So…horror. I’m a total wuss when it comes to horror anything, so I do my level best to avoid it. The shower scene from Psycho? Any movie involving a chain saw, doll that comes to life (to any sound effect other than Sugar Plum Fairy theme), clowns, sharks (swimming or tornadoed) or the word Halloween? Never watched a single one. Never will.
However, a writer I like just sent me his latest release, a YA horror novel for review. Well, okay. One does not, I told myself, necessarily need to see vast numbers of teens get turned into tomato soup in the creepy basement in order to form opinions on the genre. [cracks knuckles, opens the blinds, turns on all the lights, does preventive check of both showers, puts on some Tchaikovsky, and makes sure we really don’t have a basement that I’ve just forgotten about. Ready.]
When it comes to YA horror, there are a couple of essential tropes:
- How dark is dark? Even if it’s the middle of a bright sunny day outside, the kids will go into a pitch-dark boarded up haunted house/abandoned hospital/ cave. Their flashlights will get broken or lost, their candles will blow out, and that piece of wood that they managed to light as a torch using their last match will fall into the elevator shaft/pit of despair/ toilet. Somehow, despite the fact that not one of them has a match or lighter on them (apparently horror teens either don’t smoke or are into vaping), the structure they are in will catch fire. Oh, and there will be no signal for their phones because otherwise it would be a VERY short and boring story.
- We’ll find it/them/the exit faster if we split up. Yeah, cause that always ends well…
- Is that ketchup on my red shirt? These are the bleeders, characters listed in the credits under “blonde friend” or at most just a first name. If it was Star Trek, they would be the ones in the red uniform shirts who would be dead before the first commercial break. In a YA horror tale, they are probably the evil alpha bitch’s girl posse who—although they travel in a pack everywhere else on the planet—only have to set foot in the haunted house before separating so they can be picked off one by one.
- Mad dogs and spiders and bats, oh my! In horror, they will get on your face. In supernatural horror, they will eat your brains and turn you into zombies or pod-teens or come bursting out of your chest in which they have been gestating and… you know, I think I’ll just stop here.
- How bitchy are the beyotches? This brings us to the YA part of the program. It’s middle or high school, ruled by the cruelest, most evil creatures ever spawned: teenagers.
- Um…sorry about your parents. Not. If any of these kids have managed to hang onto even one parent, that person will be an abusive/ alcoholic/ control freak or even a Republican.
- This school ain’t big enough for both of us. Ah, yes. What would a YA story be without the transfer student? From Twilight’s Bella to The Craft’s Sarah to Buffy’s um… Buffy, those transfer kids from the dysfunctional families are magnets for the creatures of evil—vampires, witches, psycho killers, mean girls with great hair and convertibles.
- Clowns. Oh way the hell no. Just… no.
With assistance from the ever-addictive plot generator, here is my sample YA horror blurb that hits most of these tropes.
Did I miss any (except clowns, cause there’s such thing as too much horror)?
The Curse of the Slippery Blinged-out IPhone Case
A Horror Story
by RU Scared
Whilst investigating the disappearance of a local teen, Alpha Bitche, a high school transfer student called MarySue Hairflicker uncovers a legend about a supernaturally-cursed, blinged-out designer iPhone case circulating throughout the gloomy old abandoned ice cream shop on the edge of town (just out of cell range). As soon as anyone uses the blinged-out iPhone case, he or she has only until the next generation iPhone upgrade left to live.
The doomed few appear to be ordinary people during day-to-day life, but when photographed, they have an iridescent lower-case ‘i’ across their foreheads. A marked person feels like sticky spider webs to touch, and displays a marked aversion to Microsoft products.
MarySue gets hold of the blinged-out designer iPhone case, refusing to believe the superstition. A collage of images flashes into her mind: a dank bat balancing on a mildew-covered Alpha Bitche, an old newspaper headline about a completely avoidable accident, a hooded ghost of a black cat ranting about the missing little finger of a witch’s left hand, and a boarded-up drinking well located in an ominous abandoned dairy farm.
When MarySue notices her eyebrows have spider-like properties, she realises that the curse of the blinged-out designer iPhone case is real and calls in her expendable sidekick, a middle school dropout called Tiffany YA-Troper, to help. Along with Alpha Bitche’s posse of mean girls, they head into the darkened abandoned ice cream shop, where they immediately separate. One by one the posse heads down into the gloomy basement, or up to the bat-infested attic, or through the secret tunnel to the nest of giant spiders.
When they run out of mean girls, Tiffany examines the blinged-out designer iPhone case and willingly submits herself to the curse and the same visions flash before her eyes. She finds the dank bat balancing on the mildew-covered teen Alpha Bitche particularly chilling, and realizes that she’s joined the queue for a supernatural death when the next generation iPhone is released.
MarySue and Tiffany pursue a quest to uncover the meaning of the visions, starting with a search for the hooded ghost of the black cat. Will they be able to stop the curse before their time is up or the fire—which has inevitably started in the basement of the abandoned ice cream shop and burns steadily (despite the gallons of teen blood dampening every available surface)—reaches them?
Praise for The Curse of the Slippery Blinged-out IPhone Case
“This is actually pretty scary. I’ll never be able to look at another blinged-out designer iPhone case for as long as I live.”— The Daily Tale
“Oh please! There’s nothing scary about a dank bat balancing on a mildew-covered teen alpha bitch. Are we supposed to feel spooked?”—Enid Kibbler
“The hooded ghost of a black cat really freaked me out.”—Hit the Spoof
“I hope MarySue and Tiffany get married.”—Zob Gloop