I had so much fun with last year’s scary book post (15 Spooky Middle-Grade Books for Halloween) that I thought we should do it again.
A new year needs new scares, so I wanted to bring you a list of new books. Not just new-to-you (or me) books, but actual, new, just-published-in-2021 books. So that’s what you’ve got! Some of them are just a few weeks old. How fun is that?
Get ready for thrills and chills with this list of thirteen middle grade books full of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. Then join me over on Instagram and let me know which one you’re going to read first.
1. Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink
If you’re going trick-or-treating this year you might want to wait until you get back before reading this one. Just kidding . . . sort of.
Amazon description: Esther Gold loves Halloween more than anything in the world. So she is determined to go trick-or-treating again this year despite the fact that her parents think she is officially too old. Esther has it all planned out, from her costume to her candy-collecting strategy. But when the night rolls around, something feels . . . off.
No one is answering their door. The moon is an unnatural shade of orange. Strange children wander the streets, wearing creepy costumes that might not be costumes at all. And it seems like the only people besides Esther who are awake to see it all are her best friend, her school bully, and her grown-up next-door neighbor.
Together, this unlikely crew must find a way to lift the curse that has been placed upon their small town before it’s too late. Because someone is out to make sure Halloween never comes to an end. And even Esther doesn’t want to be trapped in this night forever.
2. The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
Imagine stumbling upon a forgotten cemetery! And then ‘waking up’ one of the inhabitants…
Amazon description: “Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?” On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel―only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her.
Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing…
Obsessed with figuring out what’s going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery’s grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life―and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town’s past, they become determined to restore Avery’s grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there.
But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that’s not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever―no matter what the cost.
3. Dark Waters by Katherine Arden
In last year’s Spooky Books post, I told you about one of my favorite spooky middle-grade books, Small Spaces. This is #4 in that series and they just keep getting better.
Amazon description: Until next time. That was chilling promise made to Ollie, Coco and Brian after they outsmarted the smiling man at Mount Hemlock Resort. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker on and off at Brian’s family’s inn and a boom sounds at the door, there’s just one visitor it could be. Only, there’s no one there, just a cryptic note left outside signed simply as —S.
The smiling man loves his games and it seems a new one is afoot. But first, the three friends will have to survive a group trip to Lake Champlain where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. When they’re left shipwrecked on an island haunted by a monster on both land and sea, Brian’s survival instincts kick in and it’s up to him to help everyone work together and find a way to escape.
One thing is for sure, the smiling man is back and he wants a rematch. And this time Brian is ready to play.
4. What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie
Who doesn’t love a creepy-house-in-the-woods story? I’d much rather read about it than stay there, though, wouldn’t you?
Amazon description: All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father―a respected restoration expert in Chicago―surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.
But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.
As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker . . . another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.
It’s after her.
5. Nina Soni: Halloween Queen by Kashmira Sheth
Competition at Halloween is definitely a thing, but this story takes it to a whole new level.
Amazon description: Halloween brings out Nina Soni’s competitive spirit. Her friend Jay has a great costume planned, so–of course–Nina has to come up with an even better idea.
A bunch of old boxes in the basement inspires her to create an impressively scary haunted house, for which she can charge admission.
So what could possibly go wrong for the Halloween Queen?
6. Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
If you like Small Spaces then you’ll love this twisty-turny ghost story from a new author.
Amazon description: Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.
It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.
When she tells her classmates, only her best friend Elijah believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl. But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.
To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.
7. The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner
There’s so much to like about this book: fantasy, magic, darkness, a brave orphan and missing children.
Amazon description: In order to survive on her own, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded thing that’s been disappearing children in the night.
When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone’s children.
8. Mine by Delilah S. Dawson
When you move to a new home, you hope to make new friends. But you also really hope that your new friends are alive…
Amazon description: Lily Horne is a drama queen. It’s helped her rise to stardom in the school play, but it’s also landed her in trouble. Her parents warn her that Florida has to be different. It’s a fresh start. No theatrics. But this time, the drama is coming for her.
Her new house is a real nightmare. . .
The pool is full of slime, the dock is rotten, and the swamp creeps closer every day. But worst of all, the house isn’t empty . . . it’s packed full of trash, memories, and, Lily begins to fear, the ghost of the girl who lived there before her.
And whatever is waiting in the shadows wants to come out to play.
9. Hide and Don’t Seek: And Other Very Scary Stories by Anica Mrose Rissi
As much as I love novels, sometimes a short story really hits the spot. This way you get more scares per book.
Amazon description: A game of hide-and-seek goes on far too long…
A look-alike doll makes itself right at home…
A school talent-show act leaves the audience aghast…
And a summer at camp takes a turn for the braaaains…
This collection of all-new spooky stories is sure to keep readers up past their bedtimes, looking over their shoulders to see what goes bump in the night.
So if you’re feeling brave, turn the page.
10. Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang & Kati Bartkowski
Stranger Things fans, this one is for you!
Amazon description: Rae’s father vanished without a trace—and Rae knows what happened to him. But no one believes her when she says that her father didn’t run off, that he was actually taken. Now, a year of therapy later, Rae’s mother decides they need a fresh start, and so they move to a new town in the hope that life can return to normal.
The problem is, there is nothing normal about the town of Whispering Pines. No one knows this better than Caden. He’s lived in Whispering Pines his entire life, and he’s seen more than his fair share of weird—starting with his own family, as the town is the perfect home base for his mother’s ghost hunting business.
When several kids go missing and then show up like zombies with their eyes removed, many locals brush it off. Just another day in Whispering Pines. But Caden has a dark secret, one that may explain why someone is stealing eyes. And Rae, who knows how it feels to not be believed, may be just the person Caden needs to help him put things right.
11. Out To Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe by Josh Allen
Short stories are like the fun-size candy you get at Halloween. Just enough to be delicious, but leaves you wanting more.
Amazon description: Thirteen ordinary kids. Thirteen ordinary towns. Danger lurks around every corner!
Get ready for a collection of thirteen short stories that will chill your bones, tingle your spine, and scare your pants off. Debut author Josh Allen masterfully concocts horror in the most innocent places, like R.L. Stine meets a modern Edgar Allan Poe. A stray kitten turns into a threatening follower. The street sign down the block starts taunting you. Even your own shadow is out to get you! Spooky things love hiding in plain sight.
The everyday world is full of sinister secrets and these page-turning stories show that there’s darkness even where you least expect it. Readers will sleep with one eye open. . . .
12. The Ghost of Midnight Lake by Lucy Strange
I love a strong-willed heroine and Agatha is one of my new favorites. Do you think historical stories are creepier than modern ones?
Amazon description: It’s 1899. The Earl of Gosswater has died, and twelve-year-old Agatha has been cast out of her ancestral home – the only home she has ever known – by her cruel cousin, Clarence. In a tiny tumbledown cottage, she struggles to adjust to her new life and the stranger who claims to be her real father.
While adjusting to her new fate, she learns that the shores of Gosswater lake are haunted, and soon comes face to face with the spirit of another young girl whose soul will not rest. Could the ghost of Gosswater hold the key to Aggie’s true identity?
13. The Thirteenth Cat by Mary Downing Hahn
Amazon description: Zoey loves spending the summer with her Aunt Alice, and her aunt’s new house is the perfect place to cozy up with a good book. But she’s unnerved by the overgrown forest next door, which is creepy even in the daytime and full of eerie sounds at night.
Worse, there are rumors in town of a dark force in those woods. And Zoey can’t deny that the wild black cats who live there seem to be watching her.
When she encounters a mean old woman who claims to be their owner, Zoey realizes there’s more to the cats than meets the eye. But little does she know that the closer she comes to discovering their secret, the more danger she’s in . . .