Coming-of-age horror is my favorite. I could list at least a dozen or more books in this genre off the top of my head, books that I adore, but there’s only one issue I have with these beloved books: the protagonists coming-of-age stories are mostly boys.
(We see you, Beverly Marsh! We love you!)
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about young male protagonists growing up and becoming men. I especially love it when they also have to endure hardships, fight cosmic horror, or capture a serial killer. But I was once a twelve-year-old girl and let me tell you, girls can do all of this and more! So here are my recommendations for coming-of-age horror with female protagonists, because girls rule.
Wilted Lilies, Kelli Owen
This is the story of young Lily May Holloway, sitting in an interrogation room, giving testimony as to what happened to her while she was missing for quite some time.
What I love: This is character-driven, supernatural horror at its absolute best. Readers will not be able guard their hearts and will fall helplessly in love with Lily May. Thank goodness this is book one and there is more to follow! (Spoiler: I’ve read book two, Passages, and it’s just as amazing!)
Dear Laura, Gemma Amor
When Laura is about thirteen or fourteen years old, she befriends a boy who lives near her and rides the same school bus. One day, something bad happens to him, and the rest of the novella recounts the tragedy that befalls Laura as she tries to learn what happens to her friend.
What I love: I promise that you will read this from beginning to end without stopping. Amor’s writing is engrossing and addicting.
The Dead Girls Club, Damien Angelica Walters
A story about how girls can form intense friendships and how that intensity can go off the rails. There is so much to relate to here as Walters explores the dynamics between a group of young girls as they dabble in the macabre.
What I love: Walters shines a bright light on the way young girls manipulate each other’s emotions in friendships as well as how these early relationships carry over into adulthood.
The Worst is Yet to Come, S. P. Miskowski
Tasha Davis meets a new best friend in her last year of middle school, a mysterious girl named Briar who is everything Tasha is not: self-assured, cool, and free to be herself. As the girls become closer, they begin to have secrets that nobody else can know. But the town has secrets, too.
What I love: This was my introduction to Miskowski’s writing, but I realized after reading that it was part of the Skillute series and there were more stories in this universe. I’ve enjoyed reading them all. Miskowski is the best at writing female protagonists.
The Pale White, Chad Lutzke
If you’re unfamiliar with Chad Lutzke’s books, you need to know that he writes from his heart. He’s a very emotive storyteller. The Pale White looks like a tough read at first blush––the story is about three young girls being held captive by sex trafficking ring––but I can assure you that it’s a solid coming-of-age novella worthy of your collection.
What I love: Lutzke’s protagonists wrestle with the physical and psychological damage they have experienced due to trauma, but their journey towards health and happiness is an expression of hope and redemption. Don’t miss it.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Grady Hendrix
Abby and Gretchen are best friends. One night, they dare to be scandalous and everything goes wrong. Something happens to Gretchen and Abby won’t rest until she finds out what really happened to her friend on that fateful night!
What I love: This story is set in the late 80’s and is full of accurate pop culture references, era-specific songs and authentic slang. In other words: it was 100% nostalgic comfort for someone who graduated from the eighth grade in 1989. Plus it’s hilarious and scary! What’s not to love?
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Emil Ferris
10 year-old Karen Reyes becomes obsessed with solving the murder of a woman named Anka who lived in her apartment building. This graphic novel is told through Karen’s illustrated journaling as she works through Anka’s past.
What I love: The artwork is stunning! I can’t stress it enough. Even though the story is compelling and entertaining, it’s really the artwork that captured my heart. I stared at the pages for long hours.
True Crime, Samantha Kolesnik
This recommendation is for serious extreme horror fans; sensitive readers might find this one a little tough to manage. The payoff is so good, I’m willing to risk adding it to this list in order to gain more traction on this book. Suzy and her brother Lim are subjected to awful physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hand of their mother. An act of violence sets the two off on their own to fend for themselves in the world.
What I love: It’s rare to find a book that translates this powerfully across the page. The storytelling here is raw and unfiltered. Truly amazing depth of character. If you can stomach it, the rewards are great.
Doll Crimes, Karen Runge
Not your mommy’s recommendation, but definitely your Mother Horror’s nudge to read this one. Again, this isn’t for sensitive readers or those triggered by accounts of sexual abuse. Know that going into it. This is the story of a young girl raised by an emotionally underdeveloped teen mother.
What I love: Runge holds nothing back from the page. A strong, character-driven tale of abuse and betrayal told masterfully by someone who gives the utmost care and attention to authenticity. A provocative, harrowing read.
Halcyon, Rio Youers
One of my all-time favorite books – I would dare any reader to try and put this one down without finishing. Highly addictive, this is a fast paced thriller with a coming-of-age story at its heart. I fell in love with the two young, female protagonists. There’s some wonderful family drama here, some freaky cult-horror elements and plenty of exciting reader discovery moments.
What I love: Rio Youers is one of the best modern storytellers working right now. Full stop. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read from him.