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Funland by Richard Laymon

Cotton Candy from Hell – 9 Terrifying Carnival Horror Books

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It’s summer! Time to switch out my snowcapped winter horror for cotton candy and chainsaws. These are my top 9 favorite Amusement park and carnival horror books.

Hide

Author: Keirsten White
Pages: 256
Age: Young Adult

Hide and seek in an abandoned amusement park, cash prize enough to buy a new life and sinister intentions combined. What could go wrong?

The protagonist is a former final girl named Mack, who survived the massacre of her family. She takes to desperate means to ensure her future in a game she’s sure she can win. After all, hiding is why she’s alive and her family isn’t.

The game is simple enough until players begin disappearing.

Those that have followed my other articles KNOW that I love abandoned places. Abandoned amusement parks hold a very special place in my heart and this one comes with all the crumble porn plus a proclivity for catastrophic levels of emotional distress.

Fantastic Land

Author: Mike Bockoven
Pages: 304
Age: Young Adult

Described as Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale. Picture this: A hurricane strands a group of teenage amusement park employees with no resources or help of any kind. A test for the comradery and innovation of humanity failed in a blood-soaked spectacle. Five weeks into isolation authorities find severed heads, crazed eyes, and a thirst for blood. The kicker. It was all caught on camera.

If you grew up on the internet chances are you know some of the horrors that sick attention seekers can inflict upon viewers. Murder and death are nothing new and this is a great commentary on how one can find themselves in a mindset for gore.

Carnival Horror Books - Hide by Kiersten White
Hide by Kiersten White

Tastes like Candy: A Slasher Novel

Author: Ivy Tholen
Pages: 248
Age: Young Adult

It’s a simple tradition. Before senior year, those invited to the Senior Scavenge sneak into the notorious Poison Apple Carnival for a scavenger hunt. Everyone wants to be there, they think, and this year Violet gets her chance. But she isn’t the only one preparing for games. When a madman in a rubber mask begins slashing down the players, Violet realizes that the attacks might be a bit more personal than she initially thought.

If you’re a fan of Scream or Pretty Little Liars this one is a good summer reach. It is dramatic, intriguing and served with a heaping helping of gore.

Mouth Full of Ashes

Author: Briana Morgan
Pages: 158
Age: Adult

Sapphic Vampires set the backdrop of blinking lights and carnival rides. Steeped in mourning and dusted in sorrow, all Callie wants is some reprieve from her past. A bit of peace, if you will. But a carnival isn’t what she had in mind. Especially not getting wrapped up in a violent feud between bloodthirsty vampire gangs. Despite herself, her situation forcers Callie to deal in some dangerous games to keep herself alive.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is so little representation for queer people in the horror genre and this one provides. This is a perfect addition to your collection if you haven’t already.

Cirque Berserk (Rewind Or Die)

Author: Jessica Guess
Pages: 170
Age: Young Adult

Summer 1998 will go down in history as one of the most infamous massacres in local history. A group of teenagers slaughter dozens of people then disappears into thin air. Thirty years later the carnival lies abandoned, but its history is not forgotten. Just because the events have been codified in legend doesn’t really mean it’s true, right? Best friends Sam and Rochelle have the plan to break into the infamous Carnival to see how much of the legend is fiction.

Unfortunately they also must learn how many of them can survive.

Another abandoned place, are you surprised? This is the quintessential “I know best until I don’t”. As such, it was such a deliciously frustrating read.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Author: Ray Bradbury
Pages: 352
Age: Young Adult

Classic. Cozy. Spooky. Cougar and Dark’s pandemonium Shadow Show just came to town and has garnered the attention of all. The mystique may not be as innocent as it seems. For two boys the secrets are theirs to both discover and endure.

Bradbury provides a classic blueprint. If you’re into darkness and vibes this one delivers.

Clowns in the Cornfield by Adam Cesar
Funland by Richard Laymon

FunLand

Author: Richard Laymond
Pages: 488
Age: Young Adult

Bolrta Bay has a reputation for terror. What once was a popular vacation destination has become a nightmare for locals in more ways than one. Now a group of teenagers has decided that they’ve had enough. Unfortunately, they don’t get to decide.

FunLand provides a classic tale of misguided ambition, but sometimes misguided ambition might just be brazen enough to pull it off.

Frightmares

Author: Eva V. Gibson
Pages: 288
Age: Young Adult

Working as a scare in a house of horrors brings its own flavor of desensitization. Gore, screams, killer masks, it’s all a part of the gig, until it’s real. When haunt worker David finds a real body on the set of his haunted weekend job he’s forced to reconcile the obvious, there’s a murder in his midst, and he might be next.

Scary places that aren’t supposed to be actually scary but are, are my jam. This was a trippy read from first page to the last and Frightmares provides immaculate vibes.

Clowns in the Cornfield

Author: Adam Cesare
Pages: 368
Age; Young Adult

Clowns in the Cornfield offers a terrifying commentary on progress versus tradition. Kettle Springs has been tearing at the seams for some time now between young people who want more and those who think things are fine the way they are. When a homicidal maniac decides that the best way to deal with these malcontents is to give them a good cull and pray the next batch is more grateful. What will the upcoming generation have to do to survive?

There is this saying that goes, “The horror genre is where you will see society’s disparities lain first.” Essentially it means macabre minds can see something wrong before most and this work was no exception. Clown in the Cornfield relies heavily on generational differences and how tradition can be more harmful than good.

Carnival Horror Books – Thrills, Rides and Murder

I hope this list gives you all of the chilling vibes for your summer road trips and carnival nights. Horror is such a fun genre to play with seasonally in all formats, and carnival horror is the natural expression of that. If you have read any of these carnival horror selections, or plan to add any of these to your reading list, let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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