Why I Don’t Read YA Horror (very often)

Why I Don’t Read YA Horror (very often)

When I was putting together my TBR for this month something I noticed was that I have only one YA book and the others are all adult books or classics. This got me wondering why exactly it is that I don’t read more YA horror books and tend to gravitate more towards horror for adults.

In my very personal opinion, YA horror could do a lot better so that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with adult horror. There are even cases of middle grade horror being better that YA, so what could be improved on? Let’s talk about that, shall we?

A GIF of Lisa Simpson rolling her eyes while saying "meh".

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YA horror has a large focus on romance

This is very likely a problem with YA as a whole but it feels a lot more prominent in genre fiction, and definitely in horror. Probably the best YA horror series I’ve read is the Anna Dressed in Blood duology but although it is violent, gory, and scary, it is still primarily a romance. The last thing you expect from a series about a ghost hunter is for the ghost hunter to fall in love with the ghost that they are hunting. It happens in The Mediator series too but that’s to be expected there.

I don’t object to characters having love interests (queer or not, love interests don’t bother me that much) but what I do object to is when a book is clearly marketed as being a full-on horror story, but in reality it’s a paranormal romance. Sometimes I get the feeling that publishers think that teens only want to read about romances and therefore authors have to shoehorn romances in where they don’t necessarily belong. And besides, if I wanted to read a paranormal romance, I wouldn’t look to YA for that.

YA horror isn’t very scary

I don’t know how other people feel, but for me I just don’t find YA horror to be scary. I have yet to actually be scared by any horror book because written down scary things don’t scare me as much as actually seeing it, but I feel like adult horror do scary a lot better because they’re not limited in how frightening they can be.

I find it quite disappointing that YA horror is so limited in how scary or graphic it can be because a scary story doesn’t have to be a bombardment of gore and graphic violence in order to be scary. I’ve been reading Ring recently and the most scared I got was when the protagonists friend was telling him about the first time he ever sexually assaulted someone. That made me feel more sick than the actual videotape scene itself and that was the same kind of sick I felt reading the most extreme parts of American Psycho. I don’t get that feeling with YA horror and that really lets it down.

There’s a stigma against kids reading scary stories

I know what you’re thinking: “how can there be a stigma against kids reading scary stories when Goosebumps and Scary Stories to tell in the Dark exist?” I totally understand that way of thinking but it kind of brings me back to what I’d said in my post about kidlit needing to discuss mature themes: some people feel like their children are made of the most delicate glass and need to be shielded from any and all things that will potentially upset them. I personally think that it’s wrong to do that because kids need to know what it real and what isn’t real and that what isn’t real won’t hurt them.

Because YA stories are primarily for teenagers (whether we adults like that or not), they can fall under this stigma of parents not wanting their kids to read material that they find offensive, whether that is because of sexual content or violence, and for better or for worse, horror and sexual content do go hand in hand a lot of the time, so we end up with horror stories that have teenagers hooking up and falling in love but then we don’t get any good scares or anything that is actually horrifying to read about.

Most YA horror focuses on the paranormal

As much as I love monsters in the more traditional sense, sometimes the scariest monster can be another human being. I love paranormal creatures, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t always want to read about the supernatural. Sometimes I want to read about someone trying to solve a serial killer case, or another situation that doesn’t involve supernatural elements. Unfortunately for me, I have to really look incredibly hard to find that in YA because so many books focus on paranormal or supernatural elements. Also, to return to my point about romance in YA books, it’s a huge reason why I don’t read YA paranormal romance anymore. Also, I feel like I’m too old to be reading paranormal romances where both characters are teenagers and the book expects me to find a sixteen-year-old boy to be sexually appealing. I’m 25 so I’d rather read adult paranormal romances than YA.

Obviously I’m not totally knocking the genre for having so many paranormal books because I enjoy them too, but some variety in horror would be nice to see instead of constant ghost stories and the like.

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talk to me!

Are there any genres that you think are better or worse when written for a certain demographic? How would you improve it?

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7 Comments

  1. October 8, 2020 / 10:52 am

    Interesting post! This is such a layered discussion, isn’t it, because as adults we may very well want more from YA horror but, as you said, YA is ultimately for teenagers so if I’m seeking adult content for my horror then I’m going to read adult horror instead of expecting YA to do it for me.

    To be honest I think part of the issues with YA is that it covers such a long age range. YA has essentially become what teen fiction was back before YA was a thing, but for me someone in their early 20s is also a young adult–in fact they’re more of a young adult than a 14-year-old is, in my opinion, because a 14-year-old is still so much closer to childhood. I wonder if maybe we just need to see more books covering different ages within YA, so we have YA for teenagers but we also have YA for readers in their 20s.

    I do think YA in general focuses too much on romance–I can understand why, because it’s during your teen years that most people will have their first romantic experience–and I don’t mind reading romance either, but if a YA horror novel doesn’t make it clear that romance is going to be a big part of it then it’s frustrating when it takes over what I hoped would be a straight-up spooky book. I think horror is such a good genre for exploring friendship and family too, so I’d love to see more YA horror with other kinds of relationships as their focus. I don’t have a problem with YA talking about teenagers being attractive, though–as an adult they’re obviously not my type at all, but I’m also not the intended audience for the book so I don’t expect a book meant for a 16 or 17-year-old not to make the characters attractive to that reader.

  2. October 8, 2020 / 6:52 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually read any YA horror, but I feel like the shoehorning romance into everything is a huge problem for YA across the board. I can’t even think of a YA book off the top of my head that doesn’t have a romance, which is crazy! Not every book needs a romance, and I can see why it would be particularly annoying when you read a book you expect to be a horror story, and it turns out to be mainly a paranormal romance.

  3. October 10, 2020 / 1:55 pm

    Yeah, the focus on romance is one big reason why I tend not to read YA horror either and have cut back on how much general YA I read as well. It’s overdone in my opinion.

  4. October 13, 2020 / 12:39 pm

    I get what you mean. I wish genre fiction in YA would focus less on romance. It’s needed and nice in some books, but it doesn’t need to be in every single book. I don’t know that I really have many YA horrors to recommend – I guess I think of them more as mysteries and thrillers. I would suggest I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga though – it’s a trilogy and so so good. I could see adults loving it. I also really love Kara Thomas – her first two books were really good, and I have her third to hopefully read soon.

    -Lauren

  5. October 14, 2020 / 8:34 pm

    I also don’t like when the story revolves around romance, so I really get that! 😣 I LOVE this post, I think it’s super interesting to read ❤️👏🏻✨

  6. October 15, 2020 / 10:03 pm

    I know what you mean, especially when the story centers on romance, but there’s a good amount of scary as hell YA horror I’d recommend! Check out None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney and Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

  7. October 18, 2020 / 4:54 pm

    I definitely agree. I don’t read a lot of YA horror. I love Stephen King, and I’ve read some good middle grades horror, but you’re right about YA horror not always being scary. Great point that I never thought of!
    HERE is my discussion post if you want to chime in!

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