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15 Creepy Novels About Summer Camp



I never liked summer camp as a kid. The activities. The heat. The chaos. I was a decidedly indoor creature. I liked being outside, but on my own terms—at a quiet, leisurely pace with a book or a camera. I wanted to enjoy my surroundings and take my time, not play kickball in 95-degree weather slathered in sunscreen hoping the hornet circling this corner of the field didn't sting me.

That said, I love summer camp fiction! The hypocrisy, I know. But reading about camp from a shady spot on a breezy day is entirely different than getting lost in the woods for hours on end with your two teenaged counselors who didn't really know what they were doing anyway and had to eventually start knocking on rural house doors for directions even though it was the height of Stranger Danger awareness. Or, you know...something less intensely specific.

Summer camp is a particularly fun setting for thriller and horror fiction. Remote locations. Minimal adult supervision. The mysteries of nature. It's the ideal place for things to get spooky and go awry. So, in honor of summertime and in memory of the '90s kid I was before camp instilled in me a fear of bugs, heights, and getting lost, here are 15 summer camp novels/novellas for every age group to enjoy from the comfort of wherever they please.

Adult

Camp Neverland by Lisa Quigley

(Unnerving, 2021)


Released as part of the vintage-inspired Rewind or Die series, this novella follows Max as she strives to makes new friends at Camp Neverland despite the fact that known bully, Chuck Snyder, is there with her. Things seem to be going well for her, until kids start dying. Violently. What the hell is going on at Camp Neverland? And what secret is Max keeping?










The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

(Dutton, 2018)


Fifteen years ago, Emma Davis's cabin-mates vanished at Camp Nightingale. No one knows what happened to them. Now a successful painter channeling the trauma of that night into her art, Emma is surprised when the camp asks her to come back as an art counselor. Emma agrees hoping to find closure, but quickly she realizes things at Camp Nightingale feel off. What happened to those girls all those years ago? And what will Emma uncover if she digs deeper?





Dead Lake by Darcy Coates

(Poisoned Pen Press, 2015)


Technically there's no summer camp in this one, but it does include a cabin, a lake, and a string of bizarre disappearances. Sam is an artist who needs to get it together before her next gallery exhibition. Cue an idyllic retreat to the remote Harbor Lake. Sam longs to put her career back on track, but Sam isn't alone out in the middle of nowhere. Someone is watching her. Following her. And the longer she spends at the cabin, the more things escalate...






Camp Pleasant by Richard Matheson

(Rosetta Books, 2001)


Camp Pleasant is beautiful, no doubt, but it's by no means a safe haven for counselor Matt Harper. The new camp director, "Big Ed" Nolan, is an absolute nightmare who pisses off just about everyone. Pretty soon, Nolan turns up dead and there is no shortage of suspects. Did a current camper do it? A former counselor? Nolan's own wife? This one comes from the author of I am Legend and A Stir of Echoes.




Friday the 13th by Simon Hawke

(Signet, 1987)


Yes, this one is a media tie-in inspired by the classic 1980 film of the same name...but we couldn't not include it! Look at that cover! It also has a 4.10 rating on Goodreads, which is pretty impressive for a '80s tie-in. Besides, there's no summer camp horror more iconic than the story of Camp Crystal Lake.











Young Adult

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala (PUSH, 2022)


Genderfluid Mars has never fit into his highly connected family's expectations. However, when his twin sister tragically dies, he decides to attend the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy in her place. Unswayed by the the camp's picturesque façade, Mars looks to his twin sister's friends, also at the camp, who might know more about his sister's death than they are letting on.









The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

(Razorbill, 2022)


Goldie Easton is a townie who has managed to land a spot as a counselor at the luxe Camp Alpine Lake, attended by rich kids with influential parents. The only thing is that Goldie is keeping a secret—and she's not the only one. Before she knows it, a teenager is found dead at the camp. It definitely wasn't an accident. Is her best friend involved? What really happened that night?








Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

(Wednesday Books, 2022)


Camp Rockaway is the same college prep camp Arlee Gold's mother attended as a teen. It's a "fresh start" for Arlee, or so her mother claims. But things at Camp Rockaway are a little off. The other girls don't seem to trust the newcomer and soon Arlee is offered a spot in the camp's secret society. She hopes the invite will help her make friends, but she has no idea what her new "sisters" will expect from her.







The Lake by Natasha Preston

(Delacorte Press, 2021)


Esme and Kayla started out as campers at Camp Pine Lake, but now they are finally ready to be counselors-in-training. The kids they find themselves responsible for seem sweet and innocent...just like Esme and Kayla used to be. Before it all changed. You see, Esme and Kayla did something back when they were campers that they've been hiding. Something that the lake remembers.








(HarperCollins, 2018)


Camp Forevermore is a summer camp nestled in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. It boasts all the camp classic activities: swimming, arts and crafts, fire-side songs. But when an overnight kayaking trip to an island leaves five campers stranded, the impact extends beyond the summer and change the girls lives forever.










Middle Grade

(Delacorte, 2023)


Billed as "part Scooby-Doo, part A Series of Unfortunate Events", the third book in the Sinister Summer series follows the Sinister-Winterbottom children to Camp Creek. It's a fairly normal lake-side camp with fairly normal campers and counselors. But the Sinister-Winterbottom kids know better than to trust normal and pretty soon strange things start happening to everyone around them.







Camp Scare by Delilah S. Dawson

(Random House, 2022)


Parker Nelson is a 12-year-old who is READY for summer camp. She wants to escape her everyday life, the bullies she faces there, and have some fun for a change. Parker's hopes are quickly dashed, however, when one of her bullies ends up being her bunkmate. But bullies aren't the only trouble lurking. A long time ago, something terrible happened at this camp. Something that's about to come back to haunt them all.





Camp Murderface (Camp Murderface #1) by Josh Berk & Saundra Mitchell (HarperCollins, 2020)


This one only came out a few years ago, but it's set in 1983. That means peak summer camp vibes! Corryn Quinn and Tez Jones are excited to be at Camp Sweetwater...until weird things start to happen. All is not right at this summer camp and Corryn and Tez will be lucky if they get to go home by the end of it.








(Scholastic, 1997)


Of course there is a Goosebumps book about camp. More than one actually. And we had to include this one on the list. It's a choose-your-own-adventure! The story is set at a sports camp with 20 possible endings to choose from! And here at Frightful, we love the epic nostalgia of a good choose-your-own-adventure story.






Welcome to Camp Nightmare (Goosebumps #9) by R.L. Stine (Scholastic, 1993)


We told you Goosebumps had more than one camp book! And yes, we realize this puts R.L. Stine on this list twice, but he's a middle grade horror legend! Billy isn't completely sold on Camp Nightmoon—especially when his fellow campers start disappearing and his parents seem to be ignoring all of his letters home.








Drop your own summer camp thoughts and faves in the comments!



[Image Credit: photograph by Jonathan Petersson via Pexels]

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