triangle, filthy rich and untrustworthy relatives, and plenty of plot twists and turns. Be warned though: This volume is the middle part of a trilogy, so it may leave you hankering for more Hawthorne family resolutions in the next book.
Edie in Between by Laura Sibson (Viking Books for Young Readers)
In this modern tale about love, family, and magic, young Edie grieves as she mourns the death of her mother, who is still visiting her as a ghost. Edie’s grandma, GG, tells her this is normal for their supernatural family. Edie would like nothing to do with magic, the mystical, or her past. It’s a coming-of-age story in which Edie quests to embrace her power, realizes she is queer and finds her first love, and learns to live with loss.
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
A debut fantasy novel that kicks off a forthcoming trilogy, this read follows 16-year-old Koffi, an indentured servant at the deadly and magical Night Zoo. When her family is at risk, Koffi realizes she possesses a secret, inexplicable power. And when an ancient monster threatens the entire city, Koffi teams up with teenage warrior Ekon to set out on a perilous mission to hunt it in the jungle — but neither’s motives are what they seem.
Gina Tomaine can be reached at Gina.Tomaine@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @gtomaine.