|More creepy kids. And shit.
||[Nov. 16th, 2005|01:35 am]
Somewhere in Antigua
When I was in junior high, I developed a mild obsession with “scary things”—an obsession that I fueled with readily available young adult fiction and film. Apparently, when a white, middle class grade-schooler between the ages of 10-14 first begins to consult the local library or video store, they look for abnormal stuff. |
We like ghosts, especially ghost children with old but solvable mysteries.
We prefer said ghost children to quietly wait for and then show themselves to the perfect, if somewhat overshadowed by unfair circumstance such as a divorce in the family or an unrequited budding crush on a popular boy or girl, teenage sleuth aching to put right what once went wrong.
Betty Wren Wright made a killing in this particular market in the early 80s with her “Dollhouse Murders” series. In the same era, Christopher Pike also offered up some juicy ghost-child mysteries that begged to be solved. But this diversion with “ghost children” (who, though indelibly creepy, are usually on the side of good) is not limited to innocent spectral beings.
As pre-teens, we’re into all kinds of weird: monsters and madmen. Twisted things. Magic, witches. Demented nursery rhymes and aliens.
The thing with young adult fiction is that it can never cross the line. We’re not comfortable with that yet. Though seemingly horrible and awful, all of our young adult horror has to wrap up with some sort of closure. We need that happy ending. The ghosts are always good. The madmen and monsters are misunderstood. The villains, usually human, are caught and punished. The evil magic is vanquished, the good magic is restored, and the aliens are unmasked. Everything here plays as if it was all some strange and beguiling episode of Scooby Doo.
In a coup of mass marketed genius, R.L. Stein produced a stunning number of pint sized genre novels under the “Fear Street” and “Goosebumps” titles. Each numbered title—and there are hundreds of them at this point—is slick with a corporate logo, snazily titled, and numbered, making them cool enough—like gimmick gummi snacks and flavored juice boxes—to belong to a market for budding consumers. Furthermore, this system achieves the ultimate status—it makes each product a commodity, as collectible as baseball cards, “I’ll trade you #8 Monster’s Blood for #13 Evil Cheerleaders Part I!”
Yet, as commercial as these products are, their literary value, at least in my opinion, sadly lacks. Though there are hundreds of titles, countless protagonists and teeming antagonists, each novel is virtually the same—the same set-up, conflict and resolution each time. They are miniature television shows, variations upon the same theme. Though this in itself is not a bad thing, it is most certainly boring. More importantly, each novel is as timid as a commercial.
There’s no scary, here; only cheap thrills and inconclusive highs.
Ultimately dissatisfied with young adult genre novels, I moved on to the real thing.