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July 16, 2018

More Horror in YA, Please --- Guest Post by Shawn Sarles, Author of CAMPFIRE

Posted by Catherine B
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There aren’t that many YA horror genre books out there, this much is definitely true. But it is also true that everyone lives in a horror movie for a large chunk of their lives --- it’s called being a teenager. That awkward, weird and sometimes disturbing part of our lives that we all have to endure can be pretty terrifying. In his blog post, Shawn Sarles, author of CAMPFIRE, discusses the unexpected ways in which horror books can be relatable to this time in everyone’s lives, and how they can encourage us to face our fears and have courage.


I hate to admit it, but horror is kind of rare in YA. Which is funny to me, considering some of the core ingredients in so many great horror films are

  1. A Crazed, Blood-Thirsty Killer
  2. An Ensemble Cast of Teens for Said Killer to Pick Off

Am I wrong?

Let’s go through a list of some of the biggest franchise killers.

  • Freddy Krueger – Stalks the dreams of teenagers on Elm Street
  • Jason – Don’t apply to be a summer camp counselor unless you want to die
  • Ghostface - Kills about half of his high school classmates
  • Michael Myers – Obsessed with killing his teenage sister on Halloween

See. YA and horror go hand-in-hand. It’s a fact.

If you think about it, our teen years are probably some of the most frightening we go through. There’s so much that we don’t know. So much that we’re trying to figure out. So much to be fearful of. It’s a pivotal moment in every person’s life, filled with scary decisions that we have to make. It’s when we start growing up. When we choose what college we want to go to or what subject we want to study there. It’s when we put ourselves on the line to ask out our crushes, the fear of rejection palpable, the embarrassment of failure almost unbearable.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that being a teenager is really freakin’ scary. So why not use that fear and write a horror story? That’s what I decided to do.

In CAMPFIRE, I wanted to write a story about fear. But more importantly, I wanted to write about facing that fear and overcoming it. I think it’s important to recognize that life is full of scary things. Obviously not everyone is going to be stranded in some remote mountain campsite with a mystery killer hunting after them…but that doesn’t mean we don’t all face some sort of fear in our everyday lives.

I think horror is important in YA because it acknowledges that there are scary things out there and then shows that those scary things can be faced and overcome.

For my main character, Maddie, she lives with this huge trauma from her past, when she witnessed her mother die in a fire. This event haunts her and causes her to be afraid of the world. She’s shy. She needs the help of her brother and her best friend to feel comfortable. Her life is about running and hiding. It’s the only way she knows how to survive. But is that really a way to live?

For Maddie, her story is all about finding the courage within herself to stop running and start facing her fears head-on. It’s the horrific events going on around her that force her to fight. She becomes someone who takes control of her life. Someone courageous and brave. Someone who can fight the demons lurking out there in the world.

And I think that applies to everyone. It’s so easy to shrink into ourselves because something scares us. it doesn’t have to be a knife-wielding killer. It can be something as simple as failing a test or having a difficult conversation with a friend. But I think that the more we see and read about people overcoming their fears, the more we can face what scares us in our own lives.

It’s a shame that there isn’t more horror in YA, but I hope that’s all starting to change. We could all use more stories about facing fears and finding courage