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Bring On the Scary

One of the things that I really like about YA is that you can pretty much find any type of story that you're looking for.

Contemporaries dealing with tough issues? Check. Light hearted rom-coms that make you feel all bubbly inside? Check. Aliens? Alternate societies? Magic? Adventure? Check, check, check, check.

But something I've noticed recently is the lack of good, classic YA horror. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some great ones out there, just not nearly as many as you'd think. Especially since there are so many stories containing ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and demons out there.

But the truth is, a VERY large chunk of those stories are not horror, not even a little bit. Most times, they fall into paranormal- a category that a lot of people meld with horror in their minds, even though they are very different.

But how?

I think a big difference between paranormal and horror is that paranormal, more often than not, will have a heavier focus on the ghost. It has a name, a background, it has a story to share. It claims the title of one of the more fleshed out (ha!) characters in the book.

Now in horror, you could have that exact same ghost. But in a horror, that ghost isn't a character. It's a force, a reckoning, something that leads the MC to make some truly terrifying discoveries- about the world, about the beliefs of others, and ultimately, about themselves and their own beliefs. Combined with a morbid atmospheric tone and a few dead side characters, and you've got yourself something real special.

As a good writer friend said to me, "YA horror is very much about instability. The whole infrastructure of a teenager's life falling apart." And I really couldn't agree more.


Zelda- she's got your back, yo. Or, at least, she wants to break it.
So, we know the difference between paranormal and horror, but that doesn't really answer the big question- where is all the classic horror in YA? Where is the Stephen King of YA literature? Where are the stories like Pet Sematary, where the reader is forced to question their own beliefs about death while simultaneously losing sleep at night because they are terrified that a cackling, hunched-over Zelda is going to crawl out from under the bed and twist their back up like hers?

Yeah, I don't know either. All I know is that I desperately want to read them and write them and see them get the recognition they deserve, front and center. Bring on the scary!

Are there any other horror writers out there? What are your favorite YA horror books?



Amy Lukavics

Amy lurks within the forested mountains of Arizona. When she isn't reading or writing creepy stories, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms. She is the author of Daughters Unto Devils (Harlequin Teen 2015) and The Women In The Walls (Harlequin Teen 2016).

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24 comments:

  1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake :) I think it has both the paranormal-ey AND horror feel.

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  2. Gah! I <3 you and this is why! I couldn't agree more. I love the way good horror takes flawed characters and uses the horror element to flesh out that character and relate the horror back to their flaws and mistakes so the horrors of their personal reality and the sometimes paranormal/sometimes real-life horrors of the story work together to create a deeper, scarier and ultimately more f***ed up (in the best way) story.

    You know as an editor I've put the APB out for teen horror submissions. I would love to see more true horror to counter the horror-monster-turned-bad-boy-love-interest paranormal books (also valid in their own way...but I long for the books filled with terror). I've been on such a horror kick lately that I finally picked up Pet Sematary (one of the only King classics I never read as a kid) and was really in awe of the book's real story, which wasn't solely about the Pet Sematary or people and pets coming back from the dead "wrong" or evil, but about death, and accepting that as horrific and tragic as it is, it's a natural part of life and trying to fight it makes things worse.

    And how much do I love that you used that creepy-ass picture of Zelda. That scene in the movie scares the bejeezus out of me every single time I watch it!

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    1. T.S. THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU. So incredibly well said.

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  3. I agree with Sash and Em. Anna Dressed in Blood was really a bit of both making me scared to read it but unable to put it down. Plus the dry wit of the MC was worth every scary page!

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  4. Anna Dressed in Blood is what I'm reading right now and it's amazing. I wouldn't call it scary but it's great ! I highly recommend it.

    I love this article because you're right. There really isn't
    Many YA horror novels out there that I know of and its one thing that I really want to see.

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  5. Apparently I need to get my hands on Anna Dressed in Blood!!

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  6. "Where is the Stephen King of YA literature?"

    I have been asking myself this ever since I first got hooked on YA. Then again, I have no problem getting my horror-fill from the King himself:)

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    1. LOL! I know what you mean. I sometimes fantasize that Stephen King will one day start writing YA.

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  7. Pick up Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough! Straight up classic horror, just came out last week. I hope, hope, hope it is the start of a trend because, like you, THAT is the kinda stuff I love reading. Paranormal just doesn't hit the same sorts of notes that horror does, and it doesn't creep into your bones and unsettle your thoughts about life and death on that very human level.

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    1. Ooh thank you so much for that rec! Way excited to read it. I am also hoping that horror will start to trend, just so that there will be an abundance of them to choose from and fill our shelves with. Fingers crossed!

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  8. I couldn't agree more. Where IS all the gosh darn King-ly horror? My book (which sold to Penguin) is def YA horror, but walks a deceptive, tricksy paranormal line, too, like ANNA. As a teen I went straight from JANE EYRE to CARRIE, and then read all the King I could get my hands on...but I think a lot of kids today like their YA to have some dark, scary, heart thumping skin on skin in between blood baths.

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  9. I would love to write horror, but I'm sure it would turn into paranormal.

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  10. I cannot for the life of me think of a thriller, horror, or spy plot that I could write, but I so love all of those things that I wish I could. So I guess I'm saying that I totally agree with you, but maybe it's one of those genres that is sort of ruined once you participate in it? Like a magician revealing his tricks, sort of?

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  11. I hear Karina Halle is really good. I've bought all of her books, but I just haven't started reading them.

    Here's the first in The Experiment in Terror series: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11356211-darkhouse

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  12. Hell yes x 1000 to this! I look at YA shelves and there are hardly any horror novels for YA out there. I don't want to see fluffy werewolf puppies and romantic vampires anymore. Bring them back as antagonists. I hope agents and publishers are looking for horror at the moment because I'd love to be published as a YA horror author. The market is in some desperate need of creepy and chilling.

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  13. I love Simon Holt's Vours series: The Devouring, Soulstice, and Fearscape. Creepy and terrifying.

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  14. Was literally talking about that seen with friends last night! Scariest movie moment of my life. Hands down! I think horror is a challenge in YA writing because most writers associate scary as R-rated blood and guts stuff. Stephen King is a master at scaring the pants off of you with normal things. A great lesson there for sure.

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  15. Oh, yes to ANNA. I can't wait to read GIRL OF NIGHTMARE! Also, April's Tucholke's BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is going to make waves for YA horror/thriller next summer, as well as JR Johanson's INSOMNIA next spring. Both lean towards horror rather than paranormal. I grew up reading and loving King, so I'm always looking for King in YA today.

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  16. We (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins) are publishing Gretchen McNeil's TEN for Fall 2012, and it's a re-imagining of Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. As T.S. can attest, it's a good one :)

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  17. Rick Yancey (THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST) and Daniel Kraus (ROTTERS) are writing some great horror YA.

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  18. Yes, yes, agree. Totally not happy with what has happened to Bram Stoker's vampire. ;) I have a YA horror on submission now. Fingers crossed that paranormal has faded and horror is rising.

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  19. Right here. I'm so feigning for YA horror it's not even funny. I skimmed the comments and saw ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD was already recommended. The SOULSTICE series by Simon Holt is a pretty good one, CRYER'S CROSS by Lisa McMann is another (don't judge by the new cover, which I HATE, it's NOT paranormal). But yes, YA is sorely lacking in the horror department. I've taken up collecting old Pikes and Stines just to get my taste.

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  20. Danny Marks's VELVETEEN (Delacorte)! I think it comes out in October.

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  21. Couldn't agree more. Cannot wait for the day when we can all see a Lukavics horror on our shelves!!! SQUEEE!

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Item Reviewed: Bring On the Scary Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amy Lukavics