Horror is at its scariest when it puts you into the perspective of its terrified victims, but if you’ve read or watched widely in the genre, it can be harder to feel those vicarious thrills, especially when you’re busy yelling at the characters to stop being so stupid. Enter meta-horror: where your extra knowledge of the genre is part of the fun. In meta-horror, the characters may realize that events are happening like in a horror movie; or the story may break the fourth wall and deconstruct horror tropes to do something unfamiliar. It may be as simple as including “wink-wink” references that a horror fiend may be delighted to recognize. Either way, these meta-horror books, movies, and games can be scary, clever, or funny, or all three. You can recommend these titles to your high school teen horror buffs who are looking to put their horror knowledge to good use.
Seda’s mother inherits a crumbling mansion that was once a murder mystery hotel. Her mother is supposed to renovate and sell it, but she seems more interested in keeping it in the family. Seda likes all of the secret passages and macabre decorations at first, but it turns oppressive when a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the house. To keep their new guests entertained, her mother decides to host a murder mystery like in the old days.
I don’t read as much horror as I probably should, since it’s very popular with a lot of teen readers. So, I was very happy to attend this YA Literature Symposium session presented by the two Paulas (Paula Willey and Paula Gallagher) both from Baltimore (MD) County Public Library. Not only did I hear about some horror books I wasn’t familiar with, I also won a scary shark t-shirt! Thanks to their generosity, lots of us in the audience got prizes of galleys of YA books, and everyone got creepy body part shaped candy and packets of Old Bay Seasoning (Why? Because it’s made in Baltimore).
I can’t describe their presentation any better than they did:
“Teens of all types gravitate to horror fiction – perfectly nice kids with perfectly comfortable lives (as well as perfectly nice kids with difficult lives) seek out books by Darren Shan, Alexander Gordon Smith, Jeyn Roberts and the like. In our presentation, we will make the link between the psychological developments that characterize coming of age and the metaphors of horror, and argue that just because it’s all in your head, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
They mentioned that teens who like horror are nostalgic for series they read as kids like the Goosebumps series, Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories, or David Lubar’s Weenies series. Teens today are cutting their teeth on new horror TV shows, and films, even foreign ones like Let the Right One In and are big consumers of media, especially horror series like The Vampire Diaries.
Paula Willey explained why it’s important that we understand why teens like horror:
1. We may need to overcome our own revulsion; people who don’t like it don’t understand the appeal.
2. Horror is unusually good at shining a light on concerns of adolescents in ways other types of fiction do not. Horror is a window into their worries.
They also said that issues of morality can be explored in horror. Alexander Gordon Smith can talk abut good vs. evil in his Escape the Furnace series and get away with it. I had to laugh when they showed a slide from their PowerPoint stating that adolescent development is characterized by poor decision making; risk-taking; and a changing sense of identity and the image on screen was a photo of Bella and Edward from the Twilight movie.
Making stuff isn’t something that is usually associated with libraries, but it should be. The maker movement is still going strong, and it’s showing everyone that teens use libraries for all sorts of learning- including how to make all sorts of things. YALSA’s 2014 Maker Contest is going on right now, and applicants have the chance to win some neat prizes as well as share their awesome ideas with others. The deadline to apply is September 1st and you can go here to learn more and to apply. (Get some ideas on how to create a maker/ DIY program here.)
Finding themes in YA fiction that go along with the maker movement wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be until I thought bigger and stopped limiting myself to duct tape. When I did that I found a bunch that I thought might spark some interest in doing with teens. I also found some nonfiction titles, too, to get us all started on the doing!
Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams follows sixteen-year-old Sophie from the kitchen in her family’s restaurant in Washington, D.C., to the set of â€œTeen Test Kitchen,â€ a new reality show about teens cooking that her best friend has convinced her to audition for. Is Sophie ready to compete with her cooking, though? Hopefully growing up in the family restaurant will have been enough training!
Although Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous includes recipes, there are lots of teen oriented cookbooks out there. A Teen Guide toâ€¦ cookbook series by Dana Meachen Rau covers everything from Breakfast on the Go to Quick Healthy Snacks, and includes safety tips, conversion charts, and tons of tips throughout. Even I can cook using these, and I once tried to microwave a frozen noodle dinner for seventeen minutes instead of seven!
Great Britain has always been a popular setting in all types and genres of literature. While I have read many books set there over the years, I never really thought about exactly how many books I enjoy are set in Great Britain until I started planning a trip to England and Scotland. But as I did start reflecting on some of my favorites, I realized how integral the British setting is to many great YA books across multiple genres. Whether you are an Anglophile looking for a new read, or are simply interested in reading books set there before planning your own trip, this list offers great British settings for fans of all genres.
Fantasy The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson(2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) – Rory Deveaux isn’t sure what to expect when she moves from the U.S. South to a boarding school in London, but it definitely isn’t getting caught up in a series of horrifying killings copying those of Jack the Ripper. When she becomes a key witness to one of the crimes, Rory gets dragged into the case and might even become his next victim if she isn’t careful. In this, the first of the Shades of London series, plot twists and laughs both come fast and furious. You won’t be able to stop with just one book; but if you start now, there is still plenty of time to catch up with the first two books before the next one comes out early next year. Continue reading Great Britain Across The Genres
I wanted to write this mostly because of one YA writer who has begun the trend of basing her YA fiction books on real crimes. Initially, I thought I would focus on the increasing number of YA historical fiction books coming out that are based on true crime stories like the Jack the Ripper rip-off killings in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. But, I realized that her books aren’t historical fiction, they are contemporary novels that contain events based on true historical events. So, I will focus here mostly on contemporary YA fiction with elements based on true historical events â€“ with a few exceptions (I can’t resist a book based on a true story where a woman pretends to be a man and gets away with it).
A Soldier’s Story: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds. A Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss (2012, pbk. 2014) is is based on the true story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. Sarah narrates her riveting story as she deals with the dangers of living a lie and the horrors of war and even the complications of romance while posing as a man.
The book includes real photographs taken from the Civil War. Moss states in the epilogue that the bones of the story are all true; she used actual names of the soldiers who served with Sarah and she used Sarah’s actual diary and that of others as primary source materials. She also says that of the over 400 women who dressed a man during the war, most shared with secret with loved ones. Only Sarah was known to have lived as a man before enlisting and the only one to be recognized by acts of Congress as an honorably discharged soldier. Continue reading It Really Happened: YA Fiction Based on True Events