Top 10+ YA Dark Fantasy & Horror Books From The Last 5 Years

6 min readAug 21

The right YA horror book can definitely become a mood.

Young Adult (YA) horror and dark fantasy encompass a wide range of sub-genres, often blending elements from various genres to create fresh and unique stories.

What Are The Most Prominent Sub-genres of YA horror and dark fantasy?

  1. Gothic Horror: This often features dark, brooding settings like haunted mansions or ancient castles. Examples might include books by authors like Libba Bray.
  2. Supernatural or Paranormal: Ghosts, demons, witches, vampires, werewolves, and more. Some well-known books in this sub-genre include the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer or The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.
  3. Slasher Horror: Inspired by slasher films, these books often involve a mysterious killer and a group of teens trying to survive. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins is a notable YA example.
  4. Survival Horror: Characters are put in situations where they must survive against horrific odds, which might include monsters, the elements, or other people.
  5. Apocalyptic or Post-Apocalyptic Horror: The end of the world as we know it, either during the downfall or after. Zombies often feature here, like in The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.
  6. Dark Fantasy: Incorporates fantasy elements, but with a darker, more ominous tone. Some prominent examples include The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo or An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir.
  7. Monster Horror: Centered on monsters or creatures that bring horror to the story. This could range from classical monsters like the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to more modern interpretations.
  8. Historical Horror: Set in a specific time period and often blends real historical events or settings with horror elements.
  9. Magical Realism: Reality blended with magical or supernatural elements in a way that treats the extraordinary as ordinary. While not always strictly horror, they can have dark and eerie undertones.
  10. Fairy Tale Retellings: Classic fairy tales reimagined with a darker, more horrific twist. Authors like Laura Byron and Jessie Cal have explored these dark retellings.
  11. Urban Legends or Mythological: Incorporates contemporary legends or myths in modern settings, turning them into horror narratives.

Now, no matter what mood you are after, chances are you can mix horror into a good story based on your preferences. You might be in the mood for some extraterrestrial creatures. Or perhaps the end of the world… All in all, here are some of the best YA horror and dark fantasy books from the last 5 years — you will not be disappointed.

What Are The Top YA Horror & Dark Fantasy Books?

Rise of Dresca, by Tim McKay

In the aftermath of Ceremai’s fall, a nascent force emerges from ancient shadows. An eclectic group, including a lord’s daughter turned assassin, a newly empowered orphan, a scheming captain, and Ceremai’s last soldier, are entwined by destiny and venture towards the heart of this burgeoning evil.

As they grapple with looming threats and treachery, Rise of Dresca marks the beginning of the Draemeir Chronicle, inviting readers into Naevoroth-a realm where power and knowledge come at the profound cost of one’s mind, determination, and quest for freedom.

After diving into Rise of Dresca, I was thoroughly captivated. The book is a veritable tapestry of action, magic, and enthralling lore that promises the start of an epic fantasy series worth following. Every page screams of bestseller potential, blending relentless action and dark fantasy elements that I found hard to resist.

Tim McKay’s storytelling prowess shines, masterfully merging mesmerizing narratives with detailed world-building. It’s no surprise that reviewers like Pikasho Deka and Julio Carlos have sung its praises. For anyone, especially teens and young adults, looking for a spellbinding journey into a monster-filled fantasy realm, this is it. I was utterly entranced from the very first page.

The Inbox, by Daniel Ortiz

This thrilling story follows Devon Owens’ story. He is 23 years old and he has no idea what to do with his life. Everything changes to 180 degrees when he gets an apparently inoffensive message over the Internet. The stranger drops an unsolicited message and Devon bites it. He replies and starts playing a game.

Things go in completely a different directions. Go through a few more chapters and everything is escalated to another level. The story goes pretty sinister as Devon is trapped in an incredible horror story over the Internet. What is even worse is the fact that it seems there is no escape — will he manage to get out of it safely?

There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins

The story revolves around Makani Young. She is sent away from Hawaii and ends up living with her grandmother in Osborne — a small town from Nebraska where everyone knows everyone. Just like everyone other teenager, she makes a few friends and even ends up flirting with a few guys around the local high school. She looks normal, but her past is not.

Makani is still struggling to get over some horror stories from her past. Later on, students from her high school end up dead one after another. A series of murders rocks the small town. As the police is getting closer to the killer, the secrets from Makani’s past tend to come out. Is this related to the murders? Will she manage to get back to normal?

Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation covers a girl’s story through a totally hostile world — with a series of horror hints, based on your imagination. Jane McKeene has an interesting training schedule. She knows etiquette and weaponry due to a combat school for black girls. Her career seems promising — she needs to protect the wealthy from an incredible pandemic that turns people into walking dead.

However, things go in the wrong direction and some events go unexplained. Families disappear one after another. As Jane starts investigating, she realizes a conspiracy and her whole world is turned upside down. She ends up fighting some unscrupulous enemies — far from home, alone in an empty world. Will she manage to make it back?

Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legran

Sawkill Girls follows three girls — Marion, Val and Zoey. Marion is new and aspiring to find the love of her life. Val is beautiful, well-educated and excellent at manipulating people. Finally, Zoey is a bit of everything. She is a bit upset and sad, as well as lonely and luckless. At a first glance, it sounds like three girls who have absolutely nothing in common.

Somehow, the three come together and their stories go in the same direction after they end up on the Sawkill Rock. It sounds like a heavenly place. Horses roam around freely, water and cliffs provide excellent landscapes and so on. However, there is a legend… The legend of a monster and girls who keep disappearing for decades already. Will the three girls share the same fate?

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Originally published at on August 21, 2023.

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Joel Stafford · Editor of Booklover Website · Publisher of app