There’s something mysteriously appealing about killer schoolgirls in fiction. From the perspective of a former schoolgirl, there’s the idea of being more than a serial killer victim and taking an active role in a story – being able to defend yourself, or even becoming an aggressor. From an outside standpoint, there’s a certain contrast in the idea of an “innocent girl” laid against a person capable of not-so-innocent acts.

But no matter what the perspective, stories about killer schoolgirls – or killer former schoolgirls – are full of entertainment, suspense, and intensity.

Here are 17 books containing some of our favorite killer schoolgirls. Did we miss one of your favorites? Make sure to give us even more recommendations in the comments.

17. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

The iconic protagonist of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet disguises herself as a boy in order to gain knighthood, becoming the first female knight in centuries. But her destiny as one chosen by the Goddess is at the end of a path littered with trials – and enemies who must be defeated for the good of Tortall.

16. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Renthia is swarming with spirits – one might say every rock and tree and creature has one. And every single one of them wants to wipe out humanity. There are only five women capable of keeping the deadly spirits at bay: the five queens of the nations within Renthia. The queen of Aratay needs successors, and Daleina takes the exam to train as one – and one day, she’ll become the Queen of Blood.

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15. The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Melanie looks forward to class every day, because that means she gets to see her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau. She’s so excited to see Miss Justineau, in fact, that she patiently waits every morning as two people strap her into a wheelchair at gunpoint. Melanie jokes that she won’t bite – but what she’s capable of is so much worse than a little nibble.

14. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

In alternate-history Japan, the authoritarian government forces classes of middle school third-years (equivalent to U.S. freshmen in high school) to participate in a bloody fight to the death. This time around, one of the most deadly participants is Mitsuko, a popular and cold-hearted girl whose desire to survive outweighs just about every single one of her classmates. And, as readers find out, her first victim in the battle royale isn’t the first person she’s killed.

13. The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Sofia didn’t know when she befriended the popular Riley, Grace, and Alexis at her new school that the three girls were so devout – or that they were convinced their classmate Brooklyn was possessed by a demon. Riley, the leader of the three, asks Sofia to participate in their “exorcism,” which seems a lot more like torture and murder to Sofia. In Danielle Vega’s The Merciless, just about everyone could be a killer – and that’s what makes it so horrifying.

12. Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy is the third and last of the Final Girls, young women who survived slasher-style murder sprees. In Quincy’s case, it was a slaughter at a lake cottage with her college friends; for Lisa, the first Final Girl, it was a stabbing spree at her sorority; for Sam, it was an escape from Sack Man at a remote motel. And the thing about being a Final Girl? Quincy’s looked death in the face before. And she knows what it might take to survive looking it in the face again.

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11. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Centering on three girls and a prison, The Walls Around Us is a story about murder and accused murderers: Amber, accused of killing her stepfather; Orianna, accused of murdering two of her fellow ballerinas; and Violet, a ballerina who survived the attempted killing. Except Violet isn’t what she appears to be at all.

10. Carrie by Stephen King

Possibly one of the best-known killer schoolgirls, the eponymous protagonist of Stephen King’s classic horror novel doesn’t really want to kill anyone – at least until her classmates douse her in pig’s blood, which could be considered the straw that broke the camel’s back after Carrie’s lifelong torment at the hands of her abusive mother, her classmates, and in fact most of the town.

9. Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

After her mother is killed before her eyes, blonde and blue-eyed (and Jewish) Sarah becomes the key to a resistance plot at the height of the Third Reich. Her mission: infiltrate a school for the daughters of the Nazi elite, pose as someone who belongs, and steal blueprints to a bomb that could devastate Western Europe and pave the path to Nazi victory. The school is far more cutthroat than Sarah expected… but she’s far more dangerous than she looks.

8. The Bad Seed by William March

Rhoda is only eight years old, the perfect picture of innocence with her twin braids and impeccable manners. But a series of horrible accidents in the neighborhood – resulting in the deaths of Rhoda’s classmate, pet dog, and babysitter – leads her mother, Christine, to suspect something is amiss with her seemingly perfect daughter.

7. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Using one’s killer powers to protect others is one of the more noble causes – like that of Rose, the half-vampire and half-human guardian-in-training of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. And Rose isn’t training to be the guardian of just anything: she’s in training to protect her best friend, the vampire princess Lissa.

6. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

After her father’s execution, Mia barely escapes his failed rebellion with her life—and instead becomes an apprentice to the Red Church, the deadliest group of assassins in the Republic. With the training of the Red Church within her, Mia has the chance to seek out what she desires most: revenge against those who’ve wronged her.

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5. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Nona is pretty surprised when she’s taken straight from the gallows to a convent after being convicted of attempted murder. (She didn’t do it, but she’s guilty of worse, anyway.) She’s even more surprised to discover the convent teaches its all-female student body a variety of martial arts, which Nona excels at – and which may be the key to her destiny.

4. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Rebellious Sophronia doesn’t want to go to finishing school, where she expects to lose her rambunctious personality to a curriculum of dancing, etiquette, and other dull activities. But at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, students learn to finish everything, including death and espionage. And once Sophronia learns to harness her energy in just the right way, she could become one of Mdme. Geraldine’s best students.

3. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

In her attempt to escape an arranged marriage, Ismae seeks out sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain, where she faces a choice: depart to escape a violent destiny – or stay and train as a handmaiden to Death itself.

2. The Point by John Dixon

Born troublemaker Scarlett has been hiding a terrifying superhuman power that she doesn’t understand. Being recruited into a secret program at West Point gives her the opportunity to use her abilities and learn more about them – only to discover the level of destruction she’s capable of causing. Scarlett could be a great hero or the end of the world. 

1. Legend by Marie Lu

The prodigious daughter of high-ranking officials, June Iparis is prepared to use her deadly skills to protect the Republic against the lowlife rebels who threaten it. But when she meets Day, one of those lowlife rebels, she starts to realize where the real danger to the people of the Republic lies: with the government that keeps them suppressed and in poverty.

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