7 queer horror books to get you in the Halloween mood

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It’s late October already, and carefully curated fall images are splashing across social media: hot coffee, cozy sweaters and twinkling fairy lights. But it’s also time to get into good old Halloween spooky mode – whether that’s lingering over all the A24 artsy horror flicks or getting ready to slip into an ingeniously designed costume (or should we say, clever!). While we’re not big on celebrating Halloween out of tradition (and often make room for Diwali), it never hurts to cuddle up with a wonderfully spooky book on an autumn evening and get lost in it. In this list, I offer you 7 horror fiction books written by or centered on queer people and their experiences with the supernatural and the weird.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

To prove he’s worthy Brujo (magician) to his Latinx family, Yadriel performs a complex ritual in hopes of contacting and freeing the spirit of his murdered cousin. However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is brimming with questions about his own death, determined to fix a few issues before he leaves. While initially reluctant, Yadriel agrees to help Julian for their mutual benefit. But the more time the boys spend in each other’s company, the more difficult their impending separation becomes. Combining magic and mystery with themes of heritage, transgender identity and queer love, Cemetery Boys is comforting and just the right amount of frightening.

A lesson in revenge by Victoria Lee

Perched on the Catskill Mountains, the exclusive and prestigious Dalloway School has had witchcraft inextricably linked to its history. Rumor has it that she is haunted by the spirits of five deceased female students, girls some say are witches, the school hallways are filled with whispers and secrets. Not that it matters to Felicity Morrow; all she wants to do is get over her girlfriend’s death and finish her graduation thesis. But then, the Dalloway Five are not easy to forget. And what’s more, the new girl, an eccentric and brilliant novelist prodigy, Ellis Haley, needs Felicity’s help to research the school’s obscure history for her new novel. Drawn unwillingly to Ellis’ magnetic presence, Felicity must learn to make sense of the darkness around her, before she claims it again. Wonderfully atmospheric and spooky, A lesson in revenge is an expertly crafted noir college thriller with a crucial and complex lesbian relationship at its center.

The many half-lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor

Sam Sylvester, a non-binary autistic teenager, moves to the small town of Astoria, Oregon after a traumatic experience in their last home in the rural American Midwest. Their lives seem to have improved, with new friendships and the potential for romance on the horizon. However, Sam becomes obsessed with the death of a teenager in Astoria in the 1980s and is convinced he was murdered – especially as Sam’s investigation sets off a series of chilling events in their town. Notes and menacing figures lurking in the shadows begin to disrupt Sam’s life. Nevertheless, they stubbornly persist in trying to find the killer, only to realize that the revelation might be more than they bargained for – would they risk their new life for a life half lived? Scary, yet heartwarming, this book is the perfect blend of paranormal tales with effortless queer portrayal.

Gilda’s stories by Jewelle Gomez

Gilda is a vampire. She’s also black, lesbian, and lives to be 19e American racial politics of the century, as it moves from Louisiana to Yerba Buena, Missouri and beyond. Spanning nearly 200 years, Gomez takes the reader through a beautifully written journey of political horror – where vampirism serves as a motif to underscore the need for community, sisterly love and social acceptance in United States. United in vitriolic racists and exploiters. While not scary, the novel explores horrors of a different kind – racism, slavery, segregation, the threat of war, and the fault lines of nation building. Originally published in 1991, today the lush and evocative masterpiece that is Gilda’s stories became a seminal work of black horror fiction as well as lesbian literature.

Hell followed with us by Andrew Joseph White

Benji, a 16-year-old transgender boy, is on the run from the fundamentalist cult that raised him, the same cult that sparked biblical Armageddon and wiped out all of Earth’s population. Desperate to find shelter away from their prying hands (desperate for the bio-weapon he was infected with), Benji is rescued by a ragtag group of teenagers from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, abbreviated as ALC. Their leader Nick is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly marksman, and what’s more, he knows Benji’s secret – that the cult’s bioweapon turns him into something beyond everyone else. Still, Benji is taken in by the ALC and he is happy to belong. However, unbeknownst to him, Nick has his own secret motives. Bloody, explosive and full of body horror, Hell followed with us is the perfect read if you’re looking for an intense experience.

Gideon the ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Billed as “lesbian necromancers in space playing among us in a haunted house”, this sci-fi fantasy is about necromancers and riders (swordsmen) from 9 interplanetary houses, staying together in an ancient and formidable mansion. They must face enemies and forge alliances to access the title of lyctorate, under the omniscient eye of the Emperor. We follow their journey through the perspective of Gideon Nav, an indentured servant and rider of the cloistered Ninth House. Think reanimated skeletons, grisly murders, evil and scheming women and LOTS of bone jokes. With a butch lesbian and a homoerotic relationship at its center, Gideon the ninth is scary, but also very weird and very darkly funny.

The jack of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Jake Livingston is one of the only black kids in his academy, a situation made worse by the fact that he can also, apparently, see the dead. It’s usually not that bad, most ghosts are just harmless and relive their death on a loop, staying alone. But then Jake meets Sawyer, a troubled teenager who shot and killed 6 kids at a local high school the year before, before killing himself. Now Sawyer is back as a specter, and he has big plans for his afterlife – which, sadly, includes Jake. As Sawyer begins to relentlessly haunt Jake and bodies appear in his neighborhood, high school soon becomes a cat-and-mouse game of survival – one Jake is unsure of winning. Whether you’re here for the gay rep or the chilling sequences in the vein of get outyou won’t be unhappy either way!

Good reading!

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