Teens, can we talk about the perfection of the horror story? First, there’s the length…nice and short. Why commit to 500 pages when you could be up to your eye sockets in dread, panic, and nail biting in just twenty-five? Then, of course, there’s the content. Horror stories typically don’t waste their breath on superfluous details; instead, they get right to the juicy stuff—and by juicy stuff I don’t mean gore. It’s the irresistible psychological thrills, the ones that convince you the twig outside your window is actually plotting your murder, that make horror stories such impeccable little terrors.
If this sounds like the type of reading you’re into, sit back (but don’t relax), and let me tell you about some of the Young Adult (YA) horror story collections we have available here in Teen Underground at A.K. Smiley Public Library. We will have your doctor worrying about your blood pressure in no time.
Malevolent dolls, grabby ghosts, and evil houses all make appearances in “The Gathering Dark: An Anthology of Folk Horror,” edited by Tori Bovalino. This YA collection contains stories that feel both modern and classic, delivering slow burn goosebumps that have you wanting to scream at the teen protagonists to stop doing whatever they’re doing and RUN the other way. Of course, they won’t listen, and end up in the bathtub being held underwater by invisible hands, but I digress. More gothic than gory, these tales deliver on the irresistibly creepy scale.
Are there any “Goosebumps” fans in the house? If you often wish you were in 6th grade again so you could enjoy reading R.L. Stine with abandon, I have good news: “Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror,” edited by R.L. Stine, can be found in our YA collection. These stories, written by a variety of YA thrill masters, range from a babysitting job gone horrifyingly wrong to a “Stranger-Things”-ish shadow world abduction, and take some twists and turns that may leave you casually begging your parents to re-install your nightlight.
“Scary Stories,” illustrated by Barry Moser, lives up to its name. It’s a YA collection of tales by some greats, including Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker, Margaret Mahy, Ray Bradbury, and more. Even though most of these are older stories, probably published before you were born, some are genuinely disturbing—like serious not-recommended-reading-while-you’re-home-alone material (I may or may not have made this amateur mistake). Several of these stories haunted me for days after I finished them. If you are down for a slightly more sophisticated brand of terror, this may be the book for you.
Want something with a paranormal bent? Try “Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories” edited by, you guessed it, Roald Dahl. Or how about a modern twist on some macabre classics in the form of “His Hideous Heart: Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined,” in which contributing authors Tiffany D. Jackson, Lamar Giles, Rin Chupeco, and others bring fresh perspectives to Poe’s creepy original works?
Have I made my case for the horror story yet? Ominous, moody, irresistible, atmospheric, AND brief, the above collections may be just what the doctor orders you to avoid. But if you think your teenaged heart can withstand a little extra pumping, then come check one out from Teen Underground at A.K. Smiley Public Library and experience the incomparable thrill and page-turning adrenaline that only a perfect little horror story can produce. …while you can.