While I do love horror, recently I’ve felt like YA horror has been really lacking when compared to adult horror. I guess there’s still this idea that young people don’t like being scared when the amount of kids trying to sneak into horror movies at the cinema proves that completely wrong.
Because this week’s prompt is a Halloween freebie, I got to thinking about what I want to see more or less of in YA horror because I feel like this is a genre that still has a bit of improving to do. Probably an unfortunate side effect of being left out and sort of forgotten about so much.
LESS FOCUS ON ROMANCE
For me, this is where YA horror falls a little flat. Some books have too much crossover with paranormal romance, and I personally prefer to keep those two as separate genres. I don’t like my monster sex to mesh with my murders-by-monster, if that makes sense.
Two of my favourite YA horror books, Anna Dressed in Blood and There’s Someone Inside Your House, while being very bloody and containing quite a fair bit of violence, do still have a big romantic plot. And I’m not usually the kind of person to complain about there being too much romance in YA but I do like there to be a clear distinction between straight-up horror and paranormal romance with some scary moments.
All versions and interpretations of monsters are completely valid, but we’re allowed to have our preferences. And for me, I prefer scary werewolves to “hot guys who turn into gigantic wolves” werewolves. Compare An American Werewolf in London to the werewolves from Twilight. One has an extended, horrific, painful transformation sequence that features the werewolf screaming in pain throughout, and the other has a guy who takes his shirt off and turns into a dog with no pain whatsoever.
I guess the “giant dog/realistic wolf” kind of werewolf works better for paranormal romance, but I’m talking about horror and I want my scary monster-man werewolves.
It is 2019. And I refuse to believe that every single vampire in the world would be white. That’s just ridiculous. We already have a lot of queer vampires, and that’s a great step forward, but vampire fiction (from what I’ve seen, at least) is still overwhelmingly white. Last year, I read Certain Dark Things and it was very likely the first vampire book I’d ever read that featured POC vampires. Before that, I was reading Vampire Academy, and the only POC in that series (that I can remember) is Rose’s father who’s Turkish. There’s just no excuse for a lack of POC vampires anymore.
This one is kind of tricky because of the target demographic of YA books, but I think it would be cool to see more overtly gory YA horror books. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of gore if it’s just for the sake of it being there, but think of it this way: how much more disturbing would The Hunger Games have been if the killing was shown to you? It would be pretty disturbing, especially considering that these are kids.
I don’t necessarily want books to be as gory as American Psycho (which is the only book I’ve come close to throwing across the room it’s so violent), but I feel like some more gore would make YA horror a bit scarier. But only if it’s necessary.
VILLAINS WHO ARE IRREDEEMABLE
For better or for worse, we’re currently living in an age where morally-grey villains are seen as the bee’s knees, and a lot of people have the idea that a villain has to be sympathetic in order to be a good villain. I personally don’t agree with that, and I do have my favourite morally-grey villains but I feel like there’s a time and a place for a sympathetic villain. Sometimes I want a villain who is just completely unredeemable and has no good qualities about them.
Take a character like the Joker, for example. It’s nigh-on impossible to sympathise with him because he’s just so awful in every single way. And there’s also the chance that he made his “sad backstory” up on the spot to get people to feel sorry for him. The guy will murder anybody indiscriminately just because he finds it funny. There’s nothing to sympathise with there and you just want to see him get smacked down. I don’t want there to be black and white morality all the time, but some villains that are just completely awful would be nice.
We all know that I love vampires, but sometimes I want to see something new and original. And by that I don’t mean a new version of a vampire, I mean I want to see new monsters. I want a writer to create something that they saw in their own personal nightmares, I want to know what scares them personally and put that into the form of a new monster that very likely has not been done before. Because in this day and age, we need something new instead of a new interpretation of something we’ve seen before.
Sometimes the best monster isn’t really a monster, they’re just a regular person. A severely messed up and evil person, but still a person. While I do love me a good non-human monster, I do also love human villains because they’re more plausible and at times believable. A non-human monster could just be running on animal instants, whereas a person knows exactly what they’re doing and that what they’re doing is wrong. And that’s freaking terrifying. Unfortunately, there’re people out there who love to turn these characters into “uwu my little stabby baby” kinds of characters. Which is annoying.
HORROR SET IN SPACE
I know that people like stories of space exploration and find them exciting and all, but hear me out: space is freaking scary. No air, no light, no heat, no food, no water? That’s terrifying and we should be exploring that side of space exploration. And also, what happens if our brave heroes find monsters out in the thought-to-be-barren wastelands of outer space? More scariness. Earth is scary enough, but space is even scarier.
STORIES ROOTED IN FOLKLORE
Last year around Halloweentime I read The Girl from the Well, which takes a lot of inspiration from the Japanese folktale Okiku and the Nine Plates, and it got me hunting for more horror stories that take inspiration from folklore. Naturally, I found plenty of movies and adult books, but barely any YA books. I don’t really understand why there are so few YA horrors based on folklore, because YA tends to be the breeding ground for fairytale retellings. And horror retellings of fairytales have been done to death, so gimme some folklore instead.
LESS “CRAZY” VILLAINS
Thankfully, this isn’t something that I’ve seen a lot of in YA horror, but it is a huge problem in horror as a whole. For too long horror has found a way of making monsters out of people just for being “different”. Whether that’s because of gender, sexuality, disability, or in the extreme rarest of cases, race. Although most of those things have been phased out by more tolerant thinking, there still are too many instances of mentally ill people being used as the “perfect” horror villains because of the misconception that mentally ill people are dangerous. We’ve already moved on from the “LGBT+ people as psychopathic murderous villains” phase so why can’t we move on from this?