Thursday, August 11, 2011

What's scary when you don't fear the Reaper?

Reactions: 
[Sorry folks--I had an HTML snafu last night. The paragraph about the Goodreads and LibraryThing lists has been corrected.]

A week or two ago, I was on the phone with my mom filling her in on all the exciting new stuff that's happening with YA literature nowadays. Yes, I know: I'm tragically hip. We'll leave that alone for now.


She asked me to describe urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Have you noticed that most Barnes and Noble stores now have an entire subsection in the Teen area dedicated to paranormal romance? I'm not really sure how they decide what to put in there. My guess is a book buyer in some dusty room scans the covers for pictures of torn corsets and fangs, and tosses them into special boxes. The Stephanie Meyer ones probably ship separately.

Anyway, I suggested that my mom try out Kelley Armstrong's The Darkest Powers Trilogy to at least get a feel for paranormal teen. I'm not sure I'd call it paranormal romance, but it's as close as I like to get. This will probably make me sound old, but I think a guy with a pulse is much more attractive than a guy without, and I think a werewolf would present a housekeeping headache. Also, you think Kosher households have it rough. Can you imagine all the modifications you'd have to make if you married a vampire? With my luck, I'd probably get arrested for keeping my hubby in a coffin in the basement. What judge is going to buy, "No, really. He likes it in there."

When you think about it, this whole supernatural creatures and monsters are our friends bit is kind of weird; sometimes they're more than friends. As a horror fan, this is tough for me.

It's not like I don't get the gothic romance thing. I probably get it better than a lot of people since I've actually taken a course on romantic literature alone---and no, I'm not talking about Harlequin romances: think romantic period. The classic romantic genre focused on the beautiful and gothic was supposed to be a blend of the ugly and the beautiful. That's how wonderful novels like Frankenstein and Dracula came along. Actually, you might or might not think they're particularly wonderful. I think Dracula is kind of slow and I was disappointed that Frankenstein doesn't include any monster-building instructions. However, it does include some creative uses for any unwanted products of conception. (Oh yes, Mary Shelley goes there.)
Dracula, by H. Deane & J. Bald... Digital ID: TH-09410. New York Public LibraryFor some reason, it seems like it's really hard to get a bunch of teen horror books together.
I might be clueless, but I don't see paranormal romance or teen paranormal in general as scary because there's this attitude like, "Oh, demons, ghosts and werewolves? Whatever. They're not scary; they're just different." That's cool and all, but in fiction, allies aren't usually creepy. I don't walk upstairs at night and tremble at the thought of my loyal werewolf friend waiting for me behind the door.
Pre-Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter, YA had its share of creepy and bizarre books. Robert Cormier has made some delightful contributions in the creepy thriller department, e.g. We All Fall Down and I Am The Cheese. I guess Christopher Pike wrote horror, but I never really got into his. Lois Duncan brought us Daughters of Eve or what I like to call When Good Feminists Go Bad. When it came to pure horror, as a teen, I jumped straight from middle grade's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to Stephen King. (By the way, I'm old. I was cruising the teen section when YA was doing so badly publishers were wondering if it was a category worth keeping.)

So what's on the list for teen horror today? This list on Goodreads is a good start. LibraryThing also has a decent list going.

Interestingly, most of the books I just mentioned are on it, and, what a shock, Christopher Pike dominates this list. Nothing against Christopher Pike, but is he still even writing YA?
Maybe I'm being too picky and defining the horror genre too narrowly, but when I think of horror, I want something that is going to give me nightmares. I want a book that is going to make me think twice before I turn on my Mighty Brite to read in the dark. I don't want any of this vampires are hot and werewolves are cute and fluffy garbage. Is that so wrong?