It’s that time of year again. Every Halloween, my brother-in-law replaces his inner front door with a coffin door. He watches through a peephole as trick-or-treaters approach and at just the right moment jumps out of the door—Boo! Some kids won’t even come in. Little kids cry. But the middle-schoolers and teens love it and come back for seconds. I’m not surprised. It’s fun to be scared, especially when you know it’s not real, and that’s all the more reason why I’m puzzled by articles questioning whether certain books are too dark for teens. Seriously?
The darkness in Harry Potter (and yes some people complain about this) is nothing compared to what you find in some fairy tales. A Grimm’s fairy tale called “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf” terrified me when I was six. Poor little Inge is a troubled but pretty girl who delights in plucking the wings off flies and is probably a budding psychopath. When she puts the loaf of bread she is taking to her parents down in some mud and walks on it so her pretty new shoes won’t get dirty, she ends up sinking into hell where she is turned into the medieval equivalent of a zombie and attacked by snakes and toads that crawl out of the folds in her dress. Now that’s a dark story and it’s for children! So in honor of Halloween and stories about little girls sinking into hell here are some dark YA novels, along with thoughts on whether or not teens should read them.
- Some scientists, authors, and educators are worried that teens’ brains are being adversely affected by reading dark YA like Harry Potter or Twilight. I find the idea of deciding what teens should or should not read annoying, but at least this article concedes that even if these books really are bad for them, there’s nothing you can do. Teens will read whatever they want to read.
- On the flip side, Gayle Forman writes eloquently about why the fact that teens crave YA on really dark topics is a good thing. Literature is all about conflict and trouble, and reading about dark issues can help teens process what they may be going through in their own lives.
- Some of these super-scary books to read for Halloween might be as horrifying as “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf.”
- Here are some story collections that will put you into a Halloween Mood, including The Short Stories From Hell Series.
- This list of YA Horror stories that combine folklore and diverse characters includes The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco, a variation of a Japanese ghost story, and Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck, a YA novel that features Indian mythology, and a 300 year old curse.