Not all of these books were written for a young audience, but I think they are suitable for teenagers who are confident (and brave!) readers.
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is the perfect scary starting place for little kids. I first read this as an adult, so I missed out on it growing up, but I think this would have fed my nightmares for many a merry night. And nightmares are good — sleep would be boring without a bit of scary spice to stir things up!
Invisible Fiends by Barry Hutchison is a fast-paced, genuinely creepy series of books (six in total), and is the perfect bridge for older children between child-friendly horror (e.g. the Goosebumps books) and the darker, teen-appropriate waters of Stephen King and co.
Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell — the scariest books do not necessarily fit neatly into the horror genre. This grim look at an authoritarian state, where freedom of speech and thought is outlawed, will send a chill down anyone’s spine. It is as apt now as when it was first released, and sadly it is starting to look more and more like an accurate prediction of where we are as a society, rather than a cautionary tale of where we might have gone.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is a modern reworking of the Dracula story. This was one of the few books to directly give me a nightmare when I first read it. King ranks up the tension masterfully, peppering the book with a series of finely drawn and unforgettable characters, and savagely impactful set scenes. This is where I would direct teenagers who are looking for their first bite of an adult horror novel.
Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness is a trilogy of books that bridges different genres such as horror, sci-fi and social commentary. On the one hand it’s a look at the settling of an alien world, on another it’s a terrifying reflection of our own warring civilization, focusing on clashes between opposing cultures, religions, and even the sexes. Very believable and thought-provoking, and one of the most truly horrific things I’ve read in recent years.
Darren Shan's latest book is ZOM-B Baby, out now, published by Simon & Schuster Children's Books.