A Mighty Girl's top picks of spooky and suspenseful books for tweens & teens.
As Halloween approaches, it's fun to read spooky stories that send shivers up and down your spine! While in the past, many thrilling tales of suspense and mystery played up the stereotype of the screaming girl who needs rescuing, there are many great books available today starring Mighty Girls who use their courage, their wits, and their strength to untangle the mystery and face down whatever is lurking in the shadows.
In this blog post, we've showcased our favorite girl-empowering spooky stories perfect for tweens and teens — ones that no doubt many adult readers will enjoy as well. These titles are sure to have her eagerly flipping pages to how the brave heroine evades danger and saves the day! You just might want to read them with the lights on...
For more books of witches, monsters, and other spooky things for readers of all ages, check out our special feature on the Top Halloween Mighty Girl Books and Films. And if you're looking for the perfectly spooky costume, visit our Girl Empowerment Halloween Costume Guide.
Spooky Mighty Girl Stories
Master puppeteer Gaspare Grisini is famed for his puppets that almost seem alive — Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is so spellbound that she insists on having him perform at her birthday party. Grisini's two orphaned assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are awed by Clara's extravagant home but soon discover that her lie is more dark than it appears... and when she disappears, suspicion falls on Grisini, and therefore on them. As they try to find Clara, Lizzie and Parsefall will learn about Grisini's criminal past, his ancient and dangerous rival, and the fearful strings that seem to tug and pull them in every direction. Descriptive and full of mystery, this Victorian gothic novel, which won a Newbery Honor, will thrill middle-grade readers.
12-year-old Dominican-American Lucely is used to ghosts: all of her family's spirits live as fireflies in the willow tree behind her house. But when Lucely's single father realizes he might lose the house, and her grandmother's spirit gives her a dire warning and then falls dormant, Lucely decides she has to take the situation into her own hands. She and her friend Syd borrow a book of magic from Syd's grandmother Babette's occult store to revive Mamá — and accidentally release some very unfriendly spirits instead! To fix the haunting, Lucely and Syd will need help from Babette, her cat, and and Lucely's very opinionated ancestors! This sweetly spooky and action-packed novel, part Coco and part Ghostbusters, is a delightful middle grade ghost story.
When Olive and her parents move into a mysterious mansion full of old paintings, she can't help but feel that there's something wrong with the house. When she bumps into the house's three talking cats, she realizes that there's dark magic at play, and when she discovers a pair of antique glasses that let her jump into the paintings to Elsewhere, a quiet and strangely sinister world, she starts to wonder if she's in over her head. There's a power in Elsewhere that wants to be rid of her, and it's not clear if the cats are really on her side... Spooky and magical, this is a series debut that's not to be missed. Fans of the series can continue Olive's adventures in Spellbound.
No matter how much Amy tells herself that dolls can't move by themselves, she's starting to be convinced she's wrong: every night, she hears noises from the dollhouse in the attic, and the dolls are never where she left them. And when she sees an eerie light from the dollhouse, she starts to wonder if this creepy behavior is somehow related to her great-grandparents' murder. But will she unravel the complex relationships of her family and the spooky mystery of the dollhouse in time? This 35th anniversary edition of a modern classic is perfect to introduce a new generation to this bone-chilling tale. Fans of this book can also check out Betty Ren Wright's Christina's Ghost.
In Rosa Ramona Díaz's world, ghosts are everywhere. Sure, sometimes they need calming — that's why her mother is a ghost appeasement specialist — but they're a critical part of honoring departed loved ones. So when her mother moves to Ingot, the only ghost-free town in the world, Rosa isn't happy. But it soon becomes clear that there's something sinister behind Ingot's lack of ghosts, and with Jasper Chevalier, a new friend, she sets out to rein in angry spirits and solve the mystery. Part supernatural story and part coming of age tale, this inversion of the traditional ghost story is sure to be a favorite.
When Ruth goes to Newfoundland to spend the summer with family she's never met, she discovers that her cousin, Ruby, is mysteriously similar to her, except that Ruby believes in spirits, while Ruth is a skeptic. Then the pair discover that twin girls are born every generation... and every set of twins dies young, leaving their children motherless. And one of the twins has The Sight, which lets them see the Ghost Road to a lost settlement called Slippers Cove. Can the girls find the Ghost Road and untangle the mystery — before the curse plays out again? This haunting tale in an evocative, isolating setting conveys a thought-provoking message about the power of words.
Twelve-year-old Clara lives in a strange place — the crumbling mansion where her mother works as a servant to widowed Mrs. Glendoveer includes an aviary, where the birds shriek every time she approaches. But one day, instead of squalling, the mynah bird speaks — and Clara starts uncovering dark secrets about the Glendoveer family. As Clara tries to solve the Glendoveers’ mystery, she learns secrets about her own family and, all the while, she has the feeling that the birds want to tell her something... A spooky tale of secret identities, nasty villains, and surprising heroes, this book will totally absorb young readers.
Young Suraya is a lonely child, ignored by other kids in her area and held at a distance by her mother. When her grandmother, the village witch, leaves Suraya a pelesit ghost-familiar, Pink seems like the friend she always wanted. But Pink turns out to have a dark side, and even after Suraya orders Pink not to hurt people, he still lashes out at the bullies who taunt her. Worse, when she starts forming a friendship with another child, Jing Wei, Pink starts becoming jealous and possessive. And Pink is not the only dangerous spirit that lives in Suraya's village... This complex and haunting story, inspired by a Malaysian folk tale, deftly explores jealousy and friendship.
When 11-year-old Ollie rescues a book that a strange woman is trying to destroy, she thinks it's just a creepy story about a sinister spirit that will grant your greatest wish for a price... until she goes on a school field trip and discovers the graves of the people in the story. When the school bus breaks down, the driver gives the students an eerie warning to flee, sending Ollie and her classmates Brian and Coco running into the woods nearby. If the book really is true, the "smiling man" is coming – and Ollie will need all her courage to save herself and her friends.
12-year-old Claire is logical and scientific, and has no interest in her father's ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. Except when she rides along on the tour one night, she sees a mysterious dark-eyed boy... who disappears when the tour is over. Then she starts seeing him everywhere she goes, along with the number 396, and hearing strange scratching noises and voices in the dark. To find out what the dark-eyed boy wants, she'll have to recruit her older brother and two friends – and dive deep into the personal cost associated with a historic disaster. Atmospheric and intriguing, this suspenseful novel blends the supernatural with real-life Chicago history to create a spine-tingling ghost story perfect for fans of Goosebumps and Small Spaces.
Jessica is already feeling isolated from both her busy mother and her peers when she brings home a skinny, ugly kitten she calls Worm. But then Worm starts convincing her to do mean, awful things — and Jessica realizes that Worm must be a witch’s cat. So has Worm bewitched her or does he have other reasons to be interested in Jessica? And how can she free herself from his influence? This Newbery Honor book captures the isolation and alienation many young people feel, and explores the question of moral responsibility — all in a spooky, supernatural setting.
10-year-old Pavonine, 12-year-old Mayhap, and 14-year-old Winnow have been alone in the magical Straygarden Place since their parents left them there seven years ago. The sentient house provides all their needs, but is surrounded by grass that constantly attempts to encroach — grass their parents warned them was dangerous. But when Winnow dares to go into the grass and starts turning into silver, the sisters' relationships begin to fray — and Mayhap realizes she will have to untangle the truth of Straygarden Place to save her sisters... and herself. This tale about sisterhood and secrets is evocative and eerie, a read that will linger long after the last page is done.
It’s 1899 and 12-year-old Serafina lives with her pa in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, where the most important rule has always been that no one can know she’s there. But when children start disappearing, Serafina knows the culprit: the mysterious man in a black cloak she’s seen stalking the estate’s halls. With the help of the estate owners’ nephew, Braeden, Serafina must find a way to reveal the man’s true identity. In the process, she will learn secrets about a legacy of magic and discover who she really is. Fans of this book will also want to check out the sequels, Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Serafina and the Splintered Heart, and Serafina and the Seven Stars. All four books in the series are also available in a box set.
Abby Shepherd just turned 13... and discovered she's a witch. She's not quite sure how to manage her powers, and worse, her best friend Robby is suddenly keeping secrets from her. When a stranger named Miss Winters arrives in town and offers to teach Abby — and a few other young witches in town — it seems like the perfect opportunity. But when Robby reveals that he's trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his mother, and Abby helps him investigate, she starts wondering if Miss Winters is as trustworthy as she thinks. Atmospheric, just-spooky-enough, and magical, this story celebrates true friendship and standing up for what's right.
Bryony Gray's work is deeply in demand in London's art community... but her life is grim. Her cruel uncle keeps her locked up, painting canvas after canvas for his clients. Then her paintings start taking on a life of their own — and her customers start going missing. When Bryony starts digging into her family history, she discovers she's accidentally unleashed a deadly family curse. If she's going to break the curse, she'll have to avoid angry mobs, her evil uncle, and perhaps most difficult of all: her own artwork. This middle grade novel inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray is full of thrilling twists and terrifying turns.
12-year-old orphan Zita believes she's destined for life as a housemaid — so she's shocked when an animated scarecrow appears to tell her that she is heir to a mysterious castle and the powerful witchcraft of the Brydgeborn family. At Castle Blackbird, Zita gets instruction in magic from a guardian, Mrs. Cantanker, and bonds with Minnifer and Bram, two other orphans who tend to the castle and grounds. But all is not as it seems: the Brydgeborns were victims of foul play, and their magic is key in a battle between the living and the dead. Zita needs to figure out who she can trust — and whether she can save the family she's always wanted. Suspenseful and magical, with a vibrant and witchy world, this compelling novel is perfect for fans of Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces and Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
After being abandoned by her mother and ignored by her scientist father, Elizabeth found her own companionship: an imaginary friend named Zenobia. But when Elizabeth's father moves them into his childhood home, Witheringe House, her "friendship" with Zenobia becomes strained. Zenobia is convinced they'll find a ghost in the house, and forces Elizabeth to conduct seances and investigate the history of the house. And in their investigations, Elizabeth learns a family secret: her father's younger sister disappeared on these grounds years ago. What other things at Witheringe House aren't as they seem? With an eerie atmosphere and evocative language, author Aussie Miller crafts a story about finding friendship and the power of the imagination, wrapped up in a Gothic mystery.
Daisy Fitzjohn knows there is a world outside her home at Brightwood Hall — but it's a world she's never seen. Instead, Daisy has lived her whole life inside the mansion's walls with her mother and her two best friends: Tar, a talking rat, and the ghost of a long-dead explorer who calls herself Frank. Then one day, Daisy's mother leaves... and James Gritting, a man who claims to be a cousin, comes to call. With each day that Daisy's mother is gone, it becomes more clear: Gritting wants Brightwood for himself and Daisy is in his way. Thrilling and dark, this novel will leave tween readers asking themselves where imagination ends and madness begins.
On a dark night at Villa Diodati, as Mary Shelley struggles to come up with an idea for the ghost story Lord Byron has challenged her to write, a strange girl with a scarred face appears on the front doorstep. Lizzie spins a shocking tale, one that includes an ill-omened comet in the sky, a mysterious scientist and ghastly experiments, and her hunt for a missing sister — who she claims was snatched by a woman named Mary Shelley. Behind her, she says, comes a monster, one who pursues her at every turn... Emma Carroll provides a thrilling new take on the story behind Shelley's writing of Frankensteinwith this suspenseful tale.
Twelve-year-olds Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends for years, playing a long game of pretend that features the Great Queen, a bone-china doll. But when Zach's dad throws out all his action figures, believing his son ought to give up such childish play, he quits the game — and Poppy starts having dreams about the Queen, who, it turns out, was made with the bones of a dead girl... one who wants to be returned to her grave. The kids set out on one last adventure, but with things going wrong every step of the way, and the Queen getting more frightening by the moment, will they be able to find a happy ending? Alternately a creepy ghost story and a poignant tale about the inevitability of adulthood, this Newbery Honor title will keep your tween thinking long after it's finished.
Be careful what you wish for! Coraline is bored in her parents’ enormous house, so when she discovers a special door that leads to a parallel world that seems almost the same — but better — at first she’s thrilled. The creepy denizens of the other house don’t bother her — until she gets to know her mirrored parents, white-faced, button-eyed, and determined to keep their little girl on their side of the door. Is Coraline clever and brave enough to return to her normal life? Gaiman’s tale quickly became a young adult classic, and has also received graphic novel treatment as well as being turned into an animated film.
Abandoned siblings Molly and Kip are working as servants in a declining Victorian manor house. But the house's owners — and the tree on the grounds — have unexpected secrets, and soon Molly and Kip must combat a dangerous spirit with nothing but their wits and the power of storytelling. Can Molly's gift of the gab keep them safe from the ominous Night Gardener? Or will the ancient curse that threatens both them and the other inhabitants of the manor drag them all down? An eerie tale that captures the power of storytelling, this bestselling book is not to be missed.
Molly's little stepsister, Heather, has been a nuisance ever since their parents got married. When their parents move the family to a country house that used to be a church, Molly is particularly creeped out by the graveyard nearby...but Heather seems drawn to it. Worse, she's soon talking about "Helen," a ghostly girl who Heather insists is coming for all three of them. As Molly learns more about Helen — and about the reasons for Heather's odd behavior — she becomes determined to figure out a way to stop Helen and ensure that Heather is safe. This creepy and suspenseful ghost story is perfect for readers who are not "faint at heart."
When Louisa and her nine-year-old orphaned niece Jane visit a relative's mansion in Massachusetts, it doesn't take long to realize that something malevolent lurks about the house. Jane looks into a reflecting ball in the garden and sees another girl's face: a girl named Emily, who lived in the house long ago. Louisa soon realizes that rageful, vicious Emily, who died before her thirteenth birthday, never left the house...and that she has terrible plans for Jane. It will take all of her courage and strength to fight for her innocent niece and defeat Emily once and for all... This classic novel of the supernatural is now back in print, ready to thrill and scare a new generation of readers.
When Kara was five years old, her mother was convicted of witchcraft and executed, leaving her and her brother motherless and under suspicion. The village considers magic evil — almost as evil as the deep forest called the Thickety that covers most of the island. But when Kara dares to follow a strange bird into the Thickety, she finds a book with remarkable powers. But how will she use those powers — does she want to protect the people who killed her mother or will she choose revenge? Kara's story continues in the sequel, The Whispering Trees.
Victoria's life is perfect — except for her friend Lawrence, with his untucked shirt, his dreamy ways, and his obsession with his piano. Nevertheless, Victoria puts up with Lawrence...until he disappears. Victoria tracks his steps to the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, where she discovers to her horror that children who enter shape up — or they never leave at all. If Victoria is going to stop the malicious Mrs. Cavendish and her dark magic, she'll have to face her fears — and learn to reach out for help from others. This creepy and intense horror novel also communicates a powerful message about individuality and friendship.
Anya is desperate for a friend, so when she falls down a well and meets a hundred-year-old ghost, she figures that a ghost friend is better than nothing. Emily seems to understand Anya's struggles with fitting in as an immigrant and her desire to be someone different. But some of the things Emily suggests make Anya very uncomfortable, and when Anya discovers that Emily has been lying to her, it becomes terrifyingly clear that Emily has a very dark side. At the same time, Anya starts to realize that popularity might not be all it seems. This supernatural graphic novel explores the real-life challenges of teens with a spooky twist that will send tingles down her spine.
In Tana's world, Coldtowns are dangerous places, walled cities housing quarantined vampires and their humans prey; once you enter a Coldtown, you never leave. But when Tana wakes up after a high school party to find herself surrounded by dead bodies, her newly infected ex-boyfriend, and a mysterious chained vampire — and pursued by hungry vampires eager for their blood — she comes up with a desperate plan: she'll get all three of them into Coldtown. But Tana isn't sure she's ready to leave her regular life behind. If she can get them all in, maybe she can also get herself back out... A heart-pounding pace and a detailed, fascinating world make this an exciting teen thriller.
16-year-old Margot barely survived the car crash that killed her family, but the other orphans at her group home consider her lucky... especially when John Sutton, who was her father's friend in law school, shows up to take her to his wife Laura's family estate. When she arrives, though, she learns that the Suttons adopted her as a companion and caretaker for their 17-year-old daughter, Agatha, who cannot speak and seem unaware of her surrounding. Margot finds she likes being Agatha's companion, though, and the pair even find nonverbal ways to communicate — but soon Margot realizes that there's a dark legacy to the estate... one that threatens to overwhelm her. Dark and suspenseful, this spine-tingling thriller is the perfect modern Gothic tale.
For Evie O'Neill, New York City in the 1920s is going to be the best time of her life, and soon she's exploring speakeasies and movie palaces — and befriending showgirls and pickpockets. The only inconvenience is having to live with Uncle Will, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult — also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." But when a series of occult-based murders begin — and Evie and her uncle end up in the midst of the investigation — Evie wonders how long she can keep her deepest secret: her gift for divining information from objects that could help her catch the killer — or lead him to hunt her down. Complex characters and a suspenseful story will keep her turning pages to the end.
Amber was convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather at 13, and now she spends her days in Aurora Hills juvenile detention center. Vee is an ambitious would-be ballerina concealing desperately insecurity — and a secret that could threaten her dreams. And Orianna connects the two of them: she was Vee's friend and Amber's roommate at Aurora Hills... before she died. But justice has not been done, and something wants to ensure it is — in this life or the next. Or maybe not; as the story progresses, the reader is left wondering what is true, what is false, and who exactly is guilty. This suspenseful story with a hint of the supernatural, told in alternating viewpoints, will keep teens guessing — and talking long after the story is done.
Sam doesn't feel particularly welcome in her new home in Salem, Massachusetts: she's related to Cotton Mather, who was responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and a group of girls who call themselves the Descendants — of the women who were accused — are set on giving her no end of trouble. On top of everything, an angry ghost wants Sam to stop touching his things. But when Sam realizes that she's at the center of a curse that affects people with ties to the trials, she'll need to work with both the ghost and the Descendants... before history repeats itself. Full of twists and turns and a deep narrative that explores everything from bullying to destiny, teens will devour this spooky, atmospheric novel.
16-year-old Shady Grove is a gifted musician who wishes she could play her father's fiddle... even though she knows its dark music can raise ghosts from the grave. Still, she yearns to play bluegrass on the fiddle like her father did, even if her best friend/crush Sarah would rather play folk-rock. Then her stepfather is found dead — and her brother is accused of the crime. As the trial looms, Shady has to figure out how she can prove her brother is innocent to a regular court, even as her developing attraction to the mandolin-playing Cedar make her question her feelings about Sarah. A suspenseful supernatural setting, a compelling LGBTQ love triangle, and a mysterious death combine to create an eerie thriller in this resonant debut novel.
On the seemingly idyllic island of Sawkill Rock, people love to tell mysterious tales of a boogieman called the Collector — but Marion, Zoey, and Val are starting to wonder if the tale is more truth than fiction. For generations, girls have gone missing — their bodies never found — including Zoey's best friend and now Marion's sister. New arrival Marion, outcast Zoey, and queen bee Val are unlikely allies, but if they want to defeat the evil behind the Collector, they will have to work together... even when they're tempted to tear one another apart. A spine-tingling story about three teenage girls who discover their own strength and the power of women uniting for a common cause.