YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.
October is the perfect time of year for creepy, stay-up-late, you-really-shouldn’t-read-this-before-bedtime kind of books. That’s right: horror!
I’m about to date myself, but here goes: horror was BIG in YA fiction when I was a teen in the 1990s. Despite the fact that I couldn’t stomach scary movies, I remember being absolutely hooked on Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike books as a 13-year-old. I couldn’t get enough of being scared! Lessons learned: astral projection is dangerous because your evil twin could steal your body while you’re away from it. Also, don’t even think about participating in chain letters. Just … don’t.
Alas, for a time from the 1990s to early 2000s, horror seemed to take a backseat to other genres in YA. Whither the serial killers? Sure, there were vampires … but they were sparkly and alluring instead of terrifying. Cirque du Freak author Darren Shan did his part to keep YA horror afloat with his Demonata series (published between 2005 and 2009), but there simply wasn’t a very wide selection of titles for the teen horror fan.
But have no fear — or rather, have plenty of fear: YA horror seems to be on the rise these days. Perhaps it’s a natural progression after the rise in paranormal romance in the mid-2000s and the current trend of often-disturbing dystopian settings. Clearly today’s YA readers enjoy a little darkness in their literature — why not take it a step further into full-fledged horror?
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, a spine-tingling historical horror story filled with man-eating paranormal creatures and an incredible amount of blood and gore, was named a 2010 Printz Honor book.
- Author Gretchen McNeil is new on the scene and is making her mark on the genre. Her 2011 debut novel, Possess, tells the story of Bridget, who has the power to banish demons, and includes a memorably creepy doll shop scene. McNeil is back this year with Ten, inspired by Agatha Christie’s classic, And Then There Were None. Ten teens on an island being methodically murdered one by one? Pardon me while I turn on all the lights in my house.
- Rotters by Daniel Kraus (winner of the 2012 Odyssey Award) mixes coming-of-age with the extreme gruesomeness of grave digging. There’s a plethora of skin-crawling scenes in this one, from rats to bodies in various states of decay, all described vividly in Kraus’s incredibly detailed and often stunning prose. You’ll want to opt for cremation after reading this one.
- Libba Bray’s latest novel, The Diviners, places horror in 1920s New York, exploring early 20th Century spiritualism (step away from the Ouija board, kids!), religious fanaticism, ritual serial killings, and a seriously creepy undead murderer who announces his presence by whistling. (Shudder!) For something less scary — but equally brilliant — check out Libba Bray’s Printz Award-winning title, Going Bovine.
So, what’s next on the YA horror horizon?
My inner 13-year-old rejoices: there’s a new Christopher Pike novel coming out next month. Witch World appears to have a comfortably familiar premise that will delight longtime Pike fans: a weekend of teenage partying (this time in Vegas) goes horrifyingly wrong (this time with witches and a portal to another reality).
In book-to-movie news, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer has optioned the film rights for Lois Duncan’s 1974 classic boarding school chiller, Down a Dark Hall. With Stephenie Meyer’s influence, this movie could bring about a major renaissance in YA horror.
Weigh in, readers: what YA horror books have kept you up at night? What horror titles are you most looking forward to?
— Allison Tran, currently reading The Secret Prophecy by Herbie Brennan
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