Friday 13 March 2015

Why Isn't There More YA Horror?

So this year we get Friday 13th TWICE! How unlucky is that?

But as well as bad luck, Friday 13th always makes me think of horror films, and this got me thinking about horror in YA, and why isn’t there more of it?

Horror is a genre which is endlessly popular in film – and especially teen-populated movies – but when I looked in the bookshops I could find only a very few horror titles aimed at teenagers.

But why, if there’s such a craving to be scared, are there not just as many scary books for teens as there are movies?

It’s certainly not that books can’t be scary. I have had more nightmares from scary books than scary films, and I think part of the reason is that the frightening images are formed in my own head, by my own imagination. More than one book had to be abandoned and banished from my bedroom when I was growing up because I could not even bear to sleep with it in the same room (one was a Point Horror: The Train, and another an Agatha Christie: ABC Murders).
Yes, I’m a bit of a chicken, but those books are SCARY!

The Point Horror books were published (shock horror!) in the 90s, but nowadays, whilst the YA section has more than its fair share of black-covered paranormal books, and whilst it’s true that vampires and zombies (the usual suspects in many horror movies) are well-represented in teen fiction, these aren’t usually what I’d really class as horror. More often than not they’re essentially romances, and the paranormal beings themselves are tortured misunderstood souls (and attractive love objects) rather than intrinsically scary.

But why?

Are publishers and gate-keepers scared of traumatizing teens? Is the concept of being scary-but-not-too-scary too difficult a line to tread?

Boundaries of acceptability are drawn (and tested) within other YA genres, so why not horror? And what’s the result?

What’s a horror-hungry teen reader to do?

Give up? Or read adult horror fiction, which has no boundaries and consequently may contain extreme material that the teen reader is unprepared for?

Is YA horror a gap in the market aching to be filled?


  1. Ya horror is becoming much more prevalent - it's the next big thing I think. Readers looking for ya horror should check out Sarah Naughton, James Dawson, Kendra Leighton, Holly Black, Lou Morgan to name but a few. And Stripes has a new teen horror imprint called Red Eye - you may never sleep again!

  2. Great recommendations, Bryony! Thanks!

  3. Perhaps the prolific Stephen King cornered the market in adolescent terror and it was too daunting to compete with him! Though, saying that, as teenagers we loved James Herbert and not just for the horror!