What suspense/scary book authors are there for a thirteen year old?
June 11, 2017 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My daughter LOVED Coraline, so I know Neil Gaiman is pretty good; and my husband loves Stephen King. But most of his books are so graphic and scary that my husband said they would put images in her mind that were so disturbing she would not be able to get out....at least for her age right now. So do you have a suspenseful, scary book idea for a girl that "wants" a scary book but does not go too far in the "disturbing" factor? Thanks!
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Writing & Language (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe "Through the Woods" by Emily Carroll, if she's open to graphic novels? Should be totally fine for a 13-year-old, and it's creepy and fun and the art is cool.
posted by cnidaria at 12:08 PM on June 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

The books might be a little too old to be relevant by now, but I was pretty into John Bellairs books around that age. They're kind of gothic-spooky-scary, combined with a bit of mystery solving. But monsters, magic, and some light occult stuff do exist in the books.
posted by LionIndex at 12:08 PM on June 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

Firestarter and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon are pretty tame for Stephen King and both have tween girl protagonists.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I came in to say John Bellairs also. Try Trenton Lee Stewart Writer of the Mysterious Benedict Society and other YA adventure stories.
posted by sol at 12:22 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came here to say John Bellairs too. Joan Aiken has some gothic ones too.
posted by azalea_chant at 12:32 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a pretty big wimp about horror and I read pretty much everything written by Stephen King that was available when I was 11 and 12. The only one that stuck with me as particularly gross/terrible was It. So, for what that's worth, your husband may be able to suggest some of his books that are less graphic. I'm definitely not permanently scarred from any of that reading, so maybe that's a vote for letting her try out something scary.

Just FYI - Gaiman's Neverwhere is probably as disturbing as anything King has written but Good Omens has no horror at all and The Ocean at the End of the Lane would be a great choice for a little creepiness without being scary, so this is all very book-dependent even once you've identified a promising author.

Ursula K. Le Guin might also be a good option. The Lathe of Heaven is suspenseful but not scary at all and most of her books are wonderful.

If she's reading at a late high school level, most of David Mitchell's book are pleasantly creepy/spooky without being too graphic (maybe start with The Bone Clocks). Plus, he's an excellent writer, so they'll be educational.

RL Stein was the horror author of my middle school days, so he may be a good choice for horror pitched to be appropriate for kids.
posted by snaw at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Witch's Sister and the sequels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. The Silver Crown by Robert C. O'Brien.

I started reading Stephen King around age 12, fwiw. Nothing he wrote weirded me out as much as say, Flowers in the Attic (which was IMMENSELY popular amongst the tween girl set back then. We passed it around and dogeared the pages like crazy.). Maybe a book of his short stories? Skeleton Crew has some great ones.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:40 PM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series is creepy but not scary--in fact, it's more middle grade than YA.
Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series has creepy motifs, but it's not scary (book 2 comes out this week!).
Susan Hill's The Woman in Black is a short, scary Gothic novel, but it's not disturbing.

Those are all pretty colorful/atmospheric in a way I associate with Coraline, but probably a ton of classic ghost stories / literary horror would work, like M.R. James, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:44 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Charlie Higson, The Enemy series.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 12:48 PM on June 11, 2017

Seconding The Bone Clocks as creepy and a bit scary but not traumatizing. It's not particularly graphic in terms of violence or sex, but since she's 13 you will want to preview it--it's written for adults.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:55 PM on June 11, 2017

Mary Downing Hahn and Dan Poblocki might skew a liiiittle young (Hahn in particular) but they're still popular with my eighth grade students. Seconding The Enemy, as well. They also love Katie Alender, especially "Bad Girls Don't Die".
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:19 PM on June 11, 2017

Christopher Pike?
posted by metasarah at 2:23 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Skellig is pitched for 10 and up, and your 13 year old could be a bit disdainful about that, I suppose, but I was almost overwhelmed by its intensity as a 50-something. The mystery of Skellig has a profoundly spiritual dimension, and by the end of the book I felt I'd become a convert to a religion that doesn't actually exist.

Heaven Eyes is also by Almond, and more intense, if anything, so much so that it took me weeks to finish because it kept being too much for me.
posted by jamjam at 2:59 PM on June 11, 2017

Joel Sutherland, especially his award-winning Haunted Canada series sounds like a perfect fit for your daughter.
posted by saucysault at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2017

I was reading Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, and Stephen King at her age.
posted by Mavri at 3:06 PM on June 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I read a whole slew of Dean Koontz (arguably worse) at that age. Give her the compilation with The Mist; there's nothing in there worse than your standard ghost story, if I'm remembering right.
posted by salvia at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Skeleton Crew (recommended above); that's the one I was thinking of.
posted by salvia at 3:26 PM on June 11, 2017

I wouldn't recommend Firestarter; (with all due respect to Flannery Culp); I read it at about that age and was thoroughly traumatized by the scene where the guy sticks his hand down the garbage disposal. If it weren't for that I'd say the book was pretty tame, though suspenseful enough given the chase scenes and so forth.

*Maybe* Carrie...
posted by Crystal Fox at 3:36 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

King's The Eyes of the Dragon is highly suspenseful, but not really graphic or scary. King literally wrote it for his 13-year-old daughter.
posted by Shmuel510 at 3:43 PM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

What about Kelly Link? More surreal and unsettling, but not in a way that is too graphic or scary. Pretty Monsters is more geared towards readers ages 12 and up.
posted by yeahyeahrealcute at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol is also a good one.

And, another vote for Emily Carroll. She does great creepy stuff and the art is amazing.
posted by quince at 4:18 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I thought the Zilpha Keatly Snyder books were pretty spooky at that age, while being completely safe. The Headless Cupid was a favorite.
posted by Mchelly at 4:50 PM on June 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

Edgar Allen Poe! Classic and spooky all in one. Kelly Link is an excellent idea. Karen Russell's books also might be a good bet if your daughter likes Kelly Link.
posted by snaw at 5:01 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Clive Barker's YA series Abarat is wonderfully weird and creepy. I'll second Eyes of the Dragon and Skeleton Crew as favorites when I was her age, as well as Poe.
posted by Requiax at 5:10 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Barker's Thief of Always was quite good. Seconding Bellairs, but it's diminishing returns after the Lewis Barnavelt books. I'm assuming she's read Harry Potter?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:37 PM on June 11, 2017

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier is more suspenseful than scary. Most of Shirley Jackson's work is terrifying without being graphic or disturbing; The Haunting of Hill House would be a good place to start as it's probably the closest to being a "traditional" horror story.
posted by fox problems at 6:55 PM on June 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was a pretty big wimp and was reading Stephen King by then. The RL Stine books were far more likely to keep me awake or give me bad dreams.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:11 PM on June 11, 2017

Seconding Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. I'm listening to the third book right now. They're great - I'll bet they'd hit the spot for her.
The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. Maybe a bit more fantasy than creepy, but often very suspenseful. And somehow very, very funny at the same time. I'm a late-comer to Pratchett, but this YA sub-series of Discworld is one of the favorite things I've read in the last few years.
The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger is kind of a paranormal/steampunk mix. Suspenseful and exciting, sometimes a bit funny, but only occasionally creepy. YA, unlike her other paranormal series which are adult.
Assuming that since you've read Coraline, you know about Gaiman's Graveyard Book. A little on the young side for her maybe, but not by much.
posted by ClingClang at 8:27 PM on June 11, 2017

I want to second Clive Barker's Abarat. I was grossly past its intended age group when it came out, but it was amazing. Madeleine L'Engle's books may appeal to a similar sort of feel as Gaiman; A Wrinkle in Time is a book that I definitely read to pieces around that age--full of Weirdness. Ellen Raskin and in particular her book The Westing Game are more mystery than horror but again, heavy on the weird in a way that might appeal. All of these also have protagonists who're notable for being teenage girls. Neverwhere is indeed more intense than Coraline was in places, but I can't remember anything in it that would have been too bad for me as a fairly sensitive 13-year-old, in book form. Good Omens is just absolutely required. For everyone. If you haven't read it yet, YOU should read it.

It's not a book, but if she's 13 and loved Coraline, you want to show her MirrorMask. She's just the right age for MirrorMask, which is basically a lot of the themes of Coraline just aged up into adolescence. (MirrorMask was written by Gaiman and directed by Gaiman's frequent collaborator Dave McKean.) Along those same lines, the overlap between Gaiman appreciation and appreciation of the films of Hayao Miyazaki is very large, and those tend to do a lot of weird-but-not-nightmare-fuel.
posted by Sequence at 10:56 PM on June 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend The Lie Tree, by Francis Hardinge. It's set in Victorian times and is a mystery with some horror elements. It's creepy and suspenseful but because it's aimed at young readers, there's nothing in it that's inappropriate for a 13-year-old. I think Common Sense Media's description of it gives a good sense of age-appropriateness (although it includes some vague spoilers.)
posted by yankeefog at 2:18 AM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hmm... Maybe Susan Coopers The Dark is Rising Sequence?

She might also like many of William Sleator's books for young adults.
posted by gryftir at 4:42 AM on June 12, 2017

Seconding Gaiman's Neverwhere, which has some delightfully creepy an unnerving bits. As for Stephen King, is SHE interested in reading his books? I would consider thirteen to be old enough for her to pick up whatever books she wants without worrying about restricting the content.

I also read all of Stephen King at about that age. When I went back and re-read his books a few years later, I was surprised to see how "mature" they were in content and didn't even remember a lot of the more disturbing stuff -- obviously I had sort of glossed over some of that when I read them for the first time.

If she's already an avid reader, I would expect that most of the recommendations in this thread are a bit juvenile for her (though still enjoyable books. I mean, I'm 43 and re-read Madeleine l'Engle regularly.)
posted by desuetude at 7:40 AM on June 12, 2017

Strongly thirding Christopher Pike. I found him just edgy and adult enough to be interesting but not frightening when I was in my early teens. Two titles that stick out in my memory are Witch and Remember Me.
posted by juliplease at 10:01 AM on June 12, 2017

For what it's worth, I was reading Stephen King from age 12 or so and while many of the graphic violence/sexual parts are burned in my memory, they didn't make me enjoy his books any less. I recall my parents reading his books around the same time and I think they facilitated some helpful conversations: "Why do you think he wrote it that way?" "What did you think about the characters' choices?" "How else could this story have been told?"
posted by juliplease at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2017

« Older true mirror   |   Why is my mint not minty? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.