Thursday, October 21, 2004

Horror in the time of Clearasil: Angelina Benedetti, young adult materials selector for the King County Public Library, writes a nice introduction to horror for teens for the American Library Association's Teen Read Week: It’s Alive @ Your Library:

"Horror for teens is not really a genre. It is our reaction to the book, or the rat, that makes it horrifying. Even though the horror is confined to the page, we still react in a physical way, as if whatever is inside the story can crawl right out at us. It is that ability to feel the fear and come away unscathed that makes horror so appealing. We get all of the shivers and no blood on our hands when we set the book aside.

"Teens seem to have a need to feel that fear, as evidenced by the popularity of shocker, gross-out, supernatural and altogether scary books. Is it that the good guys and bad guys are easier to tell apart? Or maybe it is because those vampires and werewolves go through physical transformations that make puberty feel like a bump in the road? I think I am such a fan because the world is a scary place and the more I read scary books, the easier it is for me to deal with the six o’clock news.

"Horror has been a part of storytelling from the very beginning. Think of that awful scene in Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus stakes the Cyclops’ eye. It has been a part of our teen collections as well. The 'classics' – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and The Tales of Edgar Allen Poe—find new readers every year. The modern masters--Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul—beckon from beneath black and bold paperback covers. Newcomers Darren Shan (Cirque du Freak) and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (In the Forests of the Night) have found their places alongside them. Graphic novels have joined the mix. You might not want to read 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles before going to bed. Niles’ vampires were safely feeding on the population of Barrow, Alaska, but I felt sure one was breathing down my neck the minute I turned out the light."