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Horror is a fun genre to read year-round, but it is especially enjoyable in the summer. There’s something about the vibe in the air (and when I say vibe in the air I mean the extremely hot temperatures) that makes me want to hunker down in the cool air conditioning with a good, scary book. When I think of summer horror, slashers, camp, road trips gone wrong, and s’mores immediately come to mind. (Can’t forget a good snack with an audiobook!)
Keep reading for a roundup of horror novels set in summer to get you in the spooky mood. Some of these are campy, some have a subtle horror consistent throughout the story, and a couple are downright terrifying and weird. Whichever you go with, it’s bound to be an interesting time.
You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron
CW: Murder, Death, Gore, Animal death, Gun violence, Violence.
In You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight, Charity spends her summers working as a final girl at a full-contact terror game set at Camp Mirror Lake, where a classic slasher movie by the same name was filmed. Just as the season begins to draw to a close, weird things start happening. Staff members begin disappearing. Small bad omens abound. When a slow-building impending threat suddenly catapults things out of control, Charity will have to put her final girl skills to the test if she wants to make it to the end of the summer in this recently release YA horror/thriller.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
CW: Murder, Body horror, Gore, Emotional abuse, Death of parent, Torture
Set in the spring/summer, Just Like Home follows Vera, who is returning home at the beginning of the novel after years of estrangement from her mother. Part of the reason for the distance: her father was a serial killer. With her mother’s death quickly approaching, Vera heeds her request that she return home to get things in order. There, she encounters an imposing artist staying in the guesthouse. Odd letters begin to crop up around the house. And a creepy atmosphere permeates the space, as the terror slowly unravels to a shocking climax.
When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen
CW: Racism, Slavery, Violence, Sexual Assault.
After fleeing her small and segregated Southern hometown a decade before the events of When the Reckoning Comes, Mira returns for a friend’s summer wedding. The setting: a plantation that is steeped in the memory of the racist antebellum south that serves themed drinks by a nearly all-Black service staff. If this isn’t unsettling enough for Mira, she also has to deal with re-visiting her troubled past with the bride and the horror that arises in the present. If you want more details, check out Tayler’s review.
Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due
CW: Racism, Death,
Released in 2015, Ghost Summer is Tananarive Due’s debut horror short story collection. Fifteen stories and a novella are featured around specific themes embodied by her characters. Some of her stories take us to Gracetown, a small Florida town whose residents deal with literal and figurative ghosts. No matter the setting or theme, though, the author can be trusted to transport her readers through the eerie, scary, and deeply human.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
CW: Violence, Body horror, Sexual assault, Sexism
Mexican Gothic takes us to 1950s Mexico, where Noemí Taboada is on break from university and is issued a task right in the first chapter. Her father sends her to a declining manor to check on her estranged cousin, who had recently married and stopped communicating, save for a strange letter. Motivated by her need to prove her maturity to her parents, and knowing that will make her more trustworthy in making her own life choices, Noemí agrees to go but has no idea of the secrets and dangers that lie ahead within the walls of High Place.