Spooky Middle Grade Stories That Will Definitely Scare But Won’t Permanently Scar

I’m not a fan of Halloween. Never have been. Maybe it’s because we live in the Midwest and by the time October 31st rolls around, it’s pitch-dark by 5:30 pm. It’s almost always raining—the kind of rain that soaks you to the core, sending chills that cut right to the bone. The pressure to come up with Halloween costumes that are both creative and comfortable has always been a struggle for me.  I was never a huge fan of slasher/horror films even though I grew up when movies like “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Halloween” were at their peak. Surprisingly, I kind of like mildly scary stories. There’s something alluring about a nail-biting novel that pulls me into its bony grasp and won’t let go.

I remember reading PET CEMETERY by Stephen King for a high school assignment. For months afterward, I slept with both the closet door open and all of the bedroom lights on. That book was terrifying, and then a few years later, they came out with an equally horrifying movie! Of course, the book was better—it almost always is.

What about spooky stories for the middle grade reader? There needs to be enough spine-tingling tension that definitely scares but doesn’t permanently scar our 8-12 year old audience. Here are my favorites:

 

SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden
Delightfully creepy with more to the story than trying to scare the reader.

 

DEAD VOICES by Katherine Arden (book 2)
Thrills, chills, and more adventures for Ollie, Coco, and Brian

 

CITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab
Spooky and fast-paced set in a Scottish castle

 

SERAFINA AND THE  BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty
A blend of history, mystery, and magic

 

THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET by Lindsay Currie
Girl unravels century-old mystery after moving from Chicago to Florida

 

SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie
An unlucky girl, a mean spirit, and a mystery that ties the two together

 

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
Young boy raised by ghosts

 

MY SISTER ROSA by Justine Larbalestier
Young Adult and only for the mature older middle grade reader.
Teen protagonist worries his 10 year old sister is a manipulative mastermind/psychopath.
Suspenseful, memorable, and the most disturbing (children’s) book I’ve read in years—You kind of want to read it now, don’t you?