It’s ten days before Halloween. Ten children, a mix of boys and girls, cram together around the mirror of the upstairs bathroom. The lights are turned off. The window is blacked out. The only light is a small tea candle that sits next to the jack-o-lantern soap dispenser. A few of the children close their eyes, but most stare fixedly at the mirror’s reflection waiting, waiting for a ghostly face to appear.
“Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary,” the children chant thirteen times.
Then everyone screams.
The lights come on and the laughing begins…
This is the most vivid memory I have of my childhood. I even remember the smell the candle made when the flame was blown out. I also remember my friend the next day unable to go to the restroom by himself because he was afraid of the mirror within. I never wondered as a child why I was so fascinated with ghost stories. Now that I am an adult, the question lingers—wanting an answer. Why are children so fascinated with ghoulish tales?
Like most children’s lore, scary stories are used by children as a tool to teach each other the concepts of the unknown. These ghoulish tales teach children about concepts they should now be trying to implement in their everyday life such as: responsibility, attentiveness, obedience, and honesty. They also teach children how to overcome and face fears, achieve hard things, and how to deal with the unexpected. Plus, scary stories are fun! Like the thrill of riding the roller coaster, a creepy book can offer the same exciting sensation.
Below is a list of thrilling tween books you might want to try reading this Halloween season. Not all of them are creep-crawly books. I’ve thrown in some suspense ones as well:
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, by Emma Trevayne. One of the best openings to a book I’ve ever read. A boy who works as a grave robber digs up the body of a boy who looks identical to him. Slightly spooky and very entertaining with a fairy twist.
The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. A girl is sent to an island to die with the rest of those infected with an incurable disease. Suspenseful and entertaining. This book has a lot of humor in it too.
The Thickety series, by J. A. White. Each book gets creeper and creeper as the story goes on. If you’re into witch hunts, creepy woods, and ghost children, this series is for you. This is probably one of the scariest series on the list.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. A story about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard with a murderer trying to find him. Mildly scary but with humor as well. I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed it.
The Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney. This is a series about a boy who is training to become a “Spook”. Someone who deals with witches, ghosts, and the unholy unnatural. Probably the creepiest series on the list.
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. This whole series is pretty thrilling. A boy wakes up in a box with no memories. He meets a group of boys trapped in a giant maze with monsters that come out at night. Also a movie but the books are better.