Creepy, Cozy, and Fun: Why You Should Be Reading More Middle Grade Horror


When you think of middle grade novels, the first stories that come to mind are likely daring fantasy adventures and heartfelt contemporary tales, but there is another subgenre of middle grade fiction that (in my humble opinion) doesn’t get enough love. Middle grade horror novels are one of my all-time favorite types of books. While they do share similarities with horror novels written for teens and adults, there are a few qualities that make spooky stories for middle grade readers extra special. In this blog, I’ll fill you in on what makes middle grade horror books so amazing and why you should pick one up this Halloween and beyond. 

One aspect of middle horror novels that I love is how atmospheric they are. It’s true that most horror stories tend to contain atmospheric writing to create a foreboding mood, but books for middle grade readers have their own unique flair. There of course are plenty of dark stormy nights, ominous full moons, and rolling fog to go round. But something that middle grade horror does better than perhaps any other type of book is cozy details. There’s just something about pairing a creepy atmosphere with a hefty dose of coziness that works so well. Warm sweaters, roaring fireplaces, and snuggly cats are just a few examples of this phenomenon. 

An extension of this coziness is another trademark of middle grade horror, mouth-watering food descriptions. From mugs of hot chocolate with heaps of whipped cream to buttery popcorn and everything in between, you might end up more hungry than scared after reading a book from this category. Horror stories for kids also boast some of the best settings. Sinister summer camps, haunted old manors, foreboding forests, and trick or treating trips gone wrong are just a few examples of the amazing backdrops middle grade authors create for their frightening tales. 

Something else that sets middle grade horror apart from other age categories in the genre is how authors go about scaring readers. Since middle grade horror novels are targeted at younger readers, they tend to rely less on gore and violence. This makes them a great option for more sensitive readers of all ages who still enjoy the occasional spooky story. But don’t be fooled into thinking that just because middle grade horror novels are written for children that they’re not scary. On the contrary, some of the creepiest stories of all time have been written with a younger audience in mind (Neil Gaiman’s Coraline anyone?). Instead of more explicit content, middle grade horror writers typically veer more into the territory of psychological terror. Basically, these stories are ones that tap into our deepest fears and somehow manage to scare us just as much with what could happen as what eventually does. That’s not to say that there are never high stakes or even deaths in these types of stories, because there certainly are. In fact, I’ve actually found that writing horror for children requires authors to be even more creative in how to scare their readers, with delightfully terrifying results. 

Another great quality of middle grade horror novels is that they often use creepy plotlines as a tool to explore big issues faced by children. I’ve seen topics such as grief, mental illness, or moving to a new place handled in a subtle yet powerful manner by middle grade authors in this genre. There are plenty of things to be afraid of in life, and kids know that just as well as adults do. Sometimes it can be cathartic to see our worst fears play out in the safe form of a book, which can be shut if it gets too scary. And best of all, horror novels for middle grade readers almost always have a satisfying conclusion, if not a happy ending. So, not only do kids (and kids at heart) get to explore their fears in a controlled manner, but they also learn that even the scariest situations can turn out okay in the end. 

I hope this blog has convinced you to pick up a middle grade horror novel for yourself and any young readers in your life. If you’re looking for some recommendations, feel free to check out this list of amazing middle grade horror books we love!

PRR Writer, Emily Pimental