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Tween

Hauntingly Good Ghost Stories for Tweens

by Iva-Marie Palmer

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Background credit: andreiuc88/Shutterstock

Is there anything more rewarding than a good, scary read? Books that invite you into a world where danger lurks and things go bump in the night are more thrilling than a roller coaster. These middle grade novels feature ghosts, creepy dolls, and strange worlds. They provide scares at every level, from mild (and even funny) to tense and gripping. Any book on this list of ghost stories would be an ideal choice to curl up with on a gloomy day or just before bed (nightlights recommended).

  • Dark Waters

    by Katherine Arden

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    In the third book of the Small Spaces series (beginning with Small Spaces and Dead Voices), we return to Mount Hemlock Resort, where the spooky smiling man left Ollie, Coco, and Brian with a sinister promise. Knowing the man has new games in store for them, the trio tries to be ready for anything. But an ill-fated boat ride leaves them stranded on an island and at the mercy of a terrifying monster. Readers agree that Arden’s tales are as creepy as her writing is beautiful. This is a can’t-miss book that may require kids to sleep with a light on after reading.

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  • The Halloween Tree

    by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Gris Grimly

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    This newer edition of Ray Bradbury’s 1972 classic features illustrations by Gris Grimly and a story that will appeal to any lover of the Halloween holiday. The book follows eight kids as they explore a haunted house and get swept into a journey through space and time. Through the story, readers will learn the history of the holiday and how other cultures celebrate it.

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  • Thirteens

    by Kate Alice Marshall

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    Eleanor doesn’t know the creepy history of her new town. But when she sees things no one else can spot, her new friends, Pip and Otto, warn her never to mention the strange sights to anyone. Their community suffers from a curse in which three kids go missing every 13 Halloweens — and the trio believes they’ll be next. This creepy read with kids at the helm is perfect for Stranger Things fans.

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  • Wicked Cruel

    by Rich Wallace

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    Grab a flashlight, arrange your sleeping bags in a circle, and read one (or all three) of these tales aloud. Rich Wallace’s short-form scary stories feature the same cast of characters as they encounter several urban legends that will send shivers running down your spine. It’s a fantastic diversion for your tween’s next sleepover or virtual play date.

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  • Midnight at the Barclay Hotel

    by Fleur Bradley, illustrated by Xavier Bonet

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    This spooky middle grade novel combines an all-expenses-paid trip to a luxury hotel, ghost hunting, and a murder mystery. When JJ Jacobson’s mother becomes the prime suspect in the hotel owner’s death, he and his friends must clear her name and find the true killer (all while dodging ghosts). This action-packed ghost story is excellent for kids who aren’t ready for more terrifying reads.

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  • Karma Moon - Ghost Hunter

    by Melissa Savage

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    When Karma Moon’s trusty Crystal Mystic guarantees that her dad’s new docuseries about a haunted hotel will be his big break, she believes it. Karma and her best friend Mags join the film crew at the hotel in Colorado, where they’re tasked with tracking down a real, live (okay, not live) ghost. Karma, who deals with anxiety, is not at ease in the creepy Stanley Hotel, but she needs to spot a ghost for the sake of the show and her family. She’s sure that a successful show will bring her mom back. Melissa Savage’s sweet, oddball ghost story will resonate with all kinds of readers.

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  • The Hiddenseek

    by Nate Cernosek

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    A game of hide-and-seek goes from fun to terrifying when brother and sister Hector and Holly Thorn get trapped in a secret world called the Hiddenseek. To make matters worse, a shape-shifting witch stalks the siblings and the other children caught in the mysterious land. The kids must break the curse that’s keeping them in the Hiddenseek by playing a game that’s anything but harmless. This fast-paced novel will keep Goosebumps fans racing through the pages.

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  • The Ghost in Apartment 2R

    by Denis Markell

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    Some kids look forward to inheriting their older sibling’s room when they depart for college – unless it’s haunted. Danny teams up with his friends Nat and Gus to learn about spirits, lore, and legends in their diverse Brooklyn neighborhood. But until they can figure out what the ghost wants, Danny won’t be able to help it move on. Markell’s book has laughs, facts, and only mild scares, so it’s the perfect pick for a kid who’s not ready for anything too creepy.

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  • Hush-a-Bye

    by Jody Lee Mott

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    Stories about haunted dolls are reliably shudder-worthy, and Hush-a-Bye is no exception. It’s about two sisters, Antonia and Lucy, who find a doll head with frightening abilities. The more the girls use the doll’s powers, the more it controls them and drives them apart. Soon, Lucy realizes that it’s up to her to save Antonia from the possessed toy. Be warned – this terrifying and suspenseful page-turner will keep kids reading late into the night.

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  • Sauerkraut

    by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Paul Davey

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    Plenty of ghost stories focus on humor instead of frights, which is the case with this odd and funny book about a boy whose summer plans go awry when his great-great-grandmother’s ghost needs a favor. HD Schenk planned to build his own computer to enter the county fair, but his ancestor also has a title she wants to claim: this fair’s pickle queen. To win the blue ribbon, she needs HD to make her famous sauerkraut — but how can she succeed when HD is the only one who can see her? Kelly Jones’s silly ghost tale honors family history and the creativity that runs through generations.

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  • The Circus of Stolen Dreams

    by Lorelei Savaryn

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    Desperate to forget her problems after her brother’s disappearance, Andrea doesn’t hesitate to dive into a magical world that promises an escape from reality. At first, her new surroundings are nothing but enchanting. But before long, she realizes that the dream world is a trap – one that claimed her brother. With her new friend Penny, Andrea must free Francis from the Sandman and his nightmarish world. This inventive and spellbinding tale will hold kids in its thrall.

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  • The Sleepover

    by Michael Regina

    Michael Regina’s spooky and comical graphic novel is the kind of book that middle graders will fly through – and then want to read again. When Matthew Russo’s beloved nanny passes away, his three best friends plan a sleepover to take his mind off his grief. Miss Swan, the new nanny, seems great – but Matt can’t tell if she’s a fun babysitter or a witch trying to fatten him up. Pick this one up for kids who like suspense delivered with a heavy dose of comedy.

  • The Hungry Ghosts

    by Miguel Flores

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    Milly and Cilla live at the same orphanage and feel like family, right down to Milly acting like a responsible older sister, while Cilla feels drawn to danger. Even though Milly has magical powers, she knows not to use them. While Cilla wishes for powers, she’s woefully unmagical. So, when a power-hungry witch captures Cilla, Milly sets out to rescue her. This adventure-fantasy debut from Miguel Flores is about more than magic spells — it’s about finding your family.

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