Talk To Me! What is Young Adult Horror Exactly?

Young Adult Horror

It’s actually kind of funny to me that horror even has a YA subsection. I mean, in my head, you’re either so young the worst you should be reading is R.L. Stine or thereabouts or you’re old enough to read the big boys of horror like King, Koontz, Laymon, and Matheson. Now, I’ve come across some ‘clean’ horror that I’ve acknowledged as being suitable for teens, but the idea that there’s a young adult horror novels section is still just odd.

Anyways, I came upon it, and started sifting through my list wondering what books I would say are YA Horror Reads. These aren’t in order of how much I like them, or anything like that. More the order in which I discovered them in my shifting.

(Pictures link to Amazon, text links go to reviews.)

Obviously, there were:

Beneath Claire’s House by Corey J. Popp

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

The funny thing is, out of those three, the only one I’d really consider true horror would be Beneath Claire’s House. The others are good, but even remotely scary. So, what exactly is a young adult horror book? Do they actually have much horror in them? I know the young adult section is aimed at ages 12-18, so I wouldn’t expect it to have the rough stuff, but still… has a list of Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, and one of the novels on it is Anna Dressed in Blood. Now, Anna, to me, kind of like the TV show Supernatural, and a fine example for this post. Just like the show, Anna Dressed in Blood deals in things that are considered typically horror, but are not horrific at all. It’s a good book, but it’s not even remotely a scary book.

So, what’s going on? Corey J. Popp proved it was possible to write a YA novel that was actually scary, but he seems to be one of the few. Is horror for this age group meant to be kid-gloved? Or is ‘horror’ just the genre in which people automatically assume if it’s got a ghost, or zombies, etc, it must be horror? Because, wow, so not the truth.

I’m not asking for the YA Horror books to have lots of guts/gore or head-twisting demonic possession. However, I do they think they should be scary. That, in itself, opens up another can of worms though. What exactly is scary? Have you guys that read Young Adult Horror been scared by those books? Maybe because I read so much horror I’m slightly immune to the scares…. so…

Talk to me!



13 thoughts on “Talk To Me! What is Young Adult Horror Exactly?

  1. Personally I think the YA tag is related to the details of the books. The YA horror tag points to the level the horror is described in in the book. If bloody guts and brain matter flinging about are described in minute detail, it no longer is a YA book, where only suggestions or bland descriptions that these things happen are given. It could also point to sex scenes. As soon as a spade is called a spade and described in vivid detail, it no longer is an YA book, where only actions are mentioned or suggested, without any detail. I suppose you’ll have to read the books to find out!

    1. I completely agree with you on level of detail at least in relation to guts/horror/sex thing.

      The one book I reference, though, (Beneath Claire’s House) is definitely Young Adult – suitable for anyone 14+ to read. It’s completely clean, no mention of drugs, cussing, etc… and yet it creeped me out completely. However, it was very much a psychological horror, and maybe that’s the difference.

  2. I think you’re right that some people see anything with a paranormal element (or perhaps a dark paranormal element, not fantasy paranormal… it’s getting complicated) as horror, although I agree with you that for me it’s not the same. But then people who are not fans of the genre find things scary that I don’t. I’ve read some novels with YA protagonists that were really scary, but I don’t think I’d class any of them as YA reads… It’s a difficult one. You’ve given me much to think about…

    1. Yeah, the lines are all very blurred. Even just your dark paranormal / fantasy paranormal element comment raises another question. Anymore I would consider werewolves and vampires to be fantasy paranormal, but they started as outright horror.

  3. I’ve read Arie Farnam’s books, the first one The Soul and the Seed is quite disturbing but also compelling, I can’t read adult horror, but can cope with YA horror. Arie’s books aren’t zombies they are about a group of minority people subjected to horrific treatment by others who feel superior, a theme which rears its ugly head in society again and again.

    1. What do you think it is that makes YA Horror something you can deal with? Is it the lack of description of the horror? Or do the other elements typically found in it (like romance) help balance?

      I’ve never heard of those books!

      1. I need to sleep at night, and too much blog and gore and horrific deaths are too much, yet this first book was pretty graphic for me with torture that must have been close to the edge of comfort for a YA read.

  4. I usually just class something as YA if the main character is between 16-20. I’ve not read much horror though, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a huge selection of it under YA. I think the only YA horror I’ve read are Dawn Kurtagich’s books, which I love and are definitely creepy (though not scary in the “can barely read” sense)

  5. I think of YA horror as being a bit campy. Even a lot of horror stories (movies) have teens being scared out of their minds and they are adult movies. So I think of YA horror as being horror for younger readers who are past R.L Stine but not quiet ready for Stephen King. 🙂 Most of them are not scary at all, but a little creepy.

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