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Recommended Reading: Teen Fiction - Ghost Stories

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Ghost stories predate the written word. We have evidence of ghost stories in ancient times through the oral traditions and folklore of many different cultures. Knowing this, I think it's safe to say that ghost stories are an integral part of human history. But why? I'd venture to say that the belief in a human soul, separate from the human body, is the primary reason for the popularity of ghost stories. But could something else be a major contributing factor?

Girl with a skull shadow lit by a yellow flame candle

I find it interesting, as well, that ghost stories can be so different - there are so many different ways ghosts have been represented in stories and sightings over many, many years. Poltergeists, formless energy, white spots, fully formed shadows, residuals, demons, etc. So what do you think? Could ghost stories be real? Or are they just a product of the vast human imagination? Either way, I think you'll enjoy the following five ghost stories, and not only for the ghostly bits, but the genuinely good stories as well.

Book recommendations courtesy of Ellie Epperson.

(Prelude for Lost Souls Series #1)

Trigger Warning: death of a loved one, drug use

St. Hilaire is a ghost town - of sorts. While many towns may boast manufacturing or farming as their primary industry, St. Hilaire's claim to fame is its abundance of mediums - ghost talkers. The protagonist, high-schooler Dec Hampton, is a born and bred St. Hilaire medium, but after the death of his parents, he wants nothing more than to hit the road out of town. Leaving town, however, isn't so easy. The Guild oversees everything that happens in St. Hilaire, and their intentions aren't always pure.

Dec's bestie, Russ, is also a medium, but he relocated to St. Hilaire to be better understood by his peers. Russ has fought hard for his status and desperately tries to join the Guild - much to Dec's dismay. As Dec prepares to leave St. Hilaire, the artist that has given him so much musical comfort experiences a train mishap right outside of town, Dec's future becomes more uncertain.

Watch Over Me book cover

Trigger Warning: emotional abuse

When Mila, fresh out of high school, is offered a teaching job in a picturesque, remote location, she has no reservations about it. The folks who own the farm Mila is relocating to have fostered many children over the years. As a former foster child, she is used to being alone, but she has hopes that this private teaching position in a foster home will allow her the opportunity to be part of a real family. But the family never mentioned their resident ghosts, and as Mila tries to help her student confront their own traumas, she must decide if she can face her own.

Trigger Warning: death

This book is recommended for more advanced readers.

A tale based on Jewish folklore and set in 1800s Eastern Europe (modern-day Russia), The Way Back tells the story of two young folks, Yehuda Leib and Bluma, who must embark on a dangerous journey after they are visited by Death. The journey requires them to visit the land of the unliving, a land ruled by demons called the Far Country. It's a necessary risk to save a treasured soul, someone near and dear to Bluma's heart. Will they be able to save him? And even if they don't, will they find their way back home? This book is meant to be savored and reflected upon - one chapter at a time - not binged in its entirety in one sitting. Readers of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman will enjoy this fantastical ghost story.

Cemetery Boys book cover

Trigger Warning: death of a loved one, talk of loss of a parent, misgendering, mention of parental abuse, mention of transphobic parents, deportation, racism

Yadriel comes from a magical but traditional Latinx family. So when he comes out as a trans, gay male at age 16, his family has mixed reactions. While they claim to accept him, they make off-handed comments that sting deeply. Determined to prove himself a true brujo, he performs a ritual that his family had denied him and subsequently unleashes his magical powers. Not long after, his cousin passes away unexpectedly, and his spirit cannot be located. Yadriel is vexed by this mystery and is committed to setting his cousin's spirit free to join the afterlife. However, in doing so, he unwittingly summons Julian, a former bad boy whose death is also mysterious. Julian will not go quietly back into death, so Yadriel must help him tie up loose ends before he can continue with his quest to free his cousin's spirit. But as time goes on, Yadriel becomes more fond of Julian and may have a hard time letting him return to the afterlife. Mystery ties Yadriel and Julian together, but what will they have left when the mystery is solved?

Trigger Warning: abortion, pregnancy, cheating, death, incest, rape

Recommended for mature readers.

Although not a ghost story in the traditional sense, The Whitsun Daughters has been described as atmospheric and mesmerizing (and it does have a ghost!).The storyline alternates between the ghost of a woman from the 1800s and her descendants, Poppy, Lilah, and Daisy, three teenage cousins in the modern world. The ghost, Irish immigrant Jane, watches the girls as they move through the banalities of everyday life and observes them as they go through the heartache that accompanies growing up sheltered. Jane's story is told in the first person, while the girls' story is told in the third person, as though they are being watched and narrated by Jane herself. The girls struggle to understand boys, sex, menstruation, and growing up. In both timelines, there are secrets, some of them dark, some of them slightly disturbing, but they are all reflective of scenarios that many teen girls face as they navigate what it means to be a woman.

Did you like this list? Stay tuned for more teen lists, or call the library to get more book recommendations!

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